Nervous System

THIS IS MATERIAL FROM THE ICE CAVE. IT HAS NOT YET BEEN FORMATTED.

See also the discussion of Perception and Method.

From: Mark McFadden

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 20:28:20 EST

This ongoing chattaqua is a seemingly random collection of anecdotes and factoids about the human nervous system and what it tells us about itself. The human brain tells us that it is the single most important organ in the universe, so a little study is in order. Dissenting opinions from other organs and entities were sought, but the brain informs us that they are a) non- sentient and should devote a little more attention to supplying nutrients and other logisticals b) imaginary, and c) unimportant. It's said that seeing is believing, but in truth we are all better at believing than seeing.

What makes the grass green? You do. Oh sure, ambient energy in the visible light spectrum strikes the surface of life that utilizes chlorophyll, and this results in a predictable combination of absorption and reflection to result in a signature wavelength yada yada, but we are the ones who make it green. We are the ones who created a symbology allowing me to write "green" and you to know what I mean.

FIRST MEDITATION: Remember, in actuality, you don't see the 'real' color of anything. You see visible light that is reflected from an object. In other words, you're seeing everything but the 'real' color, because that was absorbed. An orange is 'really' blue.

Theater lighting people finally come to understand this at a visceral level.

EXTRA EXERCISE: Look at those diagrams of the workings of the human eye again. Like a camera, right? Notice that the 'image' striking the rods and cones is upside down. Did 'you' turn the image right-side up? Then who did?

SUMMARY: Like it or not, we don't see 'reality'. We see it's reflection.

A frog would starve to death in a pool of freshly killed flies. Truth. Put a freshly killed fly in front of a hungry frog. Nada. Wire up the frog. Not a blip on the screen. Nope, not a fly, not important. Frogs are kind of simple that way.

Take that same fly and dangle it on a thread in a flying manner and ZOTZ! Now that's a fly.

We do the same thing, but it's usually a little more subtle. A university experiment measured a) activity in the 'hearing' regions of the brain b) impulses at several positions along the auditory nerve, and c) a stimulus (sound of a precise pitch) simultaneously.

Apply a 60 cycle tone. Impulses along nerve, 60 cycles, check. Activity in brain, 60 cycles, check.

Change tone to 50 cycles. Impulses along nerve, 50 cycles for a distance…then back to 60 cycles. Huh? Brain cruises at 60.

Why? The nerves decided that the change wasn't worth reporting or passing along. The nerves decided not to bother the brain with trivia. Like a good secretary.

The inability to recognize the necessities for existence when they are right under your nose would normally be a trait that is not conducive to survival. Frogs get by because they don't often end up in front of a conveniently dead fly.

What unimportant things do each and every one of use individually not see? And why?

SECOND MEDITATION: If the nervous system censors stimulus to streamline the brains processing, who programmed the criteria? Did the brain make a decision and send a memo to the subsidiaries? Was it a conscious decision? Did the nerves take the initiative? Can the nerves make generalizations from the criteria, or do all exceptions get sent to the Head Office? If a drop of 10 cycles from 60 to 50 wasn't worth reporting, would an increase from 60 to 70 be reported? If 60 is nominal, and 50 and 70 are within spec, would a jump from 50 to 70 be reported? What are the parameters and who set them? And why?

EXTRA EXERCISE: Read editorials you disagree with. To the end.

SUMMARY: Not only are we unable to perceive more than the reflection of reality, but we only get to perceive what our nerves feel is important.

ObDG: "But really, how much of a threat could those dumb neo-Nazis pose?" Then write one hundred times: A successful conspiracy leaves no trail worth noticing.


From: "gerald mckelvey"

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 22:29:08 -0500

Actually, that's just a really good example of some damn good programming. I tend to look at the brain as one of the best software packages that nature ever came up with. Well, at least so far, after all were still the Beta test version….

Consider the sheer amount of information that the human brain has to process. All the nerve centers are humming along, sending in thier reports about all the stimili that they can find. They do this all the time, and the brain has to sort, collate and prioritize all that. So from a memory management and data processing standpoint that makes sense that the processing system would 'truncate' data. save wear and tear on the operating system and speeds transmission time. The 'higher' processors up the line can reconstruct data from what's it's given in they need to and the right data gets to where it'll do the most good. Sometimes the complexity of the human mind really gives me a headache….


Date: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 11:28:55 +0100

From: Davide Mana

Big interesting subject once again.

I love this list even if it completely kills my social life keeping me reading and typing for hours!

I'll offers some random thoughts, hoping this ball keeps rolling.

First of all, a little snippet to increase the general feel of paranoia (always a good exercise). Mark wrote

SUMMARY: Not only are we unable to perceive more than the reflection of

I spent endless hours talking this out whith an audiophile friend when the DAT technology hit the shelves: DAT machines, apparently, edit out a lot of bandwidth on the assumption that your ear won't get them anyway. The oversemplification is, of course, that maybe your earing apparatus does not get them, but your body has other ways of perceiving soundwaves (and anybody that ever stood in front of an amp at a concert knows what I'm talking about).

So, loss of information because of a simplistic attitude on the part of the DAT programmers. We want our money back and all that. But what really bugged a section of the audiophile public was that the brain wiring is not univocal - in other words the process described by Mark is true for the majority, but still a small percentage of us can perceve a wider or more articulated bandwidth. Ever wondered what's it like for them?

Also, keep in mind that you won't realize if you are one of the few unless you are subjected to thorough experimentation, or you compare the listening of the same execution through a pristine CD and a DAT machine. And even better, this small subliminal perception might not be conscious at all. You might simply have different emotional reactions to the same sounds depending on the support and filtering.

Mix this with the old thread on Musicality and the possibilities (and game hooks) abound. Does somebody recall the old song, "Experiment 4th", by Kate Bush? An MJ12 project if I ever saw one.

On to other stuff.

The question raised by Dave:

We can take this a little bit further.

Like almost everything else about us, the brain (and its operating system) are the product of a few million years of evolution (and keep in mind that this is true in a Lovecraftian Universe, too).

One way or another, natural selection has spared and therfore favoured those brains that run on the simplified software described by Mark.

The other guys did not live long enough to reproduce. Why?

Burnout due to input overload?

They were easily distracted by nothing details so that sabretoothed tigers found it easier to catch them?

Did they catch the eye of something that did them in?

Or did they simply discover something that's better than sex and forgot to reproduce?

Some have postulated, considering the Neanderthal brainbox, that the guys were telepathics. What if their brain conformation simply let them get more input?

It's that the reason we exterminated the lot?

So, any way you turn it, looks like a brain wiring with less filters is bad for your health.

Unless of course there is a secret race of overperceptive individuals hiding amongst us. These guys screwing with us once in a while (not just figuratively speaking) might explain the presence of a small percentage of non-standard brain patterns in the human population.

The guys from K'nian?

Someone else?

Surviving Neanderthals?

And still we have not touched upon the possibility of sidestepping your in-built filters through training and meditations. What about that guy that spent ten years staring at a wall meditating and was as a consequence able to listen to the talking of the ants?

More questins than answers, as you see.

Any ideas?


Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 18:25:47 -0500

From: Graeme Price

Not necessarily true. The assumption that those benefiting (suffering?) from a "different" wiring of the brain would not still be with us is reliant on the hypothesis that the "difference" is detrimental (obviously, unless it were a relatively recent development [recent in evolutionary terms, that is], then we would be overrun by them if the difference is beneficial). If such a difference is neutral to survival then there could be pockets of people in society who perceive things in a radically different way to the rest of us. Tcho-Tcho's perhaps?

There is a reasonably obvious precedent for that: colour blindness. In evolutionary terms it makes rather little difference. Distinguishing between colours is nice, but provided depth and acuity of vision are intact, it's not really essential. Another, slightly more radical example would be autism where the perception of space is disturbed to variable extents. Schizophrenia also fits the bill from a purely symptomatic standpoint.

Or via less "philosphical" methods. LSD leaps immediately to mind. Who knows what the MJ-12/MKULTRA boys have cooked up over the last few years? And that's not even considering the Plutonian drug or the Wossname (Tillinghast?) Resonator. The big problem is "what do they see?". Personally, I'd as soon not find out.

Taking the earlier example of the Shan (which we worked through a few months back), we have postulated the existence of several dimensions which overlap slightly with our own. What if the altered brain wiring allows vision (or hearing) into some of these? In Pratchett's Discworld, the Wizards gain the ability to see the magical 8th colour of the spectrum (octarine)… an interesting idea (even if exploited for comedic effect). Something like that isn't actually too far out of the realms of possibility (mutated pigment in the rods or cones of the eyes perhaps? Extended cochlea allowing the hearing of strange sounds occasionally?).

What would be the effects on us if we ever did actually gain such altered preception? Ever see Ray Milland in "The Man with the X-ray Eyes"? Or Burton in "The Medusa Touch"? Both creepy films about people who get to perceive things differently to the rest of us. Ever screw your eyes up really tight and watch the pretty colours? What if you got stuck like that, or (worse) if the ability to percieve in a different way was triggered by some external stimulus? A smell, a certain taste, a biochemical reaction which triggers the second sight? Eat a combination of mature stilton and anchovies before bedtime and you are practically certain of some really trippy dream at about 2 am. What if you got the same effects whilst awake?

How would you react to some of the oddness that list members have written in the DREAM JOURNAL if it occurred to you when you were walking down the street and _knew_ you weren't asleep? The subconcious is a peculiar thing… it can play tricks on you, and no one really knows what the brain can and cannot do.

I guess that what I'm trying to say is that if you perceive something to be real, and no one else does, does that make it any the less real for you?

In retrospect, I imagine that much of what I have just written will come across as demented ramblings… it's been a long 48 hours for me (but that's another story). I just hope it gives someone pause for thought.


From: Dennis Detwiller

Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 20:33:37 EST

«Or via less "philosphical" methods. LSD leaps immediately to mind. Who knows what the MJ-12/MKULTRA boys have cooked up over the last few years? And that's not even considering the Plutonian drug or the Wossname (Tillinghast?) Resonator. The big problem is "what do they see?". Personally, I'd as soon not find out.»

Hi Guys, just thought I'd let you know, this is going to be covered in DG: COUNTDOWN. MJ's mind control boys, called OUTLOOK Group are sort of the offspring of various projects like MKULTRA and such…

Look for it soon!


From: Mark McFadden
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 00:09:27 EST

« If such a difference is neutral to survival then there could be pockets of people in society who perceive things in a radically different way to the rest of us. »

Timothy Leary speculated that most of the whacky Fortean things going on are the result of new senses or a loosening of the censors on old senses as a result of neural evolution. We don't evolve much more physically, because we make machines take up the slack, but the one organ that sets us apart from the 'natural' ecology is the very organ that will need to adapt to changing circumstances. We are the Beta release of future Man.

He also notes that the 'mutant' gene seems to travel west and north. So whacky Koreans and Thais make metal, then head through India and rest at the mountains, then they forge across to the Fertile Crescent and play in the Mediterranean for a while. Empire builders pool in Spain and Portugal and the wackiest cross the Channel heading north. Europeans head to the Americas, and the wackiest of those head for the (western) frontier. They eventually pool in LA and Frisco. Now they are sending feelers to Seattle. I figure they'll pool in Vancouver and leap across the Pacific to Siberia, the new frontier. By that time the climate there should be congenial.

Movies are the greatest expression of civilization. Just think of the creativity and labor and millions of dollars spent to produce flickering light on a screen. You've got to be civilized to afford that kind of luxury. Hell, we're so civilized we can afford bad movies.


From: Mark McFadden

Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 00:09:30 EST

« And still we have not touched upon the possibility of sidestepping your in-built filters through training and meditations. What about that guy that spent ten years staring at a wall meditating and was as a consequence able to listen to the talking of the ants? »

That should be coming up with Part 3, Grasshopper. But don't let that stop your musings.

Back to Bach: What if the 'recognized notes' and rational mathematical structure of Western music are a sort of Primer of the 'important' sounds. Music that doesn't fit the template is ignored as unimportant noise. We tune it out with the Cocktail Party Effect. Using the subroutines of the nervous system as defense from the Mythos.

Those sensitives who can perceive a structure in seemingly chaotic noise are both dangerous and in peril.

As always, Jazz is suspect. Note the cult-like behavior of it's devotees.

Their nostalgia for heroes that played wild and free like the gods themselves before The Man shut them down or leashed them with contracts.

Quincy Jones had to quit playing trumpet because it threatened to make his brain explode.

Take a good look at Miles Davis. Now that's a Black Man With A Horn.

Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" album is a wonder. Each song has a unique-to- arcane time signature. Guaranteed to infuriate the Rhinos of Tindalos. Listen with care. Discordians and Erisians will note the ubiquitous Five. fnord.


Date: 9 Mar 1999 08:44:41 GMT

From: "Jacob Busby Bsc."

Interesting discussion on perception. Just a quick thought for all the psychologists out there - Isn't there some connection between perception and memory? If I've been bitten by a dog I'm going to view dogs with more apprehension than someone who hasn't.

Also how would cultural background fit into this? The colour "Red" is a signal for danger - Fire engines are red, the stop sign on a traffic light is red, high tide warning flags are red - what if you came from a culture were red meant safety and blue meant danger?


Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 08:33:31 -0600 (CST)
From: Tenebrous Technologies

Timothy Leary speculated that most of the whacky Fortean things going on are

Sort of like R.A.W.'s ideas about reality tunnels and that we are conditioned to only see what is in ours and anything outside of them, it is a break in conditioning either caused deliberately or accidentally. Contrast that with Colin Wilson's idea about 'Faculty X' which may or may not (depending on your interpetation of 'Faculty X'), sections of our mind that open up to allow us to percieve different levels or aspects of reality.


Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 19:02:20 -0500 (EST)

From: The Man in Black

There is a reasonably obvious precedent for that: colour blindness. In
evolutionary terms it makes rather little difference. Distinguishing
between colours is nice, but provided depth and acuity of vision are
intact, it's not really essential.

Most color blind folks suffer from other vision ailments. The more common Red/Green and Blue/Yellow color blindness usually suffer from near or far sightedness as well. The rather rare B&W color blindness is typically accompanied by extreme astigmatism. Curiously, B&W folks have lots of rods and no cones, so their night vision is pretty good, if blurry.

BTW, I'm pretty sure autism is a lot more than spatial perception errors.


Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 18:05:08 -0500

From: Graeme Price

Well, for starters it would lead initially to confusion, then embarrasment, and finally to being arrested if said cultural explorer walked into a police station mistaking it for a house of negotiable affection….


From: alex
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 01:52:04 +0100 (CET)

But what really bugged a section of the audiophile public was that the
brain wiring is not univocal - in other words the process described by
Mark is true for the majority, but still a small percentage of us can
perceve a wider or more articulated bandwidth. Ever wondered what's it
like for them?

I don't have to wonder. As I observed with years, I can hear slightly higher-frequencies that most of the public. Its awful - I often feel like tormented when I'm at the railway station - the _very_ highest pitch of train's brakes is painful (and this is how I learned that most of the people don't hear it - they seem not to notice it at all). Imagine the highest frequency you heard and make it much higher. Imagine it's so high that you almost don't hear it and you feel resonance with your teeth and they feel falling out. And it will be something like this. I haven't heard any of those 'tones' in music. Actually the source can be as simple as metal safe doors - I learned to lift it while closing to avoid this sound (this is painful evn when not very loud) and SAN loss (I'd estimate this like 1/1d2 per minute) - but my bosses who open&close it frequently, barely notice it makes any sound at all.

Ah, it looks like I'm a pefect target for sonic weapon. I also know that one of my friends can hear this frequencies. WIth similar symptoms.

Also, keep in mind that you won't realize if you are one of the few unless
you are subjected to thorough experimentation, or you compare the listening
of the same execution through a pristine CD and a DAT machine.

You don't hear these things in music, you know. Most of the musicians don't hear this so they won't use it.

Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 12:09:11 +0900 (JST)
From: Jay and Mikiko

It may amuse you to know that all Japanese kobans (sort of mini-police stations) have a red lamp on the front of the building. On the other hand, it's unlikely that someone will mistake it for a house of negotiable affection, as there is usually someone standing outside of those carrying a large billboard covered with semi-erotic pictures and the words "Anal Fuck" in 240 point type.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 17:31:14 +1300 (NZDT)

From: Svend Andersen

<snip MiB's pigeon story>

There's also Mark Twain's story about the cat and the hot stove top…

The first three colors that people learn to perceive are Black, White and
Red - in that order. Black and White are contrasts, leading to shape and
form. Red is blood and meat. Sometimes danger, sometimes dinner.

Well, that's *kinda* true… all cultures have colour words for black, white and red. An artist friend of mine hypothesised that this could have to to do with the easiest colours to reproduce (charcoal, talc and ochre), but that's probably just 'cos he's an artist. :) Study of colour-words, and the way people sort and name colours, is quite a cool area of research. :)

Which reminds me - how about some group (Men from K'yan, Tcho-Tchos, Deep One hybrids, whoever) being distinguishable by something completely innocuous, like the groupings they put colours into, or some unusual linguistic pattern. Now, a group of researchers innocently testng random small populations (hey, it *could* happen! ;) finds an annomalous group, which are actually a lost colony of <whoever>. It makes a moderate splash in the journals, and then…

- the group disappears. (their parent group found them, someone knew the reason for the anomaly and eliminated them, or something else?)

or

- research funds dry up for this area, and suddenly appear in some other area; rival researchers complain about the first guys suddenly getting funding when they'd been asking for years to do exactly the same thing, and they 'go away'…

or even

- old ONI people recognise the significance of the findings, and DG puts people out to 'check things out, just in case'…'


From: Mark McFadden

Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 03:36:16 EST

First axiom: We don't see 'reality'. We see it's reflection.

Second axiom: We perceive only what our nerves deem important.

So how does the nervous system get programmed?

Pavlov worked with dogs. He always rang a bell while the dogs were eating.

Soon, he could ring the bell and they'd salivate in preparation for a meal. He called this a conditioned response.

In WWII this behavior was utilized as an antitank weapon. Raise dogs from puppies and always feed them under a German tank. Then strap a bomb to their back with a trigger attached to a whippy antenna that sticks up. Let the dog loose at the front. When he gets hungry he'll head for the first German tank he finds and scrabble under it looking for a meal. Boom.

War is hell.

B.F. Skinner utilized the simpler responses of the common pigeon to automate an electronics assembly line.

Scatter assorted small parts in front of the pigeon. It will instinctively peck and pick up various parts. Shock it every time it picks up a part that you don't want it too. It will never ever pick up one of those parts again.

Then it's a simple matter to train it to drop all parts it picks up into a bin. This is easy to do since the parts are not edible. If you selectively condition a line of pigeons to each pick out a different part and convey an unsorted collection of parts past them, they will sort the parts into separate bins without supervision. The immediate advantage over machine automation or rudimentary AI is the fact that a pigeon will immediately recognize a 5 Ohm resistor in a pile of parts, from any angle or orientation. Imagine trying to program a robot to do the same thing. And try paying the programmer in birdseed.

Incidentally, the pigeons were 100% accurate.

Now, 5 Ohm=Good/Anything Else=Bad is a pretty simple response to condition. Easy as making a dog slobber. But Pavlov's later experiments produced much more interesting results.

Dogs don't tolerate ambiguity well.

Through rewards and shocks, Pavlov conditioned dogs to ring a bell when they saw a circle, or press a buzzer when they saw a square. No problem. Then he started to show them shapes that transition between the two states. If a shape was markedly more round than square, the dogs happily rang the bell. If a shape was more square than round they would happily press the buzzer. But, the farther a shape was from either pure state, the less the dog liked it. When confronted with a rounded square they would go into an agitated state, unable to decide. Discipline would break down, fights would break out, house training was forgotten. I am not exaggerating, some of the dogs became dangerous. He was able to push the dogs into a psychotic state by presenting them with an insoluble problem.

Or, to quote Devo:

In ancient Rome, there was a poem
About a dog, who had two bones
He licked the one, he licked the other
He ran in circles and he dropped dead
'Cause he had Freedom Of Choice!
Freedom Of Choice!
Is what you got
Freedom From Choice!
Is what you want

The dog's dilemma is not that it is being confronted with choice, but that it was only given two choices.

THIRD MEDITATION: Liberal/Conservative. Democracy/Communism. Good/Evil. West Coast/East Coast. Rock/Disco. Men/Women. Beginning/End. Management/Labor. Officer/Enlisted. Legal/Illegal. Real/Imaginary. Pro-Life/Pro-Choice. Religious/Secular. Win/Lose. Free Will/Predestination. Nature/Nurture. Child/Adult. Human/Animal.

EXTRA EXERCISE: How many of these would comfortably accommodate a third or fourth option? Do the additional options increase or decrease the differences? Do they increase or decrease tension between the two 'poles'? Does an additional option force the 'poles' into a new configuration, like an equilateral triangle as opposed to a line? What does the term "opposite" mean in reference to a triangle? Did you have to redefine the term? Why?

SUMMARY: The nervous system seems to prefer certitude to ambiguity.

ObDG: Every time you enter the polling booth, you see a multitude of parties listed. Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Peace and Freedom, Reform, Socialist, Green. And yet we consistently use the phrase "America's Two Party System." [fnord] Where did that phrase come from? [fnord] When was it true? [fnord] Why don't we question it?

We don't notice them. They aren't important. Lump them all together as Other and forget about them. Then don't bother to vote because 'neither' party produced anyone worth voting for. Or against.

And when all 11 Republicans in Louisiana voted for Pat Buchanan, it was an unprecedented landslide that sent the GOP scurrying to reevaluate their yada yada yada. And when less than 50% of the voters turn out, and fewer than 50% of them vote for the same guy, it's a ringing Mandate From The People for sweeping change. Which would have happened if it weren't for that gosh darned Congress and their gosh darned partisan politics. I swear, you'd think it was a conspiracy.

Incidentally, None Of The Above won the last seven (IIRC) presidential elections if you count eligible voters who didn't. By the way, who counts the votes? Do you trust them? Do you know who they are?


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 09:17:00 -0500

From: Graeme Price

In WWII this behavior was utilized as an antitank weapon. Raise dogs from
War is hell.

True story. The Russians used this particular method of training dogs as anti-tank weapons. Problem was they didn't have any German tanks… so some bright spark army officer came up with the idea of using damaged T-34's in training (plenty of those around). When they released the armed dogs at the front, they paid no interest in the rapidly advancing German panzers at all and only recognised the Soviet T-34's as a food source. Friendly fire comes in all shapes and sizes.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 09:28:21 -0500

From: Graeme gro.enrutcon|neergecirP#gro.enrutcon|neergecirP

Agreed, but it is a component. My Big Blue medical dictionary defines autism as:

"Thinking and behaviour which shows a preoccupation with the self to the relative exclusion of the outside world, which in time may seem unreal to the subject."

Which puts it into the context of the discussion nicely. There are a whole other bunch of symptoms as well, though (repetative behaviour, sensual preoccupation with surfaces, withdrawal from social contact, inability to make eye contact etc.). Except for the fact that it is normally a condition which manifests in childhood, it would be interesting to play out as an acquired insanity.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 13:35:22 +0900 (JST)

From: Jay and Mikiko

I have the same problem with flourescent (sp?) lights and televisions with the sound turned off.

The problem is that I'm in Japanese, where incandescent lighting is unusual.


From: "MARK KLINGER"
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 10:10:15 CST6CDT

Interesting discussion on perception. Just a quick thought for all the
psychologists out there - Isn't there some connection between perception and
memory? If I've been bitten by a dog I'm going to view dogs with more
apprehension than someone who hasn't.

Ahhh! Finally a moment where a cognitive psychology professor can pontificate:

In spite of the way psychology is taught to undergraduates, where perception and memory represent isolated chapters in the textbook & aren't discussed as interactive, perception and memory are completely interlinked and inseparable. Perception is the process of matching current sensory input to memory. What you perceive completely depends on which memory/long-term knowledge you already have that best matches the pattern of sensory input you are taking in. It is a very rough system. For instance, all of you have probably had the experience of driving and seeing what you think is a dead animal lying along the side of the road, only to realize it is a piece of truch tire later. The notion is that the early (poor) sensory info that you take in matches best memories of dead animals by the side of the road, so that's what you think you see. As the sensory info gets clearer, you realize you were mistaken. Of course, often we never get the added sensory info to tell us we were mistaken. This is all over simplified, but captures the essence of perception as a system that quickly, automatically makes the best memory match it can to tell us what we are seeing.

I just want to point out one more way prior experience affects perception. Our sensory systems are "tuned" particularly during the first few years of life determining what sensory info we are capable of perceiving. There were some famous experiments in the 60s where rats were raised in environments either with only vertical lines or only horizontal lines. If the cats were placed in an environment with the kinds of lines they were used to, they could navigate around with no problems. However, if they were placed in the opposite environment, they could not "see" the walls. That is, a cat raised in a vertical line environment, when placed in a horizontal line environment, would walk into walls, not be able to navigate. It turns out that the cats raised in a vertical line environment never could learn to see the horizontal lines. There is a critical time in early development where horizontal perception is learned — if you don't learn it during that period, you never will. This happens in virtually all aspects of perception. Many of you may know that the same thing happens with language. Across all spoken languages, there are a limited number of sounds. (I forget how many, though it is under 100.) All infants from all cultures are equally good at differentiating these sounds on a sensory level. As individuals mature, however, we trim and prune which sounds we can discriminate so that soon the only phonemes we can discriminate well are those used in the languages we are exposed to as small children (for instance I perceive only the 46 phonemes spoken in the English language). Our brain rewires itself to be only sensitive to those phonemes that are important to the languages we've been exposed to while young. One example of this is seen in the difficulty native Japanese speakers have discriminating English "R" and "L" sounds. While infants, Japanese children are good at perceiving these sounds. They lose this ability as they mature & nothing you can do can get it back.

ObDG: All this suggests that if you want to raise a generation of individuals who are going to be good at perceiving the "other" nature of the universe, you gotta start with infants. It's easy to imagine a group that realizes this & makes sure that a generation of children will have the "right perceptual experiences" so their brains are hard-wired to perceive aspects of the mythos as they mature into adults.

Also how would cultural background fit into this? The colour "Red" is a signal
for danger - Fire engines are red, the stop sign on a traffic light is red,
high tide warning flags are red - what if you came from a culture were red
meant safety and blue meant danger?

Exactly right. Our knowledge & prior experiences with RED complete determine how I perceive the color red in the future.


Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 02:06:49 +0900 (JST)

From: Jay and Mikiko

I'm just going to pop in here long enough to mention to those who are interested that the Japanese language has neither 'r's nor 'l's. The closest equivilant to either sound is sort of a combination of a light 'l' and a 'd' sound. My keyboard can't make the proper phonetic symbol, though. Sorry.

I just wanted to point this out as a bit of two-point nit-picking.
1) It's just as true to say that English speakers lose their ability to produce the Japanese sound as it is to say that Japanese lose their ability to produce 'l's and 'r's.

2) Actually, you can get the skill back. There are thousands of Japanse who learned English as an adult who have, after a _great_ deal of effort, learned how to distinguish 'r's and 'l's, just as I've had to learn to make the Japanese sound.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 21:18:20 +0100
From: Davide Mana

By one of those strange cases of sincronicity, I found today something that fits nicely with Mark's musings on perception, brain programming and so on: Futurist Cooking.

For the uninitiated: the Futurists ("Futuristi") were a relatively small artistic/cultural/political movement in Italy between 1900 and the beginning of the Second World War.

Basic tenements: breaking with the past, big fast noisy machines are cool, god is dead, god is a machine, live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse, art is action…

You get the idea: there's little the avant-garde crowd has done this last 50 years that the futurists did not do before (including sex and drugs and weird sounds everybody else called noise). They tended to lean to the extreme right wing, and were instrumental in promoting the culture that in the end brought the Fascist to power; the fact that the Regime ended up filling Italy with mock-Roman-Imperial stuff instead of chromium steel silouettes was a big let down for the few survivors that made it to the 1940s - the majority died before that, in car/plane wrecks, in WWI, in Africa, in the Spanish Civil War, summoning Azathot…

And probably sampling Futurist Cooking.

Anyway, taste the madness…

--—-

"Aerovivanda"["Airfood"]

The guest is served from the right a plate of black olives, hearts of fennels and bigarades. From the left he is served a rectangular pad made of sandpaper, silk and velvet. The food must be tasted with the right hand, while the left hand is passing repeatedly and rithmically over the various surfaces of the pad. Meanwhile the serving staff nust spray the back of the head of the guests with a carnation-based perfume while from the kitchen comes the violent roar of a plane's engine counterpointed by Bach's music.

---

The whole thing should give the vict…. sorry, the guest the feelings normally derived by a wild flight on a plane.

The recipe, designed by painter and aviation maverick Fillia, was dreamed up in 1923 and published for the first time in 1932.

Crazy, eh?

Take care, and don't play with your food.


From: Mark McFadden

Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 17:00:45 EST

In a message dated 99-03-11 16:37:28 EST, you write:

« The recipe, designed by painter and aviation maverick Fillia, was dreamed up in 1923 and published for the first time in 1932. »

Note the 23 and it's variation of 32. And there are 9 years between '23 and '32, which is 3 squared for another 32. Or is it 8 years , or 2 cubed for another 23?

'Scuse me, gotta clean my gloves.


From: Mark McFadden

Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 00:07:33 EST

« Across all spoken languages, there are a limited number of sounds. (I forget how many, though it is under 100.) All infants from all cultures are equally good at differentiating these sounds on a sensory level. »

Has anyone transcribed these <100 sounds? It strikes me that these would constitute the vowels and consonants of the Ur-language. What we're hard-wired to use.


Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 23:58:36 -0600 (CST)

From: Tenebrous Technologies

Has anyone transcribed these <100 sounds? It strikes me that these would

Ur? Hell, what about Aklo? ;)

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