We’ve taken out second place in the Best Illusion of the Year Contest, 2012! Like many interesting scientific discoveries, this one was an accident. Sean Murphy, an undergraduate student, was working alone in the lab on a set of faces for one of his experiments. He aligned a set of faces at the eyes and started to skim through them. After a few seconds, he noticed that some of the faces began to appear highly deformed and grotesque. He looked at the especially ugly faces individually, but each of them appeared normal or even attractive. We called it the “Flashed Face Distortion Effect” and wanted to share it with the world, so we put it on YouTube. Click for more.
The effect seems to depend on processing each face in light of the others. By aligning the faces at the eyes and presenting them quickly, it becomes much easier to compare them, so the differences between the faces are more extreme. If someone has a large jaw, it looks almost ogre-like. If they have an especially large forehead, then it looks particularly bulbous. We’re conducting several experiments right now to figure out exactly what’s causing this effect, so watch this space!
Featured in Nature and New Scientist. Click for more.
Continue reading Second in Best Illusion of the Year Contest!
I’m spending nine months as a Visiting Scholar at UCLA, thanks to the support of Jennifer Mnookin and Itiel Dror. Below are pics of the campus and my new home in Venice Beach!
Continue reading Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles
The Forensic Reasoning Project has been successful in obtaining an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP120100063) based at The University of Queensland. The four year, $332,000 grant will help researchers and forensic experts understand the nature of expertise in identification to improve training and the value of expert testimony in the criminal justice system. The project is lead by Dr Jason Tangen and partner organisations include the Australian Federal Police, the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency National Institute of Forensic Science Australia, and the Queensland Police Service.
I spoke briefly at TEDxBrisbane this year. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx—a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. TEDxBrisbane was held at the Queensland State Library and spread across three rooms (two via video link). Speakers ranged from artists to scientists and from thinkers to doers. It was a pleasure to be part of such an inspiring and important event!
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After winning the UQ Final of the Three Minute Thesis Competition, I travelled to the University of Western Australia to compete against 42 other PhD students from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. I was blown away by the quality of the presentations and the importance of the research. I can’t imagine how the judges managed to make a decision but I ended up coming out on top. Click for more.
Continue reading Winner Three Minute Thesis Australia-New Zealand
As a prelude to the Australia-New Zealand Final of the Three Minute Thesis Competition I was interviewed on 720 ABC Radio Perth on “Drive” with Russell Woolf.
I presented my Three Minute Thesis to researchers, Deans and benefactors at the UQ Engagement Dinner at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Apparently, you could hear a pin drop!
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After winning the Three Minute Thesis, Ryan Stafford (runner-up) and I were asked to “appear” on 612 ABC Radio with Steve Austin. It was great fun.
Here’s an article entitled, “Figuring Out Fingerprints” that appeared in the August edition of Security Management Magazine. I was interviewed by Laura Spadanuta, Associate Editor, on the human side of fingerprint identification. [PDF] Click for more.
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Our Flashed Face Distortion Effect hit the four million view mark on YouTube today! It was the most viewed video in Australia for the month of July. Click for more.
Continue reading Illusion Viewed 4 Million Times