Saturday, February 14, 2009

Optical Illusions and the Illusion of Love!

This is the seventh article in the Mind Matters series on the neuroscience behind visual illusions.
It’s Valentine’s season, which means that everywhere you look there are heart-shaped balloons, pink greeting cards and candy boxes filled with chocolate. But what is true love? Does it exist? Or is it simply a cognitive illusion, a trick of the mind? Let us count the ways. Contrary to the anatomy referenced in all of our favorite love songs, love (as with every other emotion we feel) is not rooted in the heart, but in the brain. (Unfortunately, Hallmark has no plans to mass-produce chocolate-covered arrow-pierced brains in the near future.) By better understanding how the brain falls in love, we can learn about why the brain can get so obsessed with this powerful emotion. In fact, some scientists even see love as a sort of addiction. For instance, neuroscientist Thomas Insel and colleagues at Emory University in Atlanta discovered that monogamous pair bonding has its basis in the same brain reward circuits that are responsible for addiction to drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Their study was conducted in the prairie vole, a small rodent that mates for life. But the conclusions are probably true for humans, too, which may explain why it is so hard to break up a long-term romantic relationship. Losing someone you love is like going through withdrawal.
This month’s slide show features a number of visual illusions with a romantic motif. We hope that you and your special one will enjoy them. And remember, even if love is an illusion, that doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful and real (to our brains, anyway).

Pop! Goes My Heart
Nothing is more romantic than curling up in front of a fire with your loved one on Valentine’s Day, as you lovingly whisper, “chromostereopsis.” Okay, maybe it’s not as passionate as a sonnet—unless you are a vision scientist. Look at the red and blue hearts and examine their depth with respect to the background. Most people find that the red heart pops in front of the blue background whereas the blue heart sinks beneath the red background. This illusion comes about because our eyes’ lenses refract blue light more than red. This phenomenon is called a chromatic aberration; another example of this effect is seeing a rainbow when you shine white light through a prism. When both eyes view the red and blue images simultaneously, the cornea and lens of the eyes refract different amounts of the colors, which results in their systematic and symmetric binocular mislocalization. The brain deals with this sensory aberration by imagining depth—the red heart is in front of the blue background and vice versa—even though none actually exists.

Illusions That Move the Heart
Your wandering eyes pull at your lover’s heartstrings. In this illusion, the heart appears to move and even pulsate as you look around the image. When your eyes move, they shift the retinal images of the white/black edges in the pattern, activating the motion-sensitive neurons in your visual cortex. This neural activation leads to the perception of illusory motion. Note that if you focus your gaze on a single point, the illusory motion slows or stops.

Illusory Neon Heart
Notice that the yellow fields inside of the heart appear paler than the fields forming the contour of the heart, which appear to be a darker shade of yellow/orange. Right? Wrong. Actually, all of the yellow fields in the figure are identical. Any differences that you see are all in your mind. This effect is called “neon color spreading,” because it resembles the effect of the light spreading from a neon lamp. The neural underpinnings of this effect are not yet understood.

Love and Hate
Even more ambivalent is this mirror-symmetric ambigram of love and hate. Talk about mixed feeling—we hope she brings a mirror on her Valentine’s Day date. There’s even a T-shirt available at

For Coffee and Tea Lovers
“Yuan yang" is a typical Hong Kong beverage mix of tea and coffee, and also a symbol of marriage and love. Sculptor Tsang Cheung-shing has united both concepts in a beautiful ceramic work, in which tea and coffee poured from two stylish cups meet and kiss each other.

Love Is All Around
Romance is not just a concept for humans and voles. This slide shows that love, and illusions, surround us all.

How To File PIL In India!

How To File PIL In India
These days in India, the only way to get things done is to file PILs. Here is how to do it:
1. How can I file a PIL? PIL is filed in the same manner, as a writ petition is filed. If a PIL is filed in a High Court, then two (2) copies of the petition have to be filed (for Supreme Court, then (4+1=5 sets) Also, an advance copy of the petition has to be served on the each respondent, i.e. opposite party, and this proof of service has to be affixed on the petition.The Procedure: A Court fee of Rs. 50, per respondent (i.e. for each number of party, court fees of Rs 50) has to be affixed on the petition. Proceedings, in the PIL commence and carry on in the same manner, as other cases. However, in between the proceedings if the Judge feels that he may appoint the commissioner, to inspect allegations like pollution being caused, trees being cut, sewer problems, etc. After filing of replies, by opposite party, or rejoinder by the petitioner, final hearing takes place, and the judge gives his final decision.2. In which cases, can a PIL be filed? PIL can be filed only in a case where “Public Interest” at large is affected. Merely because, only one person is effected by state inaction is not a reason for PIL.There are some of the possible areas where PIL can be filed.· Where a factory/ industry unit is causing air pollution, and people nearly are getting effected.· Where, in an area/ street there are no street lights, causing inconvenience to commuters.· Where some “Banquet Hall” plays a loud music, in night causing noise pollution.· Where some construction company is cutting down trees, causing environmental pollution.· Where poor people, are affected, because of state government’s arbitrary decision to impose heavy “Tax”. · For directing the police/ Jail authorities to take appropriate decisions in regards to jail reforms, such as segregation of convicts, delay in trial, before the court on remand dates.· For abolishing child labor, and bonded labor.· Where rights of working women are affected by sexual harassment.· For keeping a check on corruption and crime involving holders of high political officer.· For maintaining Roads, Sewer etc in good condition.· For removal of Big Hoarding and signboards from the busy road to avoid traffic problem.3. Who can file the PIL?Earlier it was only a person whose interest was directly affected along with others, whereby his fundamental right is affected who used to file such litigation. Now, the trend has changed, and, any Public-spirited person can file a case (PIL) on behalf of a group of person, whose rights are affected. It is not necessary, that person filing a case should have a direct interest in this PIL.e.g. a person in Mumbai can file a PIL for, some labor workers being exploited in Madhya Pradesh or as someone filed a PIL in supreme court for taking action against a Cracker factory in Sivakasi Tamilnadu, for employing child labor or the case where a standing practicing lawyer filed a PIL for release of 80 under trials in a jail, than the period prescribed as punishment for offence, for which they were tried. It is clear that, any person can file a PIL on behalf of group of affected people. However, it will depend on every facts of case, whether it should be allowed or not.
4. Against whom a PIL can be filed? A PIL can be filed against a State/ Central Govt., Municipal Authorities, and not any private party. However, “Private party” can be included in the PIL as “Respondent”, after making concerned state authority, a party. For example- if there is a Private factory in Delhi, which is causing pollution, then people living nearly or any other person can file a PIL against the Government of Delhi, Pollution Control Board, and against the private factory. However, a PIL cannot be filed against the Private party alone.5. Can a Letter Explaining Facts to Chief Justice be treated as a PIL?In early 90’s there have been instances, where judges have treated a post card containing facts, as a PIL. Many PIL has been filed on this basis in the past. Since, many people have tried to misuse the privilege of PIL, the court has required a detailed narration of facts and complaint, and then decide whether to issue notice and call the opposite party. However, as there is no statute laying down rules and regulations for a PIL still the court can treat a letter as a PIL. However, the letter should bring the true and clear facts, and if the matter is really an urgent one, the court can treat it as a PIL. Even a writ petition filed by the aggrieved person, whether on behalf of group or together with group can be treated as a PIL.6. What are the various reliefs available by PIL?There are many kinds of remedies, which can be given in a PIL, to secure the public interest, at large. They are:· The court can afford an early interim measure to protect the public interest,· The court may appoint a committee, or commissioner to look into the matter and· The court may also give final orders by way of direction to comply within a stipulated time.
Painstakingly compiled by Subhashini.