Which Lord of the Rings Character Are You?

Congratulations! You’re Haldir!

Which Lord of the Rings character and personality problem are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Via Sister Scorpion.

Facial Expression

Via Gene Expression, I came across an old article in Monitor on Psychology about facial expressions.

Joseph Campos, PhD, of the University of California at Berkeley […] says, “there is profound agreement that the face, along with the voice, body posture and hand gestures, forecast to outside observers what people will do next.”

The point of contention remains in whether the face also says something about a person’s internal state. Some, such as Izard, say, “Absolutely.” Detractors, such as Alan Fridlund, PhD, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, say an adamant “No.” And others, including Campos and Ekman, land somewhere in the middle. The face surely can provide important information about emotion, but it is only one of many tools and should never be used as a “gold standard” of emotion as some researchers, particularly those studying children, have tended to do.

“The face is a component [of emotion],” says Campos. “But to make it the center of study of the human being experiencing an emotion is like saying the only thing you need to study in a car is the transmission. Not that the transmission is unimportant, but it’s only part of an entire system.”

Based on findings that people label photos of prototypical facial expressions with words that represent the same basic emotions—a smile represents joy, a scowl represents anger—Ekman and Izard pioneered the idea that by carefully measuring facial expression, they could evaluate people’s true emotions. In fact, since the 1970s, Ekman and his colleague Wallace Friesen, PhD, have dominated the field of emotion research with their theory that when an emotion occurs, a cascade of electrical impulses, emanating from emotion centers in the brain, trigger specific facial expressions and other physiological changes—such as increased or decreased heart rate or heightened blood pressure.

If the emotion comes on slowly, or is rather weak, the theory states, the impulse might not be strong enough to trigger the expression. This would explain in part why there can sometimes be emotion without expression, they argue. In addition, cultural “display rules”—which determine when and whether people of certain cultures display emotional expressions—can derail this otherwise automatic process, the theory states. Facial expressions evolved in humans as signals to others about how they feel, says Ekman.

“At times it may be uncomfortable or inconvenient for others to know how we feel,” he says. “But in the long run, over the course of evolution, it was useful to us as signalers. So, when you see an angry look on my face, you know that I may be preparing to respond in an angry fashion, which means that I may attack or abruptly withdraw.”

Dr. Ekman is famous for developing FACS, Facial Action Coding System, for quantifying facial expressions. Here is an interview with him in the New York Times.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and state and local police forces have turned to Dr. Ekman for help learning to read subtle emotional cues from the faces, voices and body language of potential assassins, terrorists and questionable visa applicants.

Around the world, more than 500 people —- including neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists —- have learned Dr. Ekman’s research tool called FACS, or Facial Action Coding System, for deciphering which of the 43 muscles in the face are working at any given moment, even when an emotion is so fleeting that the person experiencing it may not be conscious of it.

That detailed knowledge of facial expression has earned Dr. Ekman, 69, a supporting role in the movie industry, where he has consulted with animators from Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic to give lifelike expressions to cartoon characters.

While psychologists use FACS to understand people, we computer vision scientists use it so that we can get machines to recognize or synthesize facial expressions.

The basic facial emotional expressions are seven —- “anger, sadness, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt and happiness.”

One of the problems we have is that of collecting image/video data with spontaneous expressions instead of posed ones. The posed expressions are somewhat different than natural ones.

Q. So how do you tell a fake smile from a real one?

A. In a fake smile, only the zygomatic major muscle, which runs from the cheekbone to the corner of the lips, moves. In a real smile, the eyebrows and the skin between the upper eyelid and the eyebrow come down very slightly. The muscle involved is the orbicularis oculi, pars lateralis.

This is a somewhat similar problem to the one Dr. Ekman discusses in his book “Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage.”

People have been studying facial expressions for a long time. When we talk of facial expressions, an unexpected name comes up: Charles Darwin. He demonstrated the universality of facial expressions in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

There was a very interesting article (I like the PDF version better) in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell about facial expressions, their relationship to emotions and their use in law enforcement.

Coming back to FACS, Dr.Ekman et al sell a package for the training of people to score the different facial expressions. You can read parts of their FACS manual and Investigators’ Guide online. An older version of different FACS expressions is available here.

But it is not only psychologists that use FACS. Most psychologists manually score the different facial actions using the FACS system. This requires training and is time-consuming as well.

People in the computer vision research community have been working for quite some time on analysis of the human face. The most well-known is face recognition. There has also been a lot of work on automatic facial expression recognition. You can visit the facial analysis links page. There is also a facial expression web page with links to both psychologists and computer scientists.

FACS has been used both for analyzing and synthesizing facial expressions. Some researchers at Linköping University, Sweden defined a 3-D wireframe model, CANDIDE, for the face with facial actions corresponding to those in the FACS system. You can play with a 3-D face mesh by varying the intensity of different facial actions here.

With the advent of MPEG-4, there has been a move from FACS to MPEG-4 in the computer vision community. The MPEG-4 Facial Definition Parameters (FDP) define different feature points on the face while the Facial Animation Parameters (FAP) define the movement of different parts of the face. Note that these definitions do not refer to specific muscles or are directly related to emotions. This standard is actually more convenient for facial animation.

More Qutb

Bill Allison of Ideofact has been the go-to guy for commentary on Sayyid Qutb for quite some time. I should link to him more often, but all his posts are very thought-provoking and I get lazy in pointing them out.

I have an index of his earlier posts on Qutb’s book “Social Justice in Islam” and I strongly suggest that you read all of Ideofact’s posts on the subject.

Now he is posting his thoughts on Syed Qutb’s “Milestones.”

He still has another 8 5 1 0 chapters to go.

CRVO Update

Like I posted before, I got CRVO (Central Retinal Vein Occlusion), or Papillophlebitis as it is sometimes known, in my right eye. I had a followup visit with my retina specialist this week.

I had already noticed that the dark cotton wool spots I was seeing earlier were almost gone. The doctor confirmed that quite a lot of the retinal hemorrhage is gone now. In fact, he was surprised at the speed of recovery and that my central vision was never affected.

Even though my bloodwork was normal, he advised me to see a specialist, a hematologist I hear they are called, to do more tests than the dozen blood tests he has already done. There goes a liter of my blood.

I also have the impression that my doctor has not had much experience retinal vein occlusions in healthy young adults. I think it is fairly rare in that case.


Welcome my Iranian roommate, Kianoush, to the blogworld. He has two weblogs, an English one and a Persian (Farsi) one.

Also, I have updates to two posts:

Which Enterprise Character Are You?

You’re T’Pol. You are very analytical and logical, as any good Vulcan is, but this makes you stick out like a sore thumb. You’re cold and calculated, but there’s a softer side to you that you tend to keep under wraps.

Take the Enterprise Quiz!

Brought to you by redanubis.

Via Mythic Flow.

Weblog Maintenance

Several long overdue tasks are finally done.

  • Comments now have individual permalinks. I had individual anchors for the comments for quite some time but you needed to view source to see them. Now the URL for each comment is linked to the date and time for that comment.
  • I have eliminated popup windows for comments and trackback. The comment and trackback links on the front page as well as category, monthly and daily archives lead to the individual entry page. Spam comments and comment permalinks forced me to adopt this solution. I do think it is a good deal since you have the post, the trackbacks and all comments together.
  • Courtesy of Ejaz Asi, I have installed the accessibility toolbar. Validating my website resulted in hundreds of errors on each page. But now all the pages on ZackVision are valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional.
  • Also, all links to my old Blogger weblog posts from individual posts here are finally fixed to point to the corresponding post on this MT blog which is 8 months old now. That took a long time!
  • Since those links were fixed, I thought I could republish my Blogger weblog such that each month’s archive would redirect to the corresponding monthly archive here. But Blogger does not have the capability to publish a single archive any more. So all links to the old blog posts now redirect to the home page here.

What Famous Leader are You?


What Famous Leader Are You?

Via Foreign Dispatches.

Asia Weblog Awards

Flying Chair has the results for the Asia Weblog Awards. Here are the winners:

Congratulations to all the winners. A special thanks to Phil of Flying Chair who came up with this idea and did a lot of work to organize this. Also, thanks to everyone who voted for me.

The list of nominees is a good source to look for weblogs in or about Asia. The list of nominees for best Pakistan blog is here.

Israel: 1948 Transfer?

An Unsealed Room points to an interview with historian Benny Morris1 in Haaretz. Benny Morris is promoting a new version of his book about the Palestinian refugee problem, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited.

Allison is definitely correct about this interview making “tidal waves.” Benny Morris seems to be on a mission to offend everyone, whether they are on the left or the right. You should definitely read the whole interview (Don’t forget the second page).

I am not as pessimistic as Morris seems to be nowadays, but not by much. I do apportion blame almost equally to all sides though. Some of Morris’ angst as well as his justification of ethnic cleansing in the context of 1948 is based on nationalism. I do not think much of nationalism. It is as much of a negative power as it is positive. I am pragmatic enough to be generally ok with others’ feelings of patriotism and nationalism (when they are not xenophobic), but I look forward to a world where we have banished nationalism.

There is much to chew on (and to be horrified by) in the interview, but I have a question for my readers who are more knowledgeable than me on this topic.

Are you saying that Ben-Gurion was personally responsible for a deliberate and systematic policy of mass expulsion?

“From April 1948, Ben-Gurion is projecting a message of transfer. There is no explicit order of his in writing, there is no orderly comprehensive policy, but there is an atmosphere of [population] transfer. The transfer idea is in the air. The entire leadership understands that this is the idea. The officer corps understands what is required of them. Under Ben-Gurion, a consensus of transfer is created.”

Ben-Gurion was a “transferist”?

“Of course. Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist.”

I don’t hear you condemning him.

“Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.”

I want to focus on that last sentence. Now, Morris makes the point that the Arabs would have been a fifth column and in the context of war the transfer policy was good. I don’t agree with him, but I want to focus on the demographics at the time.

Looking at the demographics of the British mandate of Palestine in 1947, under the UN partition plan, Israel would have contained 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs. Another 100,000 Jews lived in Jerusalem’s international zone. If we add the Jewish population of Jerusalem, we get about 60% Jewish percentage in the Israel of the UN plan. That Israel did not come into existence because of Arab rejection of the partition plan and then the 1948 war. At the end of the 1948 war, Israel got 78% of the mandate territory instead of the 55% it was to get under the UN plan. Some of this was heavily Arab: the triangle, Jaffa (Yafo) and western Galilee. I don’t have 1947 population figures for these areas, but I would speculate that if there had been no refugees or if the refugees had been allowed to return, Israel would have been almost evenly divided between Jews and Arabs. However, there are a few caveats:

  • There is no evidence that Israel had any plans to invade or capture territory that it had not been given in the UN plan if the Arabs had not started the war.2
  • We also have to consider the overall context of the situation and Israel looks somewhat reasonable overall, though with faults and crimes.
  • This balance of population between Arabs and Jews would only have been for a couple of years. Then, the Jewish refugees from the Arabs countries started streaming in.

Now, my question is whether there is any historical evidence of the Israeli leaders thinking about the demographic issue along these lines or is this pure stupid hand-waving on my part?

I should point out that this post is just about some historical questions and speculations. It does not in any way represent my overall views on the conflict. Plus it is rare for a nation or nation-state to emerge into the world completely free of any blame/sin. That history is interesting to think or read about and the wrongs committed should definitely be condemned, but they do nothing to make the nation illegitimate. Israel today is a legitimate state and we should accept its existence. In fact, I have argued for recognition as well as normal relations by Pakistan.

Recognition of the history of the conflict is important in thinking about solutions, but it also hampers any solution if we dwell on it too much.

UPDATE (Jan 14): Here is a Benny Morris article in Guardian which is much more reasoned and describes the basic conclusions of his work. You should also read Norman Geras on nation’s foundational crimes and their current legitimacy.

Continue reading “Israel: 1948 Transfer?”