How do we know what a material is just by looking at it?

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In summary, we learn to recognize objects from images by observing properties that we associate with those objects. These properties are learned and refined over time.
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kolleamm
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identifying materials just by looking at them
I find it really interesting that I can look at an image of rubber and know immediately its rubber, and then look at an image of a metal and know its a metal. How do we reach such conclusions? My first guess is the smoothness of the material's surface, but maybe there's other features I'm missing here.

Would like to hear your thoughts on this.
 
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  • #2
Color, smoothness, shininess, brightness, and texture are the first things that come to mind for me.
 
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  • #3
kolleamm said:
Summary: identifying materials just by looking at them

Would like to hear your thoughts on this.
Sometimes you just can't :angel:
 
  • #4
kolleamm said:
Summary: identifying materials just by looking at them

I find it really interesting that I can look at an image of rubber and know immediately its rubber, and then look at an image of a metal and know its a metal. How do we reach such conclusions? My first guess is the smoothness of the material's surface, but maybe there's other features I'm missing here.

Would like to hear your thoughts on this.
This is a biology question in my view, developmental biology.
You learn what things are and relate to those properties for that object.
All the properties mentioned by @Drakkith
The knowledge is learned applied and refined, just like learning to read.
One can get it horribly wrong too don't forget, ever picked something up thinking it was one thing and it turned out to be something else?
 
  • #5
How do you identify anything from an image?

Post #2 describes the physics and #4 biology. We learn to recognize objects from images as young children immersed in our cultures. I do not remember seeing my first photograph but I do remember seeing drawings in books that were described as Tree, Ball, Sun, etc.

Learning to read was easy. My father recited from the Bible tracing the words with his finger while I dozed in his lap. At some point the squiggles became words and I could read print from then on.

Television was a different learning experience. Blobs of moving silver and gray resolved to images 'if I let them'. As a child I could see the raster scan on a black&white NTSC television screen.

Years later I went through a similar learning experience learning to discern signals on a radar screen displaying raw data signals as light blips on horizontal "grass" against a green phosphor background. Some (rare) people could not recognize the signal at all. Others could learn to recognize an aircraft return from a bird in flight and know aspects of relative motion.

Behavioral psychologists such as B.F. Skinner study perception. See also 'foreground and background'.
 
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Related to How do we know what a material is just by looking at it?

1. How can we identify a material just by looking at it?

There are several ways to identify a material by visual inspection. One method is by examining its physical properties, such as color, texture, and density. Another approach is by comparing it to known materials and their characteristics. Additionally, advanced techniques like spectroscopy and microscopy can also be used to identify materials based on their unique chemical and structural properties.

2. Can we accurately determine a material's properties just by its appearance?

While visual inspection can provide valuable information about a material, it is not always accurate or comprehensive. Some materials may have similar appearances but vastly different properties. For example, plastic and glass can look similar, but have very different densities and melting points. Therefore, it is important to use additional methods, such as chemical tests or scientific analysis, to accurately determine a material's properties.

3. How does the structure of a material affect its appearance?

The structure of a material, including its composition and arrangement of atoms and molecules, can greatly impact its appearance. For example, the arrangement of atoms in a crystal can give a material a distinct color or pattern. The size and shape of particles in a material can also affect its texture and reflectivity. Understanding the structure of a material is essential in accurately identifying it by visual inspection.

4. Is it possible to identify a material without any prior knowledge or reference?

In some cases, it may be possible to identify a material without any prior knowledge or reference. For example, if a material has a unique color or texture, it may be easily recognizable. However, in most cases, it is not possible to accurately identify a material without any background information. This is why scientists use a combination of methods, including visual inspection, to identify materials.

5. How do scientists use visual inspection to identify materials in their research?

Visual inspection is often the first step in identifying a material in scientific research. Scientists may use their knowledge and experience to make initial observations about a material's appearance and then use additional methods, such as spectroscopy or chemical tests, to confirm their findings. Visual inspection can also help scientists identify potential materials of interest for further analysis and investigation.

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