Questioning our vision pretty much just ties up basic assumptions about reality into a confusing headache. Things like – is the way you see blue the same as how I see blue? Is the blue I saw yesterday or an hour ago really the same colour as now? Do we all see the same floaties and darting specks of light when staring at a blue sky? And why does a mirror flip the world left to right but not flip up with down? It’s uncomfortable to have these questions looming and time alone for six weeks has given me a bit too much time to think about it! It freaks me out a bit, and maybe it doesn’t sit right with you either. Let’s delve into thinking about healthy eyes that may or may not be unique between us.
Everything about this week is about healthy eyes. I’m not going to get strung along by some weird and wonderful conditions and genetic exceptions that likely don’t apply to you as a reader. However beautiful it is to wonder about impressionist artists perceiving ultraviolet – the quirks this week are about what’s weird and wonderful about everyone’s eyes!
You may have rolled your skull balls at the thought of – is my blue the same as your blue? It’s kind of a dry philosophical qualm. As uni students, I think we’ve all become comfortable sitting with the weirdness of that question. Now, would it disturb your considered opinion if I told you that we have a surprisingly similar number of blue detecting cells but a very different number of green and red detecting cone cells? Okay, so blue can be the same between us, but maybe other colours are open for debate… Not even that, because it seems we can still agree on colours and detect colours in precisely similar ways despite these differences in cells! And so perceptions between people regress to an average. Boring. Again, these are normal eyes and normal random differences between the eyes.
Throw your mind back to earlier this year when the awful Australian bush fires coated much of NZ on January 4th with a red-orange haze. Taking a glance at artificial light at this time, you would have noticed these artificial white lights instead looked like blue glow sticks. During the freak event, our eyes were adjusting to the really intense orange. But then there was something in our heads that tried to edge perception back to baseline, and it could only change things so far. Even in tests where filtered glasses were worn for weeks, the brain managed to correct and see things at a baseline. When the lenses were removed the inverse colour tint persisted. With this consistency engrained can we trust those colours from before are really the same as now?
Yes, the floaties you have are also normal. They’re just imperfections in the liquid of our skull balls. Comet-like bursts when staring at an exceptionally plain surface (like the sky) or with the eyes squeezed shut are also normal. These are blood cells darting across the retina. Literally, the flow of cells in your eyes can be seen – no microscope needed. I know that seems super weird, but again, completely normal.
Here’s another annoying thought: why don’t mirrors flip-up/down but they do flip left/right? It seems like a freaking weird question. The weirdness digs in deep and it opens up too many rabbit holes of perception again. As you’re staring at this screen now, imagine it’s a mirror and your eyes start on the left then pan right. To the screen, it has your attention on it’s right, and your eyes then glaze over to the screens left. If instead of reading now you were on Tik Tok, you’d be looking from top to bottom, scrolling vertically and it’s still top and bottom from your phone’s perspective too! I really hope you’re following… The only reason why things flip is because if the phone (think “mirror”) is facing the same direction you are – to view the phone (view your reflection) the phone is turned horizontally. In other words you don’t bend over backwards to look in the mirror and if you flip your phone vertically it’s all upside down of course. Similarly, we all walk into our bathrooms from the side. Now go and annoy your friends with this dumb question like I have…
Despite the stupid and sticky perception quarrels about vision I’ve found with health bites this week, there’s something refreshingly simple about the eyes. Because we have two it’s the perfect playground for new gene editing research! Just last month sight was given to an individual using previously edgy gene editing CRISPR methods. The ability to test life changing gene editing methods are uniquely possible with the eyes because you have two chances of success and a certain chance of scientific comparison.
With all these eye qualms out the way, enjoy the rest of level two, getting back into the dating game and swiping left, or right, or left, or is it right…?