Mona Lisa’s smile decoded: Science says she is happy

Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece “Mona Lisa“
Updated 11 March 2017
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Mona Lisa’s smile decoded: Science says she is happy

PARIS: The subject of centuries of scrutiny and debate, Mona Lisa’s famous smile is routinely described as ambiguous. But is it really that hard to read?
Apparently not.
In an unusual trial, close to 100 percent of people described her expression as unequivocally “happy,” researchers revealed on Friday.
“We really were astonished,” neuroscientist Juergen Kornmeier of the University of Freiburg in Germany, who co-authored the study, told AFP.
Kornmeier and a team used what is arguably the most famous artwork in the world in a study of factors that influence how humans judge visual cues such as facial expressions.
Known as La Gioconda in Italian, the Mona Lisa is often held up as a symbol of emotional enigma.
The portrait appears to many to be smiling sweetly at first, only to adopt a mocking sneer or sad stare the longer you look.
Using a black and white copy of the early 16th century masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci, a team manipulated the model’s mouth corners slightly up and down to create eight altered images — four marginally but progressively “happier,” and four “sadder” Mona Lisas.
A block of nine images were shown to 12 trial participants 30 times.
In every showing, for which the pictures were randomly reshuffled, participants had to describe each of the nine images as happy or sad.
“Given the descriptions from art and art history, we thought that the original would be the most ambiguous,” Kornmeier said.
Instead, “to our great astonishment, we found that Da Vinci’s original was... perceived as happy” in 97 percent of cases.
A second phase of the experiment involved the original Mona Lisa with eight “sadder” versions, with even more nuanced differences in the lip tilt.
In this test, the original was still described as happy, but participants’ reading of the other images changed.
The findings confirm that “we don’t have an absolute fixed scale of happiness and sadness in our brain” — and that a lot depends on context, the researcher explained.


Sudan protests against Egyptian Ramadan TV series Abu Omar al-Masri 

A still image from the TV series Abu Omar al-Masri.
Updated 4 min 13 sec ago
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Sudan protests against Egyptian Ramadan TV series Abu Omar al-Masri 

  • The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum to protest against the series, starring Egyptian actor Ahmad Ezz. 
  • Khartoum is angered by the idea that Egyptian militants would find refuge in Sudan.

CAIRO: Sudan is officially angered by a new Egyptian drama series ‘Abu Omar al-Masri’ and is calling for banning it on television channels during Ramadan.  

The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum to protest against the series, starring Egyptian actor Ahmad Ezz. 

The ministry said it had also filed a formal complaint with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry through its embassy in Cairo against the serial, which is based on a novel of the same name.

 

It accused the series of “fabricating and promoting a negative image” picturing Sudan as a state where Egyptian terrorist fugitives reside.

“Abu Amr Al-Masry shows that some Egyptians living in Sudan are involved in terrorism,” the Sudanese ministry said in a statement. “This is not true because there is no evidence against any Egyptian living in Sudan of being involved in terrorism.”

“The series sought to convince viewers that some areas of Sudan were the location of some scenes in the series, by using Sudanese car plate numbers, without obtaining the consent of Sudanese authorities,” the statement said.

The ministry said those Egyptians living in Sudan have come following a coordination between the authorities and security services of the two countries.

“This television serial is insulting Egyptians living in Sudan and destroying the confidence and relations between the people of the two countries,” the ministry said. “The ministry urges the Egyptian authorities to take suitable steps to stop these attempts at disturbing the interests and achievements of the two countries.”

Producers and cast of the television series replied in a press release that he events are fictional. 

"The series script was written based on the scriptwriter's imagination and does not contain scenes or hints against the Sudanese government or the Sudanese people,” the channel airing the drama said in statement quoted by Egypt Today. 

Diplomatic ties between Cairo and Khartoum have largely remained tense, particularly since last year after Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir accused Egyptian intelligence services of supporting opposition figures fighting his troops in the country’s conflict zones like Darfur.

Cairo accused Sudan of involvement in a 1995 assassination attempt by Egyptian militants against Egypt’s then-President Hosni Mubarak during a trip to Ethiopia. Sudan denied the allegations, and expelled bin Laden and other militants the following year.

Ties between the two were further strained after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Khartoum earlier this year.

Turkey and Egypt have had tense relations since the Egyptian military ousted President Muhammad Mursi in 2013, a close ally of Erdogan.

In recent months tension also rose between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over a controversial dam that Ethiopia is building along its share of the Nile. Cairo fears that once commissioned the dam will reduce water supplies from the Nile to Egypt. But on Wednesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said that a “breakthrough” had been reached in talks with Sudan and Ethiopia over the dam.