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"Uncovering the human superpowers"

By Amber Cleveland

Packed neatly on the bookshelves in Mark Changizi’s Carnegie Building office sit stacks of notebooks containing hundreds of questions. Why do we have fingernails? Why are organs packaged in such a specific way inside our bodies? Why does skin wrinkle when it gets wet? Why are our hands shaped the way they are?

These are among the questions in the notebooks—26 and counting—that Changizi fills with potential research ideas he poses as queries about the design and behavior of biological systems.

So far questions in the notebook have yielded highly acclaimed research findings, including why primates see in color and have forward-facing eyes, why optical illusions succeed at tricking our eyes, and why written characters across languages share common shapes.

Changizi’s groundbreaking explanations have landed on the pages of The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and New Scientist. In May 2009, his findings will appear in Changizi’s first-ever trade book The Vision Revolution, published by Benbella Books.

An evolutionary scientist and theoretical neurobiologist, who joined Rensselaer’s Department of Cognitive Science as an assistant professor in 2007, Changizi focuses on research that sets him apart from his colleagues in the field.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.