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The Vision Revolution: How the Latest Research Overturns Everything We Thought We Knew About Human Vision Hardcover – June 2, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: BenBella Books; 1 edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933771666
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933771663
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,207,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Scientist Changizi (The Brain from 25,000 Feet) kicks off this engaging romp through vision science with a list of the human eye's superpowers: "telepathy, X-ray vision, future-seeing and spirit-reading"; a "theoretical neuroscientist" trained in cognition and biology, he's not kidding. To expose these amazing abilities, and explain the whys of vision (the hows just "make my eyes glaze over"), he poses four challenging questions: "Why do we see in color? Why do our eyes face forward? Why do we see illusions? Why are letters shaped the way they are?" In his answers, Changizi challenges common notions regarding sight. Human color perception, for instance, is based around subtle changes in skin tone which correlate to blood flow, indicating emotions silently--allowing us, in essence, to read the minds of others. Binocular vision, it turns out, is not required for depth perception: in videos game, we "acrobatically navigate realistic virtual worlds as a cyclops." "Future-seeing capabilities" evolved in order to account for a one-tenth-of-a-second lag in perception. A friendly tone, colorful everyday examples and many helpful figures will draw readers--science buffs or not--down the rabbit hole of cognitive theory and keep them there, dazzled. 7 color images, 75 b&w illustrations. (June) --Publishers Weekly online, May 11, 2009

...the novel ideas that Mr. Changizi outlines in "The Vision Revolution"--together with the evidence he does present--may have a big effect on our understanding of the human brain. Their implication is that the environments we evolved in shaped the design of our visual system according to a set of deep principles. Our challenge now is to see them clearly. --The Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2009

Throughout the book, Changizi peppers his explanations with quick, fascinating visual exercises that help to drive his points home...Changizi's theories are appealing and logical, and he backs them with good circumstantial evidence.... One thing is certain: The Vision Revolution will make you wonder the next time you notice someone blush, catch a ball or finish reading a magazine page. --Scientific American MIND, July 2009

Readers, however, need not be well versed in academic debates to enjoy Changizi's lucid explanations. Filled with optical illusions and simple experiments for the reader to perform, this book may be the most fun you'll have learning about human cognition and evolution. --Jennifer Curry, Barnes & Noble Review, July 2009

"the book does present some novel hypotheses--supported by evidence, much of it from Changizi's research.... The writing style is clear and captivating; the illustrations are nicely done and helpful." --Choice Magazine, November 2009

From the Inside Flap

A radically new perspective on human vision is emerging. Groundbreaking research by evolutionary scientist and neurobiologist Mark Changizi is driving a revolution in our understanding of human vision. In asking why we see the way we do, Changizi overturns existing beliefs and provides new answers to age-old questions. Why do our eyes face forward? While binocular vision was helpful to our primate ancestors, its importance for 3-D vision is exaggerated. Squirrels jump from branch to branch just fine with sideways-facing eyes and many athletes, including Hockey Hall of Famer Frank McGee, play with only one eye. HINT: We evolved in a highly leafy environment. Why do we see in color, when most other mammals do not? It's not because it helped our ancestors find ripe fruit. Our color vision has evolved to be extremely sensitive to specific sets of color changes. HINT: Primates with color vision, like us, are the only ones who have areas of bare skin. Why do we see optical illusions? It's not the result of glitches in our visual system. Optical illusions can be traced back to the same specific property of vision. HINT: We are able to catch a ball coming at us much more effectively than we should given the speed at which our brains process visual input. Why do we absorb information so readily by reading? It's not because we've evolved to read; evolutionarily, reading and writing are recent developments. HINT: Language is designed to exploit skills we've refined over tens of millions of years. In The Vision Revolution, Changizi details the conclusions of his innovative fieldwork and their mind-blowing implications for our understanding not just of human vision, but of the way we interact with the world in which we live. You'll never see seeing the same way again.

More About the Author

MARK CHANGIZI is a theoretical neurobiologist aiming to grasp the ultimate foundations underlying why we think, feel and see as we do. His research focuses on "why" questions, and he has made important discoveries such as on why we see in color, why we see illusions, why we have forward-facing eyes, why the brain is structured as it is, why animals have as many limbs and fingers as they do, why the dictionary is organized as it is, why fingers get pruney when wet, and how we acquired writing, language and music.

He attended the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and then went on to the University of Virginia for a degree in physics and mathematics, and to the University of Maryland for a PhD in math. In 2002 he won a prestigious Sloan-Swartz Fellowship in Theoretical Neurobiology at Caltech, and in 2007 he became an assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 2010 he took the post of Director of Human Cognition at a new research institute called 2ai Labs.

He has more than three dozen scientific journal articles, some of which have been covered in news venues such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and WIRED. He has written three books, THE BRAIN FROM 25,000 FEET (Kluwer 2003), THE VISION REVOLUTION (Benbella 2009) and HARNESSED: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella 2011). He is working on his fourth non-fiction book, this one on emotions and facial expressions, called FORCE OF EMOTIONS. He is simultaneously working on his first novel, called HUMAN 3.0.

[Photo credit: Rensselaer / Mark McCarty.]

Customer Reviews

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I completely recommend this book one hundred percent!
M. Olds
Human brain has picked, in terms of senses, vision to be its favorite - if you consider the number of neurons connected.
Atul V
Filled with drawings and examples, as well as clear and interesting descriptions, this book is easy to follow.
Lovesbooks

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you were to do nothing more than glance at the chapter names, you would consider this book to be a collection of occult dung powder. Old, stale, and reworked so often that it is dried up. The chapter titles are:

*) Color telepathy
*) X-ray vision
*) Future-seeing
*) Spirit-reading

However, that first impression would be a significantly wrong impression, Changizi has written such a fascinating and scientifically sound book that it remains interesting, even when you disagree with his conclusions.
The chapter "Color telepathy" describes how humans are often able to "read" a person's thoughts and diagnose the state of their health by interpreting slight changes in skin color due to the level of oxygenation in the blood. In this area, his reasoning is sound and Changizi points out that colorblind doctors have been demonstrated to be at a significant disadvantage when attempting to visually diagnose a patient. Where his reasoning breaks down is when he argues that Homo sapiens evolutionarily acquired color vision so that they could use changes in skin color to learn what other people were thinking. In my opinion, this position is untenable.
In general, predators try to blend into the environment as much as possible so that they can get as close as possible before they move in for the kill. Having an acute sense of color vision would allow the relatively defenseless human to spot the stalking predator much earlier than if they were colorblind. Although Changizi's position has some merit, the value of color vision in spotting predators is a much stronger argument for it being evolutionarily selected.
The chapter "X-ray vision" has nothing like the powers of Superman to see through solid objects, the point is quite different.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on August 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
How many people take the time to ponder how we humans, and our animal confreres, perceive the world through vision? It seems that theoretical neurobiologists do. Why do we see in colour? Why are our eyes in front of our heads while some animals have theirs on the sides? Why are we tricked into seeing optical illusions in certain pictures? These are some of the questions which the author tries to answer in this fascinating book. His views are certainly new compared to what many of us may have been taught in school. Yet, once the author has presented his arguments and his evidence, one must admit that, in each case, he has a point. Each of the book's four chapters begins with the basics of its subject matter and progresses from there. Arguments are eventually presented as well as supporting data. Finally, detailed theoretical views are formulated which, for me anyway, required more head-scratching.

The writing style is certainly quite authoritative, friendly, generally clear and even rather lively. Regarding accessibility, as noted above, I found the chapters quite readable but becoming progressively more complex near the ends. Overall, I learned quite a bit from this book. I was also quite surprised at much of the information presented. I think that this book can be of much value to anyone with an interest in how the eye-brain system works and why it works the way it does.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Atul V on December 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Human brain has picked, in terms of senses, vision to be its favorite - if you consider the number of neurons connected. Perhaps it is the complexity of image processing that requires such tight coupling or perhaps the evolutionary trends on this lane determined that vision could be the deciding factor in spotting opportunities and danger, getting killed or staying alive. Or perhaps both evolutionary and computational needs converge at the eye-brain integration.

I wish the font of the book (printed edition) was better and was more evenly spaced -which would have made for a better reading experience. Also, the author would have reached a lot more mainstream audience by making the style more conversational - as he does in some sections later in the book (see "My Supercomputer Is Running Slowly" in the "Future-Seeing" chapter) but not early enough. Such changes would have catapulted this book to the "Freakanomics - Outliers" level. These, though, are relatively minor points when you think about the expanse of topics presented in this book and great care given to the color pictures, photographs, charts and other artifacts.

This book is both interesting and educational and provides an optimistic note in the realm of vision research, especially for anyone frustrated with funding cutbacks in such research areas. There are many practical applications that can be drawn from this book and the work highlighted and recommend this book highly.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Mark Changizi's application of evolutionary biology to the analysis of vision is brilliant and provocative. As an art historian, I am particularly interested in the chapters on "Color Telepathy" and "Spirit-Reading." Of course, color is a central concern in art history, but I was also fascinated by Changizi's argument for the centrality of flesh color to our perception of color in general. It recalls a passage from the Romantic critic William Hazlitt's essay, "On Gusto," about the variegated flesh color in Titian. Analyzing flesh color in real life, Changizi points out how much it changes from moment to moment, depending on blood, oxygenation level, and emotional states, notwithstanding the fixed amount of pigmentation.

His discussion of contours and combinations of contours as models for written signs is equally fascinating. Here, he sets off speculation about two issues. Is the basic repertory of signs for contours related in any way to the neural wiring of the retina and the brain, which preferentially recognizes certain shapes and alignments: horizontals, verticals, diagonals (as per the pioneering research of David Hubell & Margaret Livingstone)? And could this "machine code," so to speak, of vision be related to abstract forms in art? This last question is of particular interest in relation to Cubism and abstract painting. Perhaps their basic vocabulary is in some way related to the "natural" structure of vision.

A book that constantly provokes new reflections, not just about vision, but about life and culture.
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