Brain Pickings

An Eyeful of Sound: How Synesthesia Works

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The color of Friday, or what the absence on silence has to do with the presence of light.

We have a long-standing fascinating with synesthesia, the rare neurological condition that leads stimulation in one sensory pathway to trigger an experience in another — a neural short-circuiting that enables such strange phenomena as hearing colors, seeing sounds and tasting smells.

Earlier this year, we looked at some mesmerizing near-synesthetic ways of visualizing music in color and learned how synesthesia operates in the brain of an autistic savant. Today, we turn to An Eyeful of Sound– a fascinating animated documentary about audio-visual synesthesia, which attempts to add an intimate, visceral layer to our intellectual understanding of the peculiar condition.

All sounds have color. The alphabet has color. Days of the week have color. Each day has a color and a certain shape.”

What makes strange phenomena like synesthesia all the more fascinating is that they raise unsettling questions about some of the most fundamental givens of the “normal” brain: Does color even exist, or is it merely a product of our fancy? Do things have inherent, static smells, tastes, sounds and colors, or do we arbitrarily intuit those from our own minds to attribute to them? Are life’s sensory qualities static and permanent — is the sky always blue, lemons always sour — or are they fluid and dynamic attributes on a spectrum we just happen to experience arbitrary slices of?

HT @kirstinbutler

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Writer’s Block in Stop-Motion, Shakespeare-Style

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What Romeo and Juliette have to do with William Shatner and modern justice.

395 years ago tomorrow, the great William Shakespeare took his last breath. Shakespearean Tragedy (A Comedy) is a lovely Claymationesque animated short film about Shakespeare’s writer’s block by 24-year-old Jerusalem-based animator Anna Cohen, exploring something we have an ongoing fascination with: What is creativity, and how do we overcome the obstacles in its way? After previously hearing from the very real Scott Belsky, Rainn Wilson, Kurt Andersen, Stefan Sagmeister, Steven Johnson and Isaac Asimov, it’s time we heard from imaginary-Shakespeare:

Bonus points for the Spakespearean facepalm, no?

Here are a few more intelligent ways to commemorate the iconic playwright:

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The Language of Graphic Design

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100 years of visual communication on a silver platter.

Visual communication, like all communication, relies on a sophisticated and deeply encoded language to relay its message. That language is design and though it’s wildly ubiquitous, most people are proficient at best. Out this month, The Language of Graphic Design: An Illustrated Handbook for Understanding Fundamental Design Principles offers fluency on a beautiful silver platter by dissecting the building blocks of this language and examining its ABC’s — definitions, functions, and usage — through visually-driven case studies spanning the past 100 years.

The Language of Graphic Design isn’t a design textbook — it’s a thoughtful look at the syntax and lexicon of this language that speaks to us daily, crisply written and visually driven in away that makes it equal parts visual reference and semantic study.

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