Appearances Can Be Are Deceptive.

What appears to us to be, rarely, if ever, is exactly what we see/understand.

To put it another way: All perception is a form of deception – some greater than others.

Luckily for us most of the time the deception does not prevent us from being able to respond in a reasonable or acceptable fashion to the situation we find ourself in.

Unfortunately the last paragraph means that we then can forget the fact that what we think we are seeing is not exactly what is happening but is just an approximation of our own brain’s manufacture – a mock-up, a model made by using short-cuts and convenient (for our brain)  cheats. This means we can either make mistakes or become confused when reality does not meet exactly with our brain-created version of said reality.

The discrepancy between what our brain tells us is out there and what actually is out there (if there is any one thing ‘out there’) is the main reason that uncertainty exists in everyone’s life.

No-one should ever be 100% sure about anything that they ‘see’, ever, Period!

I’d like to give you two examples that i hope explain very clearly what i’m on about, one a nice, easy, simple one, with pictures! – and a deeper, more complex, thought requiring one for those who like that kinda stuff 😉

Easy one first…




Don’t believe me? Then look at it this way…shaow-illusion-same-color-checkerboard-with-cylinder-2

For just a brief split second if i look with just the right amount of inattention at the second pic i can see (falsely) two different shades but as soon as i focus they become the same.

Your brain was tricked into creating a false reality, by reason of how it has come to short-cut shadow recognition in real life.


Here’s another example that confuses the brain’s shortcut of deciding where an image is being viewed from – by giving you a view from a largely unexperienced perspective. (a little like my disabled ballet dancer post earlier this week).

Can you see the Zebra?

Courtesy: National Geographic.

Or their shadows?

There are 14 of them!

How about this one?


Two completely different shades of grey/silver right?

Put your thumb across the dividing line!

Perception is deception.

Not so easy one – to do with the Wave – Particle Duality of the Nature of Light Fallacy.

Everything we see with our eyes we see because of light – it is an essential part of our universe that can let us see things as small as individual atoms or as large and as far away as the furthest galaxy in our Universe, and everything in between.

But what exactly is light and how do we see with it?

Tough question.

For hundreds of years science thought of light as a wave. An energy wave (Electro-magnetic energy – the wave had both an electrically charged nature at the same time had an out of phase, magnetically based nature. Certain objects gave off energy in the form of a light wave that could travel through empty space (it’s how we see the sun, moon and stars) or through transparent masses like air, glass or water. But not opaque objects like rock, wood or metal (unless they were very, very thin objects).

It was not really until early in the 1900’s that a scientist named Einstein proposed that light (and all of the Electromagnetic radiation spectrum) could travel in unbelievably small packets of energy that behaved not like a wave, but like a single particle. The term Photon is credited to two other scientists, Wolfers and Lewis in 1926, for this basic ‘particle’. A photon was the smallest amount of light energy you could have of a particular frequency and wavelength. Light could only exist as exact multiples of this basic quantum of energy (dependent upon it’s frequency) and it was accepted that light was able to be ‘quantised’. ie. it was a quantum independent entity and not solely a wave-related entity. It had dual observable qualities and each had distinctly different properties. Hence the wave-particle duality of light.

Earlier i called this a fallacy, not because it is incorrect, but because all we see (about light and with light) is deception. If we see light as a wave or if we see light as a particle (and we (or scientists) do do both) we are being deceived because we are not looking at the overall picture but at one smaller perspective of the overall picture.

Consider light as a particle – the photon. Science compares particles at the sub-atomic scale in terms of their ‘rest mass’, meaning what their mass would be if they could be held steady enough for long enough for them to be measured, or more accurately ‘calculated’. This is because, as Einstein showed, mass is not a fixed quality of an object but is dependent upon it’s velocity relative to the observer measuring it. The faster an object moves the more mass it gains. An electron is a very small particle. A proton is about 2000 times more massive than the electron and a neutron a little larger than that – all when ‘at rest’. But all mass is in constant motion in our environment so the rest mass is more of a fiction than observable fact.

The rest mass of a photon is Zero! It has ‘no’ mass, at rest.

As the photon moves faster however it’s mass multiplies. Photons travel as fast as anything most of us know can travel – the speed of light. So it’s mass multiplied to the most it possibly can. Multiply zero by a very large number and what do you get?

Zero! At the speed of light a massless object should still have zero mass.

A particle’s momentum is calculated as mass times velocity – Mo = m.v

If m = 0, momentum should = 0

If this were true then a photon could not give any momentum (energy of a moving object) to another object so light itself could not make an object with mass move.

Yet it does! One example is a detection device called a Crooke’s radiometer. (Google it if you must)

So, physics tells us a photon is a defined quantity of energy, that is a physical particle in some observations, one which has zero rest mass and that light is ‘made up’ of these particles. And, at the same time light is a wave of energy that can travel through a vacuum (completely particle-less space) without loss of any energy and can also travel through some solid or liquid objects which contain trillions of atoms all densely packed together – just not all of them?


Light is deceiving us, both in how we see our world around us and about it’s very nature; it is a chameleon that can appear as two quite different things and yet is actually neither fully either one of those things but some hard to pin down and describe composite of the two and very likely of more things we have yet to discover.

I have seen the Light…

and it still deceives me. 🙂

P.S. A last curiosity about light and how we see with it. To see, light waves/particles must travel through air and perhaps a glass window (a large amount of invisible gas and a very dense liquid made up of billions and billions of atoms) and then travel through billions of particles of a solid that is your eye’s cornea, through the jelly like optic fluid and hit the rods and cones in your retina to transfer their energy to your optic nerve which converts the energy into electric/chemical energy as it makes it’s way into your brain which then converts that energy into a part of a picture that you ‘see’.

Having gone through all of that should we be surprised that what our brain gets might not be exactly what the object emitted or reflected without any kind of manipulation?





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