Posts Tagged ‘Jeanna Bryner’

By Jeanna Bryner

An auditory illusion that’s making the rounds online seems to have divided people into passionate camps depending on whether they hear the word “Yanny” or “Laurel” when listening to a recording.

If you hear one, you don’t hear the other, and you’ll be convinced the audio clip could only be saying … “Laurel” (in my case). Are you #teamyanny or #teamlaurel?

There’s some science to suggest that depending on how you look at the explanation, either both teams are correct or neither are. That’s because no “true” word has been recorded, Andrew Oxenham, a professor in the Departments of Psychology and Otolaryngology at the University of Minnesota, told Live Science.

The illusion first popped up on Reddit a few days ago. It is being likened to the famous dress debate of 2015, in which some people swore the garment was black and blue and others said it was white and gold. According to a study of that illusion, people saw the different colors because of assumptions the brain made about the illumination of the dress under different lighting conditions.

Filling in missing information
This latest “illusion,” although based on auditory perception and not vision, also likely boils down to the brain’s wackiness. One idea is that, if there is any ambiguity about a sound or word, the brain will lock onto one word or sound and deem that the correct interpretation. When there is a “perceptually ambiguous stimulus,” the University of Sydney’s David Alais told The Guardian, “the brain locks on to a single perceptual interpretation. Here, the Yanny/Laurel sound is meant to be ambiguous because each sound has a similar timing and energy content — so, in principle, it’s confusable.”

Alais, who studies audiovisual perception, added, “All of this goes to highlight just how much the brain is an active interpreter of sensory input, and thus that the external world is less objective than we like to believe.”

Researchers are saying it’s the auditory version of the so-called Rubin’s vase, an image that is visually ambiguous and can be interpreted in one of two ways: as the profiles of two people, or a vase, according to various news reports on the illusion.

Because your brain plays tricks on you here, your expectations about what you’ll hear, or even your past experiences, could shape whether you feel strongly about Team Yanny or Team Laurel, The Guardian reported.

In addition to sending vital auditory clues to your brain, your ears play a role in this maddening Yanny/Laurel interpretation. Each sound is made up of several frequencies, and those that create “Yanny” are higher than those for “Laurel,” said Lars Riecke, a cognitive neuroscientist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, as reported by The Verge. The speakers you’re using may change the frequency, leading to the different interpretations, he added.

But your ear shape and your age could also play roles. Turns out, as people age, they start to lose the ability to hear the higher sounds, so they may be more likely to hear “Laurel,” which was the case for Alais, who is 52.

Sound frequencies
“Basically, there is no ‘true’ word and the stimulus has ‘clues’ based on the formant frequencies that point to either one or the other word,” Oxenham said. A formant refers to the frequencies that carry the most energy when a sound is made, and they depend on the different parts of a person’s vocal tract.

The shape of the tract and the resulting frequencies that come out when a person speaks are due to the placement of the tongue, according to psycholinguist Suzy Styles of the Nanyang Technological University, who tweeted about the Yanny/Laurel puzzle.

It seems like a speech synthesizer must have created the clip, according to Oxram and Styles. In normal speech, Styles tweeted, there are three formants that a person produces, but in this clip, there are more than three.

“So unless this speaker had two completely separate tongues, this ambiguous speech has been carefully crafted to fool the ears. Shall we call it an Ear-llusion?,” Styles tweeted.

Reportedly, if you mess with the sound on your speakers to remove the high frequencies, you’ll hear “Laurel” and vice versa when you remove the lower frequencies.

Why Laurel or Yanny?
As for what makes a person sway one way or the other after listening to this audio clip, that’s anyone’s guess for now.

“I’m not sure that anyone knows why some people hear it one way and other people hear it another way, but that’s often the way with these visual and auditory illusions — our brains ‘fill in’ missing information, and how that happens seems to vary a lot from one person to the next,” Oxenham said.

Bharath Chandrasekaran, an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Texas at Austin, said he doesn’t know either, but he’s planning to find out. He told The Verge that he is going to look for volunteers in both camps and then run tests in which he looks at their brain waves while they listen to the audio clip.

https://www.livescience.com/62583-yanny-laurel-auditory-illusion-explained.html?utm_source=notification

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By Jeanna Bryner

Congress is talking about spending a bunch of money on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (or SETI) for the first time in 25 years.

The U.S. House of Representatives has proposed a bill that includes $10 million in NASA funding for the next two years “to search for technosignatures, such as radio transmissions, in order to meet the NASA objective to search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.” Such technosignatures would come in the form of radio waves that have the telltale features of being produced by TV- or radio-type technologies. An intelligent civilization could also produce those signals intentionally to communicate with other civilizations like ours.

“If it passes, it would definitely be a sea-change in Congressional attitude since Sen. [Richard] Bryan terminated NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey, in 1993,” renowned astronomer Jill Tarter, former diretor of the SETI Institute, told Live Science in an email.

Here’s what Tarter is referring to: In 1992, a huge NASA SETI initiative was launched in order to build instrumentation so that observatories could comb the cosmos for signals from alien civilizations. For instance, the high resolution microwave survey was hooked up to the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico for just that. A year later, however, Nevada Sen. Bryan shut it down, and “SETI” became an unmentionable.

“[Bryan] made it clear to the administration that if they came back with SETI in their budget again, it wouldn’t be good for the NASA budget,” Tarter told Marina Koren of The Atlantic. “So, we instantly became the four-letter S-word that you couldn’t say at headquarters anymore, and that has stuck for quite a while.”

She added that the funding proposal seems to be an extension of the efforts of Rep. Lamar Smith, R–Texas, to bring attention to the search for life beyond Earth when he was the chairman of the House Science Committee. (Smith, who announced that he will retire at the end of his term this year, is a known denier of human-caused climate change.)

If the legislation clears the House and passes the Senate, the result would be huge. “It allows for new instrumentation to be built, and data collected and analyzed at scale, by a global community,” Tarter said of the $10 million.

Of course, the hunt for intelligence beyond Earth has not stopped, as private companies and other organizations have funded it, but a buy-in from the federal government is a big deal. [7 Huge Misconceptions about Aliens]

“You need to remember that this is an authorization bill, not an appropriations bill. Even if it passes, the appropriators may not provide any SETI funding in their bill. But if they do, that would be a very big deal,” said Tarter, who was the basis for the heroine Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan’s novel “Contact” and in the adapted movie by the same name.

Tarter is admittedly ecstatic about the possibility of such a federal focus on SETI. But you don’t become the director of the SETI Institute by keeping your feet on the ground.

“Bring it on! But don’t stop there,” Tarter said about the potential funding. “Earthlings everywhere are fascinated with this search and care about the answer. So, we should create an international endowment for searching for intelligent life beyond Earth. The backers should be private individuals, enlightened corporations, U.S. federal agencies and agencies from other governments around the world.”

She added, “By smoothing out the funding roller coaster that has characterized this research field from the beginning, it will be possible to attract the best and brightest minds with the best ideas from everywhere, and commit to the long-term search efforts that might be required for success.”

Are alien greetings just around the corner? Tarter said we have the technology now to search for more distant and fainter signals in ways we haven’t tried before. “But that doesn’t guarantee success in the ‘near future.’ The cosmos is vast, and we may not yet be looking in the right way, although we are doing the best job possible with what we now know.”

The “correct perspective on timing,” Tarter said, is summed up in a line from a paper published in 1959 in the journal Nature by Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison: “‘The probability of success is difficult to estimate; but if we never search, the chance of success is zero,'” Tarter said.

https://www.livescience.com/62529-congress-search-for-intelligent-aliens.html?utm_source=notification


Most believers in a flat Earth think the planet is a flat disk surrounded by an ice wall.

By Jeanna Bryner

More than 200 flat-Earth enthusiasts descended on West Midlands, England, this past weekend to “engage freely in deep and meaningful discussions,” according to the Flat Earth Convention UK.

The Earth’s glorious globular-ness was proved more than 2,000 years ago by the ancient Greeks, but there’s a small subset of people who think the planet is a disk despite enjoying the downward pull of gravity that could only result from living on a sphere.

At this conference, they were presenting their scientific evidence for such a disk. One of the more interesting pieces of evidence came from speaker Darren Nesbit, who referred to the “Pac-Man effect” as the reason why planes don’t fall off the edge of a flat Earth, according to the science news website Physics-Astronomy.org. When a plane or other object reaches the edge of the horizon, such as when Pac-Man reaches the end of the screen, that object will teleport from one side of the planet to the other, a la Pac-Man entering from the other side of the screen.

According to the group that put on the convention, the gathering also included some “alternative viewpoints.”

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Flat-Earthers Explain Why We Don’t Fall Off the Edge of Our Planet, and It Involves Pac-Man
Most believers in a flat Earth think the planet is a flat disk surrounded by an ice wall.
Credit: Getty
More than 200 flat-Earth enthusiasts descended on West Midlands, England, this past weekend to “engage freely in deep and meaningful discussions,” according to the Flat Earth Convention UK.

The Earth’s glorious globular-ness was proved more than 2,000 years ago by the ancient Greeks, but there’s a small subset of people who think the planet is a disk despite enjoying the downward pull of gravity that could only result from living on a sphere.

At this conference, they were presenting their scientific evidence for such a disk. One of the more interesting pieces of evidence came from speaker Darren Nesbit, who referred to the “Pac-Man effect” as the reason why planes don’t fall off the edge of a flat Earth, according to the science news website Physics-Astronomy.org. When a plane or other object reaches the edge of the horizon, such as when Pac-Man reaches the end of the screen, that object will teleport from one side of the planet to the other, a la Pac-Man entering from the other side of the screen. [7 Ways to Prove the Earth Is Round]

According to the group that put on the convention, the gathering also included some “alternative viewpoints.” (You think?)

“In conjunction with a select number of well-known flat-earth speakers, we have also provided some alternative viewpoints. We truly hope that new friendships are forged, ideas and experiments are brain stormed and future actions are set in motion,” they state on their website.

Among the nine speakers were Nesbit, a musician who became interested in flat-Earth beliefs in 2014; Dave Marsh, a manager with England’s National Health Service; and Gary John, an independent flat-Earther who put on the convention.

Marsh was one of four speakers who are associated with the flat-Earth research group called FEcore. His research focuses on the moon, “as he believes it is the key to unlocking the globe earth deception,” according to the convention website: https://www.flatearthconventionuk.co.uk/home.html

He studies the speed of the moon across the night sky. (Flat-Earthers believe the moon and sun orbit around Earth’s North Pole.) “My research destroys big bang cosmology,” he said, according to Physics-Astronomy.org. “It supports the idea that gravity doesn’t exist and the only true force in nature is electromagnetism.”

Another speaker, Martin Kenny, purports to have broader views of a flat Earth than other believers. “It is my innerstanding that there are other lands, dimensions and civilizations yet to be discovered across and within the plane of our Earth. The whole earth consists of 4 concentric rings of land, each ring having its own sun and moon, which would be our wandering stars,” he says on the convention website.

Flat-Earthers like Kenny agree that the planet is a flat plane, though they have varied ideas for the disk’s particular layout. Many seem to think the Earth is a disk surrounded by an ice wall and that those who show evidence to the contrary — including NASA, with its many satellite pics beamed down of our blue marble — are fakes. These conspiracy theorists believe NASA and others are trying to keep this secret from the public.

As for how many people buy into this clearly mistaken belief, that is unknown. However, the oldest flat-Earth organization, the Flat Earth Society, claims to have 555 registered members as of August 2016. According to the society’s website, the group was founded by an English inventor named Samuel Birley Rowbotham in the 1800s.

In addition to the Q&A’s with the nine speakers at the three-day convention, there was apparently a talk entitled “Heliocentric v Geocentric experts Debate.” The convention’s site doesn’t indicate who was debating these two views, one proved ages ago, and the other suggesting Earth is fixed in space with the universe revolving around it.

This isn’t the first flat-Earth convening. In November 2017, the Flat Earth International Conference was held in Raleigh, North Carolina. That convention hosted some big-name (in flat-Earth circles, at least) speakers, such as founder of the Flat Earth Clues series on YouTube, Mark Sargent, who thinks we are all locked inside a “Truman Show”-like dome structure. The next FEIC is scheduled for Nov. 15 -16 in Denver.

https://www.livescience.com/62454-flat-earthers-explain-pac-man-effect.html?utm_source=notification