[bksvol-discuss] Fw: Book Review: "The Eye: A Natural History", by Simon Ings

  • From: "Shelley L. Rhodes" <juddysbuddy@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <bookshare-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2007 12:30:30 -0400

This book looks absolutely fascinating, smile.  O.k. so I am wierd, smile, 
but can anyone get it?

Shelley L. Rhodes B.S. Ed, CTVI
and Judson, guiding golden
Guide Dogs For the Blind Inc.
Graduate Alumni Association Board

Dog ownership is like a rainbow.
 Puppies are the joy at one end.
 Old dogs are the treasure at the other.
Carolyn Alexander

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "BlindNews Mailing List" <blindnews@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <BlindNews@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2007 8:50 PM
Subject: Book Review: "The Eye: A Natural History", by Simon Ings

The Independent (UK)
Friday, April 27, 2007

Book Review: "The Eye: A Natural History", by Simon Ings

By Gail Vines

With better vision, the evolutionary fun began. Without it, we'd all be 

Simon Ings, a science writer and novelist, wrote The Eye to order, so to 
speak - his agent had been looking for someone to write a popular book on 
the subject. If that sounds an unpromising start, the end product belies its 
conception. Ings has succeeded in writing an elegant, entertaining and 
up-to-date overview of cutting-edge research. He tells the story 
"episodically", in a "mix of history, science and anecdote" that is utterly 

What links the exquisite diversity of ways of seeing throughout the living 
world is a shared drive to harness light, he argues. "Animals did perfectly 
well without eyes" for 200 million years. "They ate algae. They slumped. 
They pulsed. But then there were eyes - and the fun began."

Wasps won't sting if you stay still. Ings tells you why; their 
coarse-grained vision enables them to map food sources on the wing - but 
move and they panic. "To say this puts the wasp at a disadvantage is putting 
it mildly: why else do you think it evolved a sting?"

The insect's compound eye, with its rough, pixellated view of the world, is 
a disastrous design. Some 20 million years ago, spiders and scorpions 
managed to abandon complex eyes in favour of single-chamber ones more like 
our own, with much better results. Today's true spiders have eight eyes - 
with the best, high-resolution ones as powerful as those of small rodents.

The arrival of eyed vertebrates introduced a profound optical innovation - 
flexible, transparent lenses built out of stable proteins. The breakthrough 
meant that animals could become much bigger, because they were able to spot 
smaller prey, and larger predators, a long way away. "Had it not been for 
the vertebrate eye, living things would probably have remained lobster-sized 
for ever."

Humans, equipped with a fovea in the centre of the retina, enjoy a visual 
acuity that rivals birds of prey. Why are we virtually eagle-eyed? All the 
better to watch each other, is one answer Ings entertainingly explores. 
Humans, exceptionally, have bright "whites" to their eyes - "precisely so 
that an individual can tell where its fellows are looking".

Ings tackles colour vision, robotic vision, weapons that blind or daze, and 
a dazzling array of visual illusions. Humans see only two degrees of the 
world with any clarity, and are simply blind to most of what is going on. 
The planet's dominant species is "an animal who sees only what it wants to 

LINK: Buy at Independent Books Direct

The Eye: A Natural History, by Simon Ings
BLOOMSBURY, £17.99. Order for £16.50 (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897



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  • » [bksvol-discuss] Fw: Book Review: "The Eye: A Natural History", by Simon Ings