Thursday, June 08, 2006

Do You See What I See?

Given the last tiling in my previous post with an image produced from [allegedly] true random numbers from, I circled the most prominent features I perceive in the image, what to me is a repeated lighter area. I did this quickly and sloppily, but the regularity of the resulting lattice is still quite apparent.

My current hypothesis is that there is some perceivable order in the "truly" random pixels; that is, there's some sort of statistically significant difference between the patches I selected and the rest of the tiles.

If there were no order I think the best I could do is receive impressions of repetitions of the whole tile in its entirety. There's a possibility that it's an optical illusion--i.e., the brain can't do anything with the randomness, so it consistently makes something up. This is why a good statistical analysis is in order (if time and curiosity go my way).

I also believe there's a high probability of this happening with any random tile (a high probability of some perceivable order in a tile this size). A good path for further research is trying to find a random tile that produces no perceivable patterns.

Mark was right in guessing that this isn't a problem with the random number generator as much as the brain's ability to find order. How we do it, and how we do it so quickly is, again, really amazing. Consider for a second the amount of processing this might require if done programmatically.

A related question asks if our visual processing systems do some sort of Fourier analysis or something equivalent. I find the latter option the most interesting. It's hard to imagine our brains doing true Fourier transforms, so what's the equivalent? (Then I worry who will attempt to patent it first--argh!).


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