Depression Header

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #14 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

[Content note: depression, anxiety, mental illness, suicide, disordered eating]

Depression/Anxiety is a normal thing. You don’t need to medicate it. It’s part of life and a beautiful part at that. There are circumstances in our world that are extremely sad and depressing. As a human, it’s an honorable thing to allow oneself to feel that.
The Polish Ambassador


No, I’m sorry, I can’t let this be.

A friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook the other day. It comes from The Polish Ambassador, an electronic musician also known as David Sugalski. Over the years, I’ve lost much of my interest in bickering on Facebook, so I didn’t raise my objections there, but I have serious problems with this quote, and I can’t just let them go unvoiced. Continue reading


This is exactly the sort of thing I’ve wanted to see for years. A simple, easy-to-follow, illustrated guide to some of the basic tenets of critical thinking. What’s more, it’s been designed by the Australian government as a teaching resource for high school students!

The first video is below. The rest of the series can be found by following links through each video’s page. Further resources are found at the TechNyou page.

Have you ever seen your blind spot?

There’s a fantastically interesting demonstration over on Serendip, a science hub supported by Bryn Mawr College. Check it out.

Diagrams of a vertebrate eye and a cephalopod eye
Vertebrate eye (left) and cephalopod eye (right)

The gist of it is that vertebrate eyes, due to the way they evolved, are naturally set up in a way that leaves a hole in the vision. The retina, which senses light, is behind the nerve fibers that transfer the signals to the brain. In order to get those nerve fibers out of the eye, they bundle up near the back and go back into the skull– but since the retina is normally behind the fibers, there’s nothing to sense light in that spot. (Check out the image to the right in case that description’s not clear.)

The interesting thing, however, is that this doesn’t result in a gaping hole in your vision. Make no mistake, there’s absolutely no way, given the anatomy, that that portion of your eye detects light. Then why is your vision whole?

Enter the brain. Your brain, as the Serendip demonstrations show, is remarkably adept at filling in holes. In the demonstration, you adjust your vision while focusing on a single point, until a large black dot elsewhere on the page disappears. If you do this on a white background, then what you see is an unblemished field of white. But more remarkably, if there is a line running through the blind spot, your brain fills in that line, even though it’s getting no information for that spot. If the blind spot occurs in a field filled with a regular pattern, then your brain fills in the pattern appropriately.

I’m constantly amazed by this for a couple of reasons. First, it’s downright incredible. That our brains are sophisticated enough to patch up the image we’re seeing based on what’s around our blind spot– that’s just cool. And we don’t even notice it. Before I experienced the Serendip demonstration, I had no idea that my brain was doing all this work behind the scenes. Clearly, it’s doing its job, and it’s doing it well.

But the second thing that hits me about this is what it implies about our knowledge. The blind spot demonstration shows the power of our brains, which is incredible, but it’s also a reminder about the limitations of what we can know through perception. My brain is working hard and doing a great job at patching up that image and drawing the line right through the blind spot when that dot disappears, but it doesn’t change the fact that the dot disappears. True, if I stayed in that particular arrangement forever, never moving my eyes, I’d never realize that what I was seeing was not the whole picture. The whole thing seems accurate and truthful– but it’s not. The brain may continue the patterns, but it fails to perceive the big honking black dot in front of it. What we see is not always how it is. Continue reading

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Stale Content Alert!

This post was written a long time ago, and my views have almost certainly evolved since then. Please keep that in mind while reading, commenting, or sharing.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but there are a lot of silly urban legends out there. In fact, chances are, you haven’t noticed, since there are a lot that have been adopted as fact, even though they’re no such thing.

Being who I am, I figured I’d address some of the most prevalent myths. With the aid of and Google, I bring you three of the most common urban legends.

Continue reading