The setting Sun is one big optical illusion

There are kinds of knowledge that open up new ways of looking at the universe, and make you feel relief at the expansion of possibility. And there are kinds of knowledge that make you mad. This is the second kind of knowledge.


This quick QI clip has Phil Jupitus trying to absorb the knowledge that the sun, on the horizon, isn't really there. As the sun approaches the horizon the light from it is bent by the different density layers in the atmosphere. The layers curve the light upwards, so the bright glowing orb that you see isn't where you see it. It's below the horizon where you can't see it.

Often, science is a good thing. Certainly, it should be used when anything serious is at stake. Sometimes, science is an inspirational thing - a way to see the universe in a different light. But I can't help but share Jupitus's anger at this. There's just something about being told that an event you've seen nearly every day of your life never happened in the first place. It's like the universe is being pedantic. Does any weird science fact annoy you?


I wouldn't say it annoys me, but I've always been fascinated with how the human eye perceives color, particularly that the color we perceive an object to be is actually caused by the wavelengths of light that it reflects rather than absorbs.

Some people claim that this means that the object is actually every color except the color we see it as being, but I don't believe that that's correct. I think it's almost an "if a tree falls in the forest" sort of question. "If an apple absorbs every color except red, which it reflects, is it really a red apple?" Or is it purely a semantic question, based on the fact that our language has evolved based not on how the universe actually works, but rather how we perceive the universe?

OK. I change my mind. It really does annoy me.