Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Vanishing mouse!

Leaves and lens flareI was waiting at a railway station recently when I noticed a mouse, or something like it, scamper across the the other end of the platform. But before it reached the far side, it simply vanished! Astonished, I went for a closer look. Even as I approached the area I realised what had happened. It wasn't a mouse, or any other animal, but a wind-blown leaf. But I certainly thought it was a mouse while I was watching it. Having seen squirrels on that same platform before, a mouse would not have been so extraordinary. So, it was a clearly a case of a misperception where the movement of the misperceived object played a crucial role.

Obviously, wind-blown leaves are rarely mistaken for mice but there were a number of factors at play here. Firstly, the leaf was a fair distance away, about 25m or so. Secondly, though it was daylight the sky was overcast giving unusually poor light conditions. Thirdly, the leaf was blown along the ground at just the right speed to resemble a scampering mouse. It turned over and over giving the impression of a something running. Fourthly, I think recent rain contributed both to the dark overall appearance of the leaf and its unusual rolling motion. I saw the 'mouse' for a couple of seconds initially and was completely convinced at the time that I was watching an animal. It was only when it stopped and 'vanished' that I began to wonder. The vanishing act is easily explained - the wind suddenly dropped the leaf so that it fell flat on the ground.

And the picture? Well I was looking for a photo of autumn leaves and I found this one with a nice bit of lens flare, right of centre, to add anomalous interest.

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