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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/473

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ILLUSIONS OF VISION

the beauty of the phenomena repays the effort. There is a sharpness and a density about the inner halo around the spot itself which does not characterize the ordinary outer halo. For such differences I have no explanation to offer.

Not only is the cause of these details very difficult of detection, but the origin of the whole halo phenomenon is equally so. It probably lies in the obscure reactions that change light waves into nerve impulses. One thing which the intensified zone does do is to help correct for rays which the irregular refraction of the eye scatters across a margin; and so this light area fulfils some psychological necessity.

The fact that in the first flash of after-images this zone becomes occupied by the color of the object looked at (like the common positive after-image) suggests that it is a zone in a condition of expectant attention with reference to that color. If, for example, a red disk is observed, the nerves that perceive that color are in full activity, where the stimulus of the PSM V70 D473 Stellar rays.pngFig. 7. Stellar Rays. image falls on the retina. For a certain distance away from the active retina, they are aroused into a condition of readiness for activity or expectant attention. The secondary image acts like the fatigue area, for it reverses in the after-image.

The sigfnificance and application of the phenomena are easier. From the psychological standpoint, its immediate application is to questions of contrast. Contrasts are divided into two classes: First, successive contrast, due to fatigue and rest; second, simultaneous or marginal contrast, now seen to be a subordinate part of this halo phenomena. Marginal contrast has been long known, and its afterimage, the 'Lichthof' of Hering, has been described. The fact that the halo phenomenon definitely limits the region of marginal contrast and displays a secondary image in a definite position proves it to be the more fundamental phenomenon. We have here, therefore, a new illusion of interest to psychologists and of great significance in its application to astronomical work.

 

Rays

Unlike the halo, the ray phenomena are familiar and involve no new principle, but the idea of rays around a black spot is new to me, and quite as important as the halo in its application to visual work by telescope or microscope. As all know, the rays on a star are pro-