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Medicine Sun Microsystems Science

What It Looks Like When You Fry Your Eye In An Eclipse (npr.org) 135

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Doctors in New York say a woman in her 20s came in three days after looking at the Aug. 21 eclipse without protective glasses. She had peeked several times, for about six seconds, when the sun was only partially covered by the moon. Four hours later, she started experiencing blurred and distorted vision and saw a central black spot in her left eye. The doctors studied her eyes with several different imaging technologies, described in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, and were able to observe the damage at the cellular level.

"We were very surprised at how precisely concordant the imaged damage was with the crescent shape of the eclipse itself," noted Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, in an email to NPR. He says this was the most severely injured patient they saw after the eclipse. All in all, 22 people came to their urgent care clinic with concerns about possible eclipse-related damage, and most of them complained of blurred vision. Of those, only three showed some degree of abnormality in the retina. Two of them had only mild changes, however, and their symptoms have gone away. The young woman described in this case report, at last check, still has not recovered normal vision.
For your viewing pleasure, The Verge has embedded several images of the woman's retinas in their report.

What It Looks Like When You Fry Your Eye In An Eclipse

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  • Trust the folks who attempt to give you sage advice with no advantage to them. Ever have the misfortune of looking too long at a the arc of a welder's flash?

    The funny thing is, funny strange not funny ha-ha, that it takes several hours to really pay dividends.

    Yes indeed, battery acid and prayers to a God you didn't believe in this morning, either.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      If people believe climate scientists are full of it, then they'll likely also question astronomer warnings, and do it. [blogspot.com]

      • Perhaps it's true we can't learn some things from the experiences of others. [tumblr.com]
    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Thursday December 07, 2017 @08:17PM (#55699199) Homepage

      Worth pointing out:

      "She had peeked several times, for about six seconds, when the sun was only partially covered by the moon."

      Uh, note that's what she said she did. We don't actually know how long she looked at the sun; she almost certainly underplayed how stupid she was when she talked to the doctor, since people usually do.

      • by Kunedog ( 1033226 ) on Thursday December 07, 2017 @08:54PM (#55699323)
        . . . according to CNN, anyway:
        http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/07/... [cnn.com]

        Watching the celestial event outside her boyfriend's workplace, she noticed the changes around her, as it looked like dusk during the day. Payne looked up at the sun with her naked eye for a few seconds, but it was too bright.

        She approached a woman nearby and asked whether she could borrow her glasses. The woman did not appear interested in viewing the eclipse and said she was "blind as a bat anyway." She told Payne she had borrowed them from a friend and agreed to let Payne use them.

        Payne put on the glasses and looked up at the partial eclipse for 15 to 20 seconds. She didn't know what eclipse glasses were supposed to look like, but she remembered that the sun seemed particularly bright -- like looking at it with sunglasses on.

        "But it didn't bother me, because I thought it would be a great experience to catch a solar eclipse the proper way," Payne told CNN.

        She removed the glasses, returned them to the woman and left.

        Six hours later, Payne noticed a weird dark spot in the center of her vision. She told her friends and family, but they told her to wait a day. After all, everyone had been outside looking up at the sun, and it was normal to feel "weird."

        The next day, Payne lost vision in the center of her left eye.

        So "a few seconds" is six, according to TFS. The borrowed glasses story sounds exactly like something someone would make up to shift blame from themselves, but we'll never know for sure. Besides, she admits she only sought glasses after staring at the sun bare-eyed proved "too bright."

        So far, it's a nightmare, and sometimes it makes me very sad when I close my eyes and see it," Payne said. "It's embarrassing. People will assume I was just one of those people who stared blankly at the sun or didn't check the person with the glasses.

        She is literally "one of those people," as she stared at the sun. She then borrowed glasses she couldn't verify as safe. I don't know what it means to "check the person with the glasses" but the fact that they were already blind might have been a red flag.

        • "but the fact that they were already blind might have been a red flag."
          Ha! that's worth an insightful mod right there.

      • Does it matter? She was told not to do it. She was informed what will happen when she does it. She decided she knows better than those that actually learn a thing about the whole matter.

        She made her decision.

      • When I was I guess about 13, there was a partial solar eclipse. One of my classmates pointed it out to us. I'm not sure how long we gazed at it but it was minutes rather than seconds. It didn't seem to noticeably harm anyone. Maybe it's a question of age.

        • When I was I guess about 13, there was a partial solar eclipse. One of my classmates pointed it out to us. I'm not sure how long we gazed at it but it was minutes rather than seconds. It didn't seem to noticeably harm anyone. Maybe it's a question of age.

          If the sun were very low on the horizon, you might be ok. (You can look at the sunset, although you'll see afterimages). Otherwise, no, not minutes.

    • i worked in the oil field for a few years and yeah, you dont even have to look at the arc of a welder's work, it just has to be exposed to your eye from a few yards away and you dont notice it until after you went to bed that night, you wake up in the middle of the night feeling like your eyes have had sand rubbed in them
      • by Agripa ( 139780 )

        i worked in the oil field for a few years and yeah, you dont even have to look at the arc of a welder's work, it just has to be exposed to your eye from a few yards away and you dont notice it until after you went to bed that night, you wake up in the middle of the night feeling like your eyes have had sand rubbed in them

        That is a different problem. Traveling across a landscape covered in snow or spending all day outdoors without shielding your eyes can cause the same thing. Extended exposure to UV can sunburn the sclera (outside part of the eye) yielding the sandpaper feeling.

      • Interesting. Just curious, is there a safe distance away from the arc so a sidelong glance does not cause an issue?

    • This. A million times this.

      "I won't let some egghead tell me what to do".

      And then come whining for science to repair your stupidity. No. Fuck it. You get told time and time again to not do something, you still do it, live with it. Or die from it. Either is fine with me. Please get out of the gene pool.

    • ...what?

    • Trust the folks who attempt to give you sage advice with no advantage to them. Ever have the misfortune of looking too long at a the arc of a welder's flash?

      The funny thing is, funny strange not funny ha-ha, that it takes several hours to really pay dividends.

      Yes indeed, battery acid and prayers to a God you didn't believe in this morning, either.

      To quote Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does".

  • There's no general news value in this, scientific possibly, but this is not news and that 'reporter' from the Verge has probably done stupid things for a lot longer than 6 seconds in her time.

    • Re:Ghoulish (Score:4, Informative)

      by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Thursday December 07, 2017 @07:56PM (#55699107) Homepage

      There is geek/nerd psychological interest in this. Take it from the viewpoint of under standers looking at the world of believers, the look before you leap crowd vs the hesitate and lose. That itself is an interesting study in social genetics, how a society produces both, to solve social problems ie a problem presents itself and there is a believe structure to solve that 'style' of problem, the believers jump in without hesitation and try their luck with their belief, succeed and quick solution, fail and well, they are dead and the under standers who seek to understand the problem and understand the range of solutions to the range of problems within that style of problem, then work out a solution. That catch for under standers, they could perish, whilst they are attempt to properly understand and solve the problem, that could have been solved believers using a belief that happened to work.

      From an under standers point of view, believers look really immature, those kids who you could never tell to not run with scissors as adults still running with scissors, well, at least until the trip and stab themselves once and how now created a belief on why it is bad to run with scissors. Those individuals will never look at the sun again without protective eye wear.

      Social genetics at work, we evolve as a species and as a society not upon an individual basis. It's like saying psychopaths are really competitive but too many and they collapse the entire society and everyone dies out, including the psychopaths genes. The story is not news, it is an interesting idea to explore and understand. The empty main stream media news style is for believers, people who can and will believe anything, independent news and more importantly news analysis is for under standers because we need to understand how those morons work, else we are the ones those dumb fuckers burn at the stake or cut off our heads based upon idiotic beliefs, as in the past, so watch out for the future (how many of you want the apostate arseholes of the house of Saud ruling over you, would you be able to resist calling them a pack of egoistic shit heads and demand they be thrown out of power and punished for their crimes).

      • under standers

        You mean voyeurs?

      • Re:Ghoulish (Score:5, Funny)

        by lordlod ( 458156 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @12:21AM (#55699951)

        A simple story that I think is an easier to understand explanation of the variety in risk tolerance.

        I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Antarctica. Part of this time was minding a fuel hose about 10cm high, and I observed several groups of penguins negotiate the hose.

        A pack of twenty would waddle along and hit the obstacle of the hose. They walk up and down along it a bit to see if they can get around.

        Then two penguins jump the hose and walk on.

        The rest of the pack, observing that those two are ok quickly jump over and continue on their way.

        Except for three, who hesitate for some reason. They walk up and down again, they get increasingly agitated as the pack gets further away. Two eventually jump over. The last is running up and down the line, freaking out at being left behind and eventually trips and falls over the hose. Picks itself up and sprints after the pack.

        Penguins display the same basic behaviour when confronted with any obstacle, like a group of people playing tourist or jumping into leopard seal infested water.

        I never saw one stupid enough to stare into the sun though.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Russian icebreaker ship crews have a story about the time they had to use explosives to clear a path through the ice. They drilled into the ice and planted explosives. Then they attached red detonation cord to those explosives and then retreated to a safe distance. Meanwhile a group of penguins curious about these new objects started exploring around them. Suddenly, there's a whoosh of ice and water as the explosives go off. Seconds later there are penguins flying hundreds of feet in every direction followe

    • Why do people do this?

      If you put a button on the wall, most people will ignore it.

      If you then put up a big sign that says "Don't push this button" it will be pushed much more often,

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by MrKaos ( 858439 )
      Doctors in New York say a woman in her 20s came in three days after looking at the Aug. 21 eclipse without protective glasses. She had peeked several times, for about six seconds, when the sun was only partially covered by the moon.

      Why do people do this?

      Because women like that generally say Don't tell me what to do. I think they think it's something to do with the patriarchy.

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

        I wonder if I'd be troll for saying:

        Because men like that say I know what I'm doing. They think they know everything.

        This is not about men and women, it's about the self entitled brat that my wife would call a stupid bitch because even when she was told not to look into the sun, she did. Doesn't mean all women, doesn't mean there isn't a male version. Interesting how some people project their insecurities into what they read and try to find a reason to be offended by the simplest explanation about what

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Don't be a retard. Don't look directly at the sun. Why do people do this?

      Because more than 22/8.5 million (population of New York) are retards. Consider this, to be a Mensa member you must have a top 2% IQ. If you took all the Mensa members and took the top 2%, you'd have something like the best of the best (0.04%). If you took the top 2% of those again, you'd have freaking super-geniuses (0,0008%). In New York you'd have ~68 of them. Those equally far on the other end of the scale stare into the sun.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    DIY LASIK fail.

  • If it took this long to find a case of this and write a story about it.

    • If it took this long to find a case of this and write a story about it.

      Two things:

      Hopefully it is rare, because hopefully most people followed instructions and stayed safe. And some of those who didn't probably managed to be lucky near-misses. (Ahem, Mr. President.)

      It actually wasn't very long at all for a scientific article to come out. Publication of peer-reviewed journal articles has a much more measured pace. Consider--the eclipse was on 21 August, and the paper briefly discusses the results of a six-week follow-up visit. (That would be around 2 October.) The paper

  • by Corporate Gadfly ( 227676 ) on Thursday December 07, 2017 @07:51PM (#55699089)

    Trump looking at the eclipse with no protection on his eyes.
    http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam... [cnn.com]

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      If ever there were a need for a large bird with diarrhea...

    • Re:Trump (Score:5, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday December 07, 2017 @08:19PM (#55699207) Journal

      Trump looking at the eclipse with no protection on his eyes.

      The one that really gave me a laugh was the one where he's looking at the eclipse and pointing to it, in case any of the White House staff forgot that the sun is in the sky and doesn't shine out of his ass.

      https://timedotcom.files.wordp... [wordpress.com]

      • When I first saw pics of him doing that, I checked to make sure I wasn't at onion.com. "That's too much of a Trump behavior stereotype to be real", I was thinking. The onion people were probably going, "Shit! reality scooped us again. Delete."

        • It's been far too long that I haven't been able to tell if a headline and picture are from the Onion or a real news source without explicitly looking at the source.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Whew, I was afraid for a moment a thread that has nothing to do with Trump would suffer no mention of him.

      God bless you, sir.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        One must never miss an opportunity to point out Evil.

        A wise man once said "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

        Unfortunately, these days, in America, I see an awfull lot of good men doing an awfull lot of nothing.

    • by SumDog ( 466607 )

      For like 2 seconds.

      Yea I think the guy is an idiot too, but don't stup to mentioning every little thing like this. I'm sure you can find plenty of examples where Obama did the same.

  • "Dammit, I can't read my Darwin Award!"

  • I burned my retina right in the center of both eyes. I have to look out of the corners of my eyes to see anything.
  • by n329619 ( 4901461 ) on Thursday December 07, 2017 @08:29PM (#55699249)

    Perhaps she and those who did it should have tried to experiment with a magnifying glass before any attempt to stare at the sun. You might have tried this before when you were little.

    If the magnifying glass started showing smoke on whatever it is focused in 6 seconds, staring at the sun at the time for the same duration could surely do the same to the eye.

    • by cyn1c77 ( 928549 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @01:18AM (#55700049)

      Perhaps she and those who did it should have tried to experiment with a magnifying glass before any attempt to stare at the sun. You might have tried this before when you were little.

      If the magnifying glass started showing smoke on whatever it is focused in 6 seconds, staring at the sun at the time for the same duration could surely do the same to the eye.

      What?!?!

      You're saying that a 100-mm-diameter high-magnification lens has the same light gathering power as a 2-mm-diameter pupil?

      Is this a new form of science?

  • Do NOT look at the laser with the remaining good eye !!!

    ---
    Absolut Darwin Awards stuff this one

    • And it was this signature I immediately thought of when I read the headline! Good times, good times...
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday December 07, 2017 @10:14PM (#55699613)
    The NPR article is incorrect. She only looked at the sun without glasses for a few seconds [cnn.com]. She found that uncomfortable. A woman nearby had eclipse viewing glasses but wasn't viewing the eclipse because she said she was blind as a bat anyway. So she asked to borrow the glasses.

    She then viewed the sun for 15-20 seconds through those glasses, which they suspect is when the damage occurred. The glasses were probably fakes which didn't block all the rays of the sun. So this isn't a story about an idiot staring at the sun without glasses and destroying her vision as the NPR article implies. It's a story about some evil person destroying someone else's vision for life just so they could make a quick buck.

    (Though I suppose it's possible she really is an idiot and made the whole thing up to hide her embarrassment.)
  • Even with the glasses, the amount of light that came in from around the frame of the glasses was painful. I had to wrap my hands around the glasses to even be able to look up. I couldn't imagine looking at the sun for even a millisecond. This girl was obviously on something besides just stupidity. Seeing totality for more than 2 minutes was one of the neatest sensory experiences in my life. Looking forward to the next one in a few years.
    • I used some not-good-enough welding glass. I knew it wasn't dark enough so only did it for a quick glance--it was still painful enough not to want to stare at it. Much easier on the eyes to look at the shadows on the ground. And more impressive--didn't expect crescent shadows.
      • I like to look at the shadows of the eclipse shining through the leaves of a tree. Depending on the tree, you'll get dozens of little crescent shadows on the ground. Safer, and prettier.

  • ...it looks like you're an idiot.

  • WARNING: Do Not Look At Eclipse With Remaining Eye

    Think of it as evolution in action...

  • What fried her eyes was the looking at the Sun. Sun will fry your eyes faster if there is no eclipse.
  • Why commercials have so many warning labels and disclaimers on them?
  • If you read the literature, most eye damage from viewing solar eclipses is temporary and heals within 6 months. [nature.com] There are cases reported of suspected permanent loss in acuity, but they are rare and it's unclear whether there can be attributed to the solar exposure alone:

    This is the largest nationwide study of the visual effects of a solar eclipse ever undertaken. There were no recorded cases of permanent visual loss, which corroborates the previous evidence that visual morbidity is likely to be temporary. I

  • by jelwell ( 2152 ) on Friday December 08, 2017 @12:40PM (#55702541)

    I am happy to be corrected, but you CAN stare at the total solar eclipse without glasses and everything will be just fine. It's the partial eclipses that you can NOT stare at. When the moon is completely blocking the sun, take the glasses off, it's BEAUTIFUL. I get the chills just thinking about how amazing it was.

    To describe the beauty is hard, but it was like fractals dancing in the sky. It looked unworldly. One analogy I heard to describe the difference between 99% and 100% is: You bought tickets for the Super Bowl but you only made it 99% of the way there. You're sitting in the parking lot missing the entire show.

    Joseph Elwell.

"Money is the root of all money." -- the moving finger

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