Catching Russian Spies With Science

By Anupum Pant

Consider this. You have the following line and you are asked to read out loud the colour of the word. It’s a rather easy exercise.


However, if the letters read of one colour and appear in some other colour, like the word “blue” appears in red colour, as shown below, it takes a slightly greater amount of time to process it inside and churn our the colour.


It can also be said with firm belief that you’ll take that extra time in the second exercise as compared to the first one only if you speak English. If you are a Russian, for instance, your brain would just skip the English letters and focus on the colour of the words. So, Russians would complete the second exercise in more or less the same time as the first one. This is the Stroop effect.

Thanks to the Stroop effect, it was literally a words play to catch a Russian spy.

Also, depressed people can be spotted using a similar exercise (again stroop effect).

Depressed participants will be slower to say the color of depressing words rather than non-depressing words. Non-clinical subjects have also been shown to name the color of an emotional word (e.g., ‘war’, ‘cancer’, ‘kill’) slower than naming the color of a neutral word (e.g., ‘clock’, ‘lift’, ‘windy’).

Vanishing Calorie Density

By Anupum Pant

Companies which make delicious potato and corn snacks like chips and puffs are huge corporations who have an army of hundreds of psychologists, chemists and other technicians who do science experiments on equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars and spend millions every year to create and improve the snack. To make it taste, smell, sound and feel better. After hundreds of tests and iterations, these companies now probably have been able to construct a marvellous food item which is no less than any other feat of engineering that mankind has endeavoured.

One such food item is cheetos corn puffs. A food scientist,  Steven Witherly, after having tested a sample of Cheetos once said:

This is one of the most marvellously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.

And it really is. The corn puffs are designed to go into your mouth, smell and taste amazing and are carefully mastered to give you that satisfying crunch and melt inside. Melt inside, as if making your brain say, that was hardly anything I ate. Before you know, you finish off a whole party pack while watching your favourite movie. And it still doesn’t make you full.

Being full, or not is something your stomach tells your brain (after about 20 minutes it has been full). But the brain is the ultimate master. It can choose to make you feel full, or not.

With Cheetos, you are almost never full. You can keep eating. This ability of this marvellous snack to go in and melt into nothing is seen by your brain as a “vanishing calorie density”. And that is the reason you can keep eating it forever.

More about it [NYTimes]

The McCollough Effect

By Anupum Pant

Some times, you come across simple illusions. Optical illusions, for example. But then there are more complex effects which temporarily change the way your brain works and can’t really be called optical illusions. This one is called the McCollough effect and you should probably not try it. Because once you do, it might even stay in there for about three months. Or just for a few minutes may be. It really breaks you perceive your world.

This is how it works. This is something which requires an induction. So, let’s say an induction video about 8 minutes long would show you some images which would change the way you see things – it would “induce” the effect – thus the name, induction.

The video would normally consist a series of images of coloured stripes next to black stripes oriented in different directions. So, let’s say the vertical stripes that are shown in the induction video has alternating red and black stripes.

Now once the induction ends, you’ll start seeing a slight hint og green colour at places outside of the video, wherever your brain sees a vertical pattern. To test it, you can look at a vertical white and black stripe pattern and there instead of pure white you’d see a greenish white. Green because it is complementary to red.

If you are down for trying it, I’d need a couple minutes of your attention – watch the video below.