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27 April, 2010

Consciousness-raising

Though I have 'perfect' vision in each of my eyes, they focus independently (i.e. their lines of sight don't converge correctly), so I perceive objects more than ~10 m away as very slightly blurred.

It's worsened as I've aged. I first noticed it in 1992 whilst working with photogrammetric lenses, when I happened to hold one to my eye and look out at an adjacent building, noticing for the very first time that it was brick-built. It's not that I couldn't see the bricks, merely that the surface pattern hadn't registered consciously. Once it had, it remained obvious even without the lens, confirming that it had been a question of perception rather than 'raw' eyesight.
Now I wear glasses I experience that less often, but it still happens: I can see things perfectly well without assistance, but don't notice them.

I've tried to explain that to people – particularly those who have tried my glasses and discovered they're nearly plain glass – but haven't been confident that they understand. Now I can offer an illustration.

Scroll halfway down this page, which reviews various disc editions of 'Zulu', to a sequence of screenshots comparing picture qualities: NTSC vs PAL, digital transfer vs. digital transfer, and DVD vs. Blu-ray. Find the first image depicting a red-coated soldier holding a Zulu shield, standing in a valley with a flat-topped mountain in the background. Then scroll a little further: my unaided vision is probably comparible to the second (PAL) screenshot: fairly clear but not quite there. Then look at the final, Blu-ray, image in that set.
If you're like me, you'll suddenly notice that there are numerous dead Zulus in the background. Scroll back up to the earlier images, and realise the bodies were visible there too. For me, that's an odd sensation: I must have seen them without proper awareness; I'd subconsciously presumed they were simply rocks on the floodplain and ignored them. Yet having noticed them, I continue to notice them, even at the lower resolutions.

And that, boys and girls, is why I wear glasses which have no effect for other people.

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