Santa Clarita Valley Outdoor Report: X-Ray Vision
Q. What would the “Man of Steel” be without his superpowers, especially his X-Ray vision?
A. Just another “mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper”.
As a child growing up in the 50’s, I learned that Superman was a “strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.” But what would you say if I told you that we humans also have X-Ray vision? Why, you’d shake your head in disbelief, of course.
But don’t take my word for it. Dr. Mark Changizi, assistant professor of cognitive science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, says that “animals with forward facing eyes...gain X-ray vision, which makes it possible for them to see through the clutter in the world.”
Most animals have eyes that are located in one of two ways: facing forwards or facing sidways. Consider two examples: a coyote and a ground squirrel. Foward-facing-eyes gives the coyote binocular vision, helping him estimate the distance before he pounces on a ground squirrel. Sideways-facing-eyes, on the other hand, give the ground squirrel a wider field of vision, allowing it to look forwards and backwards at the same time. This helps the ground squirrel spot the coyote before it pounces on him.
These visual tools work well, expecially in relatively uncluttered habitats like deserts and grasslands. But what about a cluttered, leafy environment, like a forest?
Dr. Changizi “studied 319 species across 17 mammalian orders and discovered that eye position depends on two variables: the clutter, or lack thereof in an animal's environment, and the animal's body size relative to the objects creating the clutter.” He found that forward-facing-eyes allow the animal to see through the leafy clutter, giving them, in effect, X-Ray vision. But only if the size of the clutter is smaller that the spacing between the eyes. In other words, if the leaf is smaller than the spacing between the eyes, the X-ray vision works!
Test it for yourself. Stand in front of your window and look outside. Take your index finger and hold it arm’s length in front of you. You can see “through it” to what’s on the other side. Now...close one eye and look. Your vision is blocked. Try it again, this time using a sheet of 8-1/2 x 11 paper. Even using both eyes, you can’t see what’s behind the paper. That’s because the paper is wider than the spacing between your eyes.
See...your two forward-facing-eyes give you X-ray vision...but only when the “clutter” is smaller than the distance between your eyes!
Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I’m off to find some steel to bend (in my bare hands, of course). After all, I am a mild-mannered SVC Outdoor reporter for a great metropolitan radio station, aren’t I?
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, July 3, 10, 17, 24 & 31.
Saturday mornings, July 6 & 20.
Flying Feathered Friends, Saturday, July 20th, 8:00 - 10:00 AM.
Summer has officially arrived! Come discover how birds adapt to the season in our local mountains. Beginners are welcome on this easy walk. Binoculars optional. Meet at Towsley Canyon’s front parking lot. For directions go to: LAMountains.com
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has a website with trail maps of our local open spaces.
There’s also a new website for bicycle riders.
Ask Dr. Norm Do you have questions about the flora, fauna, animals, rocks, etc. in our Santa Clarita Valley? Here’s a place for you to ask your questions. Dr. Norman Herr, Ph.D., is a professor of science and computer education at California State University, Northridge.
Tell Us About Your Hike: Here’s a new website where you can post pictures, provide feedback and make suggestions about the City of Santa Clarita’s trails and open spaces.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The SCV Outdoor Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
Or check out our Facebook page - L.A. Mountains.