Tuesday, December 20, 2005


For centuries people have pondered the enigmatic half-smile on Mona Lisa's face and speculated as to its origin. Now some experts believe that they have the answer. The lady is plain happy, period! When you're happy and you know it, you smile. Right?

Some Dutch researchers recently conducted a "fun" experiment and using scientific techonology, they scanned a reproduction of the painting using "emotion recognition" software developed in cooperation with the University of Illinois. The end conclusion was that Mona was smiling because she was 83% happy, 9% disgusted (how does one even deduce any disgust in that smile at all), six percent fearful (maybe she was worried about a roast that was burning) and 2% angry. Interesting that she was only 1% neutral, whatever that means.

It should be noted that the technology used was designed to be used with modern digital films and images, and subjects are required to be initially scanned in a neutral emotionless state.

Go know how she really felt inside!

A professor at the University of Amsterdam involved in the experiment, commented that they knew the results would be unscientific, since the softwear wasn't designed to register subtle emotions. The lead researcher who took the challenge as seriously as he could, used the faces of 10 women of Mediterranean ancestry to create a composite image of a neutral expression, and compared that to Mona's face scoring it on the basis of happiness, surprise, anger, disgust, fear and sadness. Biometrics experts not involved with the experiment said the results were interesting even if they aren't the last word on the Mona Lisa. Of course not! That would take away all the fun and mystery in speculating her real feelings.

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