Pods With Pareidolia

Pods With Pareidolia

• If you’ve ever seen a face on a piece of toast, or an animal in the clouds, you’ve experienced pareidolia (from the Greek para for other and eidos for shape). Carl Sagan proposed that this is a survival technique:  humans are hardwired to instantly recognize faces or familiar objects from seemingly random patterns. Less credible, was the claim by Japanese paleontologist Chonosuke Okamura that fossils from the Silurian period were in fact tiny humans, dinosaurs and other animals. He was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for his imagination.

• Does this collection of seed pods trigger a playful pareidolia?

More reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia


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81 Responses to Pods With Pareidolia

  1. Chad Haney says:

    What about Pareidolia’s cousin, Apophenia?

  2. Kawthar A says:

    Interesting share Rajini!!

  3. Rajini Rao says:

    I get them confused, Chad Haney . I know that pareidolia is a subset of apophenia…remind me will  you?

  4. Jim Carver says:

    There’s also polymorphism to contend with.

  5. Chad Haney says:

    If I’m not mistaken, apophenia is more general, i.e., finding patterns in random data. Pareidolia is where one finds a meaningful pattern in random data, i.e., I see a face in the cloud vs I see a circle in the cloud. I bet Allison Sekuler can explain it better.

  6. Rajini Rao says:

    Robot swarm wins a prize for imagination 🙂

  7. Rajini Rao says:

    Ahh, so perhaps most of these are an example of apophenia, rather than pareidolia Chad Haney .

  8. Rajini Rao says:

    The little red pomegranate seeds with the rootlet emerging reminded me of sperm too.

  9. Rajini Rao says:

    Hehe, you know what I saw Jeff Brown 😛

    Very cool: check this out everyone https://plus.google.com/u/0/108086887435909989445/posts/JFGAzYuZLp4

  10. E.E. Giorgi says:

    how cool, and wonderful images to stare at and explore… 🙂

  11. Rajini Rao says:

    Just another way to enjoy the beauty of sperm poppies, B Gallagher 🙂

    At least, from this scientist’s perspective.

  12. Chad Haney says:

    Poppy fields are, ironically, beautiful, considering the destruction that heroin can cause. http://goo.gl/Omb1S

  13. Rajini Rao says:

    Andreas Katifes , consider yourself in good company 🙂

    Actually, I cannot identify that particular seed pod B Gallagher . Perhaps some more botanically minded person will. Possibly Richard Smith

  14. Rajini Rao says:

    How about the wisdom of the wicked, Andreas Katifes ? 😉

  15. Mary W. says:

    Very fascinating post Rajini Rao. So when I see angels in the clouds, I will now understand why…scientifically!

  16. Chad Haney says:

    What if you see one in the mirror Mary Owens ?

  17. Rajini Rao says:

    D’awww, +100 for Chad Haney !

  18. Mary W. says:

    Oh Chad Haney…what a sweet thing to say :-).

  19. B Gallagher  Rajini Rao the species is Abrus precatorius. It’s a fascinating species – it’s often used for producing jewellery because the seeds are so pretty, but those seeds are amongst the most poisonous plant material in the world. They contain a protein called abrin which inhibits protein synthesis by binding the ribosome. It’s about 50X more toxic than ricin. Eating intact seeds has little effect as the seed coat isn’t easily digested, but if you were to bite into one you’d probably die (though I’ve seen case studies where people survived chewing them). I’ve read that they’re commonly used in rural South-East Asia as a suicide method.

  20. Chad Haney says:

    That’s so awesome to share that bit of science. Thanks Richard Smith That should be a separate post.

  21. Rajini Rao says:

    Fantastic, thanks for the ID Richard Smith . I’ve never heard of abrin..although we’ve probably all heard of ricin.

  22. I think I’m a botanist first and a human second – when I saw the pomegranate seeds I thought “oh no, they’ve let the roots dry out!”. and the poppy fruits looks like poppy fruits… not until I read the comments did I realise what filth the rest of you were seeing!

  23. Rajini Rao says:

    What a great idea, Chad Haney . I am gruesomely fascinated already. I bet we could find some images of Abrus jewelry to supplement the biochemistry.

  24. Chad Haney says:

    Welcome to the gutter Richard Smith 

  25. Rajini Rao says:

    LOL, Richard Smith  we are so busted. I’m going to blame my depravity on Feisal Kamil 😀

  26. Mary W. says:

    Why couldn’t I had you folks as my science teachers when I was in school?

  27. Good idea Chad Haney and Rajini Rao. I’ll do a full post about it when I get home – haven’t done anything for this ScienceSunday yet!

  28. Chad Haney says:

    Shall we save it for next weekend? You and Richard Smith do a team post on this and I’ll find a different dance partner.

  29. Kawthar A says:

    Before heading off to bed, let’s blame Feisal Kamil a little bit! :p

  30. Ooh yeah a team thing would be more fun. Yay collaboration! Next weekend is better for me anyway.

  31. Mary W. says:

    Feisal Kamil…thanks for scaring my angels away!

  32. Rajini Rao says:

    Mary Owens , you would have liked a crazy science teacher like me? I play songs in my lectures and tell my students jokes. I’m sure they think I’m crazy.

  33. Kawthar A says:

    That’s my kind of teachers! 😀 duh.. i tell jokes all the time! :p

  34. Mary W. says:

    Rajini Rao…if I would have had you as a science teacher throughout Jr. High & High School, who knows what my life path would have been? My best science teacher was in 7th grade & he made science super fun & understandable!

  35. Mary W. says:

    BTW Rajini Rao…your students are BLESSED to have you as their professor!

  36. Rajini Rao says:

    A good teacher makes a world of difference in nearly every subject..I so agree, Mary Owens .

    Meanwhile, I am digging up all sorts of strangely fascinating information on this poisonous seed. Stay tuned for an upcoming science post 🙂

  37. These are simply wonderful, ranging from amusing to a little frightening 🙂

  38. Rajini Rao says:

    I thought so too, Chryle Elieff . Beautiful on their own, even better with some imagination 🙂

  39. Dryade Geo says:

    This is really pretty 😀

  40. Rajini Rao says:

    Hehe, do you like my excuse for posting pictures of awesome seed pods Feisal Kamil ? 😀

  41. Rajini Rao says:

    I’m hoping that you will, Feisal Kamil 😉

  42. Rajini Rao says:

    Where are you off to, Feisal Kamil ?

  43. Rajini Rao says:

    That’s not so bad! Don’t take a mobile device and resist peeking on G+ 🙂

  44. Chad Haney says:

    Have a good time Feisal.

  45. Rajini Rao says:

    I read a news story about a big recall of jewelry made from the seeds because of concerns over poisoning. They do have to be thoroughly chewed to release the abrin..just swallowing the seed is relatively harmless.

  46. Rajini Rao says:

    I’m wondering why, when ricin is legendary as a possible “weapon of mass destruction”. I suppose we ought not to give anyone ideas 😛

  47. Rajini Rao says:

    Apparently, one can use activated charcoal and physical methods like lavage and cathartics..ughh!


  48. Rajini Rao says:

    There’s all the reading we need for a post, right there Gnotic Pasta . It would be fun if we had three posts on ricin/abrin for next #sciencesunday. You could do it from the warfare angle, I could do some combination of biochem and jewelry and Richard would have a botanical angle.

  49. Rich Pollett says:

    The evil face of popcorn – goo.gl/cSLxd

  50. Chad Haney says:

    That’s a good one Rich.

  51. Rajini Rao says:

    That’s a great example, Rich Pollett . I’m going to be distracted by the thought the next time I’m in a movie theater 🙂

  52. Rich Pollett says:

    B Gallagher shopped digital images on the internet? Very possible. 🙂

  53. Rajini Rao says:

    B Gallagher  NanoHorror – I believe we have seen a new meme emerge here on G+ 🙂

    Not the variety that produce heroin? Why ever not? 😛

    Did you know that poppy seeds are used extensively in Indian cooking. Some desserts can actually give you a high. When we were kids, an uncle unwittingly fed us some sticky sweet made with poppy seeds. I don’t recall much other than I slept really long and well that night 🙂

  54. Chad Haney says:

    I heard of someone testing positive for opioids due to poppy seed pastries. I don’t know if it was true or not.

  55. Rajini Rao says:

    Same here, Chad Haney . At least, I was told that consuming poppy seed bagels makes one test positive on drug tests too.

  56. Rajini Rao says:

    Good to know! There must be a threshold that takes these small intakes into account.

  57. Chad Haney — you rock!  I was just thinking that I wanted to make something like that, and you made my life that much easier by posting a recipe!   Also good that it makes three rolls because I could and likely will eat an entire one myself 

  58. Rajini Rao says:

    Chryle Elieff , if you do try making it, please post some pictures! That drowning dough technique sounds intriguing, I wonder what it does for the dough. It’s also interesting that the recipe calls for soaking and grinding the poppy seeds. One reason they are a pain to cook with is that unless they are thoroughly ground with something like a stone mortar and pestle, they don’t really release their flavor.

  59. Maha lakshmi says:

    Really mind blowing. Thanks Ranjini

  60. Stephen Macknik wrote a brilliant article on pareidolia in Scientific American a few weeks ago; did you see it, Rajini Rao?

    BTW is the playfulness related to papaver somniferum?

  61. Yes, I think that’s the one, but I have a vague memory of a longer article, and where Allison is mentioned as a “face from space” (in her pre-moustsache incarnation). Sorry, but my long-term memory is very fragmented and unreliable.

  62. Rajini Rao this is great!  combining the idea of pareidolia with the druggy / poisonous effect of poppies (as well as the recent post of Siromi Samarasinghe on poisonous plants) i am stricken with this question: why does pareidolia INCREASE when one is, effectively, stoned / drugged / hallucinating?  is there an evolutionary advantage to being exposed, temporarily to a boost of pareidolia?  is this what people also mean when they discuss opening / blowing up your mind?  somebody from the neural side can perhaps elucidate – maybe John R. Ellis ?

  63. nomad dimitri It would only be conjecture, but I’d says that drugs tend reduced the “control” or inhibition of the frontal cortex, so that there is less direct analysis and conclusion by the brain as to what is “reality”, allowing more associations and possibilities to be considered.  Pariedolia itself may be protective in the wild, allowing it to evolve into a default state, corrected by further evolution of the forebrain.

  64. Rajini Rao says:

    That sounds like a logical explanation, thanks John R. Ellis . Pareidolia is considered to have evolutionary advantage in making split second decisions in the wild (friend vs. danger). Not having err..experimented with hallucinogens, I’ll have to take nomad dimitri at his word 😉

  65. Rajini Rao John R. Ellis : that sounds right.  interesting definition of “open mind”: “less direct analysis and conclusion by the brain.”  i have to ponder this further but i like it a lot.  when you live in california, Rajini Rao , in a university setting, hardly a day goes by when you don’t overhear tie-dyed students high on something or other describing how this or that looks just like this or that (“check it out, man”) a sure sign they are hallucinating!

  66. Fear not nomad dimitri they won’t bite you.

  67. John Condliffe oh, on the contrary, they are usually full of sweetness

  68. John Condliffe btw: thanks for turning me on to Hector Zazou!  wow, the list of collaborators he had!  the only one i was surprised NOT to find is Paul Bowles!

  69. Delighted to have been instrumental in in the process. nomad dimitri 

  70. In Journey- Poperm…..

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