## Re: Friday cute

1

Because our stereo vision is spread along a horizontal line?

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 10:55 AM
2

"binocular vision", I suppose.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 10:55 AM
3

I saw those pictures in physics class. It is because of rays.

Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 10:57 AM
4

Dammit, and it figures that Sifu nails the one-sentence summary in the first comment while I'm out getting some damn Popeye's.

But yeah, that's it.

Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 10:59 AM
5

body dysmorphic disorder?

Posted by: bend | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:00 AM
6

Sifu pooped in the punch bowl.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:01 AM
7

It was just a guess! Let's keep going!

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:02 AM
8

Somewhere in my office I have a xerox copy of a journal article devoted to sorting through the explanations of this phenomenon. I am not at my office right now, and I doubt I could find it if could find it if I did.

The article used the example of faces. At least part of the explanation involved the idea that the real reversal is not either right/left or up/down, but back/front. I don't recall anything about binocular vision.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:02 AM
9

Just draw the ray diagram. Any point on an asymmetric letter, say B, seems to be coming from behind the mirror. The top of the B is still on top in the B in the mirror, and the bottom is still the bottom. However, a point on the left now appears to be on the right.
Another way to think of it- when you hold a B up to the mirror, the B is facing the mirror, not you. If you're holding it up in front of your face, you'd see the back of it, which is also reversed, but also not upside down.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:04 AM
10

Crystals!

Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:04 AM
11

So when Tweety closes one eye, the text isn't reversed anymore? Weird.

Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:05 AM
12

Alternative explanation: In mirror world, they're all willing to write backwards and part their hair the other way, but standing on their heads all the time would just be way too inconvenient.

Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:05 AM
13

Actually there's a lot of interest in the subject of mirroring; one of the very earliest things the brain learns to do is to mirror the actions of an observed person. Arguably, this mirroring is at the root of social cognition. Very very interesting, and now I'm going to leave for a couple hours and not talk about it any more.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:06 AM
14

.krod ,dnahtrohs saw tt :11

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:07 AM
15

tt b/s ti

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:07 AM
16

ti b/s tt

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:07 AM
17

Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:07 AM
18

.kcuF

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:08 AM
19

I don't think 9 quite explains it - it just expands the situation. If we went up and over the top of mirrors to get around to the other side, the B would appear upside down. You have to somehow involve how we're built as people, that our heads rotate on a vertical axis, and hence we interpret everything on the horizontal plane.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:08 AM
20

Mirror neurons.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:08 AM
21

I think 9 is the same explanation as 8.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:09 AM
22

Yeah, but I don't think 8 fully explains it either. Yes, the real reversal is back-to-front, but our brains process it right-to-left instead of top-to-bottom.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:10 AM
23

I meant to say, "but why do our brains process it...?"

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:11 AM
24

Aw, Sifu, don't leave! Had you really never heard this before?

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:12 AM
25

20. I don't think mirror neurons are relevant. This seems like a purely spacial/perceptual phenomenon. Asocial animals with our vision system would do the same thing.

19. I think stating the situation accurately might be enough. The paradox comes from our expectations and if we see the problem clearly, those will change. The problem needs to be dissolved, not solved.

In the end, I'm sure the slogan "the real reversal is back/ front, not right/left" is a part of the answer.

And now to work.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:12 AM
26

19: That's a lens, surely?

Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:13 AM
27

26: I don't get what you mean? A lens doesn't use an axis.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:14 AM
28

I think stating the situation accurately might be enough.

I'm pretty sure you have to use the physiology of our eyes and brains to get to the root of it.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:15 AM
29

Sifu's keyboard doesn't have any right-facing letters anymore.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:15 AM
30

I don't think binocular vision or brain function are relevant here. It's purely a matter of reflection and optics. You'd get the same result if you used a camera to take a picture of the mirror.

Posted by: Chris Conway | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:18 AM
31

Mirror neurons are super not-relevant. I think Sifu is just strafing us with mirror matter.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:19 AM
32

30: If you had a word written vertically, you'd be able to read it just fine in the mirror. Why wouldn't it be reversed up-down?

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:23 AM
33

If you people would just tap into New Age wisdom, you could use quantum physics to fix the "things look backwards in a mirror" problem.

Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:24 AM
34

21- The term is pwned.
22- A back to front reversal wouldn't be expected to flip top to bottom. And crawling up over the mirror isn't the way to think about it. Ray diagrams are used to show a virtual light source- pretending that the mirror is actually a window and mirror-Heebie is standing over there holding up her letter B. Real Heebie holds up her letter B in front of her and sees the back of it, which looks backwards. Instead of a reflection in a mirror, imagine translating that through a window to mirror-Heebie. That translation would just move the backwards B onto the other side of the window, but you'd still be seeing it backwards.
Incidentally, if mirror-Heebie could report on what she's seeing, it would be a forwards B- she's holding up a B with the back facing real Heebie, so mirror-Heebie sees the front of the B, and therefore would see real Heebie holding up a forward B. (This is why two mirror reflections return things to normal.)

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:27 AM
35

|>

We settled the Verizon contract for 65,000 workers on the East coast. No strike and a kick-ass contract. It's a good day.

||

Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:27 AM
36

The next question, of course, will be why do I see the front of mirror-Heebie instead of the back of her head if it's just a translation. This transform only applies for 2-D objects where the front and back are the same.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:29 AM
37

I get the mirror-as-a-window thing. I got it before you all were even a twinkle in your mothers' collective eyes. I've gotten it for YEARS, SON.

Yes, the true reversal is back to front. But our brains parse a back-to-front reversal as left-to-right. They really could parse it as up-down, if our heads rotated on an axis through our ears. It really is physiological.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:32 AM
38

30: If you had a word written vertically, you'd be able to read it just fine in the mirror. Why wouldn't it be reversed up-down?

Actually, not really -- try it (by looking in a mirror or by holding the sheet of paper to the light and looking through the back). It's still "mirror writing" even if it's arranged vertically.

Something that might also help with getting the hang of the way that back-to-front reversal automatically means apparent left-to-right reversal is this: Write something on a sheet of paper. Then flip it over and look at it through the back of the sheet. First, flip it by keeping it upright and rotating around the vertical axis. Mirror writing, right? Now start over -- look at it right way up and from the front, then flip to the back by turning it upside down, rating around the horizontal axis. Now when you look through the back of the page, the writing is upside down, but it's still mirror writing.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:32 AM
39

There's a sense in which mirror don't reverse right and left. If there's a word on your shirt, the left part of the word (your left) is on the left part of the mirror (again, your left). It's just that we're used to reading words from the other side of the shirt and not from behind. (Think about how a painted message on glass looks from one side or another.)

When you read from the other side of a shirt you rotate 180 degrees on the x axis which flips left and right.

So, mirrors don't reverse left and right, it's just that we're used to reading backwards.

32 is false, in a way. If you write out a word normally, rotate the page 90 degrees, and hold it up to a mirror, the writing will still look reversed. It's the same sort of case, only with an extra 90 degree twist.

Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:32 AM
40

I'm pretty sure you have to use the physiology of our eyes and brains to get to the root of it.

Heebie ... is ... wrong.

Gah. It's incredibly difficult to type that. Heresy is exhausting.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:33 AM
41

35: Congrats, SK!

For me, on the other hand, it's something of a suck-ass day. Our PR firm got us an article on the front page of the business section of the local paper, only to have the reporter go cowboy on us and trash our technology. I'm spending the day explaining internally why that's a good thing, really.

Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:34 AM
42

I think the explanation is in the thought "How would I get into the mirror world?" A mirror looks like a window, and in the back of your mind, you think "If I walked around behind the mirror, I'd be in that space." But if you did walk around behind the mirror, you'd rotate left to right when you turned to face the back of the mirror. So your reflection is flipped l-to-r from the position you'd be in if you tried to walk to the apparent location of your reflection.

If the socially/biomechanically normal and obvious way for you to get behind the mirror and end up facing the back of the mirror was to leap over the mirror, flip, and land in a handstand, then you'd think of your reflection as correctly l-to-r oriented, but flipped vertically: your right hand in the reflection would still be on the side that your real right hand would have been if you'd gone behind the mirror, your reflected head would be up, while if you'd gone behind the mirror your feet would be up.

I swear this explanation works, but I don't know if I've written it to be comprehensible.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:36 AM
43

There's a sense in which mirror don't reverse right and left. If there's a word on your shirt, the left part of the word (your left) is on the left part of the mirror (again, your left). It's just that we're used to reading words from the other side of the shirt and not from behind. (Think about how a painted message on glass looks from one side or another.)

When you read from the other side of a shirt you rotate 180 degrees on the x axis which flips left and right.

I like this.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:36 AM
44

Well, I just wrote "MOM" on a piece of paper and held it in front of a mirror, and I have no idea what you people are talking about.

Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:37 AM
45

Damn. Pwned.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:37 AM
46

You'd get the same result if you used a camera to take a picture of the mirror.

No, you get the same result when you, a person with binocular vision that defines left and right, look at a picture from a camera. It's still the binocular vision that's doing the work, since a single eye or lens cannot record up or down, left or right, those concepts are superimposed on the image by our mind.

Here's the way to picture that. Imagine a letter like "F" being held up to a mirror. It would look left-right reversed. Rotating it 90 degrees so the two points face down, and suddenly it still seems left-right reversed to you, but now the left is the bottom point of the letter and the right is the top bar. The two lines seem to be facing in the right direction. Now take a picture of that letter with only a plain white background. As we're used to orienting letters in the same direction we read them, someone would hold that photo so that it seems left-right reversed with the two lines pointing to the left. Thus there's one fundamental asymmetry, the back-front asymmetry, but we interpret it as left-right because that's the axis of our vision.

Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:37 AM
47

35: Sure, make the rest of us feel like slackers while you're out making life better for 65,000 people.

Congratulations.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:37 AM
48

SP is right. The explanation for how the letter changes is entirely geometric.

You only need to start talking about mental stuff to deal with the appearance of paradox created by asking the question "why do mirrors reverse left right and not top bottom." The question creates the expectation that they should reverse top/bottom by drawing a parallel to right/left. But really the question is badly put, because the real reversal isn't left right at all.

That's why this was written up in a philosophy journal, and why it was pointed out to me by my Wittgensteinian teachers in grad school. It is a matter of a badly posed question.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:37 AM
49

Ugh, I forgot that tags can't extend over paragraph breaks here.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:38 AM
50

Now when you look through the back of the page, the writing is upside down, but it's still mirror writing.

Your cases are asymmetric. Case 1 has one reversal, but case 2 has two reversals. This is because of how we interpret writing.

Pick something that we don't respond to as writing, something like a dog facing left. Now, in the first case you get a dog facing right yet right-side-up, and in the second case you get a dog facing left, yet upside-down. The cases are symmetric.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:38 AM
51

The reason for to original question is entirely optics.

What is more odd/interesting is the fact that our eyes, being single-lens, present an upside-down view of the world --- after a few weeks, babies brains learn to invert it. You can force the same process in 3-4 days (iirc) by constantly wearing glasses that invert everything.

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:39 AM
52

35: Awesome SK.

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:39 AM
53

Yay, Kraab! (And yay, VZ workforce, and management too for not being intractable.)

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:41 AM
54

46 seems to have been semi-pwned by 38, but it's really difficult to express this stuff well without being able to draw stuff and show people in real time.

Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:41 AM
55

I always feel better when Lizardbreath chooses my side.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:42 AM
56

It's because you're always right. (Although I'd quibble with "physiological". I'd say it's about psychological expectations shaped by living in a world with gravity.)

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:44 AM
57

Congratulations, Kraabie!

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:46 AM
58

I can get behind "psychological expectations" in lieu of physiology. As long as we're placing the explanation in our brains.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:47 AM
59

I'm so not getting the non-optics point. The basic point is: think about the mapping from points on the original image to points in the mirror, and where each falls when we see the image head-on. Or what Rob said, basically.

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:49 AM
60

59: And doesn't that happen up-down?

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:51 AM
61

They really could parse it as up-down, if our heads rotated on an axis through our ears.

I've heard this point illustrated like this (though I'm not sure what to make of it): you're in the car looking at a sign in your rear-view mirror. Your comparison to the actual sign is made by rotating your head on a vertical axis (either for real, or in your mind's eye, since you don't really need to turn around to know what you'd see), and thus the salient relation between the image in the mirror and the image you see directly is going to be a right-left switch.

If, however, for some reason you chose instead to tilt your head waaaay back to look out the rear windshield, the two images will be flipped top-to-bottom with respect to one another, but not right-left. If that were the default way of "turning around", we'd perceive the relationship between object and mirror image accordingly.

Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:51 AM
62

I can't believe that this community is better at staying on-topic for a rather silly discussion of a (slightly) counterintuitive phenomenon of optics than it is for... well, anything, really.

Next up: How come, when you look the wrong way down a telescope, you can't see bacteria and shit?

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:55 AM
63

Would thinking about Silly Putty help anyone?

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:55 AM
64

What 48 said. The paradox is in the question. Left and right aren't reversed; if I put my right hand up in front of the mirror, it's where it should be, on the far right edge of the mirror. Reflection in, reflection out.

Now, it would be the left side of another person were a person standing and facing me, but that's my brain just trying to make sense of the image. My brain's only got the tools it's got, and they're binoculars.

You know what always drove me crazy? Left-to-right on microscopes.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:55 AM
65

I like the explanation where you hold up a sheet of translucent paper with some writing on it. The writing in the mirror is not a reversal of what you're holding up.

I think part of the apparent paradox here may be that we tend to perceive a 'space' beyond the mirror, and we all know that in a real space, you can usually read the writing on someone's t-shirt.

Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:56 AM
66

Let's stay on topic until 40 is regretfully withdrawn.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 11:56 AM
67

The paradox is in the question.

See, I don't agree with this. The question perhaps should be phrased "Why do we interpret it as a left-to-right reversal?" but I think the word "appears" accomplishes that.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:00 PM
68

63: Thinking about silly putty always helps me. Its so soothing. Mmm silly putty.

But what does this have to do with the problem?

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:00 PM
69

Are we seeing a gender split between the optics camp and the psychology camp? Count me in with the boys!

Also, congrats to Sir K. I'm still ditching Verizon, though.

Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:00 PM
70

Right-left are relative terms to "your" frame of reference. Up-down are relative to something like the earth, but not your frame of reference, so to start with the question itself has a category error.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:01 PM
71

Also, I like Potchkeh's illustration.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:01 PM
72

Or better, think about lettering on a store window. From inside, it appears reversed. But, on a sunny day, the shadows of the letters are normal. Why? Because the projection has effectively moved the letters so that you're now looking at them from the correct side. To take it further, if the shadows were on a translucent screen, someone on the far side of the screen would still see backwards letters.

All of which is to say that rob and the front/back explanation is correct.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:02 PM
73

60: no, it does not.

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:02 PM
74

The question isn't "Why is it really absolutely right-to-left?" It's "Why do we think it is reversed right-to-left?" It's a totally valid question.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:03 PM
75

It is psychology, in a world with no privileged up-down dimension the optics is the same, but the interpretation differs. The optics "triggers" but is not the explanation. Martin Gardner's The Ambidextrous Universe has a good discussion of this (and is a great book).

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:03 PM
76

59: And doesn't that happen up-down?

The mapping works so that what's on top goes to the top part of the mirror and what's on your left goes to the left part of the mirror (your left). So that's symmetrical. The puzzle is about why it's hard to read writing.

Or, alternatively, if you've got a ring on your left hand, why does the figure in the mirror have a ring on her right hand? When you imagine the ring as being on her right hand, it's because you've imagined your mirror image as like a person who has rotated 180 degrees to face you. And, if someone does that, her left is your right. But the mirror doesn't reverse your left and right. What's on your left side stays on your left side.

Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:03 PM
77

The explanation is purely physical, not physiological.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:03 PM
78

But what does this have to do with the problem?

The way that it lifts lettering from newspapers. "Backwards." Because it's acting mirror-like.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:03 PM
79

74:I am supporting you Heebie, it is just that up-down & right-left are apples/oranges. The key is in examing the semantics of the question.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:05 PM
80

60: no, it does not.

Of course it does. The top stays on top, the bottom stays on bottom, the right stays on the right, the left stays on the left. Everything is perpendicular to it's reflection, and behaved exactly the same relative to your eyes.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:05 PM
81

How about this: if you look at something behind you in a mirror, say a poster on the wall behind you, you'll see all the letters reversed. But you turn around (around the y-axis, running from your head to your feet) and they look straight. But what if instead of turning around the y-axis, you turned around the x-axis (running from your left to your right)? Visualize being stuck left-to-right with a spit and rotating over a flame. The poster would be flipped top-to-bottom from how it looked in the mirror.

Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:06 PM
82

I am supporting you Heebie, it is just that up-down & right-left are apples/oranges. The key is in examing the semantics of the question.

But up-down and right-left are meaningful in terms of your psychology. I don't get the statement that the question is flawed.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:07 PM
83

Yeah, I have to admit that I think heebie's wrong about this, too. I'm open to the possibility that I'm just not understanding her argument, but I think the only mental transformation involved is the mental transformation that soup mentions in 51--the auto-rightsideupping that our brains perform when the lenses of our eyes receive light. As far as I can tell, basic optics--like FL explains in 59--completely explains the left-right (but not top-bottom) reversal that's at issue here.

Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:07 PM
84

I'm confused by what the 'optics' camp is disagreeing with heebie about. Sure, there's a sense in which nothing is really reversed either l-to-r or up to down. But people perceive things in a mirror as reversed, and the question as I understand it is why is there that perception?

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:07 PM
85

If you are floating at the centre of a ball the interior surface of which is all mirrored, when does it stop reflecting your front and start reflecting your back?

(There is at least one perfectly correct answer to this which is singularly unhelpful.)

I'm now going to go see Wyrd Sisters performed, so I'll catch you on the other side of the mirror.

Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:08 PM
86

The division is not gendered, its by academic training. Cala, Labs, and I are all on the same side because we are philosophers, and can identify badly phrased questions.

This skill has nothing to do with the fact that I am male, Cala is female, and Labs is intersexed.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:08 PM
87

67: It is, though. Because if you think about it, it's not puzzling at all. "Why not up and down?" is a red herring. But there's no reversal, just interpretation. If I put my right hand up, and trace around the reflection with some eyeliner, the drawing will be on the right side of the mirror. The letters look backward because that's the image I'm getting.

What makes me think the letters are in the wrong order, or that right and left are reversed, is all my brain. I think Sifu's point about mirror neurons is probably right; if I were looking at a real person, I'd know that 'her' right and 'her' left were meant to be reversed, and that if she were wearing a t-shirt, I would read the letters right to left. And my brain does the same thing when I look at myself.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:09 PM
88

86: Argh. The question "Why are things reversed left to right, and not up to down" in a mirror is badly phrased, sure. The question "Why do people percieve mirror images as reversed left to right and not up to down" is perfectly well phrased, and the answer is what heebie says it is (and what I said it was as well.)

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:11 PM
89

I'm confused by what the 'optics' camp is disagreeing with heebie about.

I think just about whether it's a paradox. Why would we expect up and down to flip? Right and left don't.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:12 PM
90

What makes me think the letters are in the wrong order, or that right and left are reversed, is all my brain.

Exactly - and I consider this to be the non-trick-answer to the question. But I don't think it's obvious, or else so many people wouldn't be arguing with me. (Also, Rob H-C put you in the wrong camp.)

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:12 PM
91

The vertical axis explanation may account for the psychology of why people find this weird, but it's not actually saying anything different. Turning on pdf's spit, I note that the "first," or, From My Rotated Perspective, top-most, letter is P (it's a poster that says, "Poster."). When I go 'round and look in the mirror, the top-most letter remains P - but now the lobe is on my left FMRP. Heebie thinks, "Ah-ha, upside down," but in fact it's flipped left-right, just like standing-on-your-feet mirrors. Our brains are so good at normalizing letters that we still view them according to gravity-down space, even FMRP.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:13 PM
92

89: But to say that it isn't a paradox, you're denying that reflections in a mirror are reversed. Now, you're right about that, but right in a way that takes a fair amount of argument to get to -- the naive perception we're all starting from is that when you reflect text, or anything where l-to-r orientation is important, in a mirror, that the reflection is backward. Saying that it's not really reversed is all very well, and true if you put it like that, but it doesn't address a question which is about the naive perception of reversal.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:16 PM
93

Oh, I agree with him that the only reason it seems like a paradox (as opposed to just a question about how the brain works) is the way the question is worded.

But knowing that the answer is nothing is flipped means at least we won't chase down question of whether left and right reflections are different.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:16 PM
94

Heebie, what matters is the plane of reflection. If you put a mirror on the floor and stood on it, text on the wall would look upside down.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:17 PM
95

I'm probably pwned by everyone at this point, but I don't care. Now I'm going to go to swimming thread and suggest that the swimmers are juicing.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:18 PM
96

92: Paradoxes don't resolve that easy.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:19 PM
97

If you put a mirror on the floor and stood on it, text on the wall would look upside down.

It would look upside down and left-to-right reversed. See 50.

If you snort coke off a mirror, is it reversed up-down?

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:19 PM
98

80: here's what's happening. Think of the isomorphism between points on the image and points on the reflection. Let P be a point on, let's say, the top left side of the image. P' is the point on the mirror reflecting P. When I hold the image the the mirror, P' is on the top right of my visual field.

I take Heebie to be asking two questions: (1) why is P' on the right side of my visual field while, when I look at the image head-on, P is on the left? and (2) why is P' at the top while P is also at the top?

The answer to q1 is something like this: well, look at the reflection and see where P would have to be to cause a reflection at P' (that is, on the right side of my visual field)-- ah, P would have to be a point on the image such that, were I to see it straight-on, it's on the on the left side (which involves *moving around it). And q2 is answered like this: to cause P' to be at the *top* of my visual field, P has to be at the top of the image.

A punchier answer: *because that's the way you rotated the image*-- you could have flipped the piece of paper around the horizontal axis rather than the vertical axis when you turned it around to hold it in the mirror.

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:20 PM
99

somewhat related aside: Ever anyone noticed that apples iChat video interface flips your own (embedded, local) video stream to mirror view? Not all of them do that, which can look just wrong. Took me a minute to figure out what was going on.

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:21 PM
100

99: Yes, I love that. It's the most technologically advanced mirror EVER!

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:22 PM
101

97: It would? I don't believe that. Have you tried it? I don't have a mirror I can put on the floor.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:24 PM
102

I just tried it by putting a piece of paper with writing on the ceiling above a wall mirror. It's flipped vertically, but not left-to-right.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:26 PM
103

There's also the fact that our brains are just weird with letters. In college we did this trick in a psychology class where there are lots of color words ('red', 'blue', 'green') up on a slide printed in colors that don't match their meaning. First, the prof asks us to read the words. We all dutifully chorus the words. Then he asks us to name the colors the words are written in. Most of us couldn't do it.

I played around with it later and found, with effort, I could shut off the part of my brain that wanted to read the words. It also helped if I took my glasses off.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:29 PM
104

102: Hmm, yeah, I was wrong in 97. New explanation! You're using the axis through-the-ears in this example.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:29 PM
105

For your amusement, this confession: I just walked into the mensroom with a copy of a really good article by George Sher. First I held the article in front of me, while I stood in front of the mirror. Then I rotated it along the vertical axis: oh look, l/r reversal. I returned it to the original position, then rotated it around a horizontal axis: the mirror image was top/bottom reversed, but the letter on the left was the letter at the start of the title-- that is, no l/r reversal or what we've been calling that.

WOOO observations.

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:30 PM
106

This is not an optical illusion - not a case where the brain is interpreting the data it receives in some odd way. I can't do any better than SP did in 9 to explain this, though.

Let's stay on topic until 40 is regretfully withdrawn.

I have seen the light, and regretfully withdraw 40! I can only say that the ways of heebie are mysterious and subtle. Her rightness is absolute, but sadly, her rightness is also beyond the comprehension of limited minds such as mine.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:31 PM
107

Oh, I agree with him that the only reason it seems like a paradox (as opposed to just a question about how the brain works) is the way the question is worded.

Thanks. I'm already on the other side of a possibly verbal dispute from LB and HBGB. I'd hate for you to disagree with me too.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:31 PM
108

I think Heebie is closer to right than some people are granting, but she's not entirely right.

37: Yes, the true reversal is back to front. But our brains parse a back-to-front reversal as left-to-right. They really could parse it as up-down, if our heads rotated on an axis through our ears. It really is physiological.

The first two sentences are true, the third and fourth are false. If our heads rotated on an axis through our ears, we'd have to use cues to figure out which side is up, and we might be susceptible to various tricks, but having an axis through one's ears wouldn't be enough to generate the illusion. If we had genuine and deep up-down bilateral symmetry, so that a person's top looked like his bottom and in normal interaction one person's top lined up with the other person's bottom, then the up-down illusion would be produced.

Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:32 PM
109

That came out dirtier than I intended.

Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:33 PM
110

Speaking of paradoxes, can someone explain to my five year old why you don't get all your food for free if you own a grocery store?

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:33 PM
111

A punchier answer: *because that's the way you rotated the image*-- you could have flipped the piece of paper around the horizontal axis rather than the vertical axis when you turned it around to hold it in the mirror.

Coupled with the tendency to forget about the flipping when assessing what you're seeing in the mirror.

Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:34 PM
112

106: hee! Your pandering is met with sincere amusement.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:34 PM
113

can someone explain to my five year old why you don't get all your food for free if you own a grocery store?

I stole a newspaper box once, and now I get the newspaper delivered for free. 40 copies a day in my living room!

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:36 PM
114

111: right, I wonder if the psychological revelation here is that we all just assumed one way of flipping text when thinking about the mirror image.

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:37 PM
115

105: I've heard if you read an article by Charles Krauthammer through its reflection in a mirror, it makes sense.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:37 PM
116

It's not friday!

Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:38 PM
117

It doesn't.

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:39 PM
118

117 to the post, not any of the preceding comments.

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:40 PM
119

When Ben starting writing his comment, there weren't any others yet.

Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:42 PM
120

Scrolling up, I see this has been addressed.

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:42 PM
121

It's not friday!

And after the last 100 comments, I no longer think it's very cute.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:42 PM
122

114: See 19, 42.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:42 PM
123

I took 117 as a response to 115. Someone is going to need to do this experiment and report back.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:43 PM
124

Ben, as a philosopher, you are supposed to agree with me, labs, and cala. You just need to read our comments to catch up with the thread.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:43 PM
125

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:43 PM
126

This is really frivolous. Unfogged is not math puzzles and shit. Unfogged is George W. Bush slapping Misty's taut monkey butt while his friend Putin invades a defenseless country where they speak a language with 64 consonants. I am outraged.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:46 PM
127

One time my grandmother called to argue with me as to why the Monty Hall problem tells you to always switch doors. That was a JOYFUL, PROLONGED conversation.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:47 PM
128

Actually, I'm now convinced that the disagreement here is verbal. We all agree about what a mirror actually does, and we all agree that we have expectations that make us think that it is doing something different. Labs, Cala and I say those expectations come mostly from the question itself, and LB and HBGB say it comes from psychological facts about the perception of mirrors. Really, though, both camps can be right.

As long as we agree that Sifu Tweety was wrong.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:47 PM
129

I agree with whoever said "because that's the way you rotated it"—if you held up the Times in front of you, front page facing the mirror, what kind of insane magic are you expecting, you who think anything has been "reversed"? It would be like thinking that, when I make the iconic "finger gun" with my right hand and point it towards my left, the mirror image is "reversed" because in the mirror, my hand isn't pointing to my right. What?

(But how do we know, when we make the iconic "finger gun", that it points along the barrel, that is, the index finger? We could imagine someone who sees it as pointing in the opposit direction—or even up, in the direction of the thumb. The finger gun itself is dead.)

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:48 PM
130

As long as we agree that Sifu Tweety was wrong.

About the 'binocular vision' bit? Totally.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:49 PM
131

114: Further to FL's observation, I did the first part of FL's experiment but then slowly rotated writing 180 degrees about the axis connect me to the mirror (so that the item always faced the mirror). At the end of that maneuver the writing was in the same orientation as FL's was, the image having continuously moved there from the "left-right".

From that position I can view the letters as "up-down" reversed, rather than "left-right", but more naturally, I find myself mentally undoing the 2nd rotation and still viewing it as "left-right" reversed. (Especially given the visual clues of the other elements of the object on which the writing is on.)

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:50 PM
132

122: then the right answer is Ben's, or, in more detailed form: "whether it does or not is underdetermined," right?

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:50 PM
133

Actually, I'm now convinced that the disagreement here is verbal.

Way to be a conciliatory bitch, rob. I find this tone a little too congenial.

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:50 PM
134

I don't think he's wrong about the binocular vision. I think that the reason we developed this whole right-left expectation of reversal is that we live in a world where the majority of the visual input we need occurs horizontally. We need very little info of what's directly above or below us.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:51 PM
135

"opposit" is the third-person present singular subjunctive form of "oppoesse".

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:51 PM
136

We'll be all cooperative and shit.

You see how well that worked out.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:52 PM
137

We need very little info of what's directly above or below us.

So in a world filled with treacherous pits and pterodactyls the illusion wouldn't arise?

Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:53 PM
138

136: Seriously. I thought it would be funny to do something like,

UPDATE: I'm starting to hate puzzlers.

Except I'm really not.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:53 PM
139

I don't understand what the psychological explanation is. The letters look backwards in the mirror because they are backwards.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:54 PM
140

So in a world filled with treacherous pits and pterodactyls the illusion wouldn't arise?

Treacherous pits and pterodactyls must pass through your horizontal field of vision before being directly above or below you, unless it's something like Ziggy's perma-storm-cloud.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:55 PM
141

The mirror neurons are key! I will explain when I'm not actually driving.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:55 PM
142

I am the only one that things we could have a 1000 comment thread (or at least 500) about the monty hall problem even though it's well known, and the solutions are well known?

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:55 PM
143

126: What? I thought Unfogged was about golf and corporate finance.

Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:55 PM
144

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:56 PM
145

Fuck the Monty Hall problem, I lost a Hertz fellowship because of it.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:58 PM
146

The mirror neurons are key! I will explain when I'm not actually driving.

I see what you're getting at: when you look in the mirror, you're simulating the motor and perceptual experience of being oriented the way the person in the mirror appears to be oriented.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:58 PM
147

Lets do Einstein's twin paradox next!

The joy of these things is that every time you encounter them you have to redo the same damn mental process to convince yourself that the well known correct answer is indeed correct.

Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:58 PM
148

I just ask "the way you rotated" it folks to say where in the 131 experiment it "flips" from left-right to up-down ("gradually" doesn't cut it, when it is at 45 degrees no one sees it as a little bit of both, HB is right that left-right is the psychologically preferred orientation, how we generally choose to put ourselves into the mirror frame-of-reference).

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:59 PM
149

144: I still have trouble getting my head around the correct answer to the Monty Hall problem, despite having run computer simulations proving it.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 12:59 PM
150

We often see the dirt below us and the sky above. If we saw it more often, the left-right illusion would still arise, but not an up-down one. (Except in the desperately unusual circumstances of 108.)

Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:00 PM
151

149- The simplest way it was explained to me was to imagine 100 doors instead of 3. You pick one, he opens 98 (without fail always the 98 that don't have the prize), do you really think you still have the right one?

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:02 PM
152

Fuck the Monty Hall problem, I lost a Hertz fellowship because of it.

Really? Which door was the fellowship behind?

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:02 PM
153

152- That's actually how the interviewer posed the question (although it wasn't a discrete example, he just wanted the probability distribution.)

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:03 PM
154

Ok, people. Imagine that you have some text on a transparency. You don't like PowerPoint, or something; you're old-sk00l. So you've got your text on your transparency and you're reading it from left to right the way we do with European languages. Ok?

Now you take it into the bathroom with you to do something unmentionable involving mirrors. You stand in front of the mirror admiring your transparency—text going from left to right—and then you turn it around, so that the text is facing the mirror (or rather, since it's transparent, you turn so that, if it weren't transparent, the text would only now be facing the mirror). AND LOOK! The text is reversed!

But you don't need the mirror for that. If you just turned the transparency around and looked through it without a mirror, the text would be turned around. Yeah, dumbass: you turned it around. That's what you see when you're looking in the mirror.

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:04 PM
155

And this after I managed to properly calculate a boltzmann distribution in a coin-toss game, explain how an NMR works, and explain Rayleigh scattering.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:05 PM
156

I once convinced myself, and then two other math grad students, that the correct solution of the Monty Hall problem was in fact wrong, and that the naive solution was right. Then someone brought up a similar paradox, and then I convinced them the wrong explanation was right there too. It took ten minutes for sanity to return.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:05 PM
157

154- See 34.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:06 PM
158

I dunno, SP, I guess you just didn't manage to convince them. Have you considered studying up on rhetoric? My secret: calling my audience dumbasses.

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:07 PM
159

156- Try this.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:07 PM
160
Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:09 PM
161

Is this post called "Friday Cute" because if you look at a Monday in the mirror it looks like a Friday?

Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:11 PM
162

Sifu, you're wrong. I'll explain why when you're done blowing me.

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:11 PM
163

Yeah, you turn yourself around the y-axis to face the mirror, too.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:12 PM
164

162- Somehow it feels different if he's facing towards you or away from you.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:15 PM
165

can someone explain to my five year old why you don't get all your food for free if you own a grocery store?

Oh, but you totally do. Carnegie used to light his cigars with red-hot billets of steel that he had delivered daily to his home, and then discarded. Rockefeller had his house plumbed with petroleum. I can't even tell you what Edison did with all the free electricity he got.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:18 PM
166

Somehow it feels different if he's facing towards you or away from you.

But not much different if either of you are upside down.

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:19 PM
167

I can't even tell you what Edison did with all the free electricity he got.

He mostly tortured animals with it

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:20 PM
168

154: So Ben, you are not actually saying that the transformation of turning a paper around on its vertical axis is the same as the transformation caused by the mirror. Per 157, sure you aren't smart guy.

( I see that we have moved on.)

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:22 PM
169

167: yes, he would use AC to electrocute animals as part of his (losing) campaign to push DC over Tesla's AC. Nice guy.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:28 PM
170

I see what you're getting at: when you look in the mirror, you're simulating the motor and perceptual experience of being oriented the way the person in the mirror appears to be oriented.

Right! The reason that we're confused about whether any left-right flipping is going on with the mirror's image is that we're wired to automatically translate the orientation of a person facing us. This is how we are able to understand what somebody else is doing: say you are, e.g. facing somebody, and they look to (their) left. An "image" of this person passes through the visual centers of the brain, and then goes through a sort of "filter", which does the mental rotation necessary to activate the motor cortex with the same pattern of activation it would have if you were standing in the other person's position. Then, once you know what their spatial orientation is, you can translate back and figure out (e.g.) where they're pointing. The filter-y thing that does the translation between perceptual systems and motor systems is the mirror neuron system. It is because the mirror neuron system does what it does that we are able to automatically do the translation that -- because it doesn't work in the case of the mirror -- is making us so confused.

Interestingly, there is significant correlation between high levels of social intelligence, mirror neuron activity, and the ability to recognize yourself in a mirror; very few species -- humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants -- are able to manage the feat. Also, based on the theory that dysfunction in the mirror neuron system is at the root of the problems with social cognition experienced by autism patients, that the ability to recognize oneself in the mirror should correlate with other markers of social function, something that appears to be the case.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:31 PM
171

Here's hoping 170 is comprehensible. I just think mirror neurons are neat, is all.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:32 PM
172

This is one of those annoying problems where the answer is completely obvious, until you get yourself slightly confused, and then you think about it for fifteen confused and frustrated minutes before realizing that the answer is completely obvious.

Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:37 PM
173

It's because at the big bang, much more matter than anti-matter was produced. If those proportions had been reversed, we'd have a right-handed universe, things in mirrors would be upside down, toilets in Australia would flush counterclockwise, left-brained people would be emo, right-brained people would be geeks, and 93% of the population would be gay or otherwise transgressive.
Also, we'd call anti-matter "matter" and we'd call matter "anti-matter".

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:38 PM
174

170: *I* thought it was coherent and interesting, but that is probably the kiss of death.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:39 PM
175

I think 170 is actually inaccurate in some not super relevant ways. I'm sure the gist comes across.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:39 PM
176

170 sounds pretty close to what I know about mirror neurons.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:42 PM
177

The filter-y thing that does the translation between perceptual systems and motor systems is the mirror neuron system.

Well, we don't know that the "mirror neuron system" is exactly a "filter" that does this transformation -- the "system" is the set of brain regions that include neurons that fire both when we experience something and when you observe a conspecific doing the same thing. Since mirror neurons are by definition the neurons that fire under both circumstances, it's not clear that they themselves are responsible for doing the necessary transformation from the other's orientation/circumstances to one's own. But yes, the point is that we understand other people by simulating their perceptual/motor/emotional experience.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:45 PM
178

Heebie, I won't forgive you.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:47 PM
179

177: well, yeah. Somehow or other things are translated such that the pattern of activation is the same when performing an action or when watching a conspecific (that's what the word is!). Some people argue that the mirror neurons do the translation, but that's hardly the consensus at this point.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:49 PM
180

I can't believe the final link in 170 wasn't to this.*

* God the movie is awful.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:49 PM
181

168: Kiss my hairy alpine rose, JP.

(This would work better as "hairy desert rose", which is in fact how I remembered the phrase—too bad neither nature nor naturalists have not been accomodating.)

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:49 PM
182

177: Which is awfully cool, when you come right down to it.

Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:50 PM
183

182: I'll say!

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:51 PM
184

170: The reason that we're confused about whether any left-right flipping is going on with the mirror's image is that we're wired to automatically translate the orientation of a person facing us.

I call shenanigans (if I understand you). The perception of mirror-reversal isn't dependent on the presence of a human image in the mirror -- if you angle a mirror so you can't see yourself, just some text, it still appears l-to-r reversed. So, nifty as the mirror neurons are, if they come into play only when we look at what appears to be another person, they can't be the primary explanation of the psychological effect we're talking about.

(Admittedly, I don't know the first thing about mirror neurons. If I'm misunderstanding them, then I'm all wrong.)

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:55 PM
185

181: Kiss my hairy alpine rose, JP.

Well, I'll be the shadow of the waxwing slain, I take that as agreement.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:55 PM
186

Hmmm. It seems obvious to me that the text seen in the mirror is reversed when compared to ordinary left-to-right text. It also seems obvious that it is not reversed when compared to how we would expect the reflective optics to work (as FL and others have explained).

heebie's answer to her question seems to posit that our brains, when evaluating the possibility of reversal, tend to assume the baseline perspective of a person standing--and not lying on his or her side, alternatively--on the other side of the mirror. It also seems to imply that once we realize this, we can then more easily sort out the factual nature of the seeming reversal.

Are we really just debating the multiple possible logical applications of the word "reversal"? Is that what helpy-chalk is complaining about when he criticizes the formulation of the question, or is that something else entirely?

(It took me a while to formulate this, so please--as always--feel free to ignore if the conversation has already moved on. I have enjoyed this thread, though.)

Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:55 PM
187

when we experience something and when you observe a conspecific doing the same thing

Whoops, sorry for the we/you drift there.

Anyhow, yes, what is interesting about research on this stuff is that it demonstrates we really do put ourselves in another person's place. Of course, all the stuff on actual individual mirror neurons isn't human research (I'm not telling Sifu anything he doesn't know, here), because you can't do single-neuron recordings on humans. So whatever the deal is with mirror neurons, it's not unique to humans; it only buys you the (high) degree of social cleverness of a macaque, at best. And this also means that when we talk about a "mirror neuron system" in humans, we're talking about a much more indirectly observed and roughly calculated theoretical entity. In a lot of ways, it's more useful to talk about simulation, and about motor/affective/perceptual system involvement, when you're talking about humans, but still, it's all really neat stuff.

Also, the mirror-neuron-system autism theories are far from uncontroversial, of course.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:57 PM
188

Heebie, I won't forgive you.

Forgiveness is like a magic penny, Emerson. Hold it tight and you won't have any. Lend it spend it and you'll have so much, we'll all forgive you for the oodles of wrongitude you inflict on us.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 1:58 PM
189

70

I think 70 is correct. Right and left depend on your orientation, up and down don't. The real equivalent of up and down is north and south (or east and west) not right and left and mirrors don't reverse north and south.

Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:00 PM
190

because you can't do single-neuron recordings on humans.

well, you could I guess. Won't get by the IRB, though.

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:00 PM
191

184: hm. Interesting point. Mirror neurons are still neat!

As far as the reading text question, see above. The mirror didn't flip anything; you flipped the paper around. All the mirror's doing is allowing you to see the side of the paper that's facing away from you.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:02 PM
192

This shall not stand, Heebie. I liken your post to something Hitler did, maybe not as bad as the Holocaust but still pretty bad.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:03 PM
193

Jews are like mirrors, and when someone argues that it's all optics, it's like they killed a Jew.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:04 PM
194

The perception of mirror-reversal isn't dependent on the presence of a human image in the mirror -- if you angle a mirror so you can't see yourself, just some text, it still appears l-to-r reversed.

Yes, agreed. (Cool as mirror neurons are.) In real life, things rotate a lot more often than they pop inside out. And thanks to gravity, we are used to understanding up/down as a cardinal, objective orientation, not just a personal one.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:05 PM
195

189

Or in other words this has nothing to do with mirrors. If two people are facing each other and you ask them to point up, they will point in the same direction. But if you ask them to point right they will point in opposite directions.

Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:05 PM
196

The mirror didn't flip anything; you flipped the paper around.

True. But people still perceive reflected text as l-to-r reversed, whether or not it really is (whatever 'really is' means), and all we've been talking about is the explanation for that perception.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:05 PM
197

well, you could I guess. Won't get by the IRB, though.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:06 PM
198

aside: I've got a neat ex-vivo single-neuron project on the go, sort of.

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:07 PM
199

196: well, because from their perspective, the text is l-to-r reversed. Again, print some text on a transparency, flip it around, and look at it: mirrored text! All the mirror's letting you do is see the side of the paper that's facing away from you. The reason people think of this as "flipping left to right" is that (a) they aren't used to thinking about the side of something they can't see, and (maybe b a little bit) they're used to translating the orientation of things in front of them.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:08 PM
200

It's weird that it's spelled mustn't. Monday puzzler!

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:09 PM
201

199 continued: actually, I could make an even stronger case that it's a function of social cognition: if you hold up a piece of paper to a mirror, you are imagining looking at the piece of paper from the perspective of somebody inside the mirror. Because you know (due to mirror neurons and so on) that they would perceive the text as the right-way-around, the fact that it does not appear right-way-around to you comes as a surprise.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:12 PM
202

All the mirror's letting you do is see the side of the paper that's facing away from you.

Not necessarily -- what if the text is behind you? Look behind you, normal text. Look at the mirror in front of you, mirror-image reversal. Whether the side of the paper with the text on it is facing away from you or not doesn't affect the image.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:14 PM
203

202: right, but, again, you're mentally assuming the perspective of the person in the mirror. The translation you're imagining is not "turn around in place", it is "move to the position of somebody behind the piece of glass and look out".

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:16 PM
204

I'm not following, but I don't think there's any real disagreement left extant. I'm just confused.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:17 PM
205

if you hold up a piece of paper to a mirror, you are imagining looking at the piece of paper from the perspective of somebody inside the mirror.

Hmmm, I don't think that's quite right. It's that aside from mirrors and special cases like transparencies, you can normally only something if it's facing you. The image in a mirror looks an awful, awful lot like real stuff. So since the thing in the mirror looks in every other respect like something opaque that is facing you, you interpret it that way. In fact, insofar as humans (and apes and elephants) are specially clever about mirrors, it's to the degree that we can remember that the stuff shouldn't be seen "from the perspective of somebody inside the mirror" -- that we can recognize that it's a reflection of us and our surroundings, so that if we see a smudge on the mirror-person's nose, we should wipe it off on our own.

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:18 PM
206

When I think about Heebie in the mirror, I wonder why she seems so sad.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:20 PM
207

205: yeah that makes more sense as a way to describe it, although I'm not 100% sure we're talking about different things. The reason we're able to understand that mirrors are not funhouse versions of reality is that we're able to recognize ourself, and in recognizing ourself, recognize that we're turned around in an unfamiliar way, then extrapolate from that to the rest of the reflection.

Listen to rfts, everybody!

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:20 PM
208

if you hold up a piece of paper to a mirror, you are imagining looking at the piece of paper from the perspective of somebody inside the mirror, which provides a baseline perspective, from which--by means of comparison--we can recognize that the actual image in the mirror--is a reversal.

Right?

Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:23 PM
209

This is worse than Henry Potter.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:25 PM
210

209: Harsh words indeed. But all too true.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:26 PM
211

Incidentally, I have a t-shirt on with words arranged in a circle. It's a little hard to say in which direction the words appear to be reversed, although I guess 'back to front' is the right answer.

Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:28 PM
212

Binocular vision doesn't seem to be the reason. Do it with one eye closed. Same thing.

It seems simplest to just draw a diagram with a pinhole lens, and a image plane as your retina. The key thing to note is that to look at the word in the mirror, you have to rotate it 180 degrees. If you rotate about a vertical axis, you have left-right reversal. If you rotate it about a horizontal axis, you have top-bottom reversal.

Posted by: Anon | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:37 PM
213

WHY ARE YOU STILL DISCUSSING THIS

Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:37 PM
214

Just to annoy you, ben. Seems to be working.

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:38 PM
215

Me and Ben both. Motherfuckers.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:39 PM
216

Annoying ben could, in theory result in a new post to talk about.

Annoying you is probably just side-effect free fun.

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:41 PM
217

213: the reason is because its more confusing the more the commenters and I talk through it.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:42 PM
218

213: You do not really think you solved it or anything like that, do you?

211: Prediction and confirmation by experiment is that they "appear" to go from clockwise to counter-clockwise.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:45 PM
219

213: Also. WHY DO YOU CARE?

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:48 PM
220

I agreed with you on your big bang explanation until you got this, John: Also, we'd call anti-matter "matter" and we'd call matter "anti-matter".

If that's true, then how did we know that in our universe that electrons are negative, even though they are the ones that actually provide positive amounts of electricity?

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:50 PM
221

||

Hey, while everyone is sorting out their reversed, upside down reflected images... A friend finally agreed this a.m. that she has a drinking problem and needs to quit. Still won't commit to a formal treatment/program, but said she'd quit if I quit with her and make it a competition for who can go the longest without a drink. I'm sure this is not sufficient, but it's a start. I'm also sure I don't have the first clue how best to support/encourage/help her -- if anyone has links to good resources and/or personal insights advice, can you shoot me an email?

|>

Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:50 PM
222

Yow. I don't know at all what I'm talking about, but that sounds like she's still not really accepting that she has a problem (that is, that she's not accepting that her drinking is different than yours is). I don't know what your best course of action is, but I wouldn't be very hopeful about the situation from this alone.

But someone should email alameida, as the substance-abuse guru around these here parts.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:54 PM
223

222 is right. 221 sounds very unlikely to do much besides result in a hell of a bender at the back side and an excuse for continuing drinking down the road. Hopefully I am missing context which makes this analysis incorrect.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 2:56 PM
224

221: Most people can't do this on their own. Most people a) don't believe they actually have a problem and b) even if they come round on that point believe they can do it on their own. This typically extends well past the point it's obvious to everyone else around them. If you can get past the mumbo-jumbo, AA/NA works for a lot of people. There are less well established secular groups, that could work but availability is more regional/variable.

The only people I've ever known to kick something without an organized group were scared witless by things they'd already done. I've also known people who were scared like this and/or in recovery groups, and completely failed to clean up. Not really surprising, I guess.

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:01 PM
225

I think, from our conversation, that she does know she has a problem (though there's still lots of denial interspersed), but she (a) is completely averse to the stigma of being labeled an "alcoholic," and (b) doesn't think she can live without it. I agree, this is not hugely hopeful. But she's a single mom with an incredibly charming toddler, so failure is not an option.

Yes, she needs an organized program -- I am well aware that I do not have the resources to be her sole support. I just don't know how to get her there.

Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:05 PM
226

221: Wow. I don't have any advice to offer, but I really wish you and your friend the best of luck. This must be really hard for you to take on that role of trying to help your friend through this. You're a good friend.

Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:06 PM
227

Argh. I really have a pathological need to give advice, even when I don't know anything. I'm busily formulating plans for you because I can't stop myself, but I simply have no reason to believe anything I'm thinking is a good idea at all, which means I'm going to keep my trap shut and hope someone who knows something pipes up.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:09 PM
228

This is worse than Henry Potter.

What have you got against poor old Henry Potter, John? The man made good flutes.

Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:09 PM
229

gmail is acting all crazy on me, hope you don't mind me continuing in-thread rather than offline as req. Di (tell me if so)

If you think you're friend won't have an adverse reaction to the religious language of AA, it's a good bet. Otherwise, you could look at secular alternatives in her area. These groups have people who can talk to you about options and tactics. They've been doing this a long time, and you're friends case isn't going to be novel for them. So at least you could contact them if you're willing to do some legwork.

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:09 PM
230

Oh, you know. Those childrens'-novel threads that were impossible to troll. By the billionaire lady. That Potter. It was a series, like "Clan of the Cave Bear" and "Porkies".

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:12 PM
231

230: Trolls are like vampires. You can't see them in mirror threads because they have no reflections.

Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:15 PM
232

Gmail's crazy for me, too. Stupid gmail.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:16 PM
233

"Porkies"

"Porky's". Though I was very surprised just now to discover that there do not seem to be any porn video series with "Porkies" in the title.

Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:22 PM
234

Apo is a stinkler for accuracy.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:23 PM
235

Apo, I was shocked the other day to learn that there was no academic porn movie called "Pump and Sir's Cum Stance."

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:25 PM
236

Labs, we should buy us a camcorder and get crackin'. There are niches unfilled!

Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:30 PM
237

235: I was likewise surprised by the absence of "Anatomy of Melons (Call Me!)." I thought for sure there'd be a Burton-fetishist filmmaker out there somewhere.

Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:31 PM
238

I think that you'd best find someone else to act in these films, unless there's some very small niche market you have in mind.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:32 PM
239

Labs' niche really isn't small at all.

Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:33 PM
240

Perhaps I've misunderestimated you guys' niche. That's OK, though, you don't need to send me evidence.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:34 PM
241

but that's hardly uncovered ground, apo

Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:34 PM
242

Mmm, uncovered ground.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:34 PM
243

221- It could work out. She wants to quit and needs a sober environment, ie you, to accomplish it. Consider eliciting a promise to seek intervention if she fails. Otherwise, it's a huge burden on you.

Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:36 PM
244

221: IMX soup bisquit has it right. The only thing I can think of, if you're willing, is for you to go to AA or the equivalent and drag her with you on the grounds that you need her support.

Otherwise it's just waiting for things to get bad enough so she sees the problem herself. That can be messy.

Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:39 PM
245

Still won't commit to a formal treatment/program

If she is expecting the two of you quitting together to be her support program, I'm not too confident about it working. That's a lot to place on another person. I'll say that for me, AA has worked. But it might not be for her. I know many folks who don't worry much about the HP stuff. Then again I know many who are in Everything happens for a Reason camp. Luckily a big city offers a lot of chces in meetings.

The other thing is, what happens when you (who don't have a problem) have a drink of wine. Are you going to hide it from her? Will she be taking your action to be permission for herself to pick up again? That could be hard on the friendship.

Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:44 PM
246

It might be worth getting her to talk to her (or another) doctor as well. Honestly I cannot see the "let's make a bet" strategy working out well for either party, and it's usually a good idea to get medical advice for medical problems.

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:47 PM
247

Yeah, the bet creeps me out because the contest, but not recovery, is over after one drink.

Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 3:50 PM
248

Delurking to point Di to the Harm Reduction Therapy people. [add a dot and org and there you'll be]

I don't know anything about it, except that I know about it ... but it seems worthwhile and perhaps a useful first step for your friend.

Posted by: Klio | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 4:27 PM
249

The mirror does not reverse anything. It reflects what is directly in front of it. It has nothing to do with what's up or down or right or left. The mirror doesn't know any of that. Otherwise you could turn mirror writing on its side and read it.

Posted by: Jonathan | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 5:10 PM
250

35: I saw that in the paper and thought, yay Sir Kraab! but didn't say anything for discretion purposes. Anyway, yay Sir Kraab!

Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 5:11 PM
251

Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 5:16 PM
252

I have no illusions that the "bet" is a solution. I decided I needed to talk to her this morning, really confront her with the need to quit before she jeopardizes her kid, her career, etc. She was bargaining -- I'll just drink on weekends, I won't drink to self-medicate anymore, how can I "go out" and not drink, it's the only thing that's always there for me when I need it. Then, alas, "You went on a bender this weekend," (true) "Are you going to quit?" And I said honestly, yeah, I'd probably not be having another drink for awhile. And she said, "Seriously, you'd quit with me? We could do it together?" And I jumped and said "Yes," and now I think I see the error in that. Because I'm happy to make that kind of commitment for her for awhile if it will help. But I can't say I'm willing to do it for the rest of my life and I didn't think through that she could take that as her excuse to resume. I was just thinking anything to get her to stop NOW and then once she was solidly on her way to recovery I'd be off the hook.

And she's already seeing multiple therapists and assures me they discuss this. She claims they tell her she abuses alcohol but isn't an alcoholic. I doubt I could get her to AA if only because it has the word "alcoholic" in the title. But I like the advice to call AA or whatever myself and get their advice on how to get her to help. I like the advice to go with her, too, but don't think I could manage it from a time commitment perspective. Honestly, I am a little afraid of taking on too much of the burden of helping her. It's beyond my capacity, but if I were to find myself in a similar spot, I would want to have a friend who would step up for me.

I am not counting on the "bet" at all. Just trying to figure out how to push her the next step to treatment. I'm wondering now, actually, if she didn't just work that as a little maneuver to get me to back off. I'll check out the Harm Reduction thingy

Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 5:46 PM
253

I did read it. Next we can debate why a rubber stamp, printing press, or branding iron "reverses" its images from left to right.

Posted by: Jonathan | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 5:57 PM
254

Also -- meant to say thank you. I'm kind of winging it here, so any and all insights are very much appreciated.

Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 6:08 PM
255

I don't know if this answer was posted above, but the answer to the mirror problem has nothing to do with binocular vision. It has to do with the fact that when we look at something in a mirror, we have usually flipped either it, or ourselves, right-to-left in order to see it in the mirror. If we flipped up-to-down, mirrors would reverse up-to-down while maintaining right and left correctly.

Imagine writing the letter P on a piece of paper. When you look at the paper, you see the letter P in its normal shape. And if you flip the paper around right-to-left to see it in a mirror that is facing you, now the loop on the P points to the left.

So far, so good. BUT! Imagine now that you flip the paper up-to-down to see it in the mirror, instead of flipping it right-to-left. (In other words, you rotate it around the horizontal axis instead of the vertical axis.) Now what you see in the mirror looks like a lowercase b. The loop still points to the right, but now it is at the bottom of the letter, not the top. Why? Because you flipped the paper up-and-down instead of right-and-left.

Sure, you say, but what about the writing on a sign posted on the wall? Nobody's flipping the sign at all, yet when you see it in a mirror, it appears flipped right-to-left. True, but in those cases, you are flipping not the sign, but yourself. If you read a sign while facing the sign, and then turn yourself around to read the same sign reflected in a mirror, you have flipped yourself around right-to-left.

Since it is hard for humans to flip ourselves up-to-down, this is the usual way we see things in a mirror. But if you imagine looking at a sign and then rotating yourself around a horizontal gymnatiscs bar at your waist until you are upside-down facing a mirror that was behind you, the sign would now appear flipped up-to-down, while remaining correct right-to-left, just like the letter P in the first example.

Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 6:09 PM
256

251 to 255.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 6:15 PM
257

Yeah, but my explanation is better.

Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 6:20 PM
258

Di, the Lawyer Assistance Program could be a resource for you and her. Here's a link for the one in Chicago.

Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 6:53 PM
259

DK, with regard to quitting drinking, I would absolutely urge your friend to seek medical supervision (in some sort of outpatient program at the very least, inpatient would be much better) because the withdrawals (DTs and such) can be fatal.

I went into AA convinced it wouldn't work for me, being an atheist and having serious misgivings about being labeled an alcoholic. However, it has worked for the past 17 months, if only because I'm so scared and desperate not to drink again. Actually, a lot of atheists manage to "fake it until they make it," and this very problem is addressed in the AA literature. (See steps two and three in "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions." Also, "We Agnostics" in the "Big Book" [which I don't like quite as much, but YMMV.])

The key seems to be to go to as many meetings as possible for the first three months -- 90 meetings in 90 days is the standard prescription -- in order to get a sense of the different formats and figure out what works for you. Some meetings are duds, some are excellent, and even the same meeting can vary a lot in quality week-to-week, so it's important to get a large enough sample under your belt before you rush to any conclusions about the program.

I'm very fortunate to live in LA, where there are tons of meetings all over town at all hours of the day. Not sure how this would have turned out if I lived in the boondocks, but goodness gracious am I grateful for AA now. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be able to say that.

I wish your friend all the best. She should know that help abounds out there, but she's going to have to overcome her fear and *ask* in order to get it. Good luck!

Posted by: toops | Link to this comment | 08-11-08 9:40 PM
260

I second toops. withdrawal from alcohol is dangerous and should be supervised by someone other than you. also, it's worth dragging her to an AA mtg even if she at first says "fuck all these alcoholics" because there will be people there with lots of helpful experience to talk to her and one of them may be congenial to her. those people want to dedicate lots of time to her problem. also, the experience of being addicted to something really differs from being a sometimes heavy user who isn't addicted, and it can be helpful to hear strangers recounting experiences identical to your own...provided you're willing to notice the sameness. people often say you're supposed to want to do it for yourself, etc. but her kid really is and should be a big motivator email me if you like, and best luck. you're being a good friend to her and you shouldn't expect too much of yourself.

Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 08-12-08 2:24 AM
261

I don't want to be unduly negative about AA, because I know it has helped a lot of people. But in the case of the only person I knew well who went through AA, the religious aspect led directly to her divorce, and to her breaking links with all her non-religious friends who would have been happy to support her. So I dunno. Isn't there a secular equivalent network.

Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-12-08 3:19 AM
262

AAA. Alcoholic Atheists Anonymous. Plus, they'll also tow your car.

Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 3:27 AM
263

The mirror question was the extra credit question on the final for my multivariable calculus class in college. I got it wrong - well, I either ran out of time trying to answer it or decided I didn't feel like sitting in the room anymore and turned in my exam with a wrong attempted answer and left - and don't remember the explanation the TA later gave.

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:08 AM
264