Why did Newton struggle for thirty years to make gold by alchemy – and then become Master of the Mint? Why do we blush? Why do we have illusions?
In this collection of essays, originally published in 1994, Richard Gregory once again delights and tantalizes with tales of his childhood, his family and friends, the famous and the infamous, and weaves them into a rich pattern to illuminate scientific principles and puzzles. If you can put the book down, each essay is complete on its own, but they are united by the magic of human perception. From seeing and hearing to feeling and believing, from the shape of traffic signs to knowledge of quantum mechanics, all our interactions with the outside world are mediated by perception.
Our knowledge is further distilled by the machines which help our own biological mechanisms, like microscopes and telescopes, electric light, and even more powerfully by computer technology. But if the natural structures of perception can affect our interpretation of the world, how much more dramatically might science education and tools of information technology enhance – though sometimes mislead – our perception of reality? Even Odder Perceptions may not have all the answers, but it certainly poses more questions.
List of figures. Pretext. 1. Traffic Lights 2. The Case of the Sugared Almonds 3. Perceptions of Hamlet 4. What Use is a Jelly Baby? 5. Is Science Bad for the Soul? 6. Is Science Good for the Soul? 7. Cracks – of Doom and Kuhn 8. At First Sight 9. At First Blush 10. Hi-Falootin-Fi: Sound Saga 11. Senses of Humour 12. Zap! 13. Virtually Real 14. Questions of Quanta and Qualia 15. What are Perceptions Made of? 16. Appearance and Reality: A Number of Ideas 17. Mind in a Black Box 18. What is the Catch in Neural Nets? 19. Conning Cortex 20. Perceptions of William James in The Principles of Psychology 21. Forgotten Genius of Bristol: William George Horner 22. Good as Gold: Newton’s Alchemy of Matter and Mind 23. Counting on Eyes 24. Switching Brains on by Exploring Hands-on 25. Michael Faraday’s Perception 26. Adelbert Ames: Interactions with Hermann Helmholtz, Albert Einstein and the Universe 27. Putting Illusions in Their Place. Index.