Perspective and Light Rays

Weeks ago, during a fit of furious note taking, I quickly jotted down the phrases “sun trail” and “light rays” in the margin of my physics notebook, accompanied by a terrible sketch of a moon (I don’t know why it wasn’t of a sun given my note) and its reflection on a lake. If you’re wondering, yes, the sketch simply oozes the feeling of boredom, but that’s how it is when you’re hitting your head against a desk trying to understand reflection, refraction, mirrors, and lenses at 8:30 in the morning. When I finally looked back at this note, I was kicking myself for not making my drunken-in-a-sleep-deprived-kind-of-way-self more clear, but I suppose looking back, reflecting (no pun intended), and putting in a little work to find my way is what this class is all about.

Way back towards the beginning of the semester, during our class period taught by Dr. Olympia Nicodemi, we learned about rays and perspective in art. What we see in a painting and the point to which our eye is drawn depends heavily on where the rays lead, and what we see and process depends heavily on our perspective of the pieces we are viewing. Below are a few of the pieces to which Dr. Nicodemi directed our attention.

This was quite an eye-opening lecture in terms of the integral role math plays in our perception of art. Math is fundamental to physics, as the field is rooted in calculations. Subsequently, rays and perspective are key concepts in physics, too.

The rays of sunlight most visible to us at dawn and dusk because of natural light contrasts are called “crepuscular rays”. While they look as if they are branching out from the clouds down to the land where they fall, they are actually almost completely parallel with each other. It is an optical illusion similar to the one we see when looking down the lines of a long, straight road that appear to converge into the distance, when they do not ever actually touch at all. This just goes to show the degree to which perspective changes our view of reality.

There is a sort of automatic validity we often give to STEM fields as a whole and the concepts within them, whereas the arts and humanities are seen as more experimental. To be frank, opinions do not matter as much as facts. However, during one classroom discussion, within my small group, Claire Corbeaux brought up the apt point that quantum mechanics, a branch of physics well and widely known and, I would argue, respected for its complexity and the ingenuity it took to create, is entirely theoretical. Unfortunately, there is still, at times, quite a large discrepancy between these fields and how they are viewed.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.