Morphos in the News

Remember that scene in Uglies with the morphos? When Tally and Shay play with a digital version of their face to see what they’ll look like as pretties?

Well, a group of Israeli computer scientists have developed something similar: a “beautification engine” that automatically renders photos of faces into (supposedly) prettier versions of themselves.

I’m particularly happy with the name “beautification engine,” which is kind of steampunk sounding. Here’s an example of its work:

Interestingly, the software doesn’t smooth wrinkles or blemishes. It changes only facial geometry, while trying to keep the face recognizable. (Being faithful to the original is not something they’d worry about in Tally’s city, of course.) And really, like a lot of these attempts to reduce beauty to numbers, it’s more bland-making than anything else.

Here’s the article about the software in the NY Times, and here’s a slide show of celebrity faces altered by it.

What’s intriguing is how many faces are less pretty after they’ve been run through the software. (Especially Marlon Brando.) This may be because we “know” the celebrities involved, and don’t want them changed.

Or maybe it’s because some of these celebs are already pretties, and “there is no beauty without some strangeness in its proportion.” But the software, which looks kind of bland-making to me, removes that strangeness and actually makes certain people less pretty.

It’s cool that this came out now, though, because one of the biggest sections in Bogus to Bubbly is about the science of beauty. I tried to distill a lot of the research that’s been done, and to explain it in psychological and evolutionary terms in ways relevant to the Uglies series. And frankly, I think my explanations are better, or at least more complete, than those in the Times.

You’ll be able to judge for yourself in less than two weeks, because Bogus comes out October 21! (And yes, some school book fairs are already selling the book.)

Thank you for spotting this article, Sophie and Hiroki!

And one last shout-out from the tour bus: Tonight Justine will be in Kansas City, MO to talk about How to Ditch Your Fairy, with me in tow!

Thursday, 9 October 2008, 7:00PM
Kansas City Library

4801 Main Street
Kansas City, MO

146 thoughts on “Morphos in the News

  1. I just bought a Ocarina (legend of zelda) but it is a wierd one (has 6 holes instead of 4) and i can’t find music for it

  2. The woman looked like a Extra before beautified. Your right Allie-wa pretties have bigger eyes but this woman had fish like eyes not big beautiful innocent eyes.She looked like she was having a mug shot taken.

  3. omg, I love legend of zelda!!! it’s my favorite video game series of all time. (especially Twilight Princess…I beat it 3 time) What kind of ocarina did you get?


  4. The 21st is going to be a good day……

    What are you going to be for Halloween Scott??

    I am going to be a Native American.

  5. Jay-wa: RANDOM MUCH?!?!?! “What if cannibalism was legal?” hmmmm….what if it was??? well…i don’t think people would eat other people either way (unless of course they’re vampires or…it’s like something to do with their culture) but i’m not sure. i don’t know if i would ever eat another person. i mean sometimes i want to bite my dentist or i act all vampire-like to scare my sister away (and trust me it works) but EATING SOMEONE?? i dunno…maybe i would…as long as i could cook them and smother them in BBQ (I LOVE BBQ. SOOOO GOOD!!) wow it feels weird talking about cannibalism…i feel like crazy or something…huh…weird.

    GREEN DAY!!!! <3
    I’m all busted up,
    Broken bones and nasty cuts.
    Accidents will happen but this time i can’t get up.
    She comes to check on me.
    Making sure i’m on my knees.
    After all she’s the one who put me in this state.
    Is she ultraviolent? Is she disturbed?
    I better tell her that i love her.
    Before she does it all over again.
    Oh god she’s killing me!

  6. I’m going as a Smokie for Halloween (which is my favorite holiday!) hey, wouldn’t it be weird if at Midnight on Halloween there was a thunderstorm? and at EXACTLY Midnight lightning would strike??? ooooohh…that would be creepy. actually it’d be even more creepy if time stopped. ya…that’d be cool…scary…but cool. i really wanna go to Bixby but my mom says i’ll be disappointed when i get there but i’m like “Duh! i know i shouldn’t expect anything, but i wanna go coz one of Scott Westerfeld’s books was set there!” ugh… no one understands what’s soooo important about going some place mentioned by someone u idolize. i guess i just doesn’t make sense to everyone…maybe not everyone is obsessed like i am but they could at least TRY to understand me. u know wat i mean?? it’s frustrating being different from everyone else and seeing the world differently. i guess i’m just passionate about alot of things and my imagination gets the best of me sometimes but…it’s not really that bad. *sigh* all this emotional crap and all i was talking about was Halloween. see it’s that passion again (or it’s the fact that i got depressed off of Blue Noon and no one understands why. even though it wasn’t totally just coz of the book alot of other things happening in my life played with my depression. *sigh*) i think i need to…i dunno..see someone about this problem or keep it to myself which is wat i do anyway. (not always a great idea but…watever) great i’m getting depressed again. time to put on a fake smile and pretend like everything is alright. which it’s gonna be on the 21st when BOGUS TO BUBBLY comes out!!! yay!!!

  7. TYC Leader: Obsessed much…….or alot?

    I have no idea what i’m going to be for halloween, haven’t given it much thought yet. oh well.


  8. I just convinced my librarian to make us all read uglies! And I’m all excited do im posting something here!!

    This is all really awkward because Ive been reading this blog for ages and have never posted andthing….

    so yeah….

    P.S. I want to go to Bixby too!!!!

  9. i REALLY wanna go to bixby. I told that to my friends, and they were all “andrea, do you have a fever or something? we’re not gonna help you ride a goat to bixby”…cuz i really wanna go there….i mean REALLY wanna go there….just like how after reading Harry Potter I had to go to England…and eventually I got my way and went to England. So I fairly certain that someday I’ll get my way and go to Bixby. I don’t care how. I would honestly ride a goat there…just I don’t have access to a goat….

  10. Aryll-wa: ya…i’m kinda obsessed, but how can’t u be with Scott’s books. THEY ARE SOOOO AMAZING!!!!
    COOL i’m no the only crazy one who wants to go to BIXBY!!!!
    Andrea-la: SOOOOO jealous!!! i wanna go to England! btw: did u know that the castle that is Hogwarts in the movies, is actually someone’s house? i think there are like 8 kids in the family, but still the house is HUGE!!!! geez if my house was that big…well i dunno wat i’d do but…i think it’d be cool to have a house like that.
    khy: once again SOOOOOO JEALOUS!!!!! i want BOGUS TO BUBBLY SOOOO BADLY!!!! but i have to wait until October 21st. UGH!!!!!

    GREEN DAY!!!! <3
    When i was younger, i thought that the world circled around me.
    But in time i realized i was alone.
    My immortal thoughts turned in to just dreams.
    OF a dead future.
    It was a tragic case of my reality.
    Do u think ur indestructable? and no one can touch u??
    Well i think ur disposable and it’s time u knew the truth.
    Coz it’s just one of my lies.
    Well it’s just on of my lies.
    And all i wanna do is get real high.
    Well it’s just one of my lies.

  11. Andrea-la: ya…that’d be really cool. but i think that sometimes i might get creeped out by how big it is (or i’d get lost). i dunno but i bet at night it’s really cool…scary..but cool!!!

    hmmm…i’m gonna go watch a movie: JUST MY LUCK!!! great movie and the band McFly is in it!!! *sigh* McFly is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo HOOOOOOTTTTT!!!!!! and *drum roll*………. THEY HAVE BRITISH ACCENTS!!!!! u can’t get much better than that!!!

  12. I wanna read Bogus to Bubbly too! 🙁 *tantrum*

    British accents be strange … Some are a lot hotter 🙂

    TYC leader, wouldn’t it be even more awesome if time just FROZE for an hour at midnight? 🙂 Go Midnighters.
    🙁 I can’t even read the first Midnighters book cos the library lost it 🙁 I’ve read the other two tho.

    Random question: Who likes Hayley Williams’ (think Paramore) hair?
    Cos I think it is SPARKY AS.

    So bored …


    (couch) stupid caps lock.

    but seriously. thats like… one of the NUMBER ONE things i’ll never do! (skip ahead in a series… or a book… or a paragraph…)

    i REALLY hate backs of books. i just think it totally ruins everything. so i usually read the book without knowing anything, then read the back when im done with the book to see how well they sum it up.

    -Lizzy-wa OUT! 🙂

  14. The wonderful Carl Zimmer has another lovely column up at Discover (, among other things about possible psychosocial effects of Botox:

    ” In June 2008 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, a team of cosmetic surgeons suggested this experiment is making all of us happier. People with Botox may be less vulnerable to the angry emotions of other people because they themselves can’t make angry or unhappy faces as easily. And because people with Botox can’t spread bad feelings to others via their expressions, people without Botox may be happier too. The surgeons grant that this is just speculation for now. Nevertheless, they declare that “we are left with the tantalizing possibility that cosmetic procedures may have beneficial effects that are more than skin deep.”

    Maybe. But for all the Botox youthfulness plastic surgeons may want to think about, neuroscience raises a darker possibility. Making faces helps us understand how other people are feeling. By altering our faces we’re tampering with the ancient lines of communication between face and brain that may change our minds in ways we don’t yet understand.”

  15. interesting… OH OH!!! ANYONE ELSE GET BOGUS TO BUBBLY YET?!!! I GOT IT!!!!!!!! I GOT IT!!!!!!! *sings at top of lungs!* i love the schoolastic book fair! I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE it scott-wa!!!! (which, i do believe is the correct way to put a suffix on that. u’ve got a doubled letter, i like the sound of scott-la better…. just like i like courtney-wa better than courtney-la.) i especially love the dedication… :’)

  16. I was going to be an special but it so hard to find special stuff so im going as a twilight vampire i have white coloring with sparky stuff and i thought all the under eye stuff looked fake so i stayed up till midnight last night. so sad i will be going to district honor chorus on halloween

  17. I cant wait any longer Im going
    insane but only 3 dayz now(yes I’ve been counting down. sad I know)

  18. i got Bogus to Bubbly today!!!! I started hyperventalating in the middle of the bookstore then started dancing. Everyone thought that i was nine kinds of weird. Yeah.

  19. That is so cool! I’ve wanted them to have something like that since I read Uglies 🙂 I couldn’t see much of a difference on some of the celebrity photos, so interesting though how different a face can look if you just tweak a few things. I would totally make my eyes bigger lol.

  20. OMG with the wii thing that’s so happy making, this would be way fawesome to be able to play with your own face!!! I wonder what i would look like as an Extra??? Hm…

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