On Feb. 26, a picture of a cocktail dress originally uploaded to the blog Tumblr swept the Internet and managed to divide the population over a simple question: What color is the dress? Some viewers saw gold and white while others insisted the dress is blue and black. Some people claimed they could see either interpretation, but only one of them at a time. It made people stop and ask, "What exactly is going on with this image?"James Pomerantz, a professor of psychology at Rice University and an expert on visual perception, said the phenomenon is rather elementary and can be easily explained.
"A couple of things are going on, and not all of them involve how our eyes and brains see color," Pomerantz said. "As people who have studied visual perception or photography or painting know, there is a problem that eyes and cameras struggle with called "white balance." If you look at your camera closely, there may even be a white-balance control on it that makes this setting for you."
Pomerantz suggested an example to illustrate the point: Think about taking two photographs, one of a white room illuminated with red light bulbs and one of a red room illuminated with white light bulbs. "Will the two photographs come out the same, given that the colors (wavelengths of light) entering the lens will be the same in those two cases?" he asked.
The answer is yes. "The photos will come out the same. How could they not?" he said. "People, however, can usually see the difference, if there is some clue they can find that tells them the color of the light illuminating the room."
"As hard as it may be to believe, the checkerboard square (actually a parallelogram at this angle) marked A is identical in brightness to the one marked B, even though B looks far lighter," Pomerantz said. "The reason we see them as different is that we factor in the obvious shadow being cast by the cylinder, blocking the source of light pouring in from the upper right. Because B is in shadow, we must mentally (albeit unconsciously) correct for it being in the shadow. A camera doesn't know about any shadow or any cylinder or any light streaming in from the upper right. All the camera knows is the brightness at each point (pixel) in the image, and so the camera sees A and B as identical.
"The checkerboard illusion involves just black and white, but the idea extends to the color of the dress," he said. "The main point is that we can't tell the difference between white and blue, or between black and gold, unless we have some independent information about the wavelengths of light illuminating the dress."
Pomerantz said what made the photo go viral is that in the absence of information about the source of illumination, people will vary widely on what they guess from questionably accurate sources, like shadows cast on the dress.
"If you put a color meter up to the 'white' portion of the dress, you'll see in the red, green and blue readings that there's a bit more blue than red or green; in that sense the dress is blue. But it could have been white under blue illumination."
Pomerantz said much that has been written about the dress in the last two days has been "silly" or "just plain wrong."
"What's correct is that the dress itself, which is for sale online, is actually blue," he said. "That means that the lighting under which the photograph was taken must have been a fairly good white -- that is, an even mixture of all wavelengths or colors -- and thus a flat spectrum."
Pomerantz noted that the other big factor in play is "the oversize emotional reaction" the picture has drawn from people on the Internet.
"Of course, overreaction is a hallmark feature of the Internet, so we should not find that part too surprising," he said.
The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
By Robert Zullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Back when he was a city councilman, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto called expanding parking meter enforcement past 6 p.m. a mistake, saying in 2012 that “local business districts were hurt by nighttime enforcement” when it was briefly attempted the year prior.
And as recently as last month, when Mr. Peduto presented his $507.8 million operating budget and $76.6 million capital budget for 2015 to city council, Kevin Acklin, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the mayor did not support nighttime parking enforcement.
Now, the package of meter-rate increases and expanded enforcement hours in some parts of the city approved by the council Wednesday represents a sizable portion of the $516.6 million in revenue projected in Mr. Peduto’s first budget. The budget will come up for a final vote Monday.
Tim McNulty, Mr. Peduto’s spokesman, said that after talks with council members, “the mayor decided to allow council to approve how best to implement dynamic parking and extend nighttime enforcement in areas where it made sense for their particular districts.”
“Sacrifices are needed by everyone to balance the budget,” Mr. McNulty added.
Combined with a new agreement with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority that will steer more meter revenue to the city, the changes are expected to haul in an additional $10 million a year from parking and will pave the way for a “dynamic pricing model” intended to set future rates based on supply and demand.
The new agreement, negotiated this fall, means that the parking authority’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes to the city will increase from $1.3 million to $1.9 million and that the city will get most of the meter revenue, minus about $4.6 million plus expenses for maintenance and operation of the meters for the authority, and 100 percent of parking court revenue. It had gotten 6.5 percent of meter revenue and 90 percent of parking court revenue.
Under the agreement, total revenue to the city from parking will increase from $20.2 million to nearly $24.8 million, still short of the nearly $28.9 million Mr. Peduto’s administration sought.
That means the city, starting as early as Feb. 1, will expand enforcement hours to 10 p.m. in Downtown and South Side and add new meters in the Strip District, Lawrenceville, Downtown, South Side, Oakland, the North Shore and Uptown.
The most expensive parking in the city, at least initially, will be Downtown, where rates will go from $3 an hour to $4 an hour. Oakland rates will go from $2 to $3 an hour; the North Shore will go from $2.50 an hour to $3; and rates in East Liberty, Shadyside, South Side, Squirrel Hill, the Strip District and Uptown will go from $1 an hour to $1.50.
The rate hikes are projected to bring in nearly $5 million more a year.
Mr. Peduto’s administration had initially proposed adding expanded enforcement hours to the North Shore as well, but Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who represents the North Side, successfully lobbied her colleagues to pass an amendment excluding the area, which includes Heinz Field and PNC Park.
Mrs. Harris argued it was unfair to leave out other neighborhoods with heavy nightlife.
“I don't believe this is a win-win for everybody,” she said. “Just to take Downtown, North Shore and South Side … when there's all this other nightlife in all these other areas, is wrong.”
Parking Authority executive director David Onorato and John Fournier, Mr. Peduto's deputy chief of staff, said the new rates and enforcement hours will take effect first, with a target date of Feb. 1. An analysis of parking trends to set rates to steer cars to less-used streets and away from high-use streets based on price will follow.
Though the parking authority will be responsible for crunching numbers and data, it will be up to city finance director Paul Leger to lower or raise rates.
Councilwoman Deb Gross was disappointed that the dynamic pricing model, which has been successfully piloted in Oakland over the past year with the assistance of Carnegie Mellon students and faculty, won’t be rolled out immediately and could take till the end of the year to implement.
“That's too bad. I'm not sure how I feel about that,” she said.
It’s not the city’s first brush with expanded meter enforcement. In December 2010, city council passed a five-year schedule of meter rate increases and approved enforcement from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in Downtown, the North Shore, South Side, Oakland, Shadyside, the Strip District and Squirrel Hill. It was intended to generate more money for the city’s then-ailing pension plan, at risk of state takeover.
The rate increases and the nighttime enforcement provisions took effect in June 2011, though the expanded enforcement was quickly suspended amid complaints and a row with the parking authority over the pace of a meter-modernization program.
The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Wanda Wilson, executive director of the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation, would not comment on meter increases or enforcement hours.
Jonathan Growall, a real estate investor who serves as president of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, said the news came as a disappointing surprise. The group was hoping to see new meter revenue come back to the neighborhood for public safety, transportation or other initiatives for a neighborhood that sees a regular influx of thousands of bar patrons every weekend.
“We need funding of all sorts,” he said, adding that the group also wants a place at the parking policy table for property and business owners on the South Side. “I don’t see the plan for what they're going to do with this revenue other than dump it into the general fund.”
Robert Zullo: email@example.com or 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @rczullo. First Published December 10, 2014 3:53 PM
Meet Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren! Star Wars: The Force Awakens reveals character names with mock-up trading cards
By IONA KIRBY FOR MAILONLINE
The first trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens was released at the end of last month, and left us all feeling very excited, but with a lot of unanswered questions.
Now, names of the characters we glimpsed have been revealed - and not much else.
Entertainment Weekly has released mock-up Topps trading cards featuring pictures and captions, which were created by the film's director and co-writer JJ Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy
An image of a tense looking Oscar Isaac piloting a starfighter reads: 'Poe Dameron in his X-Wing.'
And John Boyega is seen with the caption: 'Finn on the run!' The words explain why we saw the character emerge at the beginning of the teaser panting and sweating.
But what he is on the run from is not clear - nor is whether he really is a Stormtrooper or wearing the uniform for another reason.
Another character who is sure to be interesting is Kylo Ren, the name of the hooded figure we saw in the trailer armed with a red Lightsaber, as Andy Serkis's voice spoke about the dark side of the awakening Force.
It's worth noting that as red Lightsabers are used by the Sith, they are usually emblematic of the Force's dark side. Daisy Ridley's character, who we saw zipping around on a speeder, has been named as 'Rey'.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2870841/Star-Wars-Force-Awakens-reveals-character-names-mock-trading-cards.html#ixzz3Le7VSmOp
By Associated Press December 11 at 6:28 PM
WASHINGTON — In unlikely alliance, the Obama White House and House Republicans joined forces Thursday in a furious attempt to pass a $1.1 trillion government wide spending bill over clamorous protests from Democrats who said it would roll back bank regulations imposed in the wake of the economic near-meltdown of 2008.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered a rare public rebuke to President Barack Obama, saying she was “enormously disappointed” he had decided to embrace legislation that she described as an attempt at blackmail by Republicans.
The White House noted its own objections to the bank-related proposal in a written statement. Even so, officials said Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were both calling Democrats in an attempt to secure enough votes for passage of the broader measure, which combined government spending and a new course for selected, highly shaky pension plans.
The outbreak of Democratic bickering left Republicans in the unusual position of bystanders rather than participants with the federal government due to run out of funds at midnight. Despite a lengthy, unplanned break in the House’s session, there appeared to be no threat of a shutdown in federal services.
By HAVEN DALEY
The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO —
Robin Williams, a brilliant shapeshifter who could channel his frenetic energy into delightful comic characters like "Mrs. Doubtfire" or harness it into richly nuanced work like his Oscar-winning turn in "Good Will Hunting," died Monday in an apparent suicide. He was 63.
Williams was pronounced dead at his San Francisco Bay Area home Monday, according to the sheriff's office in Marin County, north of San Francisco. The sheriff's office said the preliminary investigation shows the cause of death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.
The Marin County coroner's office said Williams was last seen alive at home at about 10 p.m. Sunday. An emergency call from his house in Tiburon was placed to the Sheriff's Department shortly before noon Monday.
"This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken," said Williams' wife, Susan Schneider. "On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions."
Williams had been battling severe depression recently, said Mara Buxbaum, his press representative. Just last month, he announced he was returning to a 12-step treatment program he said he needed after 18 months of nonstop work. He had sought treatment in 2006 after a relapse following 20 years of sobriety.
From his breakthrough in the late 1970s as the alien in the hit TV show "Mork & Mindy," through his standup act and such films as "Good Morning, Vietnam," the short, barrel-chested Williams ranted and shouted as if just sprung from solitary confinement. Loud, fast and manic, he parodied everyone from John Wayne to Keith Richards, impersonating a Russian immigrant as easily as a pack of Nazi attack dogs.
He was a riot in drag in "Mrs. Doubtfire," or as a cartoon genie in "Aladdin." He won his Academy Award in a rare dramatic role, as an empathetic therapist in the 1997 film "Good Will Hunting."
He was no less on fire in interviews. During a 1989 chat with The Associated Press, he could barely stay seated in his hotel room, or even mention the film he was supposed to promote, as he free-associated about comedy and the cosmos.
"There's an Ice Age coming," he said. "But the good news is there'll be daiquiris for everyone and the Ice Capades will be everywhere. The lobster will keep for at least 100 years, that's the good news. The Swanson dinners will last a whole millennium. The bad news is the house will basically be in Arkansas."
As word of his death spread, tributes from inside and outside the entertainment industry poured in.
"Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien - but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most - from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets," President Barack Obama said in a statement.
Following Williams on stage, Billy Crystal once observed, was like trying to top the Civil War. In a 1993 interview with the AP, Williams recalled an appearance early in his career on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." Bob Hope was also there.
"It was interesting," Williams said. "He was supposed to go on before me and I was supposed to follow him, and I had to go on before him because he was late. I don't think that made him happy. I don't think he was angry, but I don't think he was pleased.
"I had been on the road and I came out, you know, gassed, and I killed and had a great time. Hope comes out and Johnny leans over and says, 'Robin Williams, isn't he funny?' Hope says, 'Yeah, he's wild. But you know, Johnny, it's great to be back here with you.'"
In 1992, Carson chose Williams and Bette Midler as his final guests.
Like so many funnymen, Williams had dramatic ambitions. He played for tears in "Awakenings," ''Dead Poets Society" and "What Dreams May Come," which led New York Times critic Stephen Holden to write that he dreaded seeing the actor's "Humpty Dumpty grin and crinkly moist eyes."
But other critics approved, and Williams won three Golden Globes, for "Good Morning, Vietnam," ''Mrs. Doubtfire" and "The Fisher King."
His other film credits included Robert Altman's "Popeye" (a box office bomb), Paul Mazursky's "Moscow on the Hudson," Steven Spielberg's "Hook" and Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry." On stage, Williams joined fellow comedian Steve Martin in a 1988 Broadway revival of "Waiting for Godot."
"Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him. He was a pal and I can't believe he's gone," Spielberg said.
More recently, he appeared in the "Night at the Museum"movies, playing President Theodore Roosevelt in the comedies in which Ben Stiller's security guard has to contend with wax figures that come alive and wreak havoc after a museum closes. The third film in the series is in post-production, according to the Internet Movie Database.
In April, Fox 2000 said it was developing a sequel to "Mrs. Doubtfire" and Williams was in talks to join the production.
Williams also made a short-lived return to TV last fall in CBS' "The Crazy Ones," a sitcom about a father-daughter ad agency team that co-starred Sarah Michelle Gellar. It was canceled after one season.
"I dread the word 'art,'" Williams said in 1989 when discussing his craft with the AP. "That's what we used to do every night before we'd go on with 'Waiting for Godot.' We'd go, 'No art. Art dies tonight.' We'd try to give it a life, instead of making "Godot" so serious. It's cosmic vaudeville staged by the Marquis de Sade."
His personal life was often short on laughter. He had acknowledged drug and alcohol problems in the 1970s and '80s and was among the last to see John Belushi before the "Saturday Night Live" star died of a drug overdose in 1982.
Williams announced in 2006 that he was drinking again but rebounded well enough to joke about it during his recent tour. "I went to rehab in wine country," he said, "to keep my options open." The following year, he told the AP that people were surprised he was no longer clean.
"I fell off the wagon after 20 years and people are like, 'Really?' Well, yeah. It only kicks in when you really want to change," he said.
Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams would remember himself as a shy kid who got some early laughs from his mother — by mimicking his grandmother. He opened up more in high school when he joined the drama club, and he was accepted into the Juilliard Academy, where he had several classes in which he and Christopher Reeve were the only students and John Houseman was the teacher.
Encouraged by Houseman to pursue comedy, Williams identified with the wildest and angriest of performers: Jonathan Winters, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin. Their acts were not warm and lovable. They were just being themselves.
"You look at the world and see how scary it can be sometimes and still try to deal with the fear," he said in 1989. "Comedy can deal with the fear and still not paralyze you or tell you that it's going away. You say, OK, you got certain choices here, you can laugh at them and then once you've laughed at them and you have expunged the demon, now you can deal with them. That's what I do when I do my act."
He unveiled Mork, the alien from the planet Ork, in an appearance on "Happy Days" and was granted his own series, which ran from 1978 to 1982 and co-starred Pam Dawber as a woman who takes in the interplanetary visitor.
"I am completely and totally devastated," Dawber said in a statement. "What more can be said?"
Following his success in films, Williams often returned to television — for appearances on "Saturday Night Live," for "Friends," for comedy specials, for "American Idol," where in 2008 he pretended to be a "Russian idol" who belts out a tuneless, indecipherable "My Way."
Williams could handle a script, when he felt like it, and also think on his feet. He ad-libbed in many of his films and was just as quick in person. During a media tour for "Awakenings," when director Penny Marshall mistakenly described the film as being set in a "menstrual hospital," instead of "mental hospital," Williams quickly stepped in and joked, "It's a period piece."
Winner of a Grammy in 2003 for best spoken comedy album, "Robin Williams — Live 2002," he once likened his act to the daily jogs he took across the Golden Gate Bridge. There were times he would look over the edge, one side of him pulling back in fear, the other insisting he could fly.
"You have an internal critic, an internal drive that says, 'OK, you can do more.' Maybe that's what keeps you going," Williams said. "Maybe that's a demon. ... Some people say, 'It's a muse.' No, it's not a muse! It's a demon! DO IT YOU BASTARD!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! THE LITTLE DEMON!!"
In addition to his wife, Williams is survived by his three children: daughter Zelda, 25; and sons Zachary, 31, and Cody, 19.