Brightness contrast and irradiation in optical illusions.There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run, the sword will always be conquered by the spirit. - Napoleon Bonaparte
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  1   2   Chapter 8 - Irradiation and Brightness-Contrast:

Chapter 8 - Irradiation and Brightness-Contrast:
Brightness and Contrast

Many interesting and striking optical illusions owe their existence to contrasts in brightness. The visual phenomenon of irradiation (the apparent enlargement of a bright object when viewed against a dark background) does not strictly belong to this group, but it is so closely related to it and so dependent upon brightness-contrast that it is included. A dark line or spot will appear darker in general as the brightness of its environment is increased; or conversely, a white spot surrounded by a dark environment will appear brighter as the latter is darkened. In other words, black and white, when juxtaposed, mutually reinforce each other. Black print on a white page appears much darker than it really is. This may be proved by punching a hole in a black velvet cloth and laying this hole over a "black" portion of a large letter. The ink which appeared so black in the print, when the latter was surrounded by the white paper, now appears only a dark gray. Incidentally a hole in a box lined with black velvet is much darker than a piece of the black velvet surrounding the hole.

The effects of brightness-contrast are particularly striking when demonstrated by means of lighting, a simple apparatus being illustrated diagrammatically in Fig. 62. For example, if a hole H is cut in an opaque white blotting paper and a large piece of the white blotting paper is placed at C, the eye when placed before the opening at the right will see the opening at H filled with the background C. The hole H may be cut in thin metal, painted a dull white, and may be of the shape of a star. This shape provides an intimacy between the hole and its environment which tends to augment the effects of contrasts. R and F are respectively the rear and front lamps. That is, the lamps R illuminate C, which "fills" the hole and apparently is the hole; and the lamps F illuminate the diffusing white environment E. The two sets of lamps may be controlled by separate rheostats, but if the latter are unavailable the lamps (several in each set) may be arranged so that by turning each one off or on, a range of contrasts in brightness between E and H (in reality C) may be obtained. (By using colored lamps and colored papers as discussed in Chapter IX the marvelous effects of color-contrast may be superposed upon those of brightness-contrast.)

Brightness contrast and irradiation in optical illusions.
Fig. 62. - Simple apparatus for demonstrating the remarkable
effects of contrasts in brightness and color.

If, for example, C is very feebly illuminated and E is very bright, C will be pronounced black; but when the lamps F are extinguished and no light is permitted to reach E, the contrast is reversed, and C may actually appear "white." Of course, it is obvious that white and black are relative terms as encountered in such a case. In fact in brightness-contrasts relative and not absolute values of brightness are usually the more important. In order to minimize the stray light which emerges from H, it is well to paint the inside of both compartments black with the exception of sufficiently large areas of C and E. The use of black velvet instead of black paint is sometimes advisable. It is also well to screen the lamps as suggested in the diagram. This simple apparatus will demonstrate some very striking effects of contrasts in brightness and will serve, also, to demonstrate even more interesting effects of contrasts in color.

Two opposite contrasts obtainable by means of a simple apparatus illustrated in Fig. 62 may be shown simultaneously by means of white, black, and gray papers arranged as in Fig. 63. In this figure the gray is represented by the partially black Vs, each of which contains equal amounts of black and of white. When held at some distance this serves as a gray and the same effect is apparent as is described for the case of actually gray Vs. An excellent demonstration may be made by the reader by using two Vs, cut from the same sheet of gray paper, and pasted respectively upon white and black backgrounds, as in Fig.63. It will be apparent that the one amid the black environment appears much brighter than the one (same gray) amid the white environment. This can be demonstrated easily to an audience by means of a figure two feet long. It is interesting to carry the experiment further and place a V of much darker gray on the black background than the V on the white background. The persistency of the optical illusion is found to be remarkable, for it will exist even when the one is actually a much darker gray than the other.

To become convinced that the two grays are of the same brightness in Fig. 63, it is only necessary to punch two holes in a white or gray card at such a distance apart that they will lie respectively over portions of the two Vs when the card is laid upon Fig.63. The grays in the holes should now appear alike because their environments are similar.

Chapter 8 - Irradiation and Brightness-Contrast: Brightness and Contrast
Fig. 63. - Illustrating brightness-contrast.

The importance of contrasts in brightness and in color cannot be overemphasized, and it appears certain that no one can fully realize their effectiveness without witnessing it in a manner similar to that suggested in Fig. 62.

Many optical illusions of brightness-contrast are visible on every hand. For example, the point at which the mullions of a window cross will be seen to appear brighter than the remaining portions of them when viewed against a bright sky. Conversely, in Fig. 64, dark spots appear where the white bars cross. This is purely an optical illusion and the same type may be witnessed by the observant many times a day. In Fig. 64 it is of interest to note that the optical illusion is weak for the crossing upon which the point of sight rests, but by averted vision the optical illusion is prominent for the other crossings. This is one of the effects which depends upon the location in the visual field.

Chapter 8 - Irradiation and Brightness-Contrast: Brightness and Contrast
Fig. 64. - An effect of brightness-contrast. Note the
darkening of the intersections of the white strips.

No brightness-contrasts are seen correctly and often the optical illusions are very striking. If a series of gray papers is arranged from black to white, with the successive pieces overlapped or otherwise juxtaposed, a series of steps of uniform brightness is not seen. An instrument would determine the brightness of each as uniform, but to the eye the series would appear somewhat "fluted." That is, where a light gray joined a darker gray the edge of the former would appear lighter than its actual brightness, and the edge of the darker gray would appear darker than it should. This may also be demonstrated by laying a dozen pieces of white tissue paper in a pile in such a manner that a series of 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., thickness would be produced. On viewing this by transmitted light a series of grays is seen, and the effect of contrast is quite apparent. Such a pattern can be made photographically by rotating before a photographic plate a disk with openings arranged properly in steps.

Many demonstrations of the chief optical illusion of brightness-contrast are visible at night under glaring lighting conditions. It is difficult or impossible to see objects beyond automobile headlights, and adjacent to them, in the visual field. Objects similarly located in respect to any surface sufficiently bright are more or less obscured. Characters written upon a blackboard, placed between two windows, may be invisible if the surfaces seen through the window are quite bright, unless a sufficient quantity of light reaches the blackboard from other sources. Stage-settings have been changed in perfect obscurity before an audience by turning on a row of bright lights at the edge of the stage-opening. The term "blinding light" owes its origin to this effect of brightness-contrast.

The line of juncture between a bright and a dark surface may not be seen as a sharp line, but as a narrow band of gray. When this is true it is possible that an undue amount of area is credited to the white. In preceding paragraphs we have seen the peculiar effect at the border-lines of a series of grays. This may have something to do with the estimate; however, irradiation may be due to excitation of retinal rods and cones adjacent to, but not actually within the bright image.

  1   2   Chapter 8 - Irradiation and Brightness-Contrast:

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About This Book Preface Chap 1, Introduction Chap 2, The Eye Chap 3, Vision Chap 4, Geometrical Chap 5, Figures Chap 6, Angles Chap 7, Depth/Distance Chap 8 Brightness/Contrast Chap 9, Color Chap 10, Lighting Chap 11, Nature Chap 12, Painting/Decorating Chap 13, Architecture Chap 14, Magic Mirror Chap 15, Camouflage

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