Light In The Dark
The lights were dark in the chapel where I was sitting. The video broadcast flickered on the large screen suspended above the pulpit. The speaker asked those watching to turn to a scripture in John. I opened my iPad to find the reference in an electronic version of the Bible and realized there was a problem with the lighting on my device.
Light is a funny thing. Too little and we can’t see. Get too much and we have the same problem. But, our eyes are designed to help us with that. When you walk out into the bright sunlight, you have to wait for your eyes to “adjust.” Like the lense of a camera, your eye shrinks your pupil to limit the amount of light that gets through. Similarly, when you’ve stared into a campfire and then move away to find your tent, you end up tripping over the unseen camp chairs until your pupils dilate and you can see.
We’re all familar with these concepts. In fact, we don’t even think much about them. Our eyes just naturally adjust the way we need them to. In fact, it is a well understood concept: in a dark room, you need more light to see. In a bright room, you need less.
Which is why my iPad experience was so striking. The problem I had was not that the iPad was too dim to see in the dark room, it’s that the iPad was too bright to use.
Ironically, in a low light situation, too much light is a problem. It’s why no one is bothered by you texting on your cell phone at a baseball game, but it’s very distracting when you do it at the movies. The light from the screen is the same, but the ambient light is different. (Actually, your phone is probably smart enough to adjust the brightness automatically. You may not have even noticed.)
Last year when I was doing a lot of work on my car, I had to replace a lot of burnt out bulbs in my instrument panel. The problem was not that I couldn’t see the dials at night. It was actually during the day that I couldn’t tell if I was going 30 MPH or 50. During daylight hours, your car’s instrument panel is much brighter than during the night time hours. It has to be brighter to compensate for the brightness of sun.
In our jobs, what is often “intuitive” is also often wrong. For example, email sent to my work account goes through a number of filters. There’s a corporate spam and virus filter. Then, there’s a mailbox filter. There’s also a filter on my computer. All are designed to restrict email. But, it’s that restriction that actually make my mailbox more useful.
My kids adopted electronic devices this year. They are finally old enough to pay their own cell phone bills. They are busy loading their phones and iPods with tons of games and apps. I’m sure they will soon come to me complaining about speed. Again, the non-intuitive answer is that after a certain amount, the more you load onto your device the less effective it become. Less is more.
I quickly found the scripture that the speaker was referring to and then adjusted the brightness on my iPad, reducing it to just a fraction of it’s full brightness.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved