There are many devices around me I don’t understand.
Computers, digital cameras, iPhones with the thousands of apps. Facebook, LinkedIn, the internet. Google has computer controlled cars.
I use these devices. I know these devices work on an electronic, atomic and radio wave level. But tell me to repair one of these devices, or build one from scratch, and I can’t do that. Yet I know these are not magic.
Science is merely a method of approaching the world. But it might be that people, not understanding the devices they rely upon, tend to believe more in magic. It would explain the long burgeoning anti-science movement in Texas.
The resistance to learning, however, seems to be increasing. As technology rises, so does the learning curve of different populations. The U.S. population’s understanding of science does not rank in the first dozen countries. Or even the second dozen. By some reports, the U.S. trails Lichtenstein. And by other reports, Texas trails most of the other 50 states.
Thus, we're missing the show.
In the 1990s, Dan Simons, now a professor at the University of Illinois, and Chris Chabris, now a Union College professor, designed a psychological experiment now known as the Invisible Gorilla. It’s a visual cognition experiment that demonstrates the limitations of our awareness, and how easily we miss important large details.
The two made a short film of Harvard students passing basketballs. One team wore white shirts, the other wore black. After the film was made, Simons had volunteers count the number of passed basketballs by players wearing white.
Then after the video ends, the two asked what else the viewers saw. About half saw nothing but passed basketballs.
When he shows the video again, the same video, they see that a gorilla, or rather, a person wearing a gorilla suit, walks into the middle of action, faces the camera and thumps its chest. The gorilla is on camera a full nine seconds. It’s not subtle. It’s not tricky. It’s a blatant gorilla, but it’s invisible to people who are focused on the basketballs. What’s even more disturbing, the same experiment now repeated with eye tracking devices shows that people actually look at the gorilla for a full second, yet fail to see it. Here's Dan Simon talking about the invisible gorilla.
The Invisible Gorilla effect continues, especially with science. Texas scientists have made huge advances in science and its applications. Two Baylor scientists came up with a working theory about faster-than-light space travel. SpaceX is testing the world’s largest rocket at McGregor. Scientists and technicians are at work on grapheme technology developed by University of Texas professors for ultracapacitors and battery storage. The industrial military complex in Texas develops all sorts of technologies from the F-35 to night vision to weapons. TexasBusiness.com runs the Texas Patent of the Day which features inventions by Texans ranging from medical, electronics, molecular discovery to basic mechanical devices.
You’re paying attention to something that someone else has told you is important. You’re missing the show. You’re missing the history unfolding around you and about you. What deserves your attention? Make up your own mind, or someone else will make it for you.
This stuff is not hidden. It’s obvious. It’s blatant. It’s not just the gorilla waving at us while we count political basketballs. We are the gorilla. We’re using this stuff that didn’t exist just a moment ago.
It’s not magic. It’s science.