Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Who cut off Van Gogh’s ear?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Should we give ear to the latest wild theories about Vincent van Gogh?

Vincent van Gogh did not cut off his own ear but lost it in a fight with fellow artist Paul Gauguin in a row outside a brothel, it has been claimed.
It has long been accepted that the mentally ill Dutch painter cut off his own ear with a razor after the row in Arles, southern France, in 1888.
But a new book, based on the original police investigation, claims Gauguin swiped Van Gogh’s ear with a sword.
The authors argue the official version of events contains inconsistencies.
Witness statements
The book, titled In Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence, is the product of 10 years of research by German academics Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans.
They looked at witness accounts and letters sent by the two artists, concluding that the row ended with Gauguin – a keen fencer – cutting his friend’s ear off.
Van Gogh then apparently wrapped it in cloth and handed it to a prostitute, called Rachel.
Mr Kaufmann said it was not clear whether it was an accident or a deliberate attempt to injure Van Gogh, but afterwards both men agreed to tell the police the self-harm story to protect Gauguin.
He said the traditional version of events is based on contradictory and improbable evidence, and no independent witness statement exists.
“Gauguin was not present at the supposed self-mutilation,” he told Le Figaro newspaper in France.
“As for Van Gogh, he didn’t confirm anything. Their behaviour afterwards and various suggestions by the protagonists indicate they were hiding the truth.”
Gauguin later moved to Tahiti, where he produced some of his most famous works. Van Gogh died in 1890 after shooting himself in the chest.


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Its no bats in the belfry!

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Around seven million Britons are thought to suffer from tinnitus but here follows an article with some sound advice.

“My ears are ringing, ringing like empty shells. Well, it can’t be no guitar player. It must be convent bells”

Bob Dylan, ‘Call Letter Blues’

WHERE Bob Dylan heard ringing, others report a persistent whistling, buzzing, humming or roaring noise.
And for many the effect can be significant, ranging from crippling bouts of insomnia to job-loss, depression and even suicide. Around seven million Britons are thought to suffer from tinnitus. Cher, Bono, Sylvester Stallone, Ozzy Osbourne and Steve Martin are all on record as having had the condition. It is even thought to have been the cause of Vincent Van Gogh’s ear-slicing frenzy, while Barbra Streisand’s famously fiery temper has been blamed on her suffering since the age of seven.

The Who’s Pete Townshend also lives with the condition. He says, “It’s painful, and it’s frustrating.” And Star Trek’s William Shatner admits that the unrelenting noise associated with tinnitus made him contemplate ending his life. “It was like listening to the hiss of a TV that’s not tuned to a channel. I thought I’d go deaf or nuts. I thought of killing myself.”

Alan Sharp first noticed a continuous noise in his ears in February 1984, almost immediately after undergoing a course of chemotherapy during treatment for testicular cancer. “It was like when you go up in an aeroplane and your ears pop,” says the 58-year-old retired solicitor from Edinburgh. “But because there were so many other things going on at the time, it was filed away as something that didn’t need to be dealt with at the moment.”

He describes the noise now as a constant hiss. “If I stopped and thought about it I would be aware of it,” he says. “If you imagine a mini jet engine, that’s what it is like – in both ears.”

More worrying than the continuous noise, however, was the accompanying hearing loss, which proved to be a serious handicap for a solicitor. “There are only so many times you can ask someone to repeat something,” he says.

“Having to appear in court I found a terrible strain because acoustics in court are not very good. It was awful. There were some embarrassing moments, when I would be cross-examining a witness and they would say, ‘I’ve already answered that question.’ And I’d have to say something quickly like, ‘And I’d like to hear your answer again,’ to make it sound convincing.”

Meetings, too, were tricky, and Sharp would have to manoeuvre himself to one side of the table to try to make out what people were saying. He got an NHS hearing aid but that didn’t help as it just amplified the volume of the sounds around him, rather than making them any clearer. So as time went on, he simply accepted that there was little he could do about the condition.

Fortunately, unlike many tinnitus sufferers, Sharp didn’t experience problems with sleep. “Funnily enough, that was almost a positive, in that before this happened I had very acute hearing and therefore was a very poor sleeper; I would hear every little creak and noise, which kept me awake. But with the dullness of my hearing and the hissing noise, I slept a bit better.”

But he still finds watching television difficult without subtitles, and going to the cinema is hit or miss. “The theatre as well: even though they have loop systems, I struggle to make out what’s being said.”

He soldiered on in his job for several years, under a terrible amount of stress, but eventually retired on health grounds last year. While the tinnitus is as bad as ever, he refuses to let it dominate his life. “It’s unremitting; it has never ever stopped,” he says. “But I’m resigned to it now.

“My wife and I have some interesting exchanges when I mishear what she has said. And it can be frustrating for other people, particularly socially, when you’re in a crowd and can’t really make out what’s being said. You nod away and try to look as though you’re following the conversation.”

He has also managed to get a better hearing aid – which he had to pay for – and it has made a big difference to his life. But he says a sense of perspective also helps. “Don’t let it get on top of you,” he advises.

“There are too many important things to be concerned with, so try to put it to one side and get on with your life.

“If you concentrate on other things and if you’re busy there are other noises going on. If you stop and listen, it will be there and you can let it worry you to death. But if you just get on with things, it is subsumed into the background.”

Alternatively, you could adopt the attitude of Sir Jimmy Savile, who has learned to embrace his tinnitus. “It doesn’t bother me in the slightest,” he says. “It reminds me of all the girls I’ve known, and all the discos. I’m very happily ensconced with this friend inside my head.”

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Mobile phones causing acoustic neuroma’s?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

A recent article in Pakistan suggests a link between excessive mobile phone use and acoustic neuroma’s amongst other brain tumours.

In Summary:
“If you must conduct extended conversations by wireless phone every day, you could place more distance between your body and the source of the RF, since the exposure level drops off dramatically with distance. For example, you could use a headset and carry the wireless phone away from your body or use a wireless phone connected to a remote antenna,” advised Dr. Masood….. Those experts stated that, “electromagnetic fields emitted by cell phones should be considered a potential human health risk.”

To read more:

However, EHSO has seen no credible evidence to date that cell phones cause cancer or brain tumors. It is illogical to believe that evidence of unusual brain tumors is covered up when there are hundred’s of millions of people using cell phones worldwide. There is a TREMENDOUS amount of junk science and thoroughly ignorant (as in untrained, uneducated) people running around naming themselves as experts and publishing their opinions on the internet. This hype and fear-mongering has only one goal: to puff up the egos and wallets of those propagating nonsense.

However, cell phones are still relatively new, and while science does not support that the radiation may not be likely to cause cancer, time may prove differently! And in any case, it may cause some other type of damage (certainly accidents in cars from being distracted while fumbling with the phone!)

So common sense suggests that we each take some prudent precautions.

To read more, the following website however states all the facts

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One in ten refuse hearing aids

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

One in ten people with hearing loss are too embarrassed to use a hearing aid even though they feel left out in social situations, research has revealed.

In a poll of 700 people nearly two thirds (64%) of those with hearing problems said they felt isolated by not being able to hear.
But one in ten refused to wear a hearing aid because they felt there was a stigma attached.

The survey was carried out by high street chain Specsavers to coincide with Deaf Awareness Week which begins on Monday.
Specsavers hearing aid audiologist Colin Campbell said: “It is really important to remove the associated stigma of old age so we have less of the population suffering from loneliness because of their hearing problems. This could be simply managed with the correct treatment and aftercare.”

According to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, one in seven people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing.

Jenny Moir from charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People said: “The findings of this survey confirm the feedback we receive from deaf people applying for our hearing dogs. Loneliness and isolation very often leads to depression.

“Hearing aids can help many people with hearing loss feel more able to cope in society, while a hearing dog offers companionship and security breaking down barriers and increasing confidence and independence.”

Specsavers surveyed passers-by from their hearing centres as well as optical customers.


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Deaf Awareness Week – UK

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

4th – 10th May 2009 is Deaf Awareness Week when organisations working with deaf people across the country are inviting everyone to ‘Look At Me’. The theme aims to improve understanding of the different types of deafness by highlighting the many different methods of communication used by deaf, deafened, deafblind and hard of hearing people, such as sign language and lipreading.

Supported by over one hundred deaf charities and organisations under the umbrella of the UK Council on Deafness, Deaf Awareness Week involves a UK wide series of national and local events. “The UK Council on Deafness are delighted to coordinate the all-inclusive Deaf Awareness Week campaign, promoting the positive aspects of deafness, social inclusion and raising awareness of the huge range of local and national organisations that support deaf people and their family and friends.”

For more info visit: Deaf Awareness Week
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Handy hints for desperate headmasters!

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Researchers came across high-pitched noise that teens can hear but most adults over 25 can’t. Managed correctly, this can prove quite useful to modify behaviour for the greater good.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Jefferson High School administrators have a new way to get students to move along between classes rather than congregate in the hallway. 

Annoy them. 

In the past week, the school installed a “mosquito.” The $800 machine, developed in Wales, emits a high-pitched noise that teens can hear but most adults over 25 can’t. 

The idea is to keep students flowing rather than block the stairs and elevator in one particular first-floor hallway.

“We don’t mind if students are congregating,” said assistant principal Roger Francis, who came up with the idea after seeing the product last summer at a school safety conference. “In different areas, it’s fine. But this creates an issue of, in an emergency, we couldn’t get through.” 

To 17-year-old junior Ginell Carswell, the noise emitted in the hall near the radio-TV department “sounds like nails on a chalkboard.” 

“It’s extremely squeaky,” Carswell said. “I hold my ears when I walk by.” 

But for Jeff staff, who say that particular hallway has been a bottleneck for years, the point is students are walking by and not stopping to chat there. There are no plans to install more machines. 

Although the noise hasn’t completely eased the congestion in the hall, some students say it has helped. 

“Before, I couldn’t get to my class — no way, no how. It was clogged all down the hall,” sophomore Skylar Sanders said. “… I think it’s a good idea. I know I’m not late to class anymore.” 

The mosquito was initially created to deter groups of teens from hanging out near shops in the United Kingdom. It’s been used throughout Europe, Canada and is gaining in popularity in the U.S., said Mike Gibson, president of, which sells the machine. 

Gibson said Jeff’s use “is actually a unique deployment.” Mostly, he said, schools use the machine outside to discourage vandalism at night or in the parking lot after sporting events to encourage rowdy crowds to disperse. 

Lata Krishnan, director of the Audiology Clinic at Purdue University, said the machine works on the premise that as you age you lose some hearing ability. Typically, first to go are higher frequencies. 

She said, according to the company’s documentation, the loudness of the sound and the duration seem to be within safe limits. 

“The level as well as the duration of the sound are important when considering the ‘safety’ of the noise,” Krishnan said. “It appears that the company has considered the level of the sound.” 

The school didn’t initially tell students about the machine, Francis said. They wanted to just see if it worked. 

“I didn’t know what it was, I thought something was wrong with the school,” 16-year-old Stephanie Gonzalez said. “It gets annoying, but I think it helps a little bit.” 

However, not every student — such as Gonzalez’s 16-year-old cousin, Brenda Gonzalez — can hear the noise. And some, including 17-year-old Levi Hawkins said, “I’ve learned to block it out.” 

Not every adult is immune, either. 

Kelly Kerns teaches English in the only classroom within hearing distance of the machine. She’s 33 years old but said she can hear the squeal, which sounds like ringing in your ear: “It’s annoying, but it doesn’t hurt.” 

Plus, she’s already noticed some benefits. She used to have to tell people not to stand in her doorway. Not anymore. 

“I think it definitely helps to deter them,” she said. “I don’t know that I necessarily like the method, but the result … it is getting them to move.” 

Source Link:,0,1230363.story

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Tinnitus treatment – Help at last?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Clinical trails for a new drug to treat tinnitus following acute acoustic trauma or sudden deafness will be carried out soon. Let us keep our fingers crossed they can develop something similar for chronic tinnitus patients who has suffered for longer periods.

Auris Medical today announced the initiation of a phase IIb clinical trial with AM-101, an investigational drug for the treatment of acute inner ear tinnitus

Basel, Switzerland | March 12, 2009 | Auris Medical today announced the initiation of a phase IIb clinical trial with AM-101, an investigational drug for the treatment of acute inner ear tinnitus. The study is designed as a double blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial with parallel dose groups and will take place in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. It will involve about 20 study sites with Prof. Heinz Maier, Ulm (Germany), and Prof. Paul van de Heyning, Antwerp (Belgium), acting as lead investigators. The primary objective of the clinical trial will be to evaluate the efficacy of AM-101 in the treatment of acute inner ear tinnitus. Secondary ob-jectives of the study will be the evaluation of the safety and local tolerance of AM-101 as well as the identification of the optimal dose of AM-101. A first clinical trial in 2007/08 showed that AM-101 is well tolerated and safe, and provided first indications of a therapeutic benefit.

The phase IIb clinical trial with AM-101 will recruit patients suffering from persistent inner ear tinnitus following a documented acute acoustic trauma or sudden deafness incident less than 3 months before. Study participants will receive the medication injected into the middle ear under local anaesthesia of the ear drum. Intratympanic injections are a well established, minimally invasive procedure. Patients will be assessed for their tinnitus, hearing function and various other assessments over a three month period. The primary endpoint of the study will be the change in the tinnitus minimum masking level from baseline to day 90.

SOURCE: Auris Medical

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Want to pick a bone? & swiMP3

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Here’s a handy gadget for the aquatics amongst you: an under water listening device utilising bone conduction….

Listen up audiophiles

Amazing out-of-ear listening experience comes via technology that transforms sound waves into vibrations



Do you hear what I hear?

And I’m not even using my eardrums — I’m actually listening through my bones.

The Audio Bone 1.0 headphones are a revolutionary ear-free listening gadget that uses bone conduction technology to transmit good quality sound through your bones directly to your inner ear.

Just slip on the Audio Bone in front of your ears and you’ll be amazed by this out-of-ear listening experience.

Amazingly the headphones don’t use your ear drums to transmit sounds so they help prevent potential long-term damage that commonly occurs to the inner ear from the prolonged use of conventional headphones and in-ear buds that are cranked up too loud.

Although the sound isn’t as distinct as conventional earbuds and requires the volume being a bit higher, the headset is a healthy alternative — and a safe one too because they don’t block your ears so you can easily hear what’s going on around you, like conversation and traffic, while listening to your favourite music.

They work for work or play, like jogging, and they’re waterproof too for swimming. My underwater test session — in my bathtub — provided clear sound although it did seem louder. And you can even hear the music while wearing earplugs, great if you work somewhere that’s noisy.

These sculpted, light-weight headphones, featuring a single cord at the back, hook over your ears and press against the hair area directly in front of your ears. Sure, they’re not as small or discreet as other ear buds out there, but they suit me fine since most ear bud designs won’t stay put and have me fidgeting with them. Plus the Audio Bone eliminates ear canal discomfort and soreness from prolonged wearing.

The headphones’ bone conduction technology transforms the sound waves into tiny vibrations that bypass the eardrum and are directly heard by your inner ear. For those whose hearing has suffered due to eardrum damage, the Audio Bone headphones claim to have you hearing music clearly again.

Available in a variety of colours including black, blue, orange and white, Audio Bone works with all standard iPhones, iPods, CD players and MP3 players.

Meanwhile, I can hear clearly now, the noise is gone.

Silence can be golden when it comes to eliminating annoying background noise, which can be a really big nuisance when it drowns out phone conversation. The Jabra BT530 Bluetooth hands-free headset silences annoying sounds with its Noise Blackout technology.

I had my husband call me with his regular headset while driving and then he called using the new Jabra hands-free headset. Even with the radio on, his voice was loud and clear without affecting his natural voice quality. Peripheral noise was noticeably less, and he didn’t have to repeat himself at all or raise his voice!

DPS technology enhances the user’s voice and reduces surrounding sound so there’s great quality sound on both sides of the call.

And since driving while talking on your cell phone is frowned upon, the BT530 is definitely worth serious consideration if you’re in the market for a BT headset.

Good looking but not flashy, it’s ultra-light, small, designed for comfort and features 5 1/2 hours of talk time.

The easy-to-use BT530 supports Bluetooth 2.0 and features intelligent volume control and has the ability to play music as well.

It comes with several size ear gels and two ear loops, plus an AC adaptor, USB charging cable and instruction guide.


Price: Jabra BT530 weighs 3.5 oz., $99; available at Best Buy.

Verdict: Make some big noise for this noise eliminating technology. Consider exchanging the hands-free headset you got for Christmas for a Jabra.


Price: Audio Bone Headphones, weighs 1.3 oz., $189; to order go to

Verdict: Listen up, Audio Bone provides a quality listening experience that’s safe and healthy for your hearing.

SwiMP3 Technology

Adding Music to the Water
MP3 players have become extremely popular in the last decade. However, the pleasure of enjoying high quality mp3 files during exercise had been confined only to land sports. Determined to provide workout music for swimmers to enjoy as well, The FINIS Development Team set out to create a personal waterproof mp3 player that transmitted the best sounding music. After nearly 2 years of research and development, the first SwiMP3 prototype was created in 2004. A year later, the revolutionary SwiMP3 was released into the market and was quickly regarded by TIME Magazine as one of the top inventions for 2005.

SwiMP3 v.2
In the spring of 2007, FINIS revamped their original SwiMP3 design and released the SwiMP3 v.2. The new player has a sleek finish, with all the controls built directly into the side panels. The memory capacity doubled and the new player was adapted to play both MP3 and WMA file types.

Utilizing the Best Technology
The SwiMP3 underwater MP3 player provides an incredible audio experience through its innovative sound transfer technology. Standard mp3 players rely on the transmission of sound through the air or water causing the swimmer to perceive only muffled noise. The SwiMP3 uses bone conduction – the direct transfer of sound vibrations from the cheek bone to the inner ear – to provide the swimmer with exceptional sound clarity. The SwiMP3 is fully waterproof and can be used with all the competitive swim strokes. Just imagine listening to hours of your own music in high-fidelity during your swim.

How It Works 
The SwiMP3 is revolutionary in that it relies on bone conduction of sound. When the device is placed on any bones of the skull (i.e. the cheek bones or the mastoid tip) it leads to vibration of the fluid in the inner ear. Thus swimmers can enjoy clarity of sound with the SwiMP3 device that was never before possible. Bone conduction is a safe, well-established hearing mechanism in humans that the SwiMP3 player leverages to enhance aquatic activity. FINIS’ application of the technology brings an entirely new level of experience to swimmers of all abilities.

SwiMP3 v.2 Product Features

  • Attaches easily to any swim goggle or snorkeling mask
  • Built in MP3 control panel
  • On/Off button
  • Next / Previous track
  • Volume control
  • Pause & Shuffle functions
  • 10-hour rechargeable battery
  • 60-song (256MB) memory capacity
  • Plays both MP3 & WMA files

General SwiMP3 System Requirements:

  • Windows 98SE, 2000, ME, XP, VISTA — Mac OS 9, OS X or higher
  • Intel Pentium II 233 Mhz or equivalent
  • 256 MB Ram
  • 35 MB available hard drive space
  • USB port

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I feel it in my fingers….

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Now one can realy “feel” the message as researchers are working on a tactile device that translates sound waves into vibrations that allow the user to distinguish between vibratory patterns associated with different sound frequencies. This will aid a person with a hearing loss, to discriminate between sounds that are often more difficult to distinguish by lipreading alone.

Good vibrations

Devices aid the deaf by translating sound waves to vibrations

Anne Trafton, News Office
February 26, 2009

Lip reading is a critical means of communication for many deaf people, but it has a drawback: Certain consonants (for example, p and b) can be nearly impossible to distinguish by sight alone.

Tactile devices, which translate sound waves into vibrations that can be felt by the skin, can help overcome that obstacle by conveying nuances of speech that can’t be gleaned from lip reading.

Researchers in MIT’s Sensory Communication Group are working on a new generation of such devices, which could be an important tool for deaf people who rely on lip reading and can’t use or can’t afford cochlear implants. The cost of the device and the surgery make cochlear implants prohibitive for many people, especially in developing countries.

“Most deaf people will not have access to that technology in our lifetime,” said Ted Moallem, a graduate student working on the project. “Tactile devices can be several orders of magnitude cheaper than cochlear implants.”

Moallem and Charlotte Reed, senior research scientist in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics and leader of the project, say the software they are developing could be compatible with current smart phones, allowing such devices to be transformed into unobtrusive tactile aids for the deaf.

“Anyone who has a smart phone already has much of what they would need to run the program,” including a microphone, digital signal-processing capability, and a rudimentary vibration system, says Moallem.

Sensing vibrations

Tactile devices translate sound waves into vibrations that allow the user to distinguish between vibratory patterns associated with different sound frequencies. The MIT researchers are testing devices that have at least two vibration ranges, one for high-frequency sounds and one for low-frequency sounds.

Using such handheld devices, deaf people can more easily follow conversations than with lip reading alone, which requires a great deal of concentration, says Moallem.

“It’s hard to have a casual conversation in a situation where you have to be paying attention like that,” he says.

Current prototypes can be held in the user’s hand or worn around the back of the neck, but once the acoustic processing software is developed, it could be easily incorporated into existing smart phones, according to the researchers. To lay the groundwork for such future applications, the researchers are investigating the best way to transform sound waves into vibrations.

Existing tactile aids have been in use for decades, but the MIT team hopes to improve the devices by refining the acoustic signal processing systems to provide tactile cues that are tailored to boost lip-reading performance, says Reed.

As part of their project, the researchers have done several studies on the frequency reception ability of the skin. The human ear can perceive frequencies up to 20,000 hertz, but for touch receptors in the skin, optimal frequencies are below 500 hertz.

Using a laboratory setup with a device that can provide distinct vibration patterns to three fingers simultaneously, Moallem has done preliminary studies of deaf people’s ability to interpret the vibrations from tactile devices.

This project was originally inspired by earlier studies Reed did on the Tadoma technique, a communication method taught to deaf-blind people. Practitioners of that method hold their hands to someone’s face while they are talking, allowing them to feel the vibrations of the face and neck.

Reed’s study, done about 20 years ago, showed that the deaf-blind subjects could successfully understand speech with this method — especially if the other person spoke clearly and slowly.

“We were inspired by seeing what deaf-blind people could accomplish just using the sense of touch alone,” says Reed.

This research is funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 4, 2009 (download PDF).


One wonders if this device would also be useful for normal hearing men who often doesnt understand what woman are trying to say??

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Optical Illusion

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Thanks for your feedback on this great post! Auditory Illusions

If you have not eared it you’ve missed a lot.

To date this was the best optical illusion sent in. Enjoy !

Which way is this lady spinning?

 Spinning Dancer

(this woman spins at a heck of a pace on this website, have a look at the source page at the bottom of this post if you cannot get her to spin your way)

Well the answer is…

If the foot touching the ground is perceived to be the left foot, the dancer appears to be spinning clockwise (if seen from above); if it is taken to be the right foot, then she appears to be spinning counterclockwise.

The Spinning Dancer, also known as the silhouette illusion, is a kinetic, bistable optical illusion resembling a pirouetting female dancer. The illusion, created by web designer Nobuyuki Kayahara,[1][2] involves the apparent direction of motion of the figure. Some observers initially see the figure as spinning clockwise and some counterclockwise.

The illusion derives from the lack of visual cues for depth. For instance, her arms could be swinging either in front of her to the left or behind her to the left, and hence with her circling clockwise or counter-clockwise on either her left or right foot. She changes leg because she’s facing either towards or away from us, there being no surface features on the silhouette to indicate at any point which side of her is presented: the least ambiguous positions are her profiles when she’s on either side of her circle, though it’s still not known whether the foreground or background leg is on the floor, and from where she moves indeterminately either on the near or far arc across to the other profile.


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