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Can imagination be measured?

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

Behold, the new multimillion-dollar effort to quantify what happens when you let your mind wander.

Try this: Picture a famous monument. Let’s say it’s the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. You’re directly in front of it and you can see the whole thing, or at least your version of it—sandals, robe, face, crown, torch. Now, rotate it so you see one side, then the rear, the other side, and now the front again.

Finished? Well done. You’ve just flexed your imagination — or at least one of the many cognitive processes that make it possible.

Imagination, that vast and scintillating internal fountain of all things strange and new, is now at the center of some exceptionally focused and well-financed academic work.

So what is “imagination,” exactly?

“At the most basic level, imagination is the mental representation of things that are not immediately present to your senses,” says Scott Barry Kaufman…

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Canada Highlights, Part One

A few photos from my recent trip to Canada. These are from Quebec City, which my fellow blogger Fransi Weinstein promised would be a magical city, and it was!

This photo of a deer-crossing sign was taken on the way to Quebec City. Those more familiar with the US version of this sign will note that the Canadian version is more dynamic. This reflects the fact that while US deer are content to leap across roads in front of oncoming traffic, Canadian deer prefer to leap toward the traffic. A subtle yet important distinction.

This photo of a deer-crossing sign was taken on the way to Quebec City. Those more familiar with the US version of this sign will note that the Canadian version is more dynamic. This reflects the fact that while US deer are content to leap across roads in front of oncoming traffic, Canadian deer prefer to leap toward the traffic. A subtle yet important distinction.

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A US deer-crossing sign. Notice that the deer is jumping perpendicular to the road rather than at oncoming traffic.

Poutine is a popular snack in Quebec. I understand it consists of French Fries, Gravy, and Cheese Curds. As appealing as this combination may sound, I (sadly) did not get to sample any poutine on my trip. But there's always next time!

Poutine is a popular snack in Quebec. I understand it consists of French Fries, Gravy, and Cheese Curds. As appealing as this combination may sound, I (sadly) did not get to sample any poutine on my trip. But there’s always next time!

As noted in a previous post, I met a large pigeon in Quebec City.

As noted in a previous post, I met a large pigeon in Quebec City.

In ancient times, camera-toting travelers inserted "film" (or, in French, "les pellicules") into their cameras in order to take pictures. This gift shop in Old Quebec pays tribute to that bygone custom.

In ancient times, camera-toting travelers inserted “film” (or, in French, “les pellicules”) into their cameras in order to take pictures. This gift shop in Old Quebec pays tribute to that bygone custom.

This mural in Old Quebec depicts life through the ages in that most magical of cities. Can you spot the tourist?

This mural in Old Quebec depicts life through the ages in that most magical of cities. Can you spot the tourist?

It rained a lot during our trip, but there was always a doorway to duck into and a hot cup of coffee nearby.

It rained a lot during our trip, but there was always a doorway to duck into and a hot cup of coffee nearby.

I'm not sure what's going on with my hair in this picture. I think it was intimidated by the size of the Chateau Frontenac, which is visible in the background, and tried to compensate. The Chateau Frontenac, by the way, is visible from every point in Quebec City.

I’m not sure what’s going on with my hair in this picture. I think it was intimidated by the size of the Chateau Frontenac, which is visible in the background, and tried to compensate. The Chateau Frontenac, by the way, is visible from every point in Quebec City.

I love modern art, and I was very happy to visit the Musee National des Beaux Arts in Quebec. This photograph depicts a work of art that was on display. Basically, it's a rotating speaker pulling strings from spools mounted on a pair of racks. The speaker is playing music composed by the artist, Jocelyn Robert.

I love modern art, and I was very happy to visit the Musee National des Beaux Arts in Quebec. This photograph depicts a work of art that was on display. Basically, it’s a rotating speaker pulling strings from spools mounted on a pair of racks. The speaker is playing music composed by the artist, Patrick Bernatchez. You can get more info about this piece by clicking on the image.

Of course, you don't need to visit a museum to see some interesting art... There's plenty of street art to capture the eye in Quebec as well. I spotted this curious piece on the bass of a lamp post in Old Quebec.

Of course, you don’t need to visit a museum to see some interesting art… There’s plenty of street art to capture the eye in Quebec as well. I spotted this curious piece on the bass of a lamp post in Old Quebec.

My French is a little rusty, so I may have gotten this wrong, but one passing gentleman explained to me that it's a custom to ride bikes made of candy on the streets of Old Quebec. Either that, or someone working in a candy shop had some time on his hands...

My French is a little rusty, so I may have gotten this wrong, but one passing gentleman explained to me that it’s a custom to ride bikes made of candy on the streets of Old Quebec. Either that, or someone working in a candy shop had some time on his hands…

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Fortunately, my visit to Quebec would be followed by a visit to Montreal. What adventures would it bring? Visit my blog tomorrow (or maybe the next day) to find out!

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Fortunately, my visit to Quebec would be followed by a visit to Montreal. What adventures would it bring? Visit my blog tomorrow (or maybe the next day) to find out!