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Can the blind see?

$$$$$exyGal (638164) writes | more than 11 years ago

User Journal 30

Xerithane left me a very interesting comment a few weeks ago. Here's a blurb:

For instance, I suffer from a moderately rare eye condition. I will go blind for 3+ hours if I'm exposed to bright light for more than a few minutes. It's like a goths wet dream. When it first happened I was probably 12 or so, and the whole time I sepnt trying to think what blind people saw suddenly made sense.

Xerithane left me a very interesting comment a few weeks ago. Here's a blurb:

For instance, I suffer from a moderately rare eye condition. I will go blind for 3+ hours if I'm exposed to bright light for more than a few minutes. It's like a goths wet dream. When it first happened I was probably 12 or so, and the whole time I sepnt trying to think what blind people saw suddenly made sense.

They don't see anything. Not black, nothing.

This particular topic in regards to what a blind person "sees" is a fascinating one. If you ask the average person on the street what blind people "see", they will probably say "nothing but blackness". Those were my thoughts as well until I realized many years ago that truly blind people do not see any "color" whatsoever. They do not see anything. The absence of sight is not the color black.

Just to be clear, there are many different variations of being "blind". I, myself, am "legally" blind without any contacts or glasses, but can see 20-20 otherwise. I see plenty of blurry colors even without my glasses. For the purposes of this discussion, "blind" refers to those people who do not receive any input whatsoever through their eyes (or optic nerves, etc).

My hypothesis is that blind people do not have a curtain of blackness preceding their paths. There is absolutely nothing at all. You might think that blind people do have a black curtain eternally draped in front of them, but they just cannot relate that experience to others, because they have no color-point-of-reference. That thinking would be wrong.

Imagine a new race of alien, called the Mucola, who have a seventh sense (I'll skip six for fun :)). There's a flap on the Mucola called the GravyTicker that "ticks" whenever life-sustaining gravy is within the "gravy-cone" (ala light-cone) of the GravyTicker. The GravyTicker constantly "ticks", even when gravy is nowhere to be found. If you place gravy directly in front of the Mucola's GravyTicker, the Mucola will feel a strong "tick", and will immediately devour all said gravy.

The Mucola call the "there is no gravy around" tick "fubar", and call the "there is gravy within my reach" tick "yumyum". From "fubar" to "yumyum" are dozens or maybe hundreds of other degrees of ticks: "dork", "nerd", "geek", etc.

Nearly all the Mucola share this spectrum of tick words, with the exception of the Mucola who lost their GravyTicker in gravy-raiding battles. Those Mucola can remember what it was like to tick "fubar" or "yumyum", but now the ticking has completely stopped, and they tick nothing. Many of these Mucola quickly die, but some learn to find gravy using nothing but their senses of sight, hearing, smell, feeling, and taste.

What do you tick?

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illegal et sy (2, Funny)

heliocentric (74613) | more than 11 years ago | (#6429713)

I, myself, am "legally" blind without any contacts or glasses, but...

I, me, myself, and I, am, is, and are "illegally" blind because we snuck across the border.

Also of interest, in a recent (within the past year) NOVA special on synesthesia* they interviewed a person who has been blind (no sight, only some 4% I beleive are of this level of blindness and can not apreciate any levels of light) for most of their life yet experiences colors and lights in responce to synesthesia.

* - I'm not quite certian which episode it was, but it may have been "Secrets of the Mind [] " with compainion web site [] .

"legally blind" (1)

$$$$$exyGal (638164) | more than 11 years ago | (#6429844)

The definition of legally blind:

People with vision worse than 20/200 vision are considered legally blind.

More Info [] .

Re:"legally blind" (1)

heliocentric (74613) | more than 11 years ago | (#6430531)

Oh, my Coke-bottle-bottom-glasses and bifocals imply my being well aware of such a thing, however the concept of one side being legal implies there being another side being illegal.

Re:"legally blind" (1)

orange_6 (320700) | more than 11 years ago | (#6431530)

People with vision worse than 20/200 vision are considered legally blind.

I talk to a lot of people who say that they're "blind" without their glasses, and not many can compete with me. I can't see anything, no matter how close it is, without my glasses. Once I was told by my optomitrist that "we don't have a wall big enough to project an 'E' for you to see clearly." Upon asking, he guessed that my eyesight was in the range of 20/1200 to 20/1400.

Lots of fun when my glasses break, let me tell ya.

Re:"legally blind" (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 11 years ago | (#6444996)

That's funny. I used to wear contacts, with a sphere of 7.0 and a cylider of 7.0, and I wanted to get some reading glasses to help with eye fatigue. The optomitrist (different from my regular opthamologist) kept asking me to take off my contacts, to which I would reply that I wanted glasses on top of my contacts. Finally, I succumbed and took off my contacts. He said "Please read the fifth line of the chart," to which I replied "Where's the chart?" He had me put my contacts back on.
I had Lasik about three years ago from a doctor in Thailand. I don't think they would've given me the operation in the US. I wasn't psychologically prepared for my need for glasses or contacts. Probably like you, I had had them my whole life, and only took them off to sleep or swim.
Anyway, that's passed, and the common, minor migraines are worth getting up in the middle of the night to pee without having to find some eyewear.

Re:"legally blind" (1)

orange_6 (320700) | more than 11 years ago | (#6453582)

I wear contacts now and have considered surgery, but my eyesight is degrading at such a rate that in 30 years (when I'm 60ish) I will have extremely limited, and uncorrectable, sight. This means that any surgery may in fact speed up the degredation and would possibly render me completely blind. I would rather have another few decades of definate sight than possibly loose it outright in 6 or 8. Of course, the whole 30 years is just speculative and I could end up having sight for the rest of my life, which would really kick ass :)

Re:"legally blind" (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 11 years ago | (#6459325)

I'm pretty much destined to have macular degeneration, but I went the other direction: I want some years of quality eyesight before I go blind.

So in programming speak.. (1) troll (593289) | more than 11 years ago | (#6430268)

Blind peoples vision is undefined, rather than set to 0?

Re:So in programming speak.. (1)

$$$$$exyGal (638164) | more than 11 years ago | (#6431935)

Yes! Or maybe even a compile error :).

public class BlindPerson
implements Person
extends PersonBase
// Don't tell a blind person to see!
public void see()
throw new RuntimeException();

hmmm (2, Interesting)

XO (250276) | more than 11 years ago | (#6430371)

I have had a lot of partially to completely blind friends, having been friends with a couple of people that were involved with the Kalamazoo County Commission for the Blind...

Although I never really probed in detail about the lack of sight, I did really get confused a few times, for example, when my friend Mike, who was born with no connection from the eyes to the optic nerve one day says "Jesus Christ, what was that flash of light?!" in response to a police car's spotlight being aimed directly into my passenger side mirror, and catching him in the eyes. Apparently extremely bright, direct sources of light would cause the electrical impulse to actually jump across the gap in the optic nerve.

Another, who was born sighted, but gradually lost his vision due to some condition, said that occasionaly he would see swirling color patterns, kind of like when you closed your eyes really tightly.

I can't think of anyone else in that group that was completely non-sighted, though we had several friends who's vision was completely useless for navigation or recognition of anything, and a lot more than could only recognize things that were within a foot or two of their eyeballs.

All in all, an interesting time growing up amongst a group that was about 50% in the "legally blind" category, and 50% normally sighted. I think I learned that I could easily live blind, but I'd have a really difficult time dealing with life if I were deaf.. at least, if I were to become deaf at this point..

An interesting experiment (1)

reconbot (456259) | more than 11 years ago | (#6431112)

I've heard if you take a ping pong ball with no writing on it and cut it in half, place a half over each eye, lay down under a dim light, and don't focus in anything in particular you eyes will eventually turn off. It had something to do with lack of stimuli. I always wondered why that never happened in the dark but then it occurred to me that darkness may be a stimulus it self.

Let me know if anyone tries it and it works.


Re:An interesting experiment (1)

reconbot (456259) | more than 11 years ago | (#6431130)

I hate to post a reply to my own comment but...

Don't do it! While IANAL I believe that this might be going illegally blind!

I have no idea what the penalty is for a crime like this but I wouldn't risk it!


(I also forgot to mention that your sight will return to you after a second or two after you remove the ping pong balls.)

Re:An interesting experiment (2, Interesting)

streettech (637063) | more than 11 years ago | (#6431357)

This might have something to do with something that's known as a flat light. As a snowboarder I've experenced this many times. It's when there's no direct sun light on cloudly gray days, you can't see any definition in the snow. There could be bumps, craters or even a clif right in front of you and you won't be able to see it. The snow will look as flat as a plain sheet of paper.

see everything stare into the sun (1)

paughsw (620959) | more than 11 years ago | (#6431222)

"When I was a little kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun. So one day when I was six, I did...the next day I had my first headache."

Re:see everything stare into the sun (1)

Fascist Christ (586624) | more than 11 years ago | (#6451601)

Oh no problem just drill a hole in your head and all is good. And keep your hands off me, I don't want my circles turning into swirlies.

blindness depends (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 11 years ago | (#6431406)

What a blind person 'sees' depends on when they went blind, how they went blind, how long they've been blind, etc.

Re:blindness depends (1)

$$$$$exyGal (638164) | more than 11 years ago | (#6431990)

Are you speculating that some blind people see black rather than nothing? Under what conditions?

Re:blindness depends (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 11 years ago | (#6432502)

Not speculating, speaking from experience. My wife has a pair of essentially dead optic nerves, and sees 'black'. She had RP, but was sighted until about 18 mos. ago.

Wheres the porn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6431697)

Whatever happened to all the porn you used to post? Why did you all of a sudden have to become this "philosopher"? Cant you just be what everyone else wants you to be? Start posting porn again! It would make people like you more.

The age old statement... (1)

waferbuster (580266) | more than 11 years ago | (#6432191)

I tick, therefore I yum.

Hey baby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6433936)

Wanna have sex? How do I get in touch with you hot stuff?

Some people would say... (1)

Trolling4Dollars (627073) | more than 11 years ago | (#6434840)

I, myself, am "legally" blind

...that I am legally insane. But that's simply not true. ;P

Your facination with the question, "what DO blind people see" reminds me of a discussion my wife and I were having recently. It was the concept of perception and reality. I was suggesting that it could be entirely possible that nothing is what it really seems to be.

A mild example:
Perhaps what appears to be red to you is what I would call green if I saw what you saw. Take a ball for example. Let's say that this ball is in reality a red ball. I look at it and I know it's red because that's what I've been taught. You look at it and you know that it's red because that's what you've been taught. Now... let's suppose that for some reason I am now able to see things through your eyes. To me, seeing as you do, the ball would now appear to be what I would call green. Because my green = your red.

I've always been facintated by the possibility that we all see the world in truly different ways and that our arbitrary descriptions, while consistent within our individual experience, do not succeed at actually marking our individual experience. ie. There is what we believe to be reality and then there is reality itself.

Re:Some people would say... (1)

quasi_steller (539538) | more than 11 years ago | (#6457711)

I have also thought this. It seems possible to me that this theory could also explain why some people like red while some people like blue or green. Of course there is really no way of knowing.

Well, anyway, it is very interesting to think about.

Actually, we DO know (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | more than 11 years ago | (#6476649)

Some languages don't actually have words for "red" or "green", and nor do they need them. Think about it. If something is about to fall on you, do you really need to know what colour it is?

On the other hand, there are people who work in colour-related areas (e.g. fashion, design) who care about the difference between teal and chartreuse.

What this suggests is that colours are actually linguistic concepts, not physiological or psychological. So what you and I agree to call "red" is whatever our local response is to the same stimulus. The important point is that "red" is a piece of terminology, not the stimulus itself.

A fascinating book on this subject is George Lakoff's Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. Highly recommended, along with every otther book by Lakoff.

Re:Actually, we DO know (1)

Trolling4Dollars (627073) | more than 11 years ago | (#6478199)

Yes. But there is still the factor of what it actually looks like to the individual. That's not linguistic, it has more to do with brain chemistry and perception. That's what is facinating. The fact that several people can look at the same thing and ostensibly see somthing completely and utterly different. Not just colors either. Who's to say that our perception of arithmetic isn't really different? If you count your five finger, you may actually be seeing what I would percieve as ten fingers and all your life you've been conditioned to hold out two fingers for a count of one. There is no way of knowing if that is the case or not. Only in our arrogance do we assume that we have properly mapped out reality. Even our scientific methods are not immune to this problem since they have all been designed with our mode of perception in mind. What is really needed is a view from the outside as a non-human/non-human designed machine. I think we may eventually reach a point where one machine designed by many generations of others will unveil the truth about our universe. (And no I don't mean something as stupid or simple as the Matrix)

How you can relate (1)

Mike Schiraldi (18296) | more than 11 years ago | (#6439203)

Answer this question: what's surrounding your field of vision? You know -- look straight ahead at some point, like the period at the end of this sentence. Without moving your eye, you can still see the letters around it. And your monitor. And some stuff at the extreme edges of your world. But what's beyond that? Blackness? No. Nothing.

Now imagine your field of vision being shrunk to half its size. Now smaller. Now really teeny. Now gone.

That's what it's like.

Re:How you can relate (2)

$$$$$exyGal (638164) | more than 11 years ago | (#6439504)

I like that thought experiment much better than the one with Mucosa :). Thanks!

Uh...lady? (1)

madmarcel (610409) | more than 11 years ago | (#6440943)

"Imagine a new race of alien, called the Mucola, who have a seventh sense (snip snip) What do you tick?"

I'm not sure. I must ask though; WHAT were you smoking when you wrote that stuff about the aliens, and WHERE can I get some??

But seriously...

The obvious answer (IMHO) is:

There is no answer. Speculate freely. Ponder the unanswerable all you wish, if only to exercise your brains/intellect.

Re:Uh...lady? (1)

Fascist Christ (586624) | more than 11 years ago | (#6451586)

... WHAT were you smoking ...

It was "Mucola" - which is similar to coke with a special dairy ingredient.

There is no answer.

Every question has an answer, unless the answer is "spoon."

Something you should see (1)

bethanie (675210) | more than 11 years ago | (#6459917)


Since the "Why men masturbate" thread has been archived, this was the next best place (seeing as we're talking about blindness and whatnot...) to tell you about this [] story [] . That is, if you hadn't heard already. :-)

I want to see the $$$$exy spin on this latest info!!

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