Humans have developed sophisticated concepts like mass and gravity to explain a wide range of everyday phenomena, but scientists have remarkably little understanding of how such concepts are represented by the brain.
Using advanced neuroimaging techniques, Queen’s University researchers have revealed how the brain stores knowledge about an object’s weight – information critical to our ability to successfully grasp and interact with objects in our environment.
Jason Gallivan, a Banting postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology, and Randy Flanagan, a professor in the Department of Psychology, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to uncover what regions of the human brain represent an object’s weight prior to lifting that object. They found that knowledge of object weight is stored in ventral visual cortex, a brain region previously thought to only represent those properties of an object that can be directly viewed such as its size, shape, location and texture.
“We are working on various projects to determine how the brain produces actions on the world,” explains Dr. Gallivan about the work he is undertaking at the Centre for Neuroscience Studies at Queen’s. “Simply looking at an object doesn’t provide the brain with information about how much that object weighs. Take for example a suitcase. There is often nothing about its visual appearance that informs you of whether it is packed with clothes or empty. Rather, this is information that must be derived through recent interactions with that object and stored in the brain so as to guide our movements the next time we must lift and interact with that object.”
According to previous research, the ventral visual cortex supports visual processing for perception and object recognition whereas the dorsal visual cortex supports visual processing for the control of action. However, this division of labour had only been tested for visually guided actions like reaching, which are directed towards objects, and not for actions involving the manipulation of objects, which requires access to stored knowledge about object properties.
“Because information about object weight is primarily important for the control of action, we thought that this information might only be stored in motor-related areas of the brain,” says Dr. Gallivan. “Surprisingly, however, we found that this non-visual information was also stored in ventral visual cortex. Presumably this allows for the weight of an object to become easily associated with its visual properties.”
In ongoing research, Drs. Gallivan and Flanagan are using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to temporarily disrupt targeted brain areas in order to assess their contribution to skilled object manipulation. By identifying which areas of the brain control certain motor skills, Drs. Gallivan and Flanagan’s research will be helpful in assessing patients with neurological impairments including stroke.
The work was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The research was recently published in Current Biology.
Jet aircrafts typically cruise at speeds of around 600 miles per hour. According to the pokédex, so does Garchomp! If that’s true, this land-shark dragon pokémon flies more than twice as fast as the speediest bird in our world, the Peregrine Falcon.
Everyone knows that planes fly faster than birds. But have you ever stopped to consider why? Let’s start by talking about the forces involved in any kind of flight. There are four main ones that we have to work with.
Gravity is a downward force due to the weight of the object. Lift is the upward force generated by the wings (see Latios). Drag is the air resistance and friction which slows the object down, and thrust is the force that pushes an object forward.
Thrust, then, is the force that controls the speed of the flight. In airplanes, thrust is created through their engines. Engines work through understanding Newton’s Third Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In the sake of an airplane, the engines or propellers push the air backwards, which in turn pushes the airplane forwards.
But how do birds create thrust? Bird wings work in the same way that airplane wings do when it comes to creating lift, but birds don’t have engines to create thrust. They obviously move forward when they fly so they must make thrust somehow. Birds actually create thrust by flapping their wings. Their wings don’t flap straight up and down, but rather at an angle. This angle is what creates not just an upward lift, but a forward thrust. Depending on whether a bird is taking off, cruising, or landing, the angle they flap at (and the resulting thrust) change accordingly.
So birds don’t fly as fast as airplanes do because they don’t have engines. Their wing muscles aren’t powerful or efficient enough to create large thrust forces. Garchomp, in order to fly as fast as a jet plane, must use something other than his wings to create enough thrust. It’s pretty obvious where this thrust comes from: they even look like airplane engines.
Garchomp flies at speeds of 600 mph, which is possible because its wings aren’t the only thing generating thrust. Garchomp’s ear-things act like an airplane’s engines, which push Garchomp forward in its flight.
It’s not possible for unicellular organisms, such as the spidery “germs,” to grow to “badger” size as the surface area of the cell exterior would be insufficient to absorb enough nutrients to sustain the greatly increased interior volume.
Once laid, eggs do not increase in mass. Due to the loss of water vapor, eggs actually weigh less as they age, not more. Yes, the organism contained within is increasing in size; however, it does so by consuming the egg’s nutrient stores, creating, for argument’s sake, a closed, zero-sum system.
While there are areas on the Moon where the density of the crust is so great that it creates a positive gravity anomaly – they’re called mascons, and they’re why NASA can’t keep a lunar satellite in orbit for longer than a few months, or land a lunar module with pinpoint accuracy – they increase, not decrease, the weight of nearby objects. Even if the entirety of the organism within the egg moved to the other side of the Moon, (a) it wouldn’t cancel out Courtney’s weight entirely, and (b) it would affect a large area, and not pinpoint Courtney, specifically.
The reflected light from the areas of the Earth that are experiencing daytime would be so great as to drown out any manmade lights, making it impossible to tally Earth’s “votes.”
Sound cannot travel through the vacuum of space, so the Doctor, standing on a beach, on Earth, would not hear the roar of the newly hatched space creature. Further, as the Moon is 238,900 miles away, and the speed of sound is only 761 miles per hour, the Doctor would have to wait more than 13 days to hear the shriek, after seeing the creature roar.
While not every organism needs to mate in order to lay an egg, to expect a newborn creature to lay an egg the same size as the one from which it just hatched, mere seconds after being born, is sheer lunacy.
I wish I read this before I typed out my huge rant. I could have just copy/pasted.
Most sci-fi shows have a Scientific Advisor or two who points out basic holes like this. Does Doctor Who not have one? Or do the writers just laugh at their notes and say: “Oh, it’s all in good fun. Nobody knows what the speed of sound is!”
“Seven years ago, when I co-curated an exhibition of works by Dionne Simpson, I was also recovering from Hodgkin’s disease. After the exhibition was over, Simpson gave me the most minimal of the works, and my favourite of her deconstructed canvases. Now, this piece hangs in my bedroom, and I wake up to it every morning - a daily reminder of the generosity of the human spirit, and the gems that await you after life’s struggles.”
Patricia Ritacca was photographed in Toronto on May 16th. You can follow her just-launched curatorial collective on Instagram.
So I'm a fat trans guy. Before I had top surgery, one of my doctors had to make sure I knew the surgery wouldn't solve all my life problems. But he kinda gave me whiplash when he suggested I lose weight despite my objections that dieting doesn't work long-term. He scolded me, telling me to look at it as "lifestyle changes". But if losing breasts won't solve my problems, why will losing 20 lbs? It feels like a punishment when I want to try and be at peace with my own body.
So your surgeon was transphobic and fat phobic. Double yuck. I’m sorry you were subjected to that. It is so much harder to cope with bigotry when you are vulnerable… ya know, like when you are about to undergo surgery.
Your body is just fine the size that it is. You deserve to be at peace, and I hope you get there.
We had high hopes for the third edition in the series. No pressure, of course.
The design idea for the cover was lightweighting. We wanted to achieve a lightness to the book that reflects the endeavors of the car industry to reduce the weight of cars. Lighter objects leave a smaller carbon footprint, and we wanted to use this notion for the design. This book is cool, but it’s also light.
now. 03 introduces a darker page design and a sleeker cover. The lightweighting aspect of the cover also represents the flexibility of our graphic language for the now. project. We want to change the book every time, so that it constantly evolves.
From honest production, nanotechnology, and startups to the essence of storytelling – in now. 03 these issues all make an appearance.
Oh wow, they really think of everything - not only can I weight out all my little objects, I can put them in baggies too. Keep all my small indigestible knickknacks safe, all my precious non-edible little objects.
“Isadora Duncan’s story - being an eccentric, reckless, courageous woman in a time when it would have been nearly impossible to be so - changed the way I thought about my own life. I look for this book every time I’m in a new bookstore and pick up copies to give to friends. Even if I lost it I feel like fragments of her stories are kind of part of me now.”
Sarah May Taylor was photographed in Toronto on May 20th. You can follow her on Instagram.
Got some questions about Navi! So here’s some Navi info! :D
Yep! She lives in the castle! She avoids Zelda because she scares her though. (Zelda thinks Navi is a bit of a bad influence on the child because she supports and aids in mischief) She and Rinku are great friends and play around in the castle a ton.
Navi is also Rinku’s number one partner in crime when pranks are concerned. (Being a lookout, flying into windows and unlocking doors for her, picking up light weight objects like kitchen knives or small magic items so that Rinku my “borrow” them and return them before they are missed.)
And since Ganondorf thinks thar Rinku is Link’s daughter, he just assumes that Link asked Navi to watch over the girl while he was gone.
And Navi freaking loves honey. Like a ton. Favorite thing ever.
Earlier this year I reviewed a study that found that, simply by changing the weight of an object in hand, psychologists can manipulate how seriously a person takes an issue. In other words, when holding something heavy, matters seem heavy. Or, concerns seem weightier when one is weighed down.
Thanks to an email from USC professor Norbert Schwarz, I was introduced to a whole series of studies on what psychologists call metaphorical effects. These are instances in which a metaphor commonly used to describe a psychological state or social reality can, in turn, induce that state or reality. So, for example, holding a warm cup of coffee makes people feel warmly toward each other (here), getting the cold shoulder makes people feel cold (here), people placed in a high location seem to be high in a hierarchy (here), and cleaning one’s hands makes a person feel morally clean (here).
Schwarz was the co-author, with Spike W.S. Lee, on another example of a metaphorical effect. They wanted to know if smelling something fishy made people suspicious. It did!
Asked to participate in a fake study on whether they’d be willing to invest money in a scheme, subjects who were exposed to a fishy smell invested less than those exposed to no smell and less than those exposed to another icky smell that was “metaphorically irrelevant”: fart. See the graph above for details.
Lee and Schwarz were also interested in the reverse process. Did being suspicious increase the likelihood that they would identify a fishy smell as fishy. Sometimes smells can be hard to figure out, but when people are primed with the answer, they are more likely to get it right. Would the metaphorical effect work in the other direction: from psychological state to sensory perception?
They asked another group of subjects to sniff five different vials and attempt to label each smell. Half the time, they induced suspiciousness by having the experimenter say: “Obviously, it’s a very simple task and, you know, there’s … there’s nothing we’re trying to hide here.” The experimented would then spot a document on the table, whisk it away nervously and repeat:
Sorry, it shouldn’t have been there. But … ahem … anyway. Where was I? Oh yes, it’s all very simple. There’s nothing we’re trying to hide or anything.
Did subjects induced to be suspicious identify the fishy smell correctly more often? Yep!
This is a fun literature, but it has serious implications. It reveals that the associations we have in our minds impact how we perceive the world and each other.
Sociologists believe that essentially all of life is socially constructed, meaning that we collectively learn and internalize arbitrary connections between things: like being male and computing or being black and athleticism. These connections literally structure our brain, such that thinking about one is likely to trigger thoughts of the other.
Fishy and suspicious are connected in our minds and, so, when we are exposed to one, we are more likely to experience the other. In other cultures, Lee and Schwarz point out, it is not fishiness, but other smells that are associated with suspicion. These things are not natural or universal, but they drive our perceptions nonetheless.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Boris: The ½ Million Dollar Robot that Can Load A Dishwasher
The machine cost £350,000 ($570,000) and took five years to develop. Once its development is complete, it will represent the answer to one of the most complicated problems in robotics: How can a machine assess the size and weight of an object it has never encountered before, and calculate correctly the best way to pick it up? The problem has a massive number of variables and requires a staggering amount of calculations (and yet humans do it subconsciously).
Boris is one of the first robots capable of grabbing objects in a human-like fashion. For a while now, robots have been able to pick objects up if they have been specifically programmed to do so — but they haven’t been able to manipulate unfamiliar, random objects they have not seen before.
Before now, robots could only pick up items of a fixed size in a stationary location, [but] Boris is able to calculate a 1,000 possible ways to grab an object in the space of 10 seconds
The team of computer scientists from the University of Birmingham who made the robot believe that it will be capable of carrying out complex tasks such as loading a dishwasher, hopefully by April next year.
However, the intention with robots like Boris is not to replace humans in the workplace, but to help and work collaboratively with them. “We want to augment existing human abilities, but still get the human to do the parts of the job the robot can’t do,” says Wyatt…
Researchers taught Boris different ways of grasping objects, for example through a power grip using its whole hand to curve around an object or a pinch grip between two or three fingers. This level of dexterity is required for a robot to manipulate a variety of objects of different sizes in an environment like an office or household.
The robot can “see” objects in front of it using depth sensors embedded in its face and wrists. However, Boris still finds some objects hard to pick up — for example, shiny objects, which its sensors often find difficult to detect due to reflections off the material confusing the robot as to where the object actually is.
Wyatt has big plans for the future. “Over the next four to five years, we will see a whole series of algorithms for different robot manipulations. In the seventies and eighties, we saw robotic manipulation under structured and controlled environments, like in factories. Now, we can produce robots that navigate around unstructured environments and identify and grasp unfamiliar objects. That is what is coming to the market now.”
“Mass in physics is very different from mass in sculpture. In sculpture it is communicated as a function of the visual weight within a particular object.”
“the relation of masses and planes is that which gives sculptural life.”
Recently, I’ve been working on designs for a few large animals (a polar bear, an elephant, a gorilla). The polar bear was fun to design, but I felt somehow didn’t really capture the subject. When I thought about why, I started thinking about mass. In origami we often think about the planes, the edges and the angles where they interact - people have worked out rules for those. But the masses?
If you want to depict something big and heavy why use paper - one of the lightest materials around? Let alone thin, shiny origami paper. What’s more, paper folders don’t even have solid masses to work with in the way that sculptors normally do. We can only try to make something that is hollow or even flat suggest that it has mass - “visual weight.”
Maybe this is one reason why some of the most successful origami models are lighter subjects that are suited to a smaller scale- it is easier to make a paper bird or insect feel right. Butterflies are just about perfect for paper (and probably quite tricky to carve out of stone). Even if realism isn’t your aim, a lot of the character of large animals is bound up in their power and weight.
So why do large animals remain among the most popular origami subjects, attracting designers and folders time after time? Is this just because elephants and rhinos are iconic animals, or because of the technical challenges to include all the different points? Has Or does their bulk also mean there is an extra difficulty that, consciously or not, draws in designers and folders? I am starting to think what you choose to emphasise - even exaggerate - may be just as important as which features you include or omit. Especially if you want to imply the thing you are making weighs more than a few grams.
Next time you see an origami model - or fold one or design one - give a thought to mass.
1. ‘Elements of Sculpture.’ Herbert George. Publisher: Phaidon Press
2. ‘Contemporary English Sculptors’, The Architectural Association Journal, London, vol. XLV, no. 518, April 1930