psychic distance

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“… above all, the strange solitude and remoteness from the world, as it can be found only on the highest mountain tops; and the experience may acquire, in its uncanny mingling of repose and terror, a flavour of such concentrated poignancy and delight as to contrast sharply with the blind and distempered anxiety of its other aspects.”

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“… and we watch the consummation of some impending catastrophe with the marvelling unconcern of a mere spectator.”

-Edward Bullough, Psychic Distance

tabula rasa

“Pärt likes bells, literally and figuratively in his music. He also likes space and silence.”

shack montana

“Part of Pärt’s breakthrough, Layton says, came from hearing just three notes in a supermarket.”

“Over the public address system one hears the sound ‘doo, doo doo’ — Layton sings three descending tones — ‘Could so-and-so please go to till No. 25?’ Now that sound is called a triad in music, but it’s actually the building block of all music in the Western world.”

leaf closeup

“Pärt realized the beautiful simplicity of the triad and ran with it. He called his newfound style ‘tintinnabuli,’ a word referring to little tinkling bells. Another ingredient in the recipe is silence.”

Going to the sun road Glacier NP

“On the one hand, silence is like fertile soil, which, as it were, awaits our creative act, our seed. On the other hand, silence must be approached with a feeling of awe.” — Arvo Pärt

–Adapted from The Silence and Awe of Arvo Part, NPR

the sublime

flower tote

“Beethoven is not only about suffering — it’s about many emotions, true happiness and ecstasy.”

Arrival at Temple after Pilgrimmage

“It’s not true that someone has to have been through extreme emotions to play the music, but you have to be able to sympathize and have empathy with the emotions. If I play a piece of Chopin or Schumann, it’s a one-to-one confession all the time, but with Beethoven, the slow movements are not so much a confession but more a kind of preaching. He has a bigger message about humanity. Earlier, I didn’t really understand and appreciate that expression.”
~Leif Ove Andsnes

Penitence -- Pilgrim in Tibet

“In a case like Schubert, who died at 31, he had enough sorrow for a lifetime. There is something about the subtext of his music — people say you have to suffer a little more.”
~Jeremy Denk

Rose sheet music

“Musicians often state that they should wait until they ‘have something to say’ before tackling pieces like Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ or late Beethoven or Schubert, although for the pianist Richard Goode the phrase ‘having something to say’ suggests ‘an act of will — something extrinsic to a genuine involvement,’ he said.”
~Viven Schweitzer, Adapted from “Wait, You Need to Suffer Some More”

Prayer Flags in Tibet

“Which master managed, as Beethoven did in his late music, to weld together present, past and future, the sublime and the profane?”
~Alfred Brendel

horizon from plane

entropy

“…soaring* above the bowing * of taut * nerves in haphazard double-stops* would be the one singing string of her determination.”

statue and shooting star

“… only then did he realize that the isolated system-galaxy, engine, human being, culture, whatever—must evolve spontaneously toward the Condition of the More Probable*”

heat death

“He found himself, in short, restating Gibbs’ prediction in social terms, and envisioned a heat-death for his culture in which ideas, like heat-energy, would no longer be transferred, since each point in it would ultimately have the same quantity of energy; and intellectual motion would, accordingly, cease.”

dead tree on hill

the road

Kansas road

“All roads indeed lead to Rome, but theirs also is a more mystical destination, some bourne of which no traveller knows the name, some city, they all seem to hint, even more eternal.”
~Richard Le Gallienne

“Receptive field mapping studies in cortical area V1 [the primary visual cortex of the brain] indicate that cells are selectively sensitive to orientation, spatial frequency, direction of motion, color, and eye of stimulation.”
~Nakayama, 1996

Colorado Highway

“It is true that… apparent depth can be added to the visual image of a single eye by using a number of indirect cues, such as the angular subtense of an object of known size, motion parallax, accommodative effort, and the obscuration of distant objects by nearer ones.”
~Barlow, 1967

“Each cell has a specific binocular receptive field bestowing it with the ability to respond selectively to real-world targets at specific distances… Assuming that the visual system could monitor the convergence of the eyes with accuracy and precision, the properties of disparity selective neurons could provide for the metrical encoding of perceived distance.”
~Nakayama, 1996

Utah Canyonlands Road

“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”
~Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

 

 

Portraits of the Natural Brain

Often times, nature imitates itself. A neural structure only micrometers wide mimics shapes of organisms in the wilderness that are perceptible with the naked eye. Conversely, the awe-inspiring mammoth forms found in the wild are evocative of neural patterns a scientist would be interested in studying under a microscope.

The Natural Brain

Center
Neuron – formed from the varied colorings of cracks in ice

Top
Spinal Column – tree trunk
Corpus Callosum – banana leaf’s branching colorations represents fibers emanating from a central midline
Cortical Layers – natural gradient of white sands
Sulci & Gyri – canyon giving way to a river mimics the folding of the cortex

Bottom
Cerebral Aqueduct – waterfall symbolizing cerebrospinal fluid flowing from 3rd ventricle to the spinal cord
Ventricle – geothermal hot springs
Astrocytes – starlike daisies
Dendrite – evergreen overlooking the Continental Divide

[The brain] is not encased in a black box, but a vibrant and active organ whose constituent parts emulate natural forms we see regularly.

danse macabre

IMG_0872radiology lamp

“The image of Death as a fiddler appears in the works of several composers, but in none is it more effective than in this piece. The orchestra strikes midnight, Death tunes up, then begins his waltz; a second theme on the xylophone evokes the skeletal celebrants, who become more and more energetic until, with the cock’s crow, they disperse and vanish.” — from the Kennedy Center program notes

unknown

“Images of distant and unknown places have long inspired explorers and the public.”

plane over rock
“The photographs made during the Hayden expedition to Yellowstone were an essential reason it was selected as America’s first national park in 1872. Photographer William Henry Jackson captured the public’s imagination and support by confirming the existence of western landmarks previously regarded as glorified myths: the Grand Tetons, Old Faithful, and strange pools of boiling-hot mud.”

hot springs yellowstone
“Half a century later photographer Ansel Adams began his long career of delighting the public with luminous pictures of parks that many would not visit.”

black and white yellowstone canyon

— John Grotzinger, Field Trip on Mars

purple flower close up

“There is no foreign land; it is the traveller only that is foreign.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson

expansion of time, part ii

pink rose against white backdrop

“If different temporal judgments are generated by different neural mechanisms — and while they often agree, they are not required to. Like vision, time perception is underpinned by a collaboration of separate neural mechanisms that usually work in concert but can be teased apart under the right circumstances… If time as a single unified entity slows down during fear, then this slow motion should confer a higher temporal resolution.”

black and white rose with petals

“Time and memory are tightly linked. In a critical situation, the amygdala kicks into high gear… and memories are laid down by a secondary memory system… that makes them ‘stick’ better. Upon replay, the higher density of data would make the events appear to last longer. This may be why time seems to speed up as you age: you develop more compressed representation of events, and the memories to be read out are correspondingly impoverished. When you are a child and everything is novel, the richness of the memory gives the impression of increased time passage — for example, when looking back at the end of a childhood summer.”

pink rimmed rose petals

“The recalibration of subjective timing is not a party trick of the brain; it is critical to solving the problem of causality.”

rose against sunset

“What is the use of perception, especially since it lags behind reality, is retrospectively attributed, and is generally outstripped by automatic (unconscious) systems? The most likely answer is that perceptions are representations of information that cognitive systems can work with later. Thus it is important for the brain to take sufficient time to settle on its best interpretation of what just happened rather than stick with its initial, rapid interpretation. Its carefully refined picture of what just happened is all it will have to work with later, so it had better invest the time.”

-David Eagleman, Brain Time