Mapping Automobile Accidents in the United States

Every year in December, my wife and I drive up to Scranton, Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with family and friends. We live in Raleigh, North Carolina, so the drive is long but usually uneventful.

This past year, however, our trip north was complicated by some pretty nasty weather. Nothing as bad as what was experienced out west around this time, and certainly nothing compared to the great “Snowzilla” attack of 2016. But it was bad enough to cause several accidents and delays along the way. In the end, a drive that should have taken 8 hours ended up taking closer to 14 hours.

During one of several times we were stopped in traffic behind an accident, I started to wonder what the most dangerous roadways are in the United States. And where in our country are automobile accidents most prevalent? Following a near collision with a tractor trailer along the seemingly always foggy stretch of Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County, PA (between Harrisburg and Hazleton), I certainly had my own opinion on the matter.1 But what do actual data suggest? Read more “Mapping Automobile Accidents in the United States”

Illusions: Deceptions of the Brain, Not the Eyes (Usually)

Back when I used to teach undergraduate Sensation & Perception, I emphasized to students that, despite our belief to the contrary, we most certainly do not perceive the world as it really is.

Although our perception of the world around us is undoubtedly heavily influenced by what’s actually “out there” in the environment, perception is actually a highly constructive process that unfolds inside the brain (and mostly outside of conscious awareness).

We say that perception is a constructive process because your brain almost never gets a complete picture of the world around you. Due to limited cognitive resources, such as attention and memory, and the inherent ambiguity of sensory signals (see the inverse projection problem), your brain often needs to makes guesses and inferences about what it “thinks” is going on in the physical environment.

The constructive nature of human perception is most easily demonstrated using illusions as an example.

Read more “Illusions: Deceptions of the Brain, Not the Eyes (Usually)”