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jordoskeptic
New Member

6 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  15:43:37  Show Profile Send jordoskeptic a Private Message
I'm interested in hearing a response from skeptics about the possibility that habitual mirror looking is harmful activity--it seems skeptics are only interested in taking on easy targets and avoid tough ones.

For example, it was more than a year ago when I sent an email to noted skeptic Dr. Michael Shermer about the possibility that habitual mirror looking is harmful activity. He responded, and I'm paraphasing, by asking whether people at the equator were in danger because the sun emits more photons at the equator than at the poles. I responded and pointed out I didn't have the sun hanging on my bathroom wall. Moreover, I inquired about whether he agreed staring at the sun is generally not recommended. I didn't hear back from him. Some months later, I posed the same question to James Randi. He responded by simply asking "What's your point?". More months past and I emailed the Skeptic Dictionary. No response. I haven't got a response from Penn & Teller or Mythbusters either.

Today I found an audio download about mirrors from Skeptic Friends Network--it's pretty much status quo. It does not raise the possibility that habitual mirror looking is harmful.

Suppose this possibility is mentioned because mirror looking, as an activity, has changed more so in the last 50 years than ever before. This is a planet full of mirror lookers and there's no scientific studies examining the possibility that habitual mirror looking is harmful.

Mirrors get a free ride from science. It is taken for granted they pose no risk to humans and this is naive.

So here's my statement:

Light reflecting from a mirror is strong enough to damage human tissue.

And stated another way:

Habitual Mirror-looking damages eyeballs.

The premise that habitual mirror looking is not harmful activity is not as defensible as the premise that it is--anyone can assess the merits of this statement by defending the idea that mirror looking isn't harmful activity. I'm interested in seeing how far the argument can be carried. I don't think it can be carried very far. Moreover, it is not a 'skeptical' attitude.

Moreover, I'm particularly interested in hearing from someone willing to conduct an experiment by avoiding mirrors, covering mirrors in their home, and making deliberate adjustments to their driving habits, since mirrors are required in cars. As in, I want to hear about the results of their experiment.

I'm also open to hearing from life-long habitual mirror lookers willing to defend the practice--there's plenty of those around!!

Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  15:55:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
Jordo said:
quote:
Light reflecting from a mirror is strong enough to damage human tissue.

And stated another way:

Habitual Mirror-looking damages eyeballs.



Light reflected from a mirror has less energy than the light from the lightbulb, as it had to travel a greater distance to get to you.

So if mirrors are bad, then lightbulbs are much worse.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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jordoskeptic
New Member

6 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  15:58:11   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send jordoskeptic a Private Message
yeah...i think staring at a mirror hurts less than staring at a light bulb.

ever stare at a light bulb while shaving?
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  15:58:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
Well, first you need to state why you think looking into mirrors is harmful to people eyeballs. Is it something about the reflected light which you think poses some sort of health risk greater than that posed by natural light?

If so, then all you would need to do is test those assumptions, figure out if reflected light is any more intense or whatever. I see no point in carrying out a long term experiment on someone who agrees to cover up their mirrors, since the effects may take years to become apparent and the experiement wouldn't really tell us much. I'm sure you could find an isolated population who doesn't have access to mirrors, or even a period in history when mirrors were a luxury item not used by many people, for comparison purposes.

However, I must say that I can't see any reason to suspect mirrors might pose a health risk.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 09/25/2006 15:59:31
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  16:00:10   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by jordoskeptic
ever stare at a light bulb while shaving?

No. Why would anyone ever do that?


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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jordoskeptic
New Member

6 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  16:12:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send jordoskeptic a Private Message
I didn't draw a comparison between a mirror and a light bulb, someone else did. I was calling attention to my original assertion that habitual mirror looking is harmful. So if a comparison is drawn between a mirror and the sun, or a light bulb, or a microwave, then it follows that the person interact with the object the same way.

Also, I'm specifically going after 'habitual mirror looking'. As in, I'm addressing people's behavior more than I'm addressing the object.

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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  16:18:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message
It's an interesting question. You say "habitual" mirror looking, but what is habitual? I'd say that most Americans look in a mirror less than 10 minutes a day-- not a lot. Moreover, mirrors are almost exclusively indoors. Indoor light is far less intense than daylight. While I don't have numbers to clarly show it, I'd wager that while a person starting at a mirror indoors received more light than a person staring at a wall indoors, neither compare at all to the intensity of light received by a person who is outside.

Certainly, log-term exposire to even indirect sunlight can cause damage and doctors recommend sunglasses for just that reason. But I seriously doubt that the minimal use of a mirror to shave and fix one's hair every day does much damage, even over the long term.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  16:23:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Aside from the possibility that looking into a mirror may reveal shocking ugliness in oneself (perhaps triggering depression (or, in cases of extreme ugliness, heart attacks), I can't even imagine any dangers caused by mirror-looking. On the other hand, I personally have sometimes cut my face in the rare cases when I've had no mirror at hand during shaving.

I suspect that extreme mirror-looking, as well as extreme mirror-avoidance, may be symptoms of a neurosis or outright mental illness. jordoskeptic, are you avoiding mirrors yourself? Do you personally consider them too dangerous to look into, or is this a mind experiment? If you have an aversion to mirrors, how does it manifest?


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  16:43:23   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by jordoskeptic

I didn't draw a comparison between a mirror and a light bulb, someone else did. I was calling attention to my original assertion that habitual mirror looking is harmful. So if a comparison is drawn between a mirror and the sun, or a light bulb, or a microwave, then it follows that the person interact with the object the same way.
No, you are getting confused.

Dude never suggested looking at a light bulb was the same as looking at a mirror. He said reflected light is slightly less intense than direct light.

A valid comparison would be looking at a light bulb vs. looking at a reflection of a light bulb, or looking at the sun vs. looking at a reflection of the sun. Are you saying looking directly at the sun is less harmful then looking at a reflection of the sun? Because I would guess both are about equally harmful.

While shaving, a person is only looking at a reflection of their own face, which could be compared to looking directly at another person's face.

You do look at other people without harm, don't you?


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 09/25/2006 16:46:49
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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9672 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  16:57:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by jordoskeptic
Today I found an audio download about mirrors from Skeptic Friends Network--it's pretty much status quo. It does not raise the possibility that habitual mirror looking is harmful.

Wow! I didn't even know we had audio-downloads about mirrors. I guess I need to have another look around the site...


Edited to add: Ok, jordoskeptic is probably referring to a Whimsicality episode.


Dr. Mabuse - "When the going gets tough, the tough get Duct-tape..."
Dr. Mabuse whisper.mp3

"Equivocation is not just a job, for a creationist it's a way of life..." Dr. Mabuse

Support American Troops in Iraq:
Send them unarmed civilians for target practice..
Collateralmurder.
Edited by - Dr. Mabuse on 09/25/2006 17:36:12
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JohnOAS
SFN Regular

Australia
800 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  17:13:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit JohnOAS's Homepage Send JohnOAS a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by jordoskeptic
Mirrors get a free ride from science. It is taken for granted they pose no risk to humans and this is naive.

This is funny.

quote:
Originally posted by jordoskeptic

Light reflecting from a mirror is strong enough to damage human tissue.


If and only if the light hitting incident on the mirror was already "strong" (try intense) enough to damage human tissue.

Unless you're talking about curved mirrors designed specifically to focus light on a person's eyes. The path length (the distance the light travels to get from the source to your retina) when using a mirror is always longer than the one for direct viewing. That fact, coupled with the fact that no mirror reflects all of the light at every wavelength will mean that it's always slightly (even if perhaps, immeasurably so) safer to view an object via a mirror than directly.

quote:
Originally posted by jordoskeptic

Habitual Mirror-looking damages eyeballs.

You're screaming "Glass jars full of toxins are dangerous, why is no one skepical of glass jars?" when it's the toxins you really need to consider.

To use another analogy, why spend any time worrying about being killed by a ricochet when you should be worried about getting out the area where people are shooting at/near you in the first place.

Your emphasis is on entirely the wrong aspect of the danger. You can completely ignore the "habitual" aspect (which you really need to define in this context) if you realise that the source of the danger is still present when the individual is not looking at the mirror. You should address the primary danger first, namely that being exposed to whatever the dangerous light source is is harmful. Then you can examine the modifications mirror use may have on the effect, if any.

Generally speaking, in the human visible spectrum, the physiological reaction to squint or turn away helps to protect us from looking at light sources(like the sun) which may be harmful. If your bathroom light is intense enough to be uncomfortable to look at directly, it will almost certainly, depending on how foggy your mirror is, be intense enough to cause discomfort while you look into the mirror shaving, or whatever else you're doing. So look away, or, more practically, step back so that the light source is not in your field of view

If the source alone is truly harmful under conditions of sensible use, get rid of the source and keep your mirrors.

John's just this guy, you know.
Edited by - JohnOAS on 09/25/2006 17:15:03
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jordoskeptic
New Member

6 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  17:43:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send jordoskeptic a Private Message
"Moreover, mirrors are almost exclusively indoors."

Except for the three affixed to an automobile. Anyone who has driven at night has had extremely intense bright light shined into their eyes. Where can I find a scientific study on this specific aspect of night time driving?


"While shaving, a person is only looking at a reflection of their own face, which could be compared to looking directly at another person's face."

Stare into a mirror and cross your eyes. Has it ever been mentioned that the eyes will remain affixed in this position by staring long enough? After doing this in front of a mirror, do it in front of a piece of drywall (or another person) and compare the results. Any hesitation about staring into a mirror with your eyes crossed?


"jordoskeptic, are you avoiding mirrors yourself? Do you personally consider them too dangerous to look into, or is this a mind experiment? If you have an aversion to mirrors, how does it manifest?"


By avoiding mirrors, you're suggesting I'm doing or not doing what? I consider it more of a mind-eye experiment. Ever try not looking into a mirror? No matter how much mental energy I put into avoiding the reflective side of a mirror, I find my eyes attracted to reflective surfaces and I have to mentally stop myself from staring. But, of course, if the light is too bright or offending, I squint or look away. But, really, when I encounter a mirror it feels like my eye is reacting to a juicy piece of fruit. My eyes didn't used to feel this way--used to feeling irritated.

An exercise for the eyes is to look in the direction of each position on the face of a clock. Start at 1 o'clock. Inhale. Exhale. Move on to next hour. Usually people have a tougher time pointing their eyes in the direction of the evening hours. This is another thing that can be done in front of a mirror or a wall with the results compared.

All this and more is profiled in my series of EMPOWERMENT LIVING: MIRRORS NO MORE available for $19.95.

Ok, just kidding. No credit cards please. Really this came about because science has an opinion on the water I drink and the cigarettes I smoke, but not on whether growing up with mirrors causes balding, fatness, cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer's. It's hard to tell what role, if any, mirrors play when there's so little information available. Really should OSHA or the Department of Transportation enforce laws about mirrors without any scientific backing?

"if you realise that the source of the danger is still present when the individual is not looking at the mirror."

This is part of the reason I'm focused on the behavior more than the object--I'm not really against having my back facing the mirror. But the situation isn't entirely based on light or heat. If someone repeatedly turns around and looks at their butt in the mirror, does this eventually cause them to experience back pain? Someone can post a link to an article about this, right?

"You can completely ignore the "habitual" aspect"

Compare two children: 1) grows up with full length closet door mirrors covering an entire bedroom wall. 2) grows up with a mirror in the bathroom which he cannot see without a step stool until he's 8 or 9.

So these two kids aren't going to have any differences and it doesn't matter than the first kid wouldn't have had full length closet door mirrors 50 years ago because they didn't exist?
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  17:51:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by jordoskeptic
Ever try not looking into a mirror? No matter how much mental energy I put into avoiding the reflective side of a mirror, I find my eyes attracted to reflective surfaces and I have to mentally stop myself from staring. But, of course, if the light is too bright or offending, I squint or look away. But, really, when I encounter a mirror it feels like my eye is reacting to a juicy piece of fruit.


Mirrors should not affect you in this manner. It definitely seems symptomatic of a mental issue you may want to have checked out.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  18:01:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by jordoskeptic

"Moreover, mirrors are almost exclusively indoors."

Except for the three affixed to an automobile. Anyone who has driven at night has had extremely intense bright light shined into their eyes. Where can I find a scientific study on this specific aspect of night time driving?


I am pretty certain that the percentage of time spent looking in your car mirrors compared to looking at the road (or your radio, or your cell phone ) is negligable. And why the hell are you asking me to find scientific studies on a topic you brought up? How much research have you done into this topic?
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26002 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  19:06:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by jordoskeptic

Habitual Mirror-looking damages eyeballs.
Okay, there is your positive claim. Where is your evidence to support it?
quote:
The premise that habitual mirror looking is not harmful activity is not as defensible as the premise that it is--anyone can assess the merits of this statement by defending the idea that mirror looking isn't harmful activity. I'm interested in seeing how far the argument can be carried. I don't think it can be carried very far. Moreover, it is not a 'skeptical' attitude.
Of course not, since skepticism isn't about disproving claims by proving the converse assertion. You made a positive claim. If you can't support the claim, then your assertion fails. Simple as that. There's no need for anyone to prove it's harmless if you can't show that it's harmful.
quote:
Moreover, I'm particularly interested in hearing from someone willing to conduct an experiment by avoiding mirrors, covering mirrors in their home, and making deliberate adjustments to their driving habits, since mirrors are required in cars. As in, I want to hear about the results of their experiment.
That doesn't describe an experiment, so there can be no results.
quote:
I'm also open to hearing from life-long habitual mirror lookers willing to defend the practice--there's plenty of those around!!
Name one besides Narcissus.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 09/25/2006 :  19:15:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by jordoskeptic
... making deliberate adjustments to their driving habits, since mirrors are required in cars.
I totally missed this. However, I find it rather ludicrous. Do you think people spend too much time looking in their rear- and side-view mirrors? How much human contact do you get regularly? Have you ever seen a person drive? For ca. 99% of the driving population, asking them to change their mirror-viewing habits while driving would be to ask them to not look at mirrors. It may save their eyes, but that wouldn't matter since they'd die from car accidents. It doesn't make sense.
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