Image: Library of Congress

Beauty Can Be a Matter of Perspective

We were created to view the world through two eyes. /

While some may not notice any big difference if they close one eye, we stereophiles are sharply aware of a great change, as our world suddenly loses its spaciousness and depth and becomes as flat as a playing card. Perhaps our stereoscopy is more acute; perhaps we live, subjectively, in a deeper world; or perhaps we are simply more aware of it, as others may be more attuned to color or shape. We want to understand how stereoscopy works. The problem is not a trivial one, for if one can understand stereoscopy, one can understand not only a simple and brilliant visual stratagem but something of the nature of visual awareness, and of consciousness itself. — Oliver Sacks, The Mind’s Eye

A faint breeze on your nose. A slight, blurred object in your vision. You cross your eyes, straining to focus, and see it—a gnat—in your personal space. You quickly swat it away before it flies into your nostril. Did you ever wonder, “How could I tell it was so close to me?”

We innately perceive depth with our binocular system of two eyes, spaced slightly apart so as to have two slightly different views of the world. Our brain assembles its sense of depth (stereopsis) primarily from the differences between the 2D images each eye presents. That sense informs how we understand our surroundings—how close a fly is to our nose or the how deep the rocky face of a mountain is to a pilot. It influences how and where we see ourselves in the world.

Ironically (or perhaps prophetically), perfect vision doesn’t necessarily equate with better perspective. Rembrandt van Rijn, regarded by many as one of the greatest European painters, was probably stereoblind, which is to say that he had a vision disorder that would ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 51 / June 23, 2016
  1. Editor’s Note

    Issue 51: Our Special 3D Issue. /

  2. If Jesus Came to Flatland

    How to think about dimensions beyond our own. /

  3. An Object Can Be Worth 10,000 Photos

    Why I pursued 3D printing for Dallas Theological Seminary. /

  4. The Old West in 3D

    Photos that shaped a nation’s view of its expanding horizon.

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Issue 51: Links to amazing stuff in 3D.

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