Digital Argus

Seeing is believing.

The behavior conveyed by this adage grafted itself onto the human psyche millennia ago. What we see, more so than what we eat, is who we are - or become. Try telling a young couple decked out in this spring's latest fashion otherwise.

Of the five senses, clearly, overwhelmingly, vision dominates. And we take it for granted that sight no longer goes unaided.

It was a long journey from the discovery of glass by Phoenicians in 3500 BC cooking on sand to the Hubbell telescope. It took another 5,000 years from the Phoenicians to Galileo's handing a tube with ground glass at either end to his ruler, the doge Leonardo Dona of Venice. Little more than a century before that, either a Dutch craftsman or an Italian monk invented spectacles, combining two adjoining pieces of ground glass to enhance vision.

Our cover story (right) is about seeing what we've never seen before. It explains images of dark energy captured by the Hubbell telescope, images that are 10 billion light years away. We know because we see them through scientific instrumentation and measurement, albeit the means are magical to the majority of us.

Just this week, the high-tech California company Vantum (vantum.com) offered for sale an active video device that can "sense, capture, compress, analyze and record, and stream clear digital video and audio over networks using standard Internet protocols." It's a digital eye with a microprocessor and a database.

A modern day Argus, this eyepiece with memory becomes viewfinder to anyone with a Web browser. We can look from wherever, at whatever, whenever.

Imagine a network of these in schoolyards, public parks, shopping malls. Will we see this as enhanced vision? Or something else?

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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