Pre-thinking:

As you watch think about the relationship between the illusions he presents, and happiness. See if you can find examples in your own life where your expectations were violated in a pleasing way. Note that even if you know you are getting fooled, it is still difficult to avoid perceiving the illusion.

Why you should listen:

Al Seckel takes great delight in visual illusions and the brain mechanics that they reveal. A cognitive neuroscientist who until 2005 was at the California Institute of Technology, he is the author of many books and articles and has compiled several eye tricks calendars. Seckel has designed interactive museum exhibits around the world that allow visitors to play with illusions and understand how they work.

Who is he:

He is a noted lecturer, a member of the Edge Foundation, a founder of the Southern California Skeptics, a campaigner against the teaching of creationism in public schools — and co-creator of the Darwin Fish. Since leaving Caltech in 2005 to pursue writing and his own research, he has continued his work in spatial imagery with psychology researchers at Harvard.

Questions:

  1. Why do jokes and illusions create feelings of happiness or joy?
  1. In the Crazy Nuts illusion could you stop it from happening; why or why not?
  1. What happened to the train when it went into the tunnel?
  1. How does past experience affect what we see and how we see it?
  1. What was happening with Kitooka’s illusion to create movement when the screen was static (completely stopped)?
  1. Find an illusion and mystify your family and friends or create your own illusion to convey a secret message.

Visual illusions that show how we (mis)think with Al Seckel

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