Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Widescreen?

So I was wondering ... why are screens wide? Why not tall-screen TV? Or round?

I came up with a simple explanation. Our eyes are side-by-side. Which means that our vision captures a wide field. You can imagine some alien species with one eye above the other. Their vision would be tall--can't you picture their corresponding HD 9:16 tall-screen TVs?

But to take this back a step, why on earth are our eyes side by side? I think that it's because of gravity. For the most part, from our perspective, we're operating on flat surface that spreads long to the left and right. We scan left and right -- so our eyes are side to side.

Of course this beggars the question: why don't flying things have eyes one above the other?

Well, if you consider insects, they sort of do. But let's ignore them. You're left with things of flight that evolved from walking, crawling things. Birds and bats have side-by-side eyes because they evolved from earth-bound creatures.

And that beggars the question, didn't all the walkers evolve from swimmers? Why do swimmers have side-by-side eyes instead of up and down?

Well, again, I have to guess. It seems like fish bodies are mostly symmetrical across the Y axis -- that is, the left half is pretty much the same as the right.

It's been pretty well established that symmetrical outputs are a function of gene coding efficiencies, but the relevant question to our inquiry here is -- why symmetry along the Y axis instead of the X?

It seems to me that this happened because gravity pulls the fish down, so a simple bladder mechanism allows for up and down movement. You know--add air to the bladder to rise, release air to sink. So up and down movement seems "easy" to conquer. Left and right, however, require powered thrusts -- so fish have fins to control motion on the Y axis. Once you've got this need for symmetry across the Y axis -- of course the eyes would follow.

So, I suggest: we have widescreen because gravity left our concerns on the horizon, which led to binocular vision working best (from a spot-the-prey or hunter perspective) when scanning the horizon instead of the ... there's no word for it? ... the "vertizon".

Now, imagine what spider TV would look like ...


  1. I've often wondered human inventions are always so symmetrical and geometrical. Like, why are houses square or rectangular (usually) and not shaped wildly like amoebas or clouds. The answer will be that it's more efficient for the use of land and for the distribution of objects inside, easier to build etc. But therein lies the rub? What makes us want to be efficient and take the path of least resistance. Is is a biological imperative coming from the survival instinct? Is it something to do with the structure of our brains? Why aren't TV's shaped like sausages?

    Are these questions retarded? Am I now going to have Sarah Palin on my back for that comment? Will she let it slide if I change my name to Rush?

    Haha. I really do wonder about these things. Up to the sausage thing only, though.

  2. Yeah, I think that the answer is probably sort of boring -- it's probably just cheaper to build straight lines (i.e., to plan & to buy long straight pieces of material like wood & pre-fab steel beams) -- and it's probably simpler to figure out how to keep square things from falling over (weight bearing calculations, etc.).

    Historically/pre-historically though, I wonder if humans have actually spent most of their time in non-square houses? Did people really used to live in caves? Aren't lots of "primitive" structure round? (I'm thinking of various huts, tee-pees, igloos -- but I'm totally ignorant about all this.)

    Anyhow, it'd be way cooler to live in something shaped weird. Heck, just check out google images for cool house & see what you get!

    I do dig the sausage tv idea! I tried to find that on google pictures and discovered a curious timeline.

  3. I'm sure this all ties in with my fascination for pyramids, swastikas, obelisks and triangles! lol

    Round, is still very regular--why not a house shaped like a jellyfish on its side?

    Remember the UFO landing pad building I discussed moons ago? That place had round rooms and curved corriders. Very nice actually.

    I would love a round bedromm for instance.

    Anyway, there is a lot of non box architecture happening these days, as your "cool house" link shows. I'm all for the weirdness.

    A new ecolgy begins with conception and design, the best of the old with the new. Contraptions are out. Good angles, in.


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