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A little lightning to the head and we have magnification!

  1. Sep 23, 2003 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    Here is a true story for your consideration. I once worked with a guy who some years previously had taken a direct hit by lightning - right in the head. As you might imagine, I asked him what it was like. First, he spent about six months in the hospital. It put him in a coma among other things. But this was the interesting part of his description: He remembers sitting on his deck and looking at a stop sign located about 600 feet away. He was never actually aware of the strike. All that he remembers is that the stop sign became highly magnified in his perspective [field of view]. He described it as being like the sign suddenly moved to withing a few yards of him; instead of actual 200 yards distance. That's all that he remembers. He woke up in the hospital about a month later. No he is not OK.

    For years I assumed that this effect was purely psychological. It occurred to me one day that bulging eyes might modify the magnification of the eyes' lenses. Could this have been a real effect? I thought that we might see a similar effect in G force generators used for astronauts and such. Of course, this situation was extreme in the extreme; perhaps beyond anything that could be safely simulated.
     
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  3. Sep 23, 2003 #2

    chroot

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    I'm not sure there's any strong evidence that a person's eyes would bulge -- but even if they did, the effect would be to widen the field of view, and reduce the angular size of individual objects, not the other way around.

    (Think fish-eye lens.)

    - Warren
     
  4. Sep 23, 2003 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    Whoops! I was going the wrong way here wasn't I...but you get the idea. Is there any way we might affect vision so as to get real magnification? Also, I don't know if peoples eyes can really bulge [deform] either. Clearly we do have a very energetic situation...
     
  5. Sep 23, 2003 #4

    chroot

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    I'd be more inclined to believe it was a psychological effect.

    - Warren
     
  6. Sep 25, 2003 #5

    drag

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    Maybe. I had a concussion once (bad enough, but not a lightning
    strike and a few months of coma) and I can't remember much
    except the way my bicycle rode over my friend's leg and I flew
    to the ground (that actually came later, initially when
    I woke up I couldn't even remember who I was ).

    Anyway, I heard there's occasionaly this effect, when the body
    feels its in distress and just before you loose consciousness,
    of a tunnel vision. Maybe it shuts your eyes down from
    the perimeter inwards or something. Also, it could be that
    the flash in his eyes/mind before he passed out registered
    as something bright and red-like just like the sign.

    Live long and prosper.
     
  7. Sep 25, 2003 #6

    hypnagogue

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    Ivan, I don't think you'll find the answer to your question looking for external causes such as variations in optics. It's only natural to think that your friend's anomolous perception was caused by the electrical activity induced in his brain by the lightning bolt.

    In fact, after some recent discussions with Mr. Z. Shoe (scroll down a bit), I'm of the mind that your friend's sudden magnification can be described by way of comparison to epilepsy. Epileptic people sometimes experience a phenomenon called macropsia during a seizure, in which objects in the visual field appear to become magnified. It's not a stretch to think that a bolt of lightning flowing through your brain would mimic epileptic patterns of neural activity to some degree (for a brief moment, at least).
     
  8. Oct 7, 2003 #7
    me too
     
  9. Oct 14, 2003 #8
    As Mr. G. Hypeagnu alluded to, this was almost certainly macropsia induced by the current getting to the man's occipetal lobes where most aspects of vision are processed. This would come under the heading of "neurological" effects rather than "psychological".

    A seizure is the hypersynchronous firing of neurons. Normally signals traveling through the brain stay out of each other's way with chess-like courtesy:I move, you move, I move, you move. In seizure activity all the neurons in a circuit fire at once, at the same frequency. This causes the sence governed by the circuit to be juiced up to an intensity in the ballpark of ten times normal.

    Had the next circuit over (so to peak) seized, he might have experienced the opposite: micropsia, where the world looks like you're viewing it through he wrong end of a telescope. Everything would have become tiny and far away.

    Seizures like this that do not involve a loss of consciousness are called simple partial seizures.

    -Mr Z. Shoe
     
  10. Oct 14, 2003 #9
    Ivan,

    In answer to your question: in one of the Don Juan books by Carlos Castaneda, Don Juan teaches Carlitos how to deliberately induce this effect.

    He set up two stones. These were the elongated kind, about six inches long by about one and a half wide that you can find in this neck of the woods. He set them up so that their shadows were cast toward Carlos, sitting crosslegged on the ground, about a foot apart. Then he told Carlos to look at the shadows and slowly cross his eyes untill they seemed to join and become one shadow.

    He said that if Carlos sat and held those two shadows together as one, long enough, he would begin to notice that the surface of the ground in the shadow would start to be magnified. He would be able to see grains of sand as if under a magnifying glass. With continued practise, he would be able to apply this to things outside the shadow and eventually to anything he wanted.

    I tried it, but it just hurt my eyes. Binoculars are less trouble.
     
  11. Oct 14, 2003 #10

    hypnagogue

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    Actually, I used to do something like this all the time, rather effortlessly, as a kid (I imagine I could still do it easily although I haven't tried in a while). Instead of some elaborate rock set-up, all you need is a garden-variety fence (the kind with diagonally interlocking metal wires that form a grid of squares tilted 45 degrees).

    I don't know the exact mechanics of the technique; all I can say is that it involves gazing at the pattern of the fence in some kind of cross-eyed manner. I think it is similar to changing the focal point of your vision to see 3D images pop out of those specialty posters, although I've never had any success with those. In any case, if you get it right, the fence will suddenly "pop out" and look about one and half times the normal size. Weird but true!
     
  12. Oct 14, 2003 #11
    I never happened to stumble across that effect by accident with a fence (or anything else).

    The poster effect is almost certainly different. There is no magnification involved. I managed to do it and it is a matter of focusing on a plane other than the surface of the poster, but there is only one right one. And once you bring the image out there is no magnification of the dots in the printing or the fibers in the paper, as there allegedly is in the Don Juan technique.

    I actually wouldn't reccomend anyone try it because success may simply mean you have triggered a seizure in your occipital lobe. The time I tried it I didnt know anything about simple partial seizures.

    Oliver Sacks tells the story of a man who banged the side of his head in a car accident and, without ever losing consciousness from it, lost all his ability to see colors. The world became a lead-gray place for him. In addition, though, he mentioned that he had acquired the vision of an eagle. He said he could see a worm wriggling at 200 yards. For some strange reason Sacks ignored the effect on the mans distance vision, and the whole story was concentrated on the problem of total color-blindedness. I was much more intrigued by his mention of the other thing.
     
  13. Oct 14, 2003 #12

    Doc

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    This may sound a bit wierd, but I have actually been shocked on the head a number of times. Electric fences is where I have been hit. Most of the time that I can remember it gets dark when I get zapped. I attribute it to the fact that the electric current causes the muscles in my face to contract and close my eyes. Can't say anything about magnification though.
     
  14. Oct 14, 2003 #13
    just remembered something...

    i work part time at a medical school in my neck of the woods as an ophthalmic tech (polarimetry). i remember once hearing about a guy with 20/100 (really bad) vision, walking to an optometrist after breaking his glasses by holding his curled-up hand in front of his eye. this forced his eye to focus in a smaller apeture, and allowed him to correct his vision with a kind of self-induced strabismus (misalignment of the eyes). i wonder if the lightning strike didn't do the same thing to your friend's irises, causing them to contract, reducing the diameter of the pupil, and inducing the same kind of "pinhole camera" effect.
    just a thought...
     
  15. Oct 14, 2003 #14
    It is more likely that it is shutting your vision down altogether. Don't do this anymore.
     
  16. Oct 14, 2003 #15
    Re: just remembered something...

    You have the wrong idea about why this corrected his vision. Any nearsighted person can take off their glasses and see perfectly in focus by looking through a pin hole punched in a piece of paper. The light spreads out from the pin hole and since you can adjust the distance from your eye you can find the point which acts as a focal point.
    A strabismus would simply cause double vision, without any correction.
    The pinole lens also produces no magnification, just focusing. This effect is unrelated to the lightning incident. I'm positive the lightning had no effect on the man's physical eyes. Rather, it affected the part of the brain where vision is processed.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2003
  17. Oct 15, 2003 #16

    Doc

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    If you actually think this was done on purpose then YOU are the one who should be taking advice from ME. It was always accidental.
     
  18. Oct 15, 2003 #17
    Wear protective head gear when you know you'll be working near electrified fences.
     
  19. Oct 15, 2003 #18

    Doc

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    Yeah right.

    These things are designed to hold livestock in. They are safe enough to prevent injury on livestock which are much more susceptible (sp?) than people. It's not comfortable obviously and the strength of the shock depends on a number of things. Sometimes it's just a tingle. The day I start wearing head protection is the day you will start wearing a helmet in your car just in case you get into an accident. Hell, for all I know you do already...
     
  20. Oct 15, 2003 #19
    It's your head.
     
  21. Oct 15, 2003 #20

    Doc

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    Yours too. (Car accident)
     
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