Linggo, Enero 10, 2016

Eye-Poppin’ Mind-Bogglers: The Enigma of the Perfect Circle

Is an eye checkup at one of the largest optical chain in the Philippines included in your New Year’s Resolution list? Good for you! Health is wealth and your eyes sort of reflect how well you are physically. Luckily, you don’t need to go to the nearest optical shop in the Philippines to check your eyes while reading this mind-boggling fact. Remember our favorite mantra? It is all in the mind.

Can you draw a perfect circle?

It is just a circle, right? Simply trace any ring-shape object and that’s it!

Let us make it more challenging. What if someone asks you to draw a circle freehand?

Once upon a time, Giotto di Bondone effortlessly did it. He did it without a compass, protractor, or any medium at all. Amazing. But who made him do it? Pope Boniface VIII. Why? Here is a brief story behind Giotto’s ‘O’.

The Pope tasked his courtier to find the best painter in Italy to create some paintings for St. Peter’s. When the courtier stopped by at Giotto’s in Tuscany, the artist “immediately took a sheet of paper, and with a pen dipped in red, fixing his arm firmly against his side to make a compass of it, with a turn of his hand he made a circle so perfect that it was a marvel to see it,” told art historian Giorgio Vasari.

Giotto gave it to the puzzled courtier and says, “This is enough and too much. Send it with others and see if it will be understood.” The Pope did understand and “they saw Giotto surpass greatly all the other painters of his time,” Vasari later adds on.

We can tell outright what a perfect circle is and an example of this is Giotto’s story above. “Noticing subtle differences in shape and symmetry seems to be quite a fundamental property of our visual system,” Rebecca Chamberlain of KU Leuven in Belgium, told It is one of the inane characteristics of us humans since the beginning of time. Our survival instincts rely primarily on our five basic senses, one of which is our sight. Our well-trained eyes are the frontline of our defense and it must recognize shapes and sizes at a distance.

This is why recognizing an imperfect circle is nothing to us. Even math-fanatics thought of a way to identify it. We can’t do this without the superb processing skills of our brain’s visual cortex and a little help of math. Which goes back to our main problem, why is it so hard to draw one? It is the simplest shape out there, right?

Natalia Dounskaia, an associate professor of Kinesiology at Arizona State University, says the circle is the hardest shape to control (folks, we must rest our case here. The expert already spoke up). Furthermore, it involves a fluid and coordinated execution of our elbow, arm, shoulder and the visual cortex. The whole arm must act as a compass and it is a tricky thing to do, in comparison with drawing horizontal and vertical lines.

Oh, by the way, it is not just Giotto who can draw a perfect circle which means that there is still hope for us common and undexterous hopefuls! Check this out:

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