Friday, December 16, 2005


Folks here in Japan are culturally just as enthralled as folks anywhere else, if not moreso, by the enigmatic smile on Mona Lisa behind bullet-proof glass in the Louvre.

The long lines of folks that flock to her every day come to see that smile and wonder what it means. What was on Mona's mind as she sat posing for Leonardo 500 years ago? Did she just meet a new a boyfriend? Was she going to pick up those new shoes? Did she just get revenge? Or was it a wonderful secret that Leonardo may even have been privy to? There are as many thoughts about that famous smile as there are visitors to it.

Well the white steed of science has once again galloped to to our collective aid by analyzing Mona's smile, using emotion recognition software. Scientific researchers from here and there who had a few moments to spare have used them to determine that Mona was 83 percent happy, 9 percent disgusted, 6 percent fearful and 2 percent angry, which opens up a whole new can of worms, aesthetically speaking.

The scientists add that there was no evidence of surprise in Mona's demeanor, which is no surprise. There was no sadness either, which conclusion I personally would disagree with, but then I'm using different emotional recognition software. Of course science can do nothing to deduce the actual causes of Mona's emotions, which is the fun part, so we're all still in the game and can continue to visit Mona with abandon.

Mona 83% happy? Well, yeah. Mona 9% Disgusted? Why? Maybe Leonardo or his studio weren't so... pleasant? Mona 6% Fearful? Of what? Was Leonardo maybe a little edgy around that time? Mona 2% angry? Surely Leonardo didn't... Maybe the modeling fee was a bit too low?

I wonder if Leonardo knew that as she sat for him, Mona was nearly 20% disgusted, fearful and angry, a statistically siginificant difference from the masterpiece norm. Would he have tweaked her smile? Or was it, after all, meant for all humankind?

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