December 2011

A few years ago, James Gurney, a celebrated artist and author, stood before his easel to paint adeli in Poughkeepsie. Surveying the scene before him, he was immediately overwhelmed with literally millions of details. People strolled by. Insects fluttered overhead. Signs poked out from the store and up from the street. Every tree had about 200,000 leaves. “How am I going get all this down onto a 9 by 12 panel in a matter of hours?” he wondered, despite having confronted this conundrum countless times before.

deli in poughkeepsieArtist James Gurney’s painting of this deli in Poughkeepsie, New York, closely resembles the real thing. Courtesy of James Gurney.

The task was a visual one: translate the three dimensional scene that your eyes and your brain compile into a flat picture that makes you—and other viewers—re-experience something similar. Your eyes play tricks on you. Your brain plays tricks on you. As an artist, Gurney knew, you have to trick them back—or what you produce won’t look anything like what you thought you saw.

Although all good visual artists need to understand perception, Gurney has taken the study more seriously than most. He writes a blog, Gurney Journey, that includes numerous posts on vision and how it works. (He has also illustrated articles forScientific American. For a video showing his process for painting realistic dinosaur scenes, see Illustrating ‘Dinosaur Death Trap.’) “Painting is a record of one person’s subjective visual experience of the world,” Gurney told me. Artists, he explained, want to convey that experience. But doing so often means, in a very real sense, not trusting their own eyes.

When Pink Is Bluish Gray

One of the ways our eyes can’t be trusted concerns color. Our visual systems manipulate tones and hues in nonobvious ways. In what scientists call color constancy, we perceive an object’s hue as constant no matter if it is brightly lit, cast in shadow, curved or illuminated by colored light. So a school bus looks yellow even in shadow or dented in a way that locally changes its shade. In the case of a sunlit man in black holding a white paper cast in shadow, we see his suit as black and the paper as white no matter how objectively bright or dark these objects are. Beneath our awareness, we adjust for the lighting.

checkerboard illusionSquares 1 and 2 are the same gray. The suggested shadow makes our eyes see 1 as black and 2 as white, but the artist adjusted for that effect. Courtesy of James Gurney.

But such subconscious adjustments may lead an artist astray, if he or she is unaware of them. In the case of the man with the paper, a beginner is likely to paint as his conscious brain sees, so that the coat is rendered in very dark tones and the paper quite white. An artist who knows about color constancy, however, will know that “white in shadow can very often be darker than black in sunlight,” Gurney says. To see this for yourself, look at the checkerboard. The squares marked 1 and 2 are actually the same tone. Our eyes adjust for the shadow such that we see the square that we think is illuminated (1) as much darker than the one that seems to be in shadow (2). As this illusion demonstrates, this adjustment is almost impossible to override. “Colors don’t exist as an objective reality,” Gurney says. “Color is something that happens in the brain.”

color constancy illusionThe blue square in the red picture is the same color as the red square in the green picture. Courtesy of James Gurney.

Painters need to be aware of this subjectivity, he says, because it makes a difference in how they paint. Here’s another striking example. Let’s say an artist wants to paint a pale-skinned figure standing outside at dusk or in a flame-lit interior. Looking at the figure, his skin would appear pinkish, because we know Caucasian skin to be pink. But cast in a bluish light, it isn’t pink at all, Gurney says. It is bluish gray. As a result, a painter must mix grays and blues in that environment to make the skin appear pink. To see how dramatically our eyes adjust for a color cast in a picture, see the colored cubes above. Although the square denoted in the red picture looks blue or (or to some, green or “cyan”) and the one in the green picture, red, Gurney rendered both using exactly the same color mixture. Here, a skilled artist uses an identical mix of paints in the two contexts to produce what appear to be two very different colors. You need to know how color context affects perception, says Gurney, “to get the color you want in a subjective color environment.”

The Benefits of Blur

Our eyes and brain also continually give us a false sense of focus. When we look out at a scene, we are constructing a sharp image of just a small part of it—the spot at or near the center of our gaze. The cells that detect light here, called cones, are responsible for all high-resolution vision. By contrast, objects on the periphery appear fuzzy because the light-detectors there, called rods, are not tuned to visual details. Nevertheless, as our gaze naturally shifts, our brains combine the various points of focus to construct a detailed mental picture of a large swath of visual territory.

Using this mental picture as a guide, novice artists tend to draw or paint an entire canvas in high definition. But because not everything is in focus when we actually see, softening the edges in the background of a painting actually makes it seem more real, says Gurney. It gives the image greater depth. That sense of reality and immediacy is Gurney’s goal. “I want to better understand how my eyes and brain work so that I can create a record of my observations,” he says.

dinosaur painting with heatmapAn eye-tracking heatmap depicts the areas of a painting at which most people looked. Courtesy of James Gurney.

In deciding what to paint with precision, Gurney also takes into account what people like to look at. Gurney has always wondered where viewers spent the most time looking in his pictures. He brought several of his paintings to Greg Edwards, who is the founder of Eyetools, an eye tracking company in San Francisco. Edwards tracked the eye movements of 15 viewers as they looked at Gurney’s art to discover which parts their eyes landed on most. Above, one of Gurney’s paintings is accompanied by the same painting overlaid with an eye-tracking heatmap. The red color denotes the areas where almost 100 percent of people gazed, followed by decreasing percentages in the orange and yellow. The blue and darker colors mark where hardly anyone looked. The results jibe with the notion that people are drawn to faces—and to human figures, in general. Knowing what captures people’s interest helps tell Gurney what to spend the most time rendering in fine detail. Such eye-tracking work justifies the extraordinary attention some artists pay to painting faces. Some famous artists such as the American portrait painter John Singer Sargent reportedly repainted visages repeatedly to fix, say, the lighting, expression, or direction of gaze.

Underlying the rationale for eye tracking is the notion that attention is central to seeing. You don’t see what you don’t focus on, perceptually and conceptually. When Gurney sat down to paint that deli, he could not paint everything in front of him. He had to choose what to paint with precision and what to simplify, to reflect what he felt best represented the scene and what stood out to him. But despite seeing too much, he also saw too little: after an hour and a half of absorbing the sights, he suddenly noticed some telephone wires. It was if they had just suddenly appeared in the scene. “But I didn’t paint them in,” he recalls. “The scene was busy enough, and it was time for lunch.”

Ingrid WickelgrenAbout the Author: Ingrid Wickelgren is an editor at Scientific American Mind, but this is her personal blog at which, at random intervals, she shares the latest reports, hearsay and speculation on the mind, brain and behavior.  The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

In what amounts to a kind of holiday gift to the cosmos, astronomers from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft announced Tuesday that they had discovered a pair of planets the size of Earth orbiting a distant star. The new planets, one about as big as Earth and the other slightly smaller than Venus, are the smallest yet found beyond the solar system.

Astronomers said the discovery showed that Kepler could indeed find planets as small as our own and was an encouraging sign that planet hunters would someday succeed in the goal of finding Earth-like abodes in the heavens.

Since the first Jupiter-size exoplanets, as they are known, were discovered nearly 15 years ago, astronomers have been chipping away at the sky, finding smaller and smaller planets. 

“We are finally there,” said David Charbonneau, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who was a member of the team that made the observations, led by his colleague Francois Fressin. The team reported its results in an online news conference Tuesday and in a paper being published in the journal Nature.

Dr. Fressin said, “This demonstrates for the first time that Earth-size planets exist around other stars and that we can detect them.”

The announcement doubled the number of known Earth-size planets in the galaxy to four from two — Earth and Venus.

The next major goal in the planetary hunt, astronomers say, is to find an Earth-size planet in the so-called Goldilocks zone of a star, where conditions are temperate for water and thus life. We are not there yet.

The two new planets, Kepler 20e and Kepler 20f, are far outside the Goldilocks zone — so close to the star, termed Kepler 20, that one of them is roasting at up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit — and thus unlivable.

Although the milestone of an Earth-size planet had long been anticipated, astronomers on and off the Kepler team were jubilant. Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley, another Kepler team member, called the new result “a watershed moment in human history.”

Debra Fischer, a planet hunter from Yale, who was not part of the team, said, “This technological feat is incredibly important because it means that the detection of Earth-size planets at larger distances is technically possible.”

Kepler 20e, the closer and hotter planet, is also the smaller — about 6,900 miles across, or slightly smaller than Venus — and it resides about 5 million miles from its star. The more distant planet, Kepler 20f, also broiling at around 800 degrees, is 10 million miles out from its star. It is 8,200 miles in diameter, about the size of Earth. The two planets are presumed to be rocky orbs that formed in the outskirts of their planetary system and then migrated inward.  

Their star, which is slightly smaller and cooler than the Sun, is about 950 light years away from us. Kepler had previously found three larger Neptune-like planets around it, so the new observations bring the total to five so far. All the planets are well inside where Mercury would be in our own solar system, presenting a bounteous system of unlivable planets.

“This is Venus and Earth in a five-planet system,” Dr. Fischer said in an e-mail. “There’s no place like home, and the Kepler data are starting to uncover some mighty familiar architectures.”

Kepler detects planets by watching for blinks when they move in front of their stars. Since it was launched in 2009, it has found 2,326 potential planets, 207 that would be Earth-size, if confirmed as the two reported Tuesday have been.

Confirmation of a planet, however, requires additional observations, usually of its star’s wobbles as it gets tugged by the planet going around. The gravitational pull of planets as small as the Earth on their parent star is too small to measure with the current spectrographs. And so the astronomers resorted to a statistical method called Blender, developed by Dr. Fressin and Guillermo Torres of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, in which millions of computer simulations of background stars try to mimic the Kepler signal. They concluded that Kepler 20e was 3,400 times more likely to be a planet than background noise, while the odds in favor Kepler 20f being real were 1,370 to 1.

Confirmed (or validated, as the Kepler team likes to say), they join the other planets already known to orbit the star. In a surprise for astronomers who thought they knew how planetary systems form, the orbits of the new planets are sandwiched between the orbits of the older, bigger, gassier ones, a configuration that does not occur in our own solar system.

In an e-mail, Dr. Charbonneau noted: “In the solar system, rocky worlds and gas giants don’t mingle. But in the Kepler 20 system they apparently do.”

By DENNIS OVERBYE, NYT, December 20, 2011


Nearly every woman I know can recall one or more instances in which she was sexually assaulted, harassed, threatened, inappropriately touched or even raped.

Yet few told anyone about it at the time, or reported it to the police.
I have clear memories of three such episodes from my childhood, one of which involved a man who owned a store in my neighborhood. Not knowing at age 11 anything about reproduction (in 1952, expectant teachers had to take leave when they “showed”), I was terrified that I could become pregnant from having been forced to touch his penis.

I had trouble sleeping, and I avoided the block where the store was. Yet, fearing that the assault was somehow my fault, I said nothing to my parents.
Experts on sexual assault and rape report that even today, despite improvements in early sex education and widespread publicity about sexual assaults, the overwhelming majority of both felony and misdemeanor cases never come to public or legal attention.

It is all too easy to see why. More often than not, women who bring charges of sexual assault are victims twice over, treated by the legal system and sometimes by the news media as lying until proved truthful.
“There is no other crime I can think of where the victim is more victimized,” said Rebecca Campbell, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University who for 20 years has been studying what happens legally and medically to women who are raped. “The victim is always on trial. Rape is treated very differently than other felonies.”

So, too, are the victims of lesser sexual assaults. In 1991, when Anita Hill, a lawyer and academic, told Congress that the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her repeatedly when she worked for him, Ms. Hill was vilified as a character assassin and liar acting on behalf of abortion-rights advocates.

Credibility became the issue, too, for Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant chambermaid who accused the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of forcing her to perform fellatio in a Manhattan hotel room.Prosecutors eventually dropped the case after concluding that Ms. Diallo had lied on her immigration form and about other matters, though not directly about the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn.
When four women, two of whom identified themselves publicly, said they had been sexually harassed by Herman Cain, the Republican presidential hopeful, they, too, were called liars, perhaps hired by his opponents.

Charges of sexual harassment often boil down to “she said-he said” with no tangible evidence of what really took place. But even when there is DNA evidence of a completed sexual act, as there was in the Strauss-Kahn case, the accused commonly claim that the sex was consensual, not a crime.
“DNA technology has not made a dramatic change in how victims are treated,” Dr. Campbell said in an interview. “We write off a lot of cases that could be successfully prosecuted. It’s bunk that these cases are too hard to prosecute.”

Victims must be better supported with better forensics, investigations and prosecutions, Dr. Campbell said. “This is a public safety issue. Most rapists are serial rapists, and they must be held accountable.”

In one study, published in 1987 in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 126 admitted rapists had committed 907 rapes involving 882 different victims.
Rapists are not the only serial sexual offenders. Witness the all-too-frequent revelations of sexual abuse of children involving multiple victims and persisting for decades even when others in positions of authority knew it was going on.

In the latest such scandal, an assistant football coach at Penn State University stands accused of molesting 10 boys. The charges led to the firing of a revered head coach, Joe Paterno, and forced the resignation of the university president for failing to take more immediate action.
The Risks

Last year, according to the Department of Justice, 188,280 Americans were victims of sexual violence.

Among female victims, nearly three-quarters are assaulted by men they know — friends, acquaintances or intimate partners, according to federal statistics.
But fewer than 40 percent of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police. Underreporting is more common among male victims and women raped by acquaintances or domestic partners. Only one-quarter of rapes are committed by strangers.

The result of underreporting and poor prosecution: 15 of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail, according to the network. Dr. Judith A. Linden, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, reported in The New England Journal of Medicine in September that in the United States, “fewer than half of rape cases are successfully prosecuted.”

Victims may be reluctant to report a rape because they are embarrassed, fear reprisals and public disclosure, or think they won’t be believed. “Victims often think they somehow brought it on themselves,” said Callie Rennison, a criminologist at the University of Colorado in Denver. “Rape is the only crime in which victims have to explain that they didn’t want to be victimized.”

These feelings are especially common among college women who may have been drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs when raped by a date or acquaintance.

Victims may not realize that any form of sexual behavior that is not consented to and that causes discomfort, fear or intimidation is considered sexual assault in most jurisdictions. That includes indecent exposure, unwanted physical contact (including kissing and fondling) and lascivious acts, as well as oral and anal sex and vaginal rape, whether with a body part or an instrument.

A minor — in general, 16 or 17, depending on the state — can legally consent to sexual activity. A person of any age who is forced or threatened, developmentally disabled, chronically mentally ill, incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, unconscious or preparing to undergo a medical procedure cannot legally consent to sexual activity.

Among young children, girls and boys are equally at risk of being sexually abused. But as they age, girls increasingly become targets; among adults, women represent about 90 percent of cases.

Experts have long debated whether rape should be seen as an act of aggression and control or the product of an irresistible sexual urge. To the victim, the distinction is moot.

The consequences can include pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease; feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and low self-esteem; self-blame and depression; substance abuse and eating disorders; fears of intimacy; numbness;post-traumatic stress disorder (nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety attacks, difficulty functioning); borderline personality disorder; unexplained physical problems; and even suicide.

Thus, even if rape victims choose not to report the attacks, prompt medical attention and psychological counseling can be critically important to their long-term well-being.


* Text by JANE E. BRODY, NYT, December 12, 2011


TOKYO — With the abrupt death of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, the fate of his isolated, nuclear-armed regime has dropped into the hands of his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, who is such an unknown that the world did not even know for sure what he looked like until last year.
But the biggest enigma may be whether the younger Mr. Kim will be able to hold onto power in this last bastion of hard-line Communism, much less prevent its impoverished economy from collapsing.

 For now, the reclusive regime is acting true to form, offering few clues as to what, if any, changes the death of the dictator could bring. It does, however, appear to be offering the first glimmers of an answer to one question that has long dogged North Korea watchers: whether the powerful military and other parts of the nation’s small, privileged ruling elite would go along with the Kim family’s ambitions to extend its dynastic rule to a third generation.

Within hours of the announcement on Monday of his father’s death, North Korea’s ruling Workers Party released a statement calling on the nation to unite “under the leadership of our comrade Kim Jong-un.”

The younger Mr. Kim was also named head of the committee that will oversee his father’s funeral on Dec. 28 — a move that some analysts interpreted as evidence that the transfer of power to the son was proceeding smoothly, at least in the first days. Analysts said they expect the funeral to be an elaborate public display, not only of reverence for the deceased leader, but also of national unity behind the new one.


“The first test of the new leadership will be its handling of the death itself,” said John Delury, a professor of international studies at Yonsei University in Seoul.
Some analysts said Kim Jong-il had used the three years after his first brush with mortality, a stroke in 2008, to successfully build up support for this untested son, who is believed to be in his late 20s. They also said North Korea’s ruling class might also recognize that, at least for now, they have no choice but to accept the succession: the elder Mr. Kim’s two older sons are seen as lazy playboys, while any move to reject the Kim family could undo the legitimacy of the entire regime.

“Kim Jong-il used the years after his stroke to build a consensus among the elite that his son would be the face of North Korea after he was gone,” said Kim Yeon-su, a professor of North Korean studies at the National Defense University in Seoul. He added that this was an easy face to sell: with plump cheeks, short-cropped hair and a hard gaze, Kim Jong-un looks strikingly similar to his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the regime’s founder, who is still revered as a god.
But what happens after the funeral remains anyone’s guess.

The only precedent is the last transition in the current ruling dynasty, when Kim Jong-il took over after the 1994 death of his father, Kim Il-sung. In that case, the son observed a three-year period of traditional mourning before formally taking over control of the nation, a move that reflects the regime’s odd mixing of the trappings of ancient Confucian monarchy with a 20th-century Stalinist cult of personality.

With the death of Kim Jong-il, most analysts expect the younger Mr. Kim to observe a similar period of mourning, which he will probably use to quickly consolidate his power. While his father had a decade to build support between being named as heir and actually taking power, Kim Jong-un was publicly presented as successor just last year, though analysts say he may have been named within the ruling party in January 2009.

He made his first public appearance on last year’s Sept. 9 anniversary of the founding of North Korea, observing a military parade with his father.
Masao Okonogi, a specialist on North Korea at Keio University in Tokyo, said that during the new leader’s first few years, North Korea would most likely shy away from confrontation with the United States and its allies, like South Korea. This is what Kim Jong-il did after he replaced his father, said Mr. Okonogi. He seemed to hold out an olive branch by observing a 1994 deal negotiated by his father to freeze construction of two reactors suspected of use in the North’s covert atomic weapons program. The North eventually suspended the deal in 2003, three years before testing its first nuclear weapon.
“Look for Kim Jong-un to make some offer, like to restart the Six-Party talks,” Mr. Okonogi said, referring to stalled multilateral negotiations on dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons. “He’ll need to reduce tensions with the United States in order to buy time.”

Given Kim Jong-un’s relatively weak domestic position, Mr. Okonogi and other analysts said some kind of group rule could emerge. Much speculation has centered on whether Kim Jong-il’s apparent second-in-command, his brother-in-law, Jang Song-taek, could emerge as a regent. However, analysts said there were no signs of that on Monday in the propaganda that followed Kim Jong-il’s death.

Beyond that, analysts said there are signs that Kim Jong-un has already begun building up an independent if still limited power base, particularly within the military. Last year, the younger Mr. Kim was proclaimed a four-star general by his father, who also named him vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, the country’s most powerful body. Mr. Kim also appeared to burnish his credentials with the military by overseeing the suspected attack last year on a South Korean warship and the artillery bombardment of a border island.

Mr. Kim of the National Defense University said that Mr. Kim has also been cultivating his own connections in the North Korean military, including Lt. Gen. Kim Yong-chol, 65, a well-known hard-liner of defense issues and head of military intelligence, who appears to serve as a mentor to the young leader. Some analysts said there are also signs that the new leader has already begun purging senior military staff with a younger generation of officers in their 30s and 40s.
“This new generation will be beholden to Kim Jong-un for its power,” said Chang Yong-seok, senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

But this could also leave Mr. Kim beholden to the military, which may cast doubt on one of the biggest long-term questions about the new North Korean leadership: whether it will be able to bring some sort of change to the decrepit regime and its failing state-run economy.
Still, Mr. Chang and other analysts said a change of generation might bring a re-evaluation of the North’s isolation. They say that growing numbers of North Korean officials are visiting neighboring China to see the success of its three-decade embrace of market economics under an authoritarian regime. Recent visitors to North Korea say there are already signs of a growing commercial links with China, including a new class of wealthy traders and a budding influx of Chinese-made consumer goods.

“The new leadership knows it will have to prove its mettle in the first few years,” said Mr. Delury, who visited Pyongyang in September. “Economic reform will be the single biggest challenge it faces.”

 By MARTIN FACKLER , December 19, 2011


A Peruvian court has authorized American Lori Berenson who spent 15 years in jail over her ties with leftist guerrillas to go to the United States for the holidays, after her 2010 release on parole.

Berenson will be allowed to travel to the United States any time through January 11, an appeals court ruled Thursday, overturning a lower court’s decision, her husband and lawyer Anibal Apari told local media.

New York-born Berenson, 42, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1995 for having collaborated with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) leftist guerrilla group.

Berenson was convicted of participating in a foiled MRTA plot to seize control of Peru’s congress and take lawmakers hostage. She allegedly used her press credentials to gather information used to prepare for the takeover.

Despite her support for the MRTA, Berenson has repeatedly denied she was involved in any acts of violence.

She was released on parole last year after spending 15 years in prison, but Peruvian law requires Berenson to live in Lima for the remainder of her sentence.

The appeals court granted Berenson’s request for holiday leave, saying her travels to the United States “would not prevent her from serving the remainder of her sentence.”

Anti-terror prosecutor Julio Galindo denounced the ruling, saying, “There is no guarantee that this former MRTA member will return to Peru.”

Berenson’s 2010 release sparked a public outcry in Peru, where she is remembered as a defiant foreigner raising her fist and chanting leftist slogans during her trial in 1995 — a tirade broadcast on television.

The MRTA has since disintegrated, with most of its members either dead or in prison following a fierce government crackdown on leftist guerrilla groups in the 1990s under then president Alberto Fujimori.

It gained notoriety for taking over the Japanese ambassador’s Lima residence in December 1996, taking 72 hostages. The standoff lasted four months until a raid that left 14 rebels and one hostage dead.

MRTA was less well known than the Shining Path, another guerrilla group that has largely been eliminated.

* AFP, 12/16/2011








An Al Jazeera English video report on Saturday’s violence in Cairo includes footage of soldiers beating and shooting at protesters and of the country’s new prime minister denying that the military had used any force at all.

As our colleague David Kirkpatrick reports from Cairo, Egyptian soldiers chased down and beat unarmed civilians on Saturday, even while the prime minister appointed by the military “was denying in a televised news conference that security forces were using any force.”

While Egyptians who rely on state-run media outlets might have accepted the official explanation, video shot by activists and independent journalists clearly showed that uniformed soldiers attacked protesters.

Photographs and video of soldiers beating a female protester whose traditional hijab veil had been stripped off caused particular outrage. Several activists, including Mohamed ElBaradei, responded with anger to a Reuters photograph of the attack on the woman, which showed a soldier kicking her bare midriff.

After video broadcast by the private channel CBC appeared to show some of the incident, activists pointed to this edited footage which showed the woman being beaten in more detail, even though she might have been unconscious the whole time.

As the Egyptian blogger who writes as Zeinobia reported, the military apparently took steps to make sure that there would not be much video evidence to contradict the official narrative. She wrote that when troops stormed Tahrir Square on Saturday, members of the military police also raided apartments with views of the square used by local and foreign television channels and confiscated cameras.

A freelance photographer who managed to record this video of the soldiers sweeping through Tahrir Square, Tom Dalewrote on his Vimeo channel: “Several journalists’ cameras were confiscated and destroyed today. The army missed this one.”

Mr. Dale provided his footage to Mosireen, an activist collective dedicated to documenting events in Egypt. Another Mosireen filmmaker recorded this scene, of soldiers carrying the body of a man who was either unconscious or dead.

A third clip posted on Mosireen’s YouTube channel on Saturday showed a graffiti artist painting a portrait of one of the protesters killed the night before, as fire tore through the Egyptian Scientific Institute in the background.

While there was a dispute about how the building had caught on fire, the independent Cairo daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that eyewitnesses said that a Molotov cocktail aimed at soldiers throwing rocks from a nearby building had struck the institute by mistake. Soon after the fire started, activists rushed to save ancient books stored inside it.

As Al-Masry Al-Youm explained, the institute was established in 1798 by Napoleon Bonaparte after the French invasion of Egypt and “its library contains more than 200,000 books.”

One of the activists who was present, Adel Abdel Ghafar, reported on Twitterthat even as protesters were fighting with soldiers nearby, the two sides were “cooperating to save what’s left of the books.” Minutes later, however, he posted an update explaining that the activists working to save the library had come under renewed attack from soldiers hurling rocks and glass.

Adel Abdel Ghafar, via YfrogAn Egyptian activist who rushed to save books from a burning library in Cairo on Saturday reported: “I just came out with this batch of old books, all early 19th century.”

Perhaps responding to the flood of video evidence of brutality by soldiers, Egypt’s military rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, tried to push back online by posting footage of its own on YouTube that appeared to show some civilians engaged in what looked like vandalism during the unrest.

While activists posted a number of photographs and video clips of men in plain clothes hurling rocks at protesters, the blogger and activist Gigi Ibrahim reported on Saturday night that “thugs” interviewed on Egyptian state television claimed that they had been paid by protesters to wreak havoc.