How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

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How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Graeme M on August 24th, 2016, 6:32 am 

This observation is motivated by the question I have posted in the Physics forum. As someone with only a basic high school education, my science and philosophy knowledge is only rather basic. But I am passably smart and highly curious, and I like to explore things that take my fancy. But I need to explore in detail to really understand. While someone can say that X happens because of Y, and I can usually get what that means, I sometimes like to dig more deeply into these things and dammit, every time I uncover this whole unexpected level of complexity that most of the time I simply cannot get my head around.

I don't have the time to delve deeply in most cases - after all, people have studied these things for generations and scientists and philosophers do degrees and years of work to be able to understand and explain. So I haven't got much hope really.

But it never ceases to amaze me that every time I start to dig, things rapidly escalate beyond my capacity to grasp the concepts. Even the simplest things catch my attention and I go "What the". I love the digging because I do learn a lot, but I rarely actually tease out the thing I was after..

Such things as:

How can large sauropods have ever lived?
Why is air pressure the same as the weight of a column of air?
How does colour work, or better yet, why do we see colour?
Why is "this sentence is false" considered a paradox?

And so on! And sadly, there are a million things I'd like to know, and never will... Sigh.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Braininvat on August 24th, 2016, 9:53 am 

That last question was one of Bertrand Russell's favorites. We might have a thread over in PCF about it.

I really enjoy your questions here. Asking good questions is the foundation of topnotch science and philosophy.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby vivian maxine on August 24th, 2016, 10:10 am 

Braininvat » August 24th, 2016, 8:53 am wrote:That last question was one of Bertrand Russell's favorites. We might have a thread over in PCF about it.

I really enjoy your questions here. Asking good questions is the foundation of topnotch science and philosophy.



He does, doesn't he? Thank you Graeme. Thought-provoking questions producing good answers.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Athena on August 24th, 2016, 10:53 am 

It might be closer to science to speak of long term and short term thinking. How much brain damage is done, might depend on if a religious person is habitually a short term thinker, as tends to be true of fundamentalist. Such people do not think things through, but rely on very limited information that they apply to everything. The problem is we loose what we don't use, and such a person would loose neurons. Trump

On the other hand, the liberal my suffer from the other extreme of too many neurons firing making decision making more difficult. A long term thinker does not give knee jerk answers to questions, but contemplates questions, and sees there may be several answers to a question. Obama

A religous person maybe a long term thinker, but such is more apt to see the bible abstractly rather than concretely. While a non-religious person maybe a concrete thinker, and for sure, for this person the bible would be totally worthless, because we do not see demons leaving people's bodies, so this story telling can not be true or of have any value. Abstractly a demon can mean fears and anger, rather than some kind of supernatural creature that lives in people and flies away when the holy spirit is near. The concrete thinker will either believe or not believe the story. The abstract thinker will find a reasonable explanation for the stories, and may or may not be religious.

Bottom line is it depends on how we use our brains, if we have many nurons or a few, make quick decisions or slow decisions.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Athena on August 24th, 2016, 11:07 am 

Graeme M » August 24th, 2016, 4:32 am wrote:This observation is motivated by the question I have posted in the Physics forum. As someone with only a basic high school education, my science and philosophy knowledge is only rather basic. But I am passably smart and highly curious, and I like to explore things that take my fancy. But I need to explore in detail to really understand. While someone can say that X happens because of Y, and I can usually get what that means, I sometimes like to dig more deeply into these things and dammit, every time I uncover this whole unexpected level of complexity that most of the time I simply cannot get my head around.

I don't have the time to delve deeply in most cases - after all, people have studied these things for generations and scientists and philosophers do degrees and years of work to be able to understand and explain. So I haven't got much hope really.

But it never ceases to amaze me that every time I start to dig, things rapidly escalate beyond my capacity to grasp the concepts. Even the simplest things catch my attention and I go "What the". I love the digging because I do learn a lot, but I rarely actually tease out the thing I was after..

Such things as:

How can large sauropods have ever lived?
Why is air pressure the same as the weight of a column of air?
How does colour work, or better yet, why do we see colour?
Why is "this sentence is false" considered a paradox?

And so on! And sadly, there are a million things I'd like to know, and never will... Sigh.


You are a long term thinker with an appreciation for abstract thinking. You also demonstrate the thinking of a generalist rather than a specialist. A specialist will study one thing and know far more about that one thing than most people. A generalist will do what you have done, want to something about everything, and this person has value because this person will see the connections between this and that. A specialist does not become aware of the connections. The generalist will never know as much about one thing as a specialist. These people need to work together for the best advancement of knowledge.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Dave_Oblad on August 24th, 2016, 7:14 pm 

Hi again Graeme M,

Graeme M wrote:How can large sauropods have ever lived?
Why is air pressure the same as the weight of a column of air?
How does colour work, or better yet, why do we see colour?
Why is "this sentence is false" considered a paradox?

"How can large sauropods have ever lived?"
In nature, almost everything is tried. Our Genetics gives us some band width in being copies of our parents. It's not some over night mutation, it's gradual evolution with surviving at stake. Obviously, size does matter. It must give them advantages, at least to some point where the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Why is there such diversity in the size of humans? Is their an evolutionary advantage in having such a large range in sizes? Well, small people eat less, so food could become an issue. Large people can more easily win a fight or do more accountable work. An environmental change could suddenly favor one over the other for survival.

"Why is air pressure the same as the weight of a column of air?"
Gravity is a downwards force. A tube 10 feet high filled with water would have the same pressure at the bottom as a pressure reading 10 feet below the surface of a Lake. It's what's stacked on top that matters.

"How does colour work, or better yet, why do we see colour?"
Light has many wavelengths, that is color. Certain materials are transparent to certain wavelengths of light, while other materials block or absorb that color. Our eyes have cones that trigger when hit with light. The chemistry of the cones makes them sensitive or not sensitive to specific frequencies. We only see three colors. For colors that fall in between then a group produce signals containing a ratio. The brain decides how to interpret such ratios. For example, there is no such thing as the color Magenta. It is a mix of Red and Blue Light. But our Brain assigns a fictitious color to such anyway. Take Yellow for example. It is a color with a specific wavelength. We see that true Yellow as a ratio between between Red and Green cone receptors in our eyes. You can also mix Pure Red and Pure Green light and cast such upon a wall. We will see false Yellow. There is no Yellow in that mix, but we see it anyway.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Additive_color

"Why is "this sentence is false" considered a paradox?"
Because it is self contradicting. It argues against itself. Is the statement: "I am never right!" a paradox or not? That's a bit more tricky...lol.

Hope this has helped..

Wait until you get into the heavy stuff.. like "Freewill vs Determinism" or "What exactly is Time". It's taken me years to figure out the latter question.

But the journey towards understanding is fun, at least for me it has been.

Best wishes,
Dave :^)
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Graeme M on August 25th, 2016, 12:26 am 

Thanks for the comments! I agree that I would call myself a generalist, but more through circumstance than anything else. I never did work out what I wanted to be when I grew up so I ended up spending 40 years in the Australian Public Service, for the simple reason that I scored a job there when I left school and never got around to leaving. 40 years later I am retired and have a bit of time to investigate things, which is nice. In hindsight, I should have specialised in some sort of field of research, I suspect. Originally I imagined I'd be an astronomer as that stuff really hooked me in, but it just never happened. Probably not smart enough anyway!

Still, over the years I have made the time to chase down those things that interested me and I've read a few books and so on, so most of the time I come to a sound understanding at a relatively superficial level. I guess too as time passed I realised I was far more intrigued by the brain, its function and operation, and consciousness, which is what I am right into at the moment. I've managed a little introductory level learning, but I would put my knowledge level at "interested beginner".

Thanks Dave_O for your comments about my set of questions. Those were selected to illustrate the range of apparently simple things that are easily understood at a superficial level, but which on investigation escalate rapidly! The dinosaur one came to me years ago and I've never actually sat down to figure it out. Air pressure led to a protracted discussion on another forum which I think clarified things for me but I am left with a nagging uncertainty. Colour I have a good handle on, but what staggers me about that is that it doesn't exist. The sentence thing I've read up on a bit but never found any mention of what was immediately apparent to me, but that's probably because I haven't really spent enough time on it.

Just for fun, here are the things that really hooked me in for each of those, and why I consider them great examples of things that made me go hmmm...

Sauropods are very very large, especially the really big ones. Yet many of them have tiny heads. I noticed this first in 1985 at an exhibition of Chinese dinosaurs. There was an especially large sauropod, but its head was about as big as mine. It struck me that there is an issue of fueling capacity - how does that tiny mouth take in enough plant matter to fuel that body? When I look at modern herbivores, I observe a significant head to body ratio in the larger ones. Think elephant, hippo, cow, horse, etc. I did a little research at the time, and ran into an amazing amount of complexity around foods, efficiencies, resting versus active energy demands and so on but never did get to the bottom of it. I've never revisited that one. They existed, they must have gotten enough food, but it beats me how.

Air pressure is a funny one. It wasn't obvious to me why the pressure of a column of gas, taken at any point in the column, was equal to its weight. The problem was my "mental model" of what weight actually is. After a bit of research I couldn't find anything that addressed my concern and it wasn't until I posed my question on a forum that I got anywhere close to understanding the detail. My early introspective analysis led me to this idea: the weight of any object is a force generated by the extent to which the object is prevented from being accelerated by gravity. So I wasn't really interested in the apparent weight of an object on a scale (ie whatever weight the scale might show if other forces are applied), rather the pure notion of an object exerting a force on another object in a gravitational field due to the gravitational attraction.

Put another way, in my mental model any bounded object, say a lump of lead, has a weight in a gravitational field equal to the reduction in gravitational acceleration relative to itself. If it is at rest and not being accelerated by gravity, this would be its "resting weight". In free fall it has no weight on a scale also falling with it as it is being accelerated freely by gravity. If we could exert an upward force on the scale such that the scale falls at half the speed of gravitational acceleration, the lump will weigh half its resting weight (I think it was Einstein who observed a similar thing when he noted that a falling man was "weightless").

Now, if I am in the atmosphere, how can it have a weight, if weight in my model is the force an object exerts on another object due to gravitational acceleration? Where is my surface that can express weight on the other object? Where in the column is my atmospheric mass being accelerated by gravity and what surface prevents it from being accelerated? So my problem was how can we weigh something from within it, when weight is a force generated at the boundary between objects? At any point in the column, I am within it, so to speak. To my way of thinking, this is analogous to being inside my lump of lead. I can measure pressure, which is the same in all directions as it is a product of density, volume and temperature. But weight? Not that I could see. Of course, we can look at this another way and say that it is gravity acting on the gas molecules that leads to the variable density of the atmospheric column, and hence the variable pressure. And thus in a way, as the density is an outcome of gravity at work, weight does correspond to pressure. But not weight in the manner in which I thought of weight!! I was thinking of it as a singular quantity rather than a force...

Colour caught me by surprise. I thought colour was an intrinsic property of the world, but on inspection it became apparent that it is a quality of mental representation. Physically, in the real world, there is no light or shade, no colour, no black or white, nothing of our familiar visual experience. Rather there are simply the properties of objects in a field of electromagnetic radiation. Thus there isn't even such a thing as red, merely the property of objects to absorb and reflect certain wavelengths of radiation. And our retinal cells respond to those wavelengths and generate a mental representation that we call colour. A moment's thought tells me why this is so. Colours are used (as it seems so too is everything else our brains do in consciousness) to provide a model of differentiation. All our brains are doing is generating some way to distinguish between objects at a greater level of fidelity, and it does this by having cells that respond differently to different physical quantities. And how else could we be aware of those cellular responses?

As for the "this sentence is false" thing, well I dunno. I read a little on a philosophy site or two and am none the wiser, but I've not posed the question anywhere for fear of looking a bit dim seeing as it is apparently a paradox. I shall have to search and see if there is a thread here as Braininvat noted, it might clarify things for me. Here's what I thought on reading this one for the first time.

Language is a symbolic representation of underlying mental constructions such as ideas, thoughts, propositions and so on. So a sentence expresses something. For a sentence to be true or false, it must express a proposition. For example, the sentence "that car is red" can be evaluated for its truth condition. It is either true or false. But it's not the sentence per se that we are evaluating, it is the proposition expressed. Taken completely, the proposition is properly posed as "The sentence 'this car is red' is false".

In the case of "this sentence is false", there is no proposition. "This sentence" is a noun phrase and refers to itself. There is no proposition. We may as well say "This car is false". It is an invalid construction. We could try to nest it as I did above, but this simply leads to infinite recursion.

So I don't get it.

As you can see, things can look a particular way but once you start trying to understand the detail, all sorts of complexity appears. And part of the difficulty in understanding that complexity is your own particular approximation of what is happening. That approximation can often stand in the way of grasping something, as for example in the weight/pressure thing, or you can not realise that an everyday assumption can prove to be utterly wrong (as in the colour example). Others require a particular twist of mind that sometimes escapes me (eg the sentence paradox) or alternatively you just run out of time to explore or it gets put to one side and you never do work it out (eg the dinosaur problem).

But as Dave_O observes, it's a lot of fun trying to find out, and it's great brain exercise. Oh, and I am intrigued about what you've come up with, Dave, if you now know what time is. I've thought about that too...
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Dave_Oblad on August 25th, 2016, 2:27 am 

Wow, knock me over with a feather why don't you..lol.

I originally pegged you as a youngish (20?) person with an inquisitive mind. Now I know you are far more sophisticated than you originally let on. I'm sure we will have some very interesting conversations in the near future.

For example, the size of the mouth of the sauropod relative to the size of the body. This could be an issue if it had to chase its food but generally speaking, vegetation is fairly slow and such a large animal has little to do but eat all day.

My father had a medical issue that stopped his ability to digest food. His daily nourishment was through a needle for about 8 hours per 24. That's a very small aperture but it kept him alive for over 10 years. This nourishment was fed directly into his heart via a small implanted tube. He was involuntarily bulimic, because he still liked to eat food for the taste and fullness, but unfortunately, what he ate had to come back via the same route as ingested. Eventually, his kidneys failed and he chose death over dialysis at 55.

Regarding Time:
Oh, and I am intrigued about what you've come up with, Dave, if you now know what time is. I've thought about that too...

Above is my picture and below that it says View Blogs (4). Click that and it will take you to my Blogs, the primary one is a list of posts that cover a range of subjects including Time. If you have some Time, you might want to read some of them first. But briefly, Time is created by the expansion of the Universe in the 4th dimensional axis. In other words, if the Universe stopped expanding, Time would stop.

So what have you come up with regarding Time?

Anyway, looking forward to future conversations with you..

We had another Australian sophisticate here a few years ago who went by the moniker Leo. He got banned for complex reasons. He tried to return under a different name, but his linguistic patterns gave him away and was banned again. I disagreed with his being banned as he was a very interesting person. But I wasn't necessarily privy to all the reasoning behind his banishment. I'd like to see his return.

Anyway..

Best to ya,
Dave :^)
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Graeme M on August 25th, 2016, 3:45 am 

Hmmm... Well, I like to be mistaken for 20-something, that happens rarely (well, OK, never!!). Don't go assuming I know much, but I do manage to get a fair handle on the things I read. That said, it takes a lot of rereading to get things clear. I have about half a dozen current books covering consciousness that I've been reading and rereading for the past two years!! Thanks for the tip re your thoughts on time, I'll check it out.

I have seen Leo's ideas before, and yes he can be quite idiosynchratic. I got hold of his proposal regarding the physics of the bleeding obvious as he called it, and I thought it was pretty insightful. No idea how accurate, mind, but it was a great read. I should get it out and reread it I think. He was very outspoken in his views as I recall.

I agree that sauropods would spend all day eating, but so do cows. I just think it curious that in modern times large herbivores have large heads, and in dinosaurs not so much. That says something, but what? Were plants then higher in total energy content? Perhaps so. Then of course there is that guy who proposes that dinosaurs were able to grow so large because the air was more dense and hence their weight was buoyed up more than would be the case today...

Sorry to hear about your dad too, that sounds like a tough gig.

All the best
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Dave_Oblad on August 25th, 2016, 4:11 am 

Hi again,

Graeme wrote:Then of course there is that guy who proposes that dinosaurs were able to grow so large because the air was more dense and hence their weight was buoyed up more than would be the case today...

Now that's funny.

Back when we thought that some dinosaurs had two brains (myth) I always wondered if they hadn't become extinct and the head brain atrophied while the back brain evolved, would they ponder a thought by scratching their back?

So you were already aware of Obvious Leo on the internet? He was worse than Stephen King when it came to extensive verbosity...lol.

Well, time to catch some sleep.. later.

Best Regards,
Dave :^)
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Braininvat on August 25th, 2016, 10:05 am 

Just a reminder: material in member blogs are personal theories and may not be accepted as established fact or good science. I'm not pointing a finger at DaveO specifically, but asking Graeme et al. to keep a grain of salt handy.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Dave_Oblad on August 25th, 2016, 1:00 pm 

Hi all,

BiV is correct. But with me, you may need a whole salt shaker rather than a single grain. I do try to keep a foot inside the box but am prone to explore outside the box as much as is logical..lol.

Best wishes,
Dave :^)
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Athena on August 25th, 2016, 2:55 pm 

Braininvat » August 25th, 2016, 8:05 am wrote:Just a reminder: material in member blogs are personal theories and may not be accepted as established fact or good science. I'm not pointing a finger at DaveO specifically, but asking Graeme et al. to keep a grain of salt handy.


I am glad you were tackful. There was a time when everyone knew demons made people sick and things too small to see, bacteria and viruses, were thought impossible. Exploring in the unknown is how we make progress. Personally, I get very frustrated by the things we can not talk about without being put down because our interest is not confirmed science, and being ridge about what we think has always retarded progress.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Dave_Oblad on August 26th, 2016, 12:32 pm 

Hi Athena,

I agree. I read a quote somewhere that expresses this rather well. I'm paraphrasing a bit as I don't remember the exact wording.

"Progress is impeded less by those who wonder than by those who know."

Basically...lol.

Best wishes,
Dave :^)
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Positor on August 26th, 2016, 8:07 pm 

Graeme M » August 25th, 2016, 5:26 am wrote:In the case of "this sentence is false", there is no proposition. "This sentence" is a noun phrase and refers to itself. There is no proposition. We may as well say "This car is false". It is an invalid construction. We could try to nest it as I did above, but this simply leads to infinite recursion.

I proposed a solution here, which involves an infinite 'oscillation' of truth-values. Since each truth-value (after the 'null' original one) refers not only to the original 'empty' sentence but also to its history of truth-values so far, each value actually refers to a different proposition, so there is no actual contradiction.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby DragonFly on August 26th, 2016, 10:14 pm 

Dave_Oblad » August 25th, 2016, 1:27 am wrote:We had another Australian sophisticate here a few years ago who went by the moniker Leo. He got banned for complex reasons. He tried to return under a different name, but his linguistic patterns gave him away and was banned again. I disagreed with his being banned as he was a very interesting person. But I wasn't necessarily privy to all the reasoning behind his banishment. I'd like to see his return.


Unfortunately, Leo died in mid June, but I don't know what from.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Graeme M on August 26th, 2016, 10:40 pm 

Positor, yes, I found that thread and skimmed it, but haven't had time to read it thoroughly and try to understand what was said. It's a fine example of what I mean - something looks simple and obvious to me and then I get into it, and bang! It blows up in my face and I'm lost!!! :)

I also need to find the time to read the excellent answers to my question about light too...

DragonFly, thanks for letting us know about Leo. That's sad news, I had a few discussions with him about his personal theories and I found him quite a character.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby DragonFly on August 26th, 2016, 11:24 pm 

Graeme M » August 26th, 2016, 9:40 pm wrote:DragonFly, thanks for letting us know about Leo. That's sad news, I had a few discussions with him about his personal theories and I found him quite a character.


I host Leo's theory on my blog. He was cantankerous but insightful.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Graeme M on August 27th, 2016, 2:41 am 

I should be most interested in a link, DF. I find it often frustrating that I have neither the spare time nor the wit to follow much of these discussions and ideas, but I do like to read them for what I can draw from them. I was just looking at a thread you and Leo were tic-tacking on ( viewtopic.php?f=51&t=23664&start=210 ) and it sounded intriguing. As I said I had some private chats with Leo and he sent me a copy of his theory in essay form and I rather liked it, but I am in no position to make critical comment.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby BadgerJelly on August 27th, 2016, 3:35 am 

Things are what they seem to be because you question them. If something seems to be something then it is not something only a seemingly something.

This is the enigma of knowledge. When you look in a mirror you see a whole 3D world projected to you from a 2D surface. We can, and often do, mistake these projects as other objects "over there". This kind of understanding of "reflection" is tied into how we experience ourselves. When I move my head the world moves. When I move my hand that imagine of a person in the mirror moves its hand too.

Our knowledge seems to be about our ability to control, our authority over what has happened, what will happen and whatbis happening. Of course by contrary use of language we know all this in the present which is what grabs the attention of many mystics. As for "attention" refer to textbook referenced in other thread.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Dave_Oblad on August 27th, 2016, 5:22 am 

Hi all,

Here is an interesting question:

If you project an image through a lens, it flips (left with right) and (up with down). But when you look into a mirror, it just flips (left with right) but not (up with down).. have you ever wondered about that?

Also, unhappy to hear about Leo's passing.. very sad.

Best to all,
Dave :^)
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby DragonFly on August 27th, 2016, 12:02 pm 

Dave_Oblad » August 27th, 2016, 4:22 am wrote:Hi all,

Here is an interesting question:

If you project an image through a lens, it flips (left with right) and (up with down). But when you look into a mirror, it just flips (left with right) but not (up with down).. have you ever wondered about that?

Also, unhappy to hear about Leo's passing.. very sad.

Best to all,
Dave :^)


Left with right is because you are facing the mirror and not turned around, but up-down not switched is, um, just because it isn't (you are not upside down).

Leo's theory: https://austintorney.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/the-philosophy-of-the-bloody-obvious-by-johann-de-jong/
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Graeme M on August 27th, 2016, 7:19 pm 

Thanks for the link DF, I shall have to reread that when I can!

Dave_Oblad » August 27th, 2016, 5:22 am wrote:Hi all,

Here is an interesting question:

If you project an image through a lens, it flips (left with right) and (up with down). But when you look into a mirror, it just flips (left with right) but not (up with down).. have you ever wondered about that?

Dave :^)


Without doing any Googling at all, Dave, here's my guess. The mirror doesn't flip the image, it just reflects it straight back (assuming a flat surfaced mirror -a curved mirror can cause a vertical flip). That is, the light is going AWAY from me, not toward me, and then it is sent back, so the flip is actually more to do with my point of view.

Thinking about it another way. If I have the word MIRROR written on a transparent piece of plastic and hold it up in front of me, I can read it. If I flip it around, the word is now reversed. And if I am in front of a mirror, both the plastic and the mirror image show me the same thing. The mirror didn't flip anything, I just flipped my point of view by using the mirror.
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Re: How come EVERYTHING isn't what it seems?

Postby Dave_Oblad on August 27th, 2016, 7:57 pm 

Hi Graeme,

Very good!

Regards,
Dave :^)
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Joined: 08 Sep 2010
Location: Southern California
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