Gorillas in the midst

  • Crime-fighting Gorilla Dies. While the headline’s promising, the truth turns out to be maybe less than you’d hope for. So, instead of a gorilla being a normal gorilla by day and a crime-fighting superhero by night, we get instead the 440 lb Max who, when a gunman fleeing from a police chanced into his zoo enclosure, merely defended his territory—suffering a bullet wound but living and becoming a town’s symbol for the fight against crime. Still not a bad story. Max died in his sleep, some seven years after his crime-fight. (Reuters: “Crime-fighting gorilla dies” [May 5, 2004])
  • In other gorilla-related news, a study finds that concentration can make a gorilla invisible (well, someone in a gorilla suit, anyway):

    “Working with Christopher Chabris at Harvard University, Simons came up with another demonstration that has now become a classic, based on a videotape of a handful of people playing basketball. They played the tape to subjects and asked them to count the passes made by one of the teams.

    “Around half failed to spot a woman dressed in a gorilla suit who walked slowly across the scene for nine seconds, even though this hairy interloper had passed between the players and stopped to face the camera and thump her chest.”

    Apparently, it’s the task—being asked to count the number of passes—that blots out the gorilla; a phenomenon called “change blindness.”

    It gets better, though. Here’s another experiment:

    In one experiment, people who were walking across a college campus were asked by a stranger for directions. During the resulting chat, two men carrying a wooden door passed between the stranger and the subjects. After the door went by, the subjects were asked if they had noticed anything change.

    Half of those tested failed to notice that, as the door passed by, the stranger had been substituted with a man who was of different height, of different build and who sounded different. He was also wearing different clothes.

    It’s a highly interesting and somewhat disturbing article. See a related post here, with links also to the gorilla/basketball video in question.(Telegraph: “Did you see the gorilla?” [May 5, 2004] via BoingBoing)