If you ask people what animal eyes are used for, they’ll say: same thing as human eyes, but that’s not true at all.

Photographs by David Liittschwager

The eye of a Cuban rock iguana offers a window into a fundamental truth of evolution : forms follow necessity. Four types of cone cells in this diurnal creature’s retina provide excellent daytime color vision. A simpler third eye on top of the lizard’s head senses light and helps regulate body temperature.

box-jellyfish-24-eyes-1536box-jelly-eye-640The box jellyfish has 24 eyes, which are dark brown and grouped into four clusters called rhopalia. Four of the six eyes in each rhopalium are simple light-detecting slits and pits. But the other two are very sophisticated. They have light-focusing lenses and can see images, albeit at a lower resolution.The box jelly fish uses its lower lensed eyes to spot approaching obstacles, like the mangrove roots that it swims among. The upper lensed eyes serve as a free-floating weight at the bottom of the rhopalium that ensures that the upper eye is always looking forward, even if the jellyfish swims upside down. If this eye detects dark patches, the jellyfish senses that it’s swimming beneath the mangrove canopy, where it can find the small crustaceans that it eats. If it sees only bright light, it has  strayed into open water, and risks starving. With the help of its eyes, this brainless blob can find food, avoid obstacles, and survive.

The box jellyfish’s eyes are part of an almost endless variation of eyes in the animal kingdom. Some see only in black and white , others perceive the full rainbow and beyond, to forms of light invisible to our eyes. Some can’t even gauge the direction of incoming light; others can spot running prey miles away. The smallest animal eyes, adorning the heads of fairy wasps, are barely bigger than an amoeba; the biggest are the size of dinner plates, and belong to gigantic squid species.

squid-left-eye-larger-than-right-1536giant-squid-eye-architeuthis-dux-six-inches-1536The squid’s eye, like ours, works as a camera does, with a single lens focusing light onto a single retina, full of photo-receptors-cells that absorb photons and convert their energy into an electrical signal.

By contrast, a fly’s compound eye divides incoming light among thousands of separate units, each with its own lens and photoreceptors. Human, fly, and squid eyes are mounted in pairs on their owners’ head. But scallops have rows of eyes along their mantles, sea stars have eyes on the tips of their arms, and the purple sea urchin’s entire body acts as one big eye. There are eyes with bifocal lenses, eyes with mirrors, and eyes that look up, down, and sideways all at the same time.

Eyes are tailored to the needs of their users. A sea star’s eyes – one on the tip of each arm – can’t see color, fine details or fast-moving objects; they would send an eagle crashing into a tree. Then again, a sea star isn’t trying to spot and snag a running rabbit. It merely needs to spot coral reefs. Its eyes can do that; it has no need to evolve anything better. The human eye is reasonably fast, adept at detecting contrast, and surpassed in resolution only by birds of prey. Insect eyes have a much faster temporal resolution, two flies will chase each other at enormous speed and see up to 300 flashes of light a second. We are lucky to see 50″. A dragon-fly’s eye gives it almost complete wraparound vision; our eyes do not.

The eyes of the nocturnal elephant hawk moth (Deilephila elpenor) excel at collecting the tiniest traces of light. Even in faint starlight, it can distinguish the colors of blossoms bearing nectar. PHOTOGRAPHED AT WARRANT LAB, LUND VISION GROUP, LUND UNIVERSITY

The eyes of the nocturnal elephant hawk moth (Deilephila elpenor) excel at collecting the tiniest traces of light. Even in faint starlight, it can distinguish the colors of blossoms bearing nectar.
PHOTOGRAPHED AT WARRANT LAB, LUND VISION GROUP, LUND UNIVERSITY

And the elephant hawk moth has eyes so sensitive that it can still see colors by starlight. In some ways we’re better, but in many ways , we’re worse. There ‘s no eye that does it all better. Our camera eyes have their own problems. For example, our retinas are bizarrely built back to front. That’s why we have a blind spot. There ‘s no benefit to these flaws; they’re just quirks of our evolutionary history. Our brains can fill in the missing details in our blind spots but some problems we can’t avoid. Our retinas can sometimes peel away from the underlying tissue, leading to blindness, that would never happen if the neurons sat behind the photoreceptors, anchoring them in place. This more sensible design exists in the camera eyes of octopuses and squid. An octopus doesn’t have a blind spot. It never gets a detached retina. We do, because evolution doesn’t work to a plan. It meanders mindlessly, improvising as it goes.

Most birds and reptiles see color with four types of cone photoreceptors, each carrying an opsin that’s tuned into a different color. But mammals evolved from a nocturnal ancestor that had lost two of these cones, presumably because color vision is less important at night and because cones are most effective in bright daylight. Most mammals are still saddled with these losses, and see the world through limited palette. Dogs have just two cones, one tuned to blue and the other to red. Marine mammals dispensed the blue cone when they became aquatic. Many whales lost the red cone too. They have only rod photoreceptors-excellent for seeing in the deep ocean darkness but useless for seeing color.

mantis-shrimp-Odontodactylus-scyllarus-color-receptors-1536

The mantis shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus has a bewildering abundance of color receptors—twelve to our three. The eyes also move and perceive depth independently of each other, and can see infrared and ultraviolet light. PHOTOGRAPHED AT CALDWELL LAB, DEPARTMENT OF INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY, UC BERKELEY. GRAPHIC SOURCE: JUSTIN MARSHALL, UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA

The mantis shrimp’s eyes have three separate regions that focus on the same narrow strip of space, providing depth perception without help from the other eye. They can also see ultraviolet parts of the spectrum that are invisible to us, and polarized light that vibrates in a single plane. And while we have three kinds of color receptors in our retinas, mantis shrimp have 12 each tuned to a different color.

 

Animal Eyes 4Eyes are simply tuned to the needs of their owners. They are as complex as their owners need them to be, and if those needs diminish, so do the eyes.

Article by Ed Yong for National Geographic – Published January 14th, 2016. 

Eyes: more than what you see

Why is this frame so expensive? – All glasses are not created equal.

 

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In an era where you can get really cheap eyeglasses from an online vendor, you may wonder why the frames offered in retail shops are so much more expensive.  The answer is simple:  It’s not the same product.  Before you settle on your next pair of specs, here are some important things to consider:

It’s  Not Just a Fashion Statement; It’s a Medical Device

Of course we all love the fashion side of eyewear.  It’s fun to try on new styles and see how each one changes your overall look.  Chunky frames, for example, make a bold, artsy statement while ultrathin metal frames provide a minimalist look that lets your lovely face take the center stage.  What matters more is that eyeglasses are a medical device and you’re going to live with this device for the next year or two.  So, durability, safety and function matter just as much as the fashion side.

Top notch eyewear manufacturers pay attention to both sides of the equation.  They hire designers who are in tune with – and sometimes even innovators in – the fashion industry.  At the same time, they use manufacturing processes that include rigorous testing and inspection to ensure the frames will fit properly and stand up to the normal knocks of everyday life.

 Plastics

Most plastic frames are made of acetate, but this category covers a wide range of blended materials, which can include cellulose, nylon, cotton, wood and even castor oil.  The weight and durability varies depending on the materials used in the acetate and the manufacturing processes.

KEY FACT:  The very best handmade acetates in the world are manufactured in Italy. Mazzucchelli 1849 is the worldwide leader in the manufacture and distribution of cellulose acetate, a plastic material traditionally used in the production of spectacles and sunglasses. They develop also exclusive acetate designs for some of the high end eyewear companies.

Fused layers of acetate

Color blends (think tortoise shell and similar color swirls) cost more to manufacture.  Each color is created separately and then the colors are brought together in a complicated way that allows the colors to coexist without blending completely into a new, solid shade.  Because each color has a slightly different chemical composition, this process requires testing to ensure that the colors will adhere to each other so that the frame doesn’t break apart at points where the color patches touch.

 

 

 

Layering

Layering

Layering is another factor that adds cost to the production of plastics.  Frames that have a different color on the inside and outside cost more to produce, but they give a flash of alternate color that makes them interesting and fashionable.  Similarly, a shiny, clear inside layer (sometimes called “crystal”) balances the heavy color on the outside of the frame and makes it look less overwhelming.  This is especially helpful if you want a bold look, but have delicate facial features.  Some high fashion frames have as many as four transparent layers in different shades that give the effect of looking into a deep, clear pool of color.

 

 

Polishing:  For plastic frames to look their best and feel comfortable, particularly over your ears, polishing is an extra step that costs more, but is well worth it.  Some high fashion frames with carved designs in the temple are hand polished for as much as 15 minutes, which makes the design look smoothly embossed rather than roughly chiseled.

TIP:  Before purchasing a frame, hold the temple between your index finger and thumb and slide your hand up and down over the portion that fits over your ear.  If it doesn’t feel really smooth, it’s likely to irritate the top or back of your ear.

sheet of titanium

sheet of titanium

 

Metals

All eyewear metals resist corrosion and warping and they bend easily for a really good fit, but the durability and the weight depends on which metals are used.

prozess_mMetal blends (known as monel) are the least expensive type in this category, but also the heaviest and least durable.  They frequently have an outer coating that looks good, but wears off to reveal a dull gray metal underneath.

Stainless steel is more durable and slightly more expensive, but is still relatively heavy and only comes in only one shade.  Typically it does not have an outer layer that wears off.

Titanium is more expensive, but it’s very lightweight and strong, so manufacturers can create frames that are much thinner and yet stronger.  Titanium also can easily be coated with matte color for a wider range of fashion options.

 

powerlaw_montage2_1Hinges

Hinge failure is the number one cause of eyeglasses breaking beyond the point of repair.  Hinges can either break internally (especially spring hinges) or pull apart from the point where they are joined to the front of the frame.

 

 

TIP:  Before you purchase a pair of frames, hold them in the palm of your hand and open and close one temple.  You’ll be able to tell right away if it’s a cheap, weak hinge or one that has resilience.

KEY FACT:  The very best hinges in the optical industry are made in Germany.

 

Fit Matters

Online websites have fun tools that let you upload a picture and “try on” various eyeglass frames, but the truth is, you can’t tell how a frame will fit and feel without trying it on.  Even if a frame feels good when you first try it on, it may not be the best option for you.  A trained optician can point out subtle problems, like when the nosepiece on a plastic frame is the wrong shape for your nose and will cause slippage, or when the temples are too close or too far from the side of your face to get and maintain a comfortable fit.  Getting the frame to sit properly and stay there is crucial to comfort and to your vision.  Why?  Because lenses have an optical center that must ride over your pupils or you will have blurred vision or eye fatigue.  This is even more critical if you wear progressive or bifocal lenses.

 

Guarantees

Make sure you ask about the manufacturer’s guarantee.  Cheap frames typically are warranted for 90 days.  Quality frames usually carry at least a one-year guarantee and some have two-year coverage.  Some manufacturers of children’s frames also offer free replacement if your adorable little rough-houser breaks or loses his glasses within a year.

Eyeglasses Frames and Hollywood: Guess What They Have in Common

lunettes-kollektion-production-

If you’re a fan of retro eyewear, or if you’re old enough to remember when it was the “new thing,” you know that early plastic eyeglass frames were thick and pretty heavy for the poor nose that had to hold them up. New colors for plastic eyewear emerged in the mid-20th Century, giving birth to the idea that eyewear is a fashion statement rather than a medical necessity. A variety of shapes also emerged in this era, but they were all pretty thick. We’ve come a long way since then to the modern, ultra light plastics that feature flexibility and über thin lines in a wild array of colors. Let’s take a look back to see how we got to where we are today.

 A Volatile Beginning

 SchönbeinThe first composition plastic used for eyeglass frames was celluloid – yup, the same stuff used by Hollywood filmmakers – which was invented way back in 1869. Technically, it was called cellulose nitrate, or nitrocellulose. The word “nitro” isn’t just a coincidence. This stuff was highly flammable. The story goes that German-Swiss chemist Christian Friedrich Schönbein (1799-1868 ) used the family kitchen to conduct experiments with a mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids. Even great chemists have “oops” moments, so when Schönbein spilled some of the mixture, he used his wife’s apron to wipe it up. The aprons of the day were made of 100 percent cotton, so Schönbein unknowingly mixed cellulose fibers from the apron into his nitrate compound. He hung the soiled apron up to dry above the stove and then he had a second “oops” moment when the apron exploded.

Despite its flammable nature, cellulose nitrate – nicknamed “zyl” by the optical industry – was used for eyeglass frames from the late 19th Century all the way through the mid-20th Century. We finally wised up and found other, less volatile, plastics for eyeglass frames, but cellulose nitrate is still used today in the manufacture of smokeless gunpowder, printing ink, wood varnish, foil and film lacquers, automotive paint, fingernail polish, leather finishes, adhesives and coatings to protect silver and other tarnishable metals. And now you understand why you shouldn’t smoke, light a candle or crank up your space heater in the presence of any of these products.

 The Next Generation

 Acetate framesCelluloid nitrate’s cousin and successor is a compound known as cellulose acetate, or “acetate” for short. This more stable compound comes cellulose, usually derived from wood pulp (birch, eucalyptus) or cotton, treated with acetic anhydride (basically, vinegar minus the water molecules) to make the fibers soft and pliable. In this form, it is used to manufacture cloth. For eyeglasses, cellulose acetate is bound with plasticizer, such as diethyl phthalate, to give it the strength and rigid structure needed to mold frames. While the CDC has issued health warnings about direct exposure to diethyl phthalate, it is so strongly bound into the acetate that it cannot leach out at temperatures below 122 degrees.

Cool New Eyewear Materials – Thinner, Lighter, More Color Options

I_THIN_II_5407 by Italia Independent

The latest eyewear plastics are nylon-based, which makes them stronger and more flexible than cellulose acetate. Because nylon molecules have a strong bond, eyeglass manufactures can use less of it, which means thinner, sleeker and lighter eyewear – up to 72% less weight than cellulose acetate. Nylon also accepts dyes very easily, which means a wider range of colors, including translucent shades that look like frosted glass. The only down side is that they are vulnerable to shrinking when exposed to heat, so don’t leave those designer sunglasses on the dash of your car!

If you really want a pair of glasses that you can abuse, look for frame made of Ultem ® (PolyEtherimide) resin. It’s resistant to heat, UV rays and chemical exposure. Because of these properties, it’s widely used in the medical and chemical industries. Like nylon compounds, it is light-weight and can be molded super thin. You can get temple pieces as narrow as 1.2 mm for that “barely there” look. And, your eyeglass frame could be 50% lighter than a comparable one in metal.

Temple Worship: Bayne Peterson Honors Native Traditions

Young and talented sculptor Bayne Peterson, that resides in our own beloved state of Rhode Island, has released new series of deconstructed optical frames inspired by his study of the artwork of native peoples in North America and the arctic region.

It all began a year ago, when Peterson was awarded a trip to Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa to study the art of inuits, or natives of the arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Chukotka. He was so impressed by their ivory carving, that he later went to Baffin Island in Canada for further studies.  World interest in the art of arctic natives is growing every year and, as a result, Peterson made a presentation at the archaeological conference at the University of Illinois and produced a series of wooden sculptures to capture the essence of what he had learned from the inuits.

Earpiece size 23″, wood

 Peterson’s passion led him down an intriguing path.  Rather than create sculptures that reside in private homes where few can see them, he chose to create wearable art that brings this artistic tradition out into the everyday world, where all can experience and enjoy it.  Thus was born his sculpture-temples for eyeglass frames. Despite their impressive size, their style and proportions clearly reveal the source of their inspiration.

In the tradition of native peoples who cherish the gifts of nature, they are carved of wood. Some are covered with layers of painted matte epoxy to echo the vibrant colors of native art.  Others, honoring the tradition of caring for Mother Earth by reusing her gifts, include pieces of colored plastic reclaimed from cups, knives and forks from a local deli. To avoid the caustic process of melting and reshaping this plastic, the dinnerware is milled in a coffee grinder.

Nosepiece: wood, epoxy, bits of plastic

Though based on centuries of tradition, these sculpture-temples have a modern look.  Their painstaking craftsmaship and high quality definitely can take center stage in any optical salon.

We are proud to display them in our shop.

Spectacles fit for a Doge – Sunglasses in 18th century Venice

For the first time in eyeglass history, the exhibition “Spectacles Fit for a Doge”, which took place in Venice, gathered together spectacles from museums and private collections to trace a part of the history of eyeglasses and sunglasses.

Detail of the groove and silk thread on these sunglasses made of very light-colored horn and green mineral lenses.

Venetian opticians, 120 years before the rest of the world discovered  the danger of ultra-violet rays, produced emerald green color glass to create sunglasses that totally stopped these rays. During the 18th century in Venice, the nobility and Commanders da Mar (of the sea) wore sunglasses to protect their eyes from the glare of reflected light while navigating the waters of the lagoon or the open sea.

Considering the good number of seventeenth-century eyeglasses now held in museums and private collections, we can say that the manufacturing of colored glass for protective purposes was widely practiced from the second half of the seventeenth century on. Knowledge about the composition and diffusion of light was still in its infancy, and it was not till the end of the 17th century that Isaac Newton (1642-1727) demonstrated that white light was made up of all the other colors. A few years later, the discovery of ultraviolet light (UV) took place in 1801, still several decades before its dangerous properties were finally recognized in 1870.

Goldoni-type eyeglasses o Case with double temple pieces. 18th century.

Green was the most commonly used color, which was produced in various shades: yellow-green, meadow-green, sea green and emerald green. Made in furnaces on Murano, this unmistakable glass allows us today to distinguish between factory-made goods and those made by Venetian opticians in the past.

 

 

In the 20th century, green lenses were formulated to create G15, which were first used to reduce the amount of glare and increase comfort for pilots. G15 meant that there was only  15% of light transmission through the lens while it blocked UV reds and UVB rays. It wasn’t long before the popularity of this color spread from pilots to anyone with an outdoor lifestyle. We have taken into consideration the history of this color while designing our own line of eyewear.

Fran by Providence Optical in Crystal Gray.

 

 

A New Outlook

Our take on Chagall’s “The Love Story”

Chagall’s original, “Над городом”, 1914-18

We just can’t help ourselves.  We had so much fun with our Magritte-inspired window that we had to feature another artist in our newest window display.  This time we drew our inspiration from Belorussian-born French artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985).  His work is the very essence of fantasy.  He didn’t belong to any one artistic movement, but rather combined elements of cubism, symbolism, expressionism and surrealism into his own unique style.  His paintings contain conventional elements like people, flowers, landscapes and buildings, but instead of copying a real scene, he constructed fantasy tableaus by combining elements that have an emotional connection.  The people and objects in his works usually are placed in positions that defy the laws of nature and physics.

Guest artist Ieva Liepina with the background of our Chagall-inspired window

Such is the case with the couple floating above the landscape in Chagall’s painting “The Love Story” (or “Over the Town” is another name), which is the inspiration for our latest display.  We confess that we took some liberties to make it our own.  With help from artist friend Ieva Liepina, from Riga, Latvia, we created a cityscape of Providence to replace the rural landscape in Chagall’s original.  Our airborne lovers look a lot like his, but we gave them modern clothes, while keeping the flowing lines and romantic style of the original – after all, they are lovers.  Of course, there had to be eyeglasses involved, but we were very restrained.  We chose round American Optical sunglasses for our male lover because of their timeless, classic appeal.  Since we have the luxury of working in 3 dimensions, we echoed the clouds in the sky behind the lovers with fluffy puffs suspended over our lovers.

Providence Optical building subtly highlighted in the background cityscape

If you look closely, you’ll see in the background cityscape that we highlighted our building with brighter colors that make it look like the sun is shining on just that one spot, and we put a diminutive pair of eyeglasses above to identify it in a subtle way.  If you have a good eye (pardon the pun) for detail, you’ll also see that we set a birdhouse in the foreground as a playful echo of the buildings in the cityscape, and to give our masterpiece a more 3-dimensional feel.

It was a lot of work, but it was a labor of love.  We hope you’ll stroll by and take a look.  Better yet, poke your head in and tell us what you think of it.

Safe and Stylish in the Sun!

As Jackie Samoraj from Home Shopping Network suggested, we would like to share our best tips for being safe and stylish under the sun. With these minimalistic outfit we covered major trends of the season: whites, floral, black&white, graphics and sport trends. Don’t forget your face and body sunscreen and if you are a contact lens wearer, Acuvue Oasys will be the best option because they are the only contacts offering UV protection and moister.

1. White and pink RI baseball cap by Coastalista. Find this company’s hat at your local airport with your city name on it.

2. Providence Optical sunglasses, $187 with mineral glass lenses in gray/green.

3. Floral Bag by Leadsports.

4. Nail polish. You can play with the 3 different colors to match your outfit or accessory.

5. Providence Optical dress.

6. Providence Optical microfiber lens cleaning cloth and cleaning spray.

7. White-Floral sneakers by Paul Smith.

8. Downcity Flair, collect until August 28th the buttons from all Downcity merchants to win a good prize.

 

 

“Million Dollar Arm”: Two Thumbs up for the Eyewear

The Emerson is sophisticated, but that doesn’t mean expressionless!

Disney’s newest release, “Million Dollar Arm,” has just hit the big screen, grossing about $10.5 in its first weekend.  While the movie itself – a true life story about a down-on-his-luck sports agent  seeking new baseball pitching talent in India – gets mixed reviews, actor Aasif Mandvi, who plays the sports agent’s business partner, gets a big thumbs up for his eyewear.

What are those chic executive frames he’s wearing?  The classy “Emerson,” which is part of OGI’s Seraphin product line. Mandvi sports (pun intended) the tortoise shell color option, but this frame also comes in a sophisticated black, an elegant dark tortoise and an understated mottled gray.  “Emerson” is one of our most popular frames, which just goes to show that Providence citizens are fashion savvy.

The Emerson frame’s close cousin: OGI 7150

If you like the Emerson, but have a smaller face or want more color, consider OGI’s model 7150, which has a similar front and is available in conservative black, tortoise or mottled gray or in a beautiful upscale tortoise flecked with blue and paired with beautiful translucent blue temples.

“Niles” by OGI Seraphin is the antithesis of Emerson — for those who like curves and thin lines.

 

If you’re not a fan of the geek chic or executive look, OGI offers an amazing array of other shapes, including ovals, rectangles and cat eyes.  You can find both metal and plastic options and one of the industries rarest hybrids:  Plastic frames with nosepads.  OGI even makes parent-child pairs of eyewear so your little one can wear glasses just like yours.  Come explore with us!

Spring and Magritte: New Beginnings

 

Magritte demonstrates that, contrary to our assumption, maybe day and night can co-exist.

It’s sometimes hard to believe spring is here with these cold temperatures and the continuing threat of snow, but we are oh, so ready to put winter behind us.  Spring is a time of renewal, and as new life springs up from the earth, we start to feel new possibilities. Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte (1898-1967) challenged people to let go of assumptions and consider not what is, but what could be.  His paintings, some of which are currently on display in a special exhibition at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, depict ordinary objects and normal people arranged in ways that seem impossible.  But are they?  Maybe Magritte is really telling us to rethink what is possible.

Street view of our display

Dress shoes of Magritte’s period give our mannequins the ability to take a stroll in style. Who needs legs anyway?

Inspired by the MOMA exhibition, we’ve created a new window display that we think Magritte would approve of.  It features a sky backdrop found in many of Magritte’s paintings and men in the Magritte style – complete with suit, period dress shoes and bowler hat.  We chose Arnold Schwarzenegger’s visage as the face of the men.  In a twist reminiscent of Magritte’s style, we pulled apart the pieces of the men and put them near each other, but not quite together.  What does it symbolize?  Well, that’s in the eye of the beholder.  Surrealism is all about what the image means to you.