Magazine article American Scientist

Keep Your Eyes Open

Magazine article American Scientist

Keep Your Eyes Open

Article excerpt

You just have to know what to look for. That is a common explanation scientific experts give when trying to describe how they get their results-whether the process in question involved locating an animal in the wild or searching for a gene in the lab. There is also an important corrolary to that explanation: You have to know that there's something to look for in the first place. Often, stepping out of your own perspective and trying to see through the eyes of others is a good way to see what might have existed all along but escaped your notice.

The picture above is a good example. That's what I look like when vi a robot. The image was created by an MIT art project called Fotron2000, which uses facial recognition technology to determine where features are located. A robot arm equipped with an LED then traces its interpretation.of the face onto Polaroid film. The creators of Fotron2000 say they wanted to have gallery visitors "engage robotic technology in an impractical way," but the image reminds me that others may see the world very differently than I do.

This issue of American Scientist offers many opportunities to open your eyes. James Carter's photoessay on "Flowers and Ribbons of Ice" (pages 360369) introduces a remarkable phenomenon that few people have heard about, let alone seen for themselves. This winter, many of our readers may be hiking out into the woods at dawn to observe these elusive frozen formations.

Simson Garfinkel's article, "Digital Forensics" (pages 370-377), takes on information that is hidden in plain sight. Forensic experts routinely recover "deleted" files from electronic devices, and acquire data based on quirks in computer systems that even the developers didn't know existed. The resulting evidence is increasingly important in prosecuting criminal cases.

Sometimes the best way to step out of your comfort zone is to take on a project in which you have no expertise. …

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