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INCOGNITO

By David Eagleman, a review

Just as the backcover says " In this sparkling and provocative book, renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman navigates the depths of the subconscious brain to illuminate its surprising mysteries."
This blog tries to capture the human experience by focusing on stories about perceptions and reality and those things we may not pay attention to because we are caught up in just surviving and/or just enjoying our human experiences. And sometimes we don't see the nose on front of our face. We just assume that it is there. We just assume that seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, walking, biking, even breathing are givens. It's automatic behavior that does not require our full attention. The seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting for most of us came automatically straight out of the womb. A lot of it was even working in the womb. We didn't have to learn these abilities. The biking, walking, running, driving-we did.
So what does Eagleman have to offer us to try and explain these gifts and skills?
EyeBlink Press was taken with this book as it addresses "vision". "One third of the brain is devoted to vision". Eagleman points out that our vision is blurry, however, unless we are focusing on an object, a scene. Everything to the side of it is blurry. Why is that? He asks you to hold out your hand in front of your eyes and wiggle your fingers.Then he tells you to move it back to your ear and keep wiggling your fingers. You can't see your fingers clearly, right? Why is that? And why concern yourself with it?
Eagleman is just pointing out that we only "see" what is directly in front of us and not even then. Most of us cannot "see" what is in front of us. It would be exhausting to scan a scene and focus on each object in that scene, analyse it, describe it , remember it. We would be frozen in time giving importance to each object in whatever presents itself to our direct field of vision. He says that magicians thrive on this inability to "see" everything in our line of vision.
A discomforting demonstration of our faulty field of vision is explained when Eagleman asks you to look at this image in the book . It is a rectangle, with a fuzzy background. On the right side of the rectangle is a small black dot and on the left is a small plus sign. He asks you to hold up your book and draw the book with the rectangle picture close to your eyes, close your left eye and focus on the plus sign,  then slowly move the book away from your eyes, holding it up at shoulder height. Pretty soon you will notice that the dot disappears. That is called your "blind spot", discovered by Edme Mariott, French philosopher and mathmetician(1668) Our blindspots are huge. Imagine seeing the moon in the sky at night. Our blindspot can hold 17 moons, per Eaglemen.
Ever since I read this I look to the right, then left, then right and then again left at all stop signs. Have you ever done the left, right, left look and started to proceed ahead and all of a sudden a car emerges out of nowhere seemingly. This is the blindspot at work.
Eagleman takes us on a journey of our brain, our vision, our perceptions. He wants us to consider the space between objects. Is there anything there that we are "blind" to;that our young brain just hasn't learned to see yet.
Among other anomalies of our human vision system he touches on: the Charles Bonnet syndrome(seeing things when our vision starts to fail),auditory driving( how our hearing effects our vision),time construction(look at both your eyes in a mirror and move your point of focus so that your right eye is looking at your left eye, then look at your right eye, back and forth-you never notice your eyes moving),synethesia(that each of us sees a scene in front of us differently).This, of course, begs the question;"why do we see the same things most of the time-is that mass illusion?"
He even addresses homocidal sleepwalking(is it their fault?) Should we all commit suicide because we may believe we live in a fundamentally meaningless society? Or should we revolt against our absure lives and live actively, continuously researching the meaning of it all?
Eagleman prefers to look at the evolvement of mankind as a demonstration of expansive ideas "more wonderful than we had originally imagined". He quotes Alexander Pope "Know then thyself . Do not presume God to scan. The proper study of mankind is man".
A thoroughly fascinating book. INCOGNITO is most worthy of a place in your reference library. As Eagleman says at the end of it: "What a perplexing masterpiece the brain is, and how lucky we are to be in a generation that has the technology and the will to turn our attention to it.It is the most wonderous thing that we have discovered in the universe, and it is us".

 

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO GO FIRST?

Etiquette for Dummies by Sue Fox

In Etiquette for Dummies by Sue Fox, there is a section for WOMEN. Several "manners" suggestions are as follows, and are not meant to be preachy; just suggestions for living on a small planet where more and more people are born every day, living longer, and in better health(we believe).


Crammed into a small space, as most of us live in cities, like astronauts in a small spaceship, we find we have to have fairly good manners to get along with each other. It can be challenging,but we call on our inner good and sure enough we find that it is just as easy to be polite as it is to be the opposite. Here are a few suggestions:


1. NOT ONLY SHOULD YOU OPEN YOUR OWN DOORS,BUT YOU SHOULD ALSO HOLD DOORS OPEN FOR OTHERS, MALE OR FEMALE. ( NOT IN THE BOOK› But, we might want to keep in mind that the one who leads is ususally the one who gets eaten by the bears and tigers first on the jungle trail, so the rest of us followers can run while the leader is being devoured.:)) They tend to be our heros. And if they want to go ahead of us through a door, let them be heroic. You can even open the door for them-JUST KIDDING).  All of us should keep our guard up, the leader and the follower and the one who brings up the rear of the line).


2. Regardless of the situational awkwardness, never give up your personal safety. Don't let yourself out of a man's car in a dimly lit parking garage, for example. If the man doesn't offer, tell him that you'll wait for him to come around. Likewise, don't be a passenger in a car whose driver  has had too much to drink, and feel free to insist that the man slow down, if you think he is driving too fast(same goes for men).


3. NEVER FEEL PRESSURED TO BEHAVE LIKE ILL-MANNERED MEN JUST TO FIT IN.YOU DON'T HAVE TO PRETEND TO BE AMUSED BY FOUL LANGUAGE, OFF COLOR JOKES, OR X-RATED FILMS.

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