Fun with Retinas!

I made a weird discovery the other night. As per the Scientific Method, here are the steps for duplicating my results, which I’ll describe at the end:

  1. Be in the dark. I had a bit of ambient moonlight coming in from a window, but it was pretty dang dark when I did this.
  2. Wait until your eyes have fully adjusted to the darkness. I had been trying to sleep for a while, so I can’t say how long it really takes to get fully “adjusted”. Probably not very long at all.
  3. Fix your eyes on one spot, and don’t move them. In my case, I was looking at the bathroom counter for some melatonin drops, because I couldn’t sleep, as just mentioned. (Being unable to sleep is not necessary for performing this experiment.)
  4. Flip on the light without moving your eyes from their spot. Count to two. Flip it back off. I didn’t want to wake up my wife from her blissful slumber. (I didn’t actually count, myself, but I’m guessing it was about a two-count that I had the light on.)
  5. Still don’t move your eyes. Wait. There will be that wave of blindness that passes, where you could actually see less than when you started with adjusted eyes.

And here is the result: it will seem, as you stare at your fixed spot, that the lights are coming on, however dimly. You will be able to see everything as if you had some sort of magic night vision. You may even wonder if this is how bright the room was before you started, but you’ll know it’s not.

The instant you move your eyes, however, the illusion will vanish. The room really is dark, and you don’t have your adjusted vision back yet.

As you perform this experiment repeatedly, remember that your neighbors may be seeing your light flicking on and off. The next day, as they ask you over the fence what was happening, you can tell them you were trying to disorient a mouse before you caught and ate him. Or you can send them the web address to this blog entry.

If you find this procedure is useful for disorienting and catching mice you intend to devour, then you’re a weirdo. Seriously, get some help. I’m sorry if it seemed like I was encouraging you.

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