Category Archives: perception

What is Faith?

Faith is the firm belief in something for which there is no proof.  We act on faith for many decisions in our life because we do not have enough data to make an informed decision and because we cannot predict the future.

Faith is the basis of all religions.  The belief in God, an afterlife, and the practice of a system of religious beliefs is based on faith because it cannot be proved that God exists or that there is an afterlife.  People disagree about the concept of God and this has resulted in the creation of hundreds of different religions.  Throughout history, people have believed in many gods.  The Romans had a polytheistic religion that included gods for war, love and many other specialties.  The Aztecs offered human sacrifices to their gods in the belief that these sacrifices sustained the Universe and made it possible for the sun to rise.

In the Bible, the gospel of Matthew describes faith in terms of a challenge. After Jesus casts out a demon that had been causing a boy to have seizures, the disciples asked him why they had not been able to do it.  According to Matthew 17:20:

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Science, which is based on logical proof or material evidence, assumes that there is an order in the Universe that may be discovered and explained logically or mathematically.  All physical phenomena are assumed to have a scientific explanation when sufficient data is obtained to create a model or hypothesis that can be incrementally refined through the scientific method.  This expectation has been called a faith-based belief system, but the difference between religion and science is that religious beliefs are based only on personal convictions whereas scientific theories can be physically verified through experiments and observations.

How do we know what to believe?  We are imprinted with many aspects of our faith and belief systems by our parents and our social environment when we are still young.  These belief systems may change when we mature and become capable of independent thought, but social pressures may not allow us to express our ideas freely.  A large percentage of the population retains the belief systems adopted in youth and never ventures outside of the comfort zone provided by these traditions.

Exposure to new environments and different cultures can provide perspectives that shake the foundation of our beliefs and may lead to the adoption of new philosophies.  In the modern world, where international travel is relatively easy, we are exposed to immigrants and travelers with different customs and religions.  An introspective person will start to analyze misconceptions accepted in youth and modify his beliefs to encompass a broader perspective of the world.

Faith supports the guiding principles of how we live, whether it is a reliance on the methodology of the scientific method, or a belief in God and an afterlife.

Optical illusion with three colors

The eye provides us with basic perceptions that are interpreted by the brain.  Sometimes, these perceptions differ so much from reality that we understand that our senses are fooling us.

The image above consists of only three colors: a greenish blue (RGB 0, 255, 150), dark orange (RGB 255, 150, 0), and bright pink (RGB 255, 0, 255).  When the greenish blue field is overlaid with pink lines, the blue color predominates, whereas the green color predominates when the greenish blue field is overlaid with orange lines.  The figure appears to be made of four colors, rather than three.

Patches of color that are physically close to each other are interpreted by the eye as being a single color.  This is the principle used for color halftone printing which overlays dots of several basic colors of different sizes to simulate a wide spectrum of colors.  The technique is used extensively for cartoon illustrations.

An image of Charlie Brown in the Sunday comics page, when enlarged, reveals the pattern of dots that form the picture. The rows of tiny dots are oriented at different angles to avoid Moiré patterns.

Learn more about optical illusions

Fraunhofer diffraction – Bending light rays with your ears

Fraunhofer Diffraction

In optics, Fraunhofer diffraction is a type of wave diffraction which occurs when field waves are passed through an aperture or slit, causing the size of an observed aperture image to change due to the far-field location of observation and the increasingly planar nature of outgoing diffracted waves passing through the aperture.

In the image above, the vertical blinds in a window form slits which bend the rays of the sun and influence the shapes of the shadows projected on the wall.  The vertical blind acts like a diffraction grating with a set of parallel slits.  As the ears approach the shadows of the vertical blinds, the shadow of the ears stretches toward the shadow of the vertical blind to produce elongated ear shadows.

Fraunhofer diffraction is named after the German physicist Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787-1826), the inventor of the diffraction grating.  Fraunhofer started the field of stellar spectroscopy and transformed it into a quantitative science by measuring the wavelength of light accurately.  He discovered the absorption lines in the optical spectrum of the Sun which are named after him.  The Fraunhofer absorption lines can be used to determine the chemical composition in the upper layers of the Sun and the stars because each chemical element absorbs light at specific frequencies.

Akashic Records, Collective Consciousness, and Remote Viewing

Overactive Imagination Overactive Imagination

Akashic Records, whose name is derived from the Sanskrit word “Akasha” meaning “space”, are supposed to contain all knowledge from all human experiences in the Universe. The Akashic Records are frequently described as a library that is constantly updated whenever any person anywhere thinks a thought. The mystic Edgar Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) claimed to be able to answers questions about health, astrology, and reincarnation by accessing the Akashic Records when he was in a state of self-induced trance. The Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) based in Virginia Beach, offers a variety of therapies in keeping with the spirit and philosophy of the Edgar Cayce readings. Edgar Cayce Centers are now found in 25 countries and each year attract thousands of curious people, scholars, researchers, philosophers, and even health care professionals.

Interest in mysticism and paranormal phenomena seems to fulfill a human need for absolute knowledge which science cannot provide. Some companies are running very profitable businesses by encouraging people to explore the power of their subconscious by tapping into the Universal Energy which is within the reach of enlightened individuals. There is a web site that for $98 Dollars will sell you six cassette tapes to teach “remote viewing”, a technique to access subconscious and universal mind information in space and time so that present, past, and future events are revealed.

Akashic Records, Collective Consciousness, and Remote Viewing are philosophies for which there is no proof and which cannot be scientifically verified. Remote viewing (the current version of “clairvoyance”) is a fancy way of doing thought experiments, or brainstorming about something that you know nothing about. Any findings produced through remote viewing or access to Akashic Records without physical observations or background knowledge cannot be much better than wild guesses. We can have a greater awareness of our surroundings and can even make some insightful predictions by paying close attention to our perceptions and by using our power of deduction.

One Million Dollar Challenge:
The James Randi Educational Foundation, a not-for-profit organization which was established in 1996 to promote critical thinking, offers a prize of one million Dollars to any person who can demonstrate any psychic, supernatural or paranormal ability of any kind under mutually agreed conditions. To date, the prize remains unclaimed.

The Mystery of Silhouettes

Silhouette of a Lady
Is this a front view or a back view of the lady?

Silhouettes and shadows are two-dimensional images that can confuse us. We live in a three-dimensional world which provides us with depth-perception clues that disambiguate what we see. Much of our visual input today comes from movies, television, and computer screens that give us just a two-dimensional focal plane that can result in ambiguities which cannot be resolved by our brain.

Ever since fire was invented, we have used the shadows formed on walls for entertainment. Here are some books that show you some simple tricks.

Synesthesia – Interweaving the Senses


Synesthesia is a rare neurological condition in which two or more senses intertwine. For people with this condition, ordinary black digits on a white background may elicit highly specific color experiences, or specific tastes may elicit unusual tactile sensations. Some people not only see colors, but they can also feel, taste, hear, or smell them. One person out of about 1000 has synesthesia of some sort. Behavioral neuroscientists are discovering the neurological basis of synesthesia using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).[1]

The prevalent theories about the causes of synesthesia share the basic idea that neural connections within the brain link areas of the brain that are normally not interconnected. The theories differ on whether these interconnections arise before birth or during brain development after birth.

There are different types of synesthesia. Among the people who associate letters and numbers with color, there are “projector” synesthetes where the color can fill the printed letter or it can appear directly in front of their eyes as if projected on a screen, whereas “associate” synesthetes see the colors in their mind rather than outside their bodies. For “Perceptual” synesthetes the phenomenon is triggered by sensory stimuli like sights and sounds, while “conceptual” synesthetes respond to abstract concepts like time.

The terms “musical color” or “musical coloration” which combine visual and auditory terminology may seem perplexing to many people, but for people with synesthesia these terms may represent reality. Some interesting books have been written about synesthesia, including “The Man Who Tasted Shapes-“.

[1] Daniel Smilek & Mike J. Dixon,
Towards a Synergistic Understanding of Synaesthesia
Combining Current Experimental Findings With Synaesthetes’ Subjective Descriptions

What is reality?


Reality is the result of our perceptions as interpreted by our brain. If you don’t believe it, here is the proof: A simple checkerboard consisting of black and white squares. There are no curved lines in the picture.Why do we see curved lines and what appears to be a bulge in the center of the picture? The picture elements combine to create crossed diagonal lines which interfere with our perception of the straight horizontal and vertical lines. Squint to see the diagonal lines that form a cross in the middle. If you still do not believe that there are no curved lines, take a ruler and check the edges. Even after we understand that there are no curved lines, we still see the curved lines. That is reality.