Christian Long

Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Oliver Sacks: What Hallucination Reveals About Our Minds

In TED Talks on April 29, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Reflection by ANGELA W.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Oliver Sacks: What Hallucination Reveals about Our Minds

Wouldn’t you be scared out of your mind if you saw deformed people in eastern dress walking up and down stairs? Or seeing cartoons that cover half of your visions? Wouldn’t you be even more freaked out if all this happened while you were blind?

In fact, many people struggle with this everyday. They have a disease called Charles Bonnet syndrome. The Charles Bonnet syndrome is a condition that causes patients with visual loss to have complex visual hallucinations. There is not as much research on this syndrome as wished due to people being afraid to talk about it. These people that refuse to talk about their hallucinations need to realize that if they do not talk about it, than their problem will never get fixed and nothing will be done. Because very few people choose to open up about their syndrome, there is no treatment.

Charles Bonnet did not have this syndrome him self, but his 89 year old grandfather did. Bonnet observed him and listened to his stories about the things he has seen. His grandfather had been seeing men, women, birds, carriages, buildings, tapestries, and scaffolding patterns. All of the things he saw were random and had nothing to do with what he was thinking or doing. Bonnet diagnosed his grandfather with this syndrome in 1760.

Oliver Sacks talks about a few of his patients with this syndrome. One of them was an old lady named Rosalie. She was the woman seeing deformed people in eastern dress that would walk up and down stairs. She had said that they would smile and their teeth would be un-proportionally large. She also had said that right before she saw them pink and blue squares would appear on the ground and move all the way to the ceiling.

Another one of Sack’s patient saw cartoons. The cartoons were of Kermit the frog. The lady seeing this cartoon did not understand why the cartoon was Kermit because it meant nothing to her. Doctors have not found a reason to why people with this syndrome see what they see. This syndrome is usually found in elderly that have had severe vision loss.

I have become very interested in the way the brain functions and how everything we do connects back to our brain in the past year. The fact that people that are partially or fully blind and are able to have hallucinations fascinates me. I hope people with this syndrome start talking about their problems because many people would love have more data and research over this syndrome.

Evan Grant: Cymatics

In TED Talks on April 29, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Extra credit reflection by HERSH T.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Evan Grant:  Cymatics


A metal plate with sand on it suddenly changes place with just the application of sound through it. What is going on? The magic of Cymatics is at work. When I hear a sound, if it a sound that is not exactly pleasant, than it literally feels as though it is grinding on my ears. And when I hear a pleasant sound, I can feel my ears relaxing. We also know that sound is literally waves of particles that produce the sound through vibrations. However, what happens when all of a sudden we place that sound on a substance that can change shape easily. Then we can see that sound actually causes a pattern to emerge.

Sound has a shape!

What is that shape? Well the incredible variety of sounds also allows for an incredible variety of shapes. The fantastic images that emerge are shapes that are not easily created by hand. And, on top of that, the shapes are so perfect that it is hard to imagine how sound does that. For example,

That amazing pattern emerges when nothing but sound is added. And it is nothing but sand on top. We would imagine that the sand would either fall off, or not be affected at all or something, but no! The sand actually takes a pattern which is an incredibly highly mathematic pattern. Of course, we knew all along that nature was complex, but this complexity astounds even the most hardened nature veteran. Of course, when we take something so complicated and begin to understand it, it will always raise more questions. The most prevalent one, posed by Mr. Grant, is that if we can see that sound has such a profound effect on matter at such a low level, than when the universe was created, did the sound level affect the way the universe was arranged?

And before the thought that this is just a curious little science that on the side one can study, let me give you a little history of the people who had been Cymatologists. First and foremost, welcome Mr. Leonardo Da Vinci, and of course if that isn’t enough there’s Galileo. So this science has a backing of not only interesting ideas, but some of the most prominent intellectuals of the human race have also been interested in Cymatics. Which means, although it doesn’t have to, that this is no just fun slightly childish field of science. Cymatics can hold unprecedented rewards if only we could delve into it.

Cymatics complicates according to the level of sound that is played around it. So for example, just vibrations would produce the pattern above. And certain sounds can allow the sand or water to imitate natural things such as snowflakes and starfish. But, when a segment of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was played, the water looked like this,

David Holt: Plays Mountain Music

In TED Talks on April 29, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Reflection by MEIGHAN A.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

David Holt:  Plays Mountain Music

David Holt opens our eyes to a perspective of the world that we have mostly forgotten existed. These old tunes he shares with us bring back a piece of history most of us have forgotten, and when we see people in our modern age who still enjoy this type of music we usually dismiss them as old-fashioned, hillbillies, or rednecks. These old tunes are like proof of our country’s history though, so we shouldn’t be so dismissing of it. The music reflects the lifestyle and beliefs of these wonderful people Holt presents to us. This seemingly outdated style of life isn’t something to be looked down on, it should be cherished. There is a deeply human element present within music that makes it so wonderful.

Holt’s music mentors and friends are amazing beautiful people full of characters and culture. The story he shares with us about getting a job cotton picking is a very rich one. The life style was different back then, and he and his brother learned a new perspective while working in those fields. With the beautiful singing the brothers were able to work hard in the hot sun and with bloody hands, and allow their mother to teach them a lesson. It taught him that other people led very different lives than he did, and he should be grateful he didn’t have to work that hard all the time. A more important lesson they seemed to learn was that music makes everything more enjoyable and brings people together. Later he learned that his mother had set up the cotton-picking experience and that she hadn’t expected it to led him to love music so much.

About fifteen years ago he ended up losing his daughter in a car accident. Understandably, this could have, and almost did push him over the edge. He had to make lists of the important things in life so that he could convince himself to keep living. Besides the obvious love for the rest of his family most of the list was simpler things in life like seeing flowers bloom. One of the things on that list was getting to play the steel guitar that a neighbor of his parents had given him. He wrote his own songs for the guitar and played it to release his emotions. Playing this steel guitar kept him alive, and allowed him to express his grief and be happy again. His music also leads him to create his own instruments. His creative and inventive childhood enabled him to make his ‘thunderwear’.

Holt’s appreciation for the music stems from his love for the people he associates with the music. Everyone has different taste in music, but our appreciation of music leads to our appreciation of culture and other people. As our love for the people grows so does our love of the music we associate with them, and then grows our love for their culture and beliefs. Music is one way to unite people who otherwise wouldn’t know of each other’s existence, and allowing us to work together in peace. Music you listen to doesn’t only reflect on you, but the people you hang out with and people who you draw to you and draw you to them. Music is like an invisible thread that links people together and helps us to be more tolerant of those with different cultures. Love of music is like a gift that allows you to receive a more important gift of experiencing other people’s lives and being more in touch with the world.