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Life in terms of the nonliving. Universal animal preferences for mixtures of simple, more and less exciting psychological opposites.

A list of all stories so far, in no particular order, with links and descriptions.

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More and Less Exciting Things

Some things are universally more exciting to animals than their opposites. Light is more exciting than darkness, red coloration is more exciting than blue, everything is more exciting than nothing, and movement, speed, long flowing forms, spikiness, upwardness and outwardness are exciting relative to stillness, solid and round objects, smoothness, downwardness, inwardness and holes.

Exciting Things in Containers

People are obsessed with the contradictory idea of a stimulating phenomenon inside a container.

The Fluidity of Learning and Solidness of Knowledge

Popular expressions show that, in the brain, learning is a fluid process and knowledge is like a solid. …

A universal bias is probably responsible for animals usually being colored so that their most perceptually dynamic body parts are darker and the relatively static parts are brighter.

Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

“Thus every one would probably agree with Lipps and call a pure yellow happy, a deep blue quiet and earnest, red passionate, violet wistful; would perhaps feel that orange partakes at once of the happiness of yellow and the passion of red, while green partakes of the happiness of yellow and the quiet of blue; and in general that the brighter and warmer tones are joyful and exciting, the darker and colder, more inward and restful.”

— Dewitt H. Parker, The Principles of Aesthetics (1920)


Marvelous Spatuletails
Vogelkop Superb Birds of Paradise
Western Parotias
Red-Capped Manakins

An ongoing collection of popular, nonsensical expressions made up of sequences of qualities humans find exciting universally by default.

Photo by Cassi Josh on Unsplash


Exciting Qualities
Exciting Idiomatic Combinations in Language

Exciting Qualities

Humans perceive heat, fluidity, disorder, brightness, dynamic motion, upwardness and outwardness as exciting by comparison to their opposites coldness, solidness, order, darkness, stasis, downwardness and inwardness, as discussed in More and Less Exciting Things. This story is primarily a list of popular, idiomatic expressions containing a sequence of references to phenomena representing simple, exciting perceptual qualities. These sequences are far more common than one would expect, to the point that it becomes obvious our understanding of the qualities making them up predates the evolution of language in…

Linguistic evidence suggests we’re more aware of physical conditions in our brains than we realize. These conditions appear to influence our preferences and behavior, rather than being an inconsequential side effect of neural structure and connections. The abundance of mixtures of fluidity with solidness in art and language requires an explanation involving a universal feature of human psychology.

Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

“People mountain, people sea.”

— Chinese idiom


· The Wet Wheelbarrow
Liquid Crystallinity
Brain Fluidity
Fluidity in Anger and Sex Idioms
Fluidity and Excitement
Other Idiomatic Fluidity
Solidness Idioms
Fluid – Solid Mixtures
Fluid — Soft and Soft — Solid Mixtures
Fluid — Solid Bias
Works Cited

The Wet Wheelbarrow

“so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white


— William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow” (2018)

Williams’ poem is one of many amusing cultural allusions to chickens. The other…

People are obsessed with the contradictory idea of a stimulating phenomenon inside a container.

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

“’He led me in among the secret things.
There sighs, complaints, and ululations loud
Resounded through the air without a star,
Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.
Languages diverse, horrible dialects,
Accents of anger, words of agony,
And voices high and hoarse, with sound of hands,
Made up a tumult that goes whirling on
For ever in that air for ever black,
Even as the sand doth, when the whirlwind breathes.”

— Dante Alighieri & Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Divine Comedy (1893)


Exciting Things In Hell
Container Fluidity, Disorder, Motion and Multiplicity

Guppies choose mixtures of simple perceptual opposites such as bright and dark colors when they mate.

Photo by Pavaphon Supanantananont on Shutterstock


Habitat Interactions
Social Behavior
Sexual Selection
Male Competition
Direct Benefits
Good Genes
Sensory Bias
Works Cited


The Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata Peters, 1859) is a ray-finned fish in the cyprinodont family poeciliidae, Greek for “with different colors” (Froese and Pauly 2008). It’s also known as the “millions fish” or the “rainbow fish.” Males grow to a maximum size of about 3.5 cm, females to about 5 cm standard length. Guppies have no dorsal spines, seven to eight dorsal soft rays, no anal spines, and…

Humpbacks and humans like a mixture of order and randomness.

Photo by Silas Baisch on Unsplash

“What an odd thing it is to see an entire species — billions of people — playing with, listening to, meaningless tonal patterns, occupied and preoccupied for much of their time by what they call ‘music.’”

— Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia (2008)


Regularity and Variation
Are humpback “songs” really songs?
What is the function of Humpback whale songs?
Music in Humans
Sensory Bias
Works Cited

Regularity and Variation

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) songs, as part of their sexual allure, emphasize both regularity and variation at the same time and weave them together in intricate patterns of sound. These…

Prior to the evolution of the first living things the world was made of crystals, liquids and gasses. Life’s beginnings must have involved the transition of matter from these states to one of liquid crystallinity.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Some important events in the origin of life on Earth probably include the concentration of carbon, the formation of complex organic molecules, sorting of those molecules into chiral types, the evolution of sustained loops of chemical interactions, formation of a replicator, a coupling of this chemistry and replication to an energy source, the origination of liquid crystallinity, and possibly a transition from indistinct networks of living material into relatively individual, self-contained entities or cells. …

Animals prefer mixtures of length and roundness.

Photo by Mohamed Arif on Unsplash

“A death’s-head!” echoed Legrand — “Oh — yes — well, it has something of that appearance upon paper, no doubt. The two upper black spots look like eyes, eh? and the longer one at the bottom like a mouth — and then the shape of the whole is oval.”

— Edgar Allan Poe, The Gold Bug


Flowers, Fruits, Nuts and Eggs
Oblong Things in Animals
Elongated Cultural Things
Sensory Bias Versus Adaptation
Aesthetic Interactions
Works Cited

A universal sensory bias favoring oblong things is probably responsible for human and animal decorations being, very often…

Experiments show we recognize imperceivable dualities and opposites, such as blue versus hot and red versus cold. We identify more closely with a hot blue object than a hot red one and a cold red object more than a cold blue one.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

The hue heat hypothesis demonstrates how we consider certain qualities to be opposites even though we shouldn’t think of them as opposites based on experience, and how it can influence our behavior:

“The Hue Heat Hypothesis (HHH) is based on the idea that light and colours of the environment can affect thermal perception and influence thermal comfort. Specifically, it states that, when spectral power distribution of light reaching an observer’s eye is characterized by long wavelengths in the visible spectrum, the space is perceived as warmer; conversely, when small wavelengths are predominant, the space is perceived as cooler (Bellia et…


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