It was a rainy night. My glasses were speckled with fresh water droplets. I looked at a distant street light and I was surprised to see cells - a single cell was zoomed in to the level where I could see the nucleus in the center, some squiggly organelles outside the nucleus and an irregular cell membrane around it.

Changing the angle at which I was looking at the light allowed me to see a different cell. It also worked when I looked at other light sources.

How was this amount of zoom created by the water droplets on the concave lens of my glasses?

This may be relevant although the level of magnification I experienced is much greater but that might have to do with the nature of my convex lens, which is for correcting 3.75 degrees of myopia.

I can successfully replicate the experiment and I made the following observations:

  • I was able to see dynamic structures that resembled cells, typical things that one would observe under a microscope. Placing a water droplet elsewhere on the lens of my glasses allowed me to see different cells.
  • It is not possible to take a picture of this phenomenon. Probably the cells are in my eye.
  • It works best when the water is in the form of small droplets
  • It helps to close the eye which is not observing the droplet
  • It does not work well indoors. I believe this is because an indoor light illuminates the whole room while an outdoor light source is surrounded by darkness.
  • The distance to the light source did not seem to matter much. It worked for a street light beside me and another across the road.
  • It works if the droplet is on the inside or outside of the glasses' lens.

In addition, I invited a friend who also wears myopic glasses to try the experiment. My friend was able to observe the cells when they put on my glasses, however neither of us was able to observe them when we performed the experiment with their glasses. This makes me wonder if for example the anti-glare coating I have on my glasses or something else peculiar to my glasses plays a role too.

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    $\begingroup$ Scientific American article scientificamerican.com/article/… and some theory. hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/geoopt/simmag.html#c1 $\endgroup$ – Farcher Jun 23 '16 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ How are you certain that what you saw was a cell? $\endgroup$ – Asher Jun 23 '16 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ I just mean to point out that "looks like a cell" includes a lot of things and phenomena which are not cells, and the human brain is extremely good at seeing patterns where there are none. I suspect a combination of optical effects from the light, through the air-water-glass-air-eyeball lensing system created the appearance of a cell-like form. $\endgroup$ – Asher Jun 23 '16 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ What you saw was something on or in your eye. This is a reasonably well-known thing: people often call them 'floaters', and they depend on bright lights shining into your eye. My optics isn't good enough to understand the mechanism, but I get them a fair amount (you see more as you get older as your eyes start to fall to bits). $\endgroup$ – tfb Jun 23 '16 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ I saw the same thing a while ago. My conclusion was that it was internal refraction inside the irregularly-shaped drops. I tried to photograph, sketched them instead and will look for them for some insight. $\endgroup$ – ǝɲǝɲbρɯͽ Nov 26 '16 at 0:46

protected by Community Mar 14 at 19:28

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