Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Yes, so my glasses broke about 2 weeks ago. I explained it already in the July 24 post.

I still don't have my new pair. Should be here any day now. I'm wearing a 10-year old pair, over-negative in both eyes, but only at night to watch the Olympics and "work" on my laptop. Otherwise I need to be within 12 inches or so to see clearly.

At distance, my acuity is no better than 20/200. I can tell just by looking into the distance and sticking a finger out: no detail that I can see is much smaller than maybe a quarter of the thickness of a fingernail (a little bigger than a degree). So, my acuity limit is probably not much more than 4cpd.

If this was the best I could do, I would be on the bad end of low vision. But it gets better the closer you get to my face (come on, get closer to my face) - like I said, everything is sharp and clear within a foot or so. But, at distance - which is how I spend a lot of my commuting time, at least, and a lot of time at taekwondo - I'm 20/200. How bad is that?

For one thing, 4cpd is about the acuity limit of a cat (or of some jumping spiders). So it's not bad on a basic vision standard, because cats and jumping spiders are very visual creatures. 4cpd is good enough to get by on vision. But for a human, in the world of humans, it's not too good. At distance I can't recognize faces, at all. Ten days' practice, and I just can't do it if I don't have some other information, and then I don't think it counts. I can't read signage - I can't tell what trains are coming into the station at Government Center. None of that is debilitating, but it makes sense to call it a handicap. High frequencies aren't just details, they're content.

20/200 is resolvable detail of 10 minutes of arc. At 35cm, about where my laptop screen is right now, 10ma is about 1mm, which sounds small. But the dot pitch (vertical/horizontal pixel separation) on my screen is about .227mm. With my corrected acuity being around 20/15, I should be able to see details at least as small as 1ma, about .1mm apart, so I can discriminate individual pixels with my normal acuity. At 20/200, I wouldn't be able to discriminate details smaller than 4 or 5 pixels across; I would definitely not be able to read this text (whose lines are 1 pixel thick, and which tend to about 10x5 pixels HxW).

Printed text, which I like to hold pretty close to my face, at least 20cm, would still be unreadable. I'd have to hold it much closer, where the shadow of my head would start to get in the way. I'd need large print. I wouldn't be able to read music. I'm wondering how much acuity you need to do the classic threading of a needle (I haven't even started to wonder about depth perception - I noticed that it was off for the first few days, but I seem to have adapted pretty well, and I'm not afraid to cross the street as I was at the start), or to slice meat and vegetables without slicing yourself - it's not the same as reading, since you're looking for centroids for those things, but I wouldn't really want to try...

Not that I'm going to try, but I could: visual acuity at about 20 degrees eccentricity is close to 20/200. There you have to contend with crowding, though, so you're effectively worse off.

So 20/200 isn't disabling, but it does prevent you from accessing all sorts of primate-relevant stuff. Faces, reading, music, fine finger-based activities. It's been interesting, but I'm just about ready for my new pair of ($10!!) glasses to arrive.

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