Friday, December 26, 2014

Ancestral Memory of Shapes: Orion constellation project

The Orion constellation is perhaps the easiest to recognise star configuration in the sky; it is visible from both the south and north hemispheres as it lies near the celestial equator (it can be seen at latitudes between +85° and -75°), meaning that migrating human populations would have been able to continuously observe it for hundreds thousands, perhaps millions of years.

Also, the magnitude of the stars make it very visible (Rigel is the sixth brightest star in the sky). It is visible even for the modern city dweller.

Since the shape of a constellation change extremely slowly (in particular stellar drift is minimal for far away stars, which is the case for the main stars of Orion constellation), it is conceivable this shape / pattern is imprinted in the genetic memory of our species (as well as others species of course).

Since today's human populations living in cities generally ignore the sky (least use it for navigation!), it would be possible to run an interesting experiment: showing children (or adults) an abstract shape resembling Orion and seeing if it elicits some form of cognitive arousal (compared with other random patterns). In a word: is our "sense of familiarity" with abstract shapes somehow shaped by a genetic memory of the sky?

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