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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/30/03 -- Vol. 21, No. 48
Table of Contents
Science with Your Eyes Closed (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Last week I was discussing those odd images one gets on the inside of one's eyelids when one closes their eyes at the end of the day.
When I look I see dark and light areas. I see textures. Sometimes there are stripes of light that cross the darkness like the light from venetian blinds. One of the common patches is to see a little circle of light in the upper right. As I watch it it gets larger until it fills my while field of vision. But at this point it is no longer as bright. It in fact becomes the dark background. And on this dark background there is another circle of light. And it starts taking over my whole field of vision. The cycle typically takes about four seconds.
Even the regions I see are usually not uniform. There are textures to them. In fact what I am seeing while abstract, seems really complex. If I was to paint a picture of it, and I never could, there would be a lot of detail. But I never could paint a picture because I could never hold onto an image for more than a split second. The images are in constant motion and I have no power to stop them from moving away, like clouds only much faster.
This raises the question do I have control over the images? Well the answer is yes and no. I have limited control. I have tried, but I cannot change major patterns. But if I try really hard I can sculpt a letter A out of the light regions. If I let it go it fades into the background.
I get a frequent image of a relatively bright patch at the bottom of the picture. That's interesting, isn't it? These people who report bright lights as part of near-death experiences may get a similar effect not too different by just closing their eyes in a dark room. Perhaps part of the experience of dying is the optic nerve starting to play tricks.
I probably still see these images during the day if I close an eye but the image of real light is so much stronger it washes out the dark image I am seeing behind my closed eye. Now that raises other interesting questions I have not answered. Suppose I close my left eye and open right eye. I am getting one dark image behind my left eyelid. If I reverse I am probably getting a different image behind my right eyelid. If I concentrate I can just barely see enough to verify that. Yet at night when I close both eyes, I certainly get the impression that I am seeing just one image. But perhaps there are two images fighting for dominance. Am I really seeing a left eye image and a right eye image superimposed? Is my mind just unifying these into a single image? If it were two superimposed images, how would it be different if I had been blind in one eye since birth? Would I be getting only one image because I am not used to binocular vision? Does someone who is blinded in one eye still get these phantom shadow images from where the eye was? Or does the brain automatically unify all the dark images into a single image?
And another big question that will be very difficult to answer: Do other people get the same effect? Unfortunately there are no good tools to describe the experience and so there is no good way to compare the experience with that of other people.
There are obviously more questions than answers. Certainly this is a field of scientific research that costs nothing and people can easily fit experiments into their bedtime schedule. I frequently play with my images when I am going to sleep. I have to lie there with my eyes shut anyway and frequently looking at this free light show puts me to sleep. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Our library science fiction discussion group just read Jack Finney's TIME AND AGAIN. This is a book about a man who takes part in a time-travel project involving living in a place designed to be just like the destination time and place (think "1900 House" or "Frontier House" or "Manor House"). In this case, Simon Morley lives in an apartment in the Dakota which is exactly as it was in 1882, and so manages to transport himself back to then. The consensus was that Finney was too enamored of the time--the details were at times overwhelming--and that there was really very little science fiction content. I felt if he could have written a straight historical novel set in that time, he would have done that instead.
The back blurbs bear this out, I think. "Would you like to travel back in time to a better, simpler world?" Better or simpler according to whom? Morley gets to run around any hinderance because he's male, and white, and knows about the era. Come to think of it, that's a major problem with most time-travel stories: the protagonist is always so conveniently prepared. I mentioned this last week with FALLAM'S SECRET, but it goes way back. The Connecticut Yankee was certainly knowledgeable about all sorts of technology, but if you went back in time, could you build a forge? And L. Sprague de Camp's hero in LEST DARKNESS FALL just happens to speak Latin. Poul Anderson has been one of the few to treat the topic more realistically (in "The Man Who Came Early"), but as that story shows, you don't get a very exciting tale that way.
(A similar notion, though not dealing with time travel, is to be found in Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth's "Mute Inglorious Tam".)
Another blurb (from the "Philadelphia Inquirer") describes TIME AND AGAIN as a "Jules Verne-like fantasy", indicating a complete ignorance of the type of work Verne wrote. (Hint: Verne was very strong on technology and pooh-poohed H. G. Wells's cavorite as too much like magic. What would he have made of thinking oneself back in time?)
This book is not to be confused with BID TIME RETURN by Richard Matheson, which was made into the film SOMEWHERE IN TIME with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, in which someone thinks himself back to the 1890s and falls in love with an actress there. Or with TIME AFTER TIME by Karl Alexander, in which H. G. Wells uses his time machine (!) to chase Jack the Ripper into the then-present. It has a sequel, though, FROM TIME TO TIME. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: Talents are best nurtured in solitude; character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world. -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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