Friday, February 10, 2012

The Binocular Deception

Do you remember the last time you looked through a pair of binoculars? Neither did I. Apparently, the last time we did, we weren’t seeing what we thought we were seeing; at least if what we were trying to see was more than 50 yards away. So I bought a pair at the swap meet recently, took them up to the observation deck, picking several targets at various distances on the horizon.

My first target was an old spruce down the slope, about 15 yards away. I took off my glasses and trained the binoculars on the tree, focused, looked again with the naked eye, and back once more through the binoculars. Satisfied with what I’d seen, I went inside the pool room, got dressed, then went back outside and hiked down to the spruce. Everything was as I’d seen it from the deck. There were leaves, bark, branches; everything you’d normally associate with a tree.  After making a few notes, I headed back to the house to make dinner; we were expecting guests, so my experiment would have to wait until morning.

At 7AM.  I resumed the binocular experiment, gathering up my equipment, I went back to the deck. My next target was a parked car on the street about 45-50 yards away. I repeated what I’d done with the tree, and then went inside for a quick shower and some toast. A half hour later I was in the jeep and headed for the parked car.

Upon arrival, I immediately noticed some differences in the car now that I was only a few feet away. There was quite a noticeable difference in color; the car, from the perspective of the binoculars, was clearly dark red. In reality, it was a dark to medium blue. At first I wondered if I was remembering correctly, a quick glance at my field notes told me I was. There were other problems with the picture I thought I’d seen. I also thought the car was a four door sedan, but it was actually a two door hatchback. A few other minor differences aren’t worth mentioning here, but it was all a little unsettling.

Back at the observation deck I took a look at the car again, and then compared them to the photos I’d taken at the scene. The differences were confirmed. I jotted down the data and went inside for a light lunch.

That afternoon I chose a target 150 yards from my deck. It looked to be a group of National Guardsmen running through field maneuvers in a large clearing. I guessed they were from the military base a few miles north. There were two tanks, a Hummer, about six soldiers and a command tent. On second glance, there was also a three foot orange goblin chasing an unidentified red object; at least that’s what it looked like. I chalked it up to exhaustion. I noted everything I saw, showered, packed a snack, and hopped back into the jeep and made for the field.

My surprise was overwhelming as I pulled into the clearing, which was actually a park. There were two SUV’s parked on the grass, a little boy riding a blue and grey pedal car, two men, two women standing under a foldout awning placed over a picnic bench, and a girl, who looked to be around six, throwing a yellow Frisbee to a huge Irish setter.

I sat down, visibly shaken,  ate the cheese and apples from my backpack, and set my glasses down, scrubbing at my eyes for a moment. I considered asking the families if they’d seen a small military compliment in the park, but I already knew their answer. It was obviously the binoculars.

Throughout the next few weeks I made numerous inquiries with several binocular manufacturers, to no avail. It was one excuse after another, no one would speak with me, and I was at a dead end. I also repeated the experiment with other models I was able to get at a yard sale and an estate sale, all with equally bizarre results.

More reports as I look a little deeper