Sunday, April 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Why Caesar Looks So Human in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

We love Caesar in the new planet of the apes movie because he shows the whites of his eyes. That makes his face appear weirdly human.

Why Caesar Looks So Human in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Why it’s so easy to love Caesar in the new Planet of the Apes film.

There’s a reason that viewers see such intelligence and soulfulness when they look into the eyes of the lead chimp in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The creators of the movie gave him eyes with whites. Real apes don’t show any white – their eyes appear all dark.

That makes it hard for them to see where their companions are looking, said Penn State anthropologist Phillip Reno. Perhaps having such a natural poker face is advantageous to them. “It’s interesting that humans have evolved to show the whites of our eyes,” he said. “It makes us more expressive and better communicators.”

This New York Times story tells more about human eye whites.

A bigger scientific question raised by the movie is whether adding more heft to a chimp’s brain would lead him to talk and otherwise act human. Read what psychologists, neuroscientists and anthropologists have to say in next Monday’s column.

About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at fflam@phillynews.com. Reach Planet of the at fflam@phillynews.com.

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