Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Darkness, Darkness

Darkness, Darknessthe start point for The Youngbloods' elegiac album, Elephant Mountain, stays in your mind forever but, as per usual in BRT, this brief tome is not about music but rather about perception and how reality is dark and for good reason.

Researchers looked at the physiology of the retinal ganglion cells whose job it is to respond to a dark spot on a brighter background, simply called off cells, wondering why the brain would have clusters of off cells and not an even distribution across the retina. In addition to being more numerous and branching together in dense, bushy clusters, they also have smaller dendritic fields than the cells responsible for seeing light spots. By branching together more densely in clusters, they collect more synapses per visual angle. Thus, researchers concluded that the retina devotes more resources to processing dark contrasts, a natural capability reflected in the fact that there is more dark information in the world around us.

Researchers tested the hypothesis by measuring the spatial contrasts in natural images and quantifying the distribution of lightness and darkness. At all scales, the authors found that natural images contain relatively more dark contrasts than light.

In reading this, it makes eminent sense because  The Second Law of Thermodynamics states, in essence, that heat can never flow from a cold body to a warmer one, thus explaining why reality is mostly dark and entities like us must adapt to this inescapable fact or die.

"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough.” - Niels Bohr
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