I See White And Gold, But I Admit I’m Wrong

Like everyone else in the world, I’ve spent today trying to figure out what color this dress is. Some people think it’s blue and black, others see white and gold. Having asked people around me – without giving them context or choices – I can assure you it’s not a trick. People really do see different colors, and those around me are splitting about 75% White/Gold to 25% Black/Blue, just like BuzzFeed quiz responders.

I see white and gold. But I have very good reason to believe my brain is tricking me. Why? Here’s what the original image looks like:

Photo Feb 27, 09 20 05

And here’s what it looks like with the colors inverted:

Photo Feb 27, 09 20 05

While people differ on the color of the original, everyone sees the inverted version as white and gold. Which both damns my original White/Gold perception and offers an explanation for it.

Damns it because the opposite of white is, of course, black. And the opposite of the royal blue other people report seeing is the light gold we see above, as this juxtaposition of opposite colors shows:


So it seems obvious that the true colors of the dress are blue and black, as other pictures show.

It explains it because those of us who see White/Gold are seeing the opposites of the true colors, Black/Blue, but switched around. I reckon our brains are perceiving the Black/Blue dress as being in shadow (or something) and simply making a color correction that we don’t need to make. (I don’t know how we’re then switching the two colors.) People who see Black/Blue aren’t making the same (mis)correction. Anyway, it’s an interesting insight into the degree to which what we see is what our brains decide to show us.

(P.S. The dress is way better in white and gold. That is not subjective.)

(P.P.S. “What Colors Are This Dress?” Seriously? Seek the subject, my friends.)

UPDATE: It’s blue and black for me now and I can’t get it back. The good news is I now believe the people who say it’s changing for them.

“Violent Extremism” Is The Correct Term

Fareed Zakaria has a piece in the Post today defending President Barack Obama’s use of the phrase “violent extremism” instead of “Islamic extremism.” I encourage you to read it for its profile of an Egyptian boy’s defection to ISIS. But I disagree with his argument that the president’s choice is just a bit of political strategery:

…far from being a scholar concerned with describing the phenomenon accurately, the president is deliberately choosing not to emphasize the Islamic State’s religious dimension for political and strategic reasons. After all, what would be the practical consequence of describing the group, also known as ISIS, as Islamic? Would the West drop more bombs on it? Send in more soldiers to fight it? No, but it would make many Muslims feel that their religion had been unfairly maligned. And it would dishearten Muslim leaders who have continually denounced the Islamic State as a group that does not represent Islam.

All of those things are surely actual benefits of not using the word “Islamic.” But President Obama’s “violent extremism” is not just politically and strategically reasonable. It’s absolutely more accurate than “Islamic extremism.”

Continue reading ““Violent Extremism” Is The Correct Term”

What Tim Worstall Is Telling Us About Inequality

I’m six months late, but I’ve just read this Forbes editorial by Tim Worstall. And I’m very confused.

Why I’m Confused

The article is about Paul Krugman’s take on the IMF’s take on inequality’s effect on growth. One way inequality affects growth is by reducing opportunities for the poor to use their talents. I’m going to quote Mr. Worstall at length here, so you can understand the source of my confusion:

Yes, it’s most certainly true that the poor in the US (most especially the urban and African American poor) do not have the same opportunities to make use of their talent. But this is a comment upon the disastrous state of the urban education system rather than anything else. That a system can have pupils for 12 years, spend $11,000 a year on each and every one of them on average, and still have people coming out of said system functionally illiterate and innumerate means that there’s something very wrong indeed inside that system. It’s not a lack of resources here, other school systems in other countries do very much better on much less money. Heck, the parochial school system inside the US does better on less money. Given that those inner city school systems are, and have been for decades, controlled by the sort of lefties who complain about inequality I’d say there’s some soul searching rather overdue there myself.

So, since urban schools spend a lot with little to show for it, there’s no “lack of resources” holding back the urban poor. And, of course, schools outside such poor areas do much better.


Isn’t the fact that schools in poor areas struggle to achieve results no matter how much money they spend a very strong argument in favor of the idea that the poverty of the students themselves is what’s preventing them from reaching their full potential? How likely is it that the same “something very wrong indeed” just happens to present itself only in schools attended by impoverished students? There is not, to my knowledge, a unified “urban education system” that coordinates the efforts of its leftie controllers across America’s poor regions. And do those miraculous “school systems in other countries” happen to be located in places that do a better job of keeping their citizens above the poverty line?

Mr. Worstall seems to be forgetting that we’re talking about inequality rather than spending, which I can only assume is a favorite bogeyman of his (oh…quite). Poor kids are held back by the lack of resources that hangs over every aspect of their lives, not by academic under- or over-spending. That’s the problem with the poverty prevalent in unequal societies, of course: it creates obstacles too great for a bit more school spending per student to overcome. And that’s what Tim Worstall is – inadvertently – telling us about inequality.

Why Else I’m Confused

As an aside, I’m also confused about the article’s “important point.” Here’s Mr. Worstall:

And thus we reach our important point. Yes, it’s true, excessive inequality can damage economic growth. Yes, reasonable measures to reduce inequality can increase economic growth. But most industrialised countries are already above that level and it’s really only the US that is particularly below it. And even for the US there’s not all that much room to do more in inequality reduction before we do start damaging economic growth. Another 3 points off the gini perhaps is possible.

Ah. So we should really be talking about this specifically in the context of America. What did Professor Krugman actually say?

This (emphasis mine):

American inequality has become so extreme that it’s inflicting a lot of economic damage.

And this:

Think about it. Do talented children in low-income American families have the same chance to make use of their talent — to get the right education, to pursue the right career path — as those born higher up the ladder? Of course not.

And this:

Will the new view of inequality change our political debate?

And this:

And government programs that reduce inequality can make the nation as a whole richer.

So which nation does Mr. Worstall think Professor Krugman is talking about? I’m confused.