|How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. - Anne Dilliard|
Chapter 3 - Vision:
|A Random Illusion
Courtesy of Illusion-Optical.com
A description of the eye by no means suffices to clarify the visual process. Even the descriptions of various phenomena in the preceding chapter accomplish little more than to acquaint the reader with the operation of a mechanism, although they suggest the trend of the explanations of many optical illusions. At best only monocular vision has been treated, and it does not exist normally for human beings. A person capable only of monocular vision would be like Cyclops Polyphemus. We might have two eyes, or even, like Argus, possess a hundred eyes and still not experience the wonderful advantages of binocular vision, for each eye might see independently. The phenomena of binocular vision are far less physical than those of monocular vision. They are much more obscure, illusory, and perplexing because they are more complexly interwoven with or allied to psychological phenomena.
The sense of sight differs considerably from the other senses. The sense of touch requires solid contact (usually); taste involves liquid contact; smell, gaseous contact; and hearing depends upon a relay of vibrations from an object through another medium (usually air), resulting finally in contact. However, we perceive things at a distance through vibration (electromagnetic waves called light) conveyed by a subtle, intangible, universal medium which is unrecognizable excepting as a hypothetically necessary bearer of light-waves or, more generally, radiant energy.
It also is interesting to compare the subjectiveness and objectiveness of sensations. The sensation of taste is subjective ; it is in us, not in the body tasted. In smell we perceive the sensation in the nose and by experience refer it to an object at a distance. The sensation of hearing is objective; that is, we refer the cause to an object so completely that there is practically no consciousness of sensation in the ear. In sight the impression is so completely projected outward into space and there is so little consciousness of any occurrence in the eye that it is extremely difficult to convince ourselves that it is essentially a subjective sensation. The foregoing order represents the sense-organs in increasing specialization and refinement. In the higher two senses, those of sight and hearing, there is no direct contact with the object. An intricate mechanism is placed at the front of the specialized nerve to define and to intensify the impression. In the case of vision this highly developed instrument makes it possible to see not only light but objects.
As we go up the scale of vertebrate animals we find that there is a gradual change of the position of the eyes from the sides to the front of the head and a change of the inclination of the optical axes of the two eyes from 180 degrees to parallel. There is also evident a gradual increase in the fineness of the bacillary layer of the retina from the margins toward the center, and, therefore, an increasing accuracy in the perception of form. This finally results in a highly organized central spot or fovea which is possessed only by man and the higher monkeys. Proceeding up the scale we also find an increasing ability to converge the optic axes on a near point so that the images of the point may coincide with the central spots of both retinas. These changes and others are closely associated with each other and especially with the development of the higher faculties of the mind.
Binocular vision in man and in the higher animals is the last result of the gradual improvement of the most refined sense-organ, adapting it to meet the requirements of highly complex organisms. It cannot exist in some animals, such as birds and fishes, because they cannot converge their two optical axes upon a near point. When a chicken wishes to look intently at an object it turns its head and looks with one eye. Such an animal sees with two eyes independently and possibly moves them independently. The normal position of the axes of human eyes is convergent or parallel but it is possible to diverge the axes. In fact, with practice it is possible to diverge the axes sufficiently to look at a point near the back of the head, although, of course, we do not see the point.
The movement of the eyes is rather complex. When they move together to one side or the other or up and down in a vertical plane there is no rotation of the optical axes; that is, no torsion. When the visual plane is elevated and the eyes move to the right they rotate to the right; when they move to the left they rotate to the left. When the visual plane is depressed and the eyes move to the right they rotate to the left; when they move to the left they rotate to the right. Through experience we unconsciously evaluate the muscular stresses, efforts, and movements accompanying the motion of the eyes and thereby interpret much through visual perception in regard to such aspects of the external world as size, shape, and distance of objects. Even this brief glimpse of the principal movements of the eyes indicates a complexity which suggests the intricacy of the explanations of certain visual phenomena.
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Chapter 3 - Vision:|
Binocular Vision and Perspective Affect Optical Illusions
| Visual Illusions E-Book
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