MadSci Network: Biophysics

Subject: Airport Landing Light 'Illusion...'

Date: Mon May 18 10:47:13 1998
Posted by Patrick J Lueck
Grade level: other
School: hard knocks...
City: Minneapolis State/Province: MN
Country: USA
Area of science: Biophysics
ID: 895506433.Bp

Airport landing lights take the form of a line 
of strobes, all fired sequentially (from 
farthest from end of runway to nearest...).  
The pilot (or ground observer..suitably 
placed..-within 0-15 degrees of line) sees a 
"dot" of light TRAVELING quickly in the 
correct direction.  
HOWEVER, as the observer moves more toward the 
perpendicular of the strobe line, the effect 
diminishes and finally (at about 70-90 
degrees) becomes a "simultaneous" firing of 
all strobes at once, to the brain.  
This phenomenom demonstrates that the 
brain/retinal connection can discern time 
intervals more easily by seeing "intensity 
changes.." rather than by physical separation.

That is, when viewed head-on the only effect 
the eye/brain can use is the decreasing 
intensity (which is size...of course..) of 
each flash as the sequence continues down the 
line of strobes.  Yet, common sense (!!) 
indicates that we should be able to more 
easily detect apparent motion by movement 
ACROSS the field of vision...

  I realize that the answer could be as simple 
as: "yes," but am hoping for some insight..Has 
anyone explored this area??

Thanks,  Pat Lueck...(curious about this for 
20 years!!)

Re: Airport Landing Light 'Illusion...'

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