Archive for July, 2006

A Whale of a Time

July 7, 2006

[Filed under So, What Did You Do on Your Vacation?]

I learned a three things about humpback whales on our annual July 4th weekend sailing trip from Salem Harbor to Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod with friends Jamie and Lori.

First, they have fish breath. Clearly illustrated by the very noticeable, pungently fishy smell that wafted over the boat immediately after a humpback surfaced about three boat lengths in front of us.

Second, they trumpet like elephants. I’ve known that whales call to each other underwater, but was surprised when we heard a loud, elephant-like call just after passing a frolicking pod of whales on our return trip.

And, third, humpback flukes (tails) are like fingerprints in that the pattern of light and dark is an identifying characteristic of an individual whale. I snapped two fluke photos on our return trip. Here are the much cropped images, showing just the flukes:

[walrus the humpback]
[coral the humpback]

Based on the Center for Coastal Study‘s excellent 2006 whale identification page, I was able to determine that these whales are known (at least among humans) by the names Walrus and Coral. Nice to meet you, guys.


Blindness to Change

July 7, 2006

Prepare to be amazed at how bad you are at seeing the obvious differences between two almost identical images that will be displayed to you sequentially.

The Java program that illustrates this was created by the University of South Dakota Internet Psychology Department based on work done by Ronald Resnick at the University of British Columbia. The point is to illustrate something interesting about our visual systems: a blindness to change.

The Change Blindness Demonstration is here. I suggest viewing all of the image pairs before reducing the Gap to zero, which will then make the differences obvious.