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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Four Eyes

Why do so many scientists wear glasses? Thirty years ago this question was essentially equivalent to "Why so many scientists have bad eyesight?" I don't have a good answer to this second riddle, perhaps some genetic link between scientific ability and eyesight, perhaps scientists don't have worse eyesight than society in general and I just have biased beliefs.

But now the question "Why do so many scientists wear glasses?" has much less to do with eyesight. With advances in contact lenses and surgery most people can do away with their glasses. But most scientists seem to keep their glasses, even wearing them with pride. Is it really a fashion statement? I've asked some of my colleagues, they worry about the price or the risks, both of which are quite low once you do the research.

I couldn't wait to get rid of my glasses. I started wearing contacts in college in the late 80's and had LASIK surgery in 2002. I've had better than 20/20 vision and haven't needed to worry about my eyesight since. How do your glasses feel?

13 comments:

  1. I wanted to get LASIK, but apparently my pupils are so enormous that they couldn't aim a laser around them without singeing them. So I'm stuck with glasses until a new technology comes around.

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  2. scott said...

    I wanted to get LASIK, but apparently my pupils are so enormous


    just where do you teach?

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  3. sorry, a little out of topic here, but anybody know what the record for the most number of phds held by a single person is?

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  4. Perhaps it is not that scientists want to make a fashion statement as much as that they don't mind not following other fashions. So if a person doesn't mind keeping the glasses on, then risks or price become a good enough reason not to undergo LASIK plainly due to the absence of a better reason to undergo it.

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  5. LASIK risks are more significant for scientists because they spend so much time reading. Any defect from the surgery could be really annoying. Scientists may also worry more about long term effects (mostly unknown now).

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  6. sorry, a little out of topic here, but anybody know what the record for the most number of phds held by a single person is?

    Its me. I had to carry several boxes of degree certificates to commencement one year. I'm pretty strong and was able to carry 3 boxes at a time, so I'll just assume that I hold the record.

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  7. I'v heard that most doctors doing LASIK surgeries wear glasses as well. Makes me wonder...

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  8. Do you really consider the price of laser eye surgery low? Last I checked it was on the order of $1-2K, which seems pretty expensive to me.

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  9. Do you really consider the price of laser eye surgery low? Last I checked it was on the order of $1-2K, which seems pretty expensive to me.

    Maybe we should apply the ski rental problem solution to eyesight: How much should you spend on 'renting' good vision (eyeglasses or contacts+solution) before bying the surgery?

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  10. Regarding the old question of "Why so many scientists have bad eyesight?", I was once told that it's because scientists spend a lot of time looking at stuff that is very close to them in terms of distance from the eyes - e.g. reading or looking at computer screens.

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  11. Anonymous 10 is right - myopia (nearsightedness) is acquired from long periods of focusing on objects at short distances, such as reading or using a computer. This explains why it is correlated with scientists (who read a lot), and especially with computer scientists (who also use the computer a lot).

    According to a booklet from the International Myopia Prevention Association,


    acquired myopia, which is also called simple myopia or school myopia, usually increases steadily starting in about the 5th or 6th grade of school. Statistics show that less than 5% of the students are myopic at this age but at the graduate level over 50% are myopic. Acquired myopia has always been considered by most people to be an inherited condition, but studies made over the past 20 years have shown that the actual cause is the stress associated with excessive close work such as reading.

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  12. The internet is truly an adaptive, living organism. Evidence: Lance's blog now has three LASIK adds running on it. These ads spring up like mushrooms after a spring rain, I guess!

    As an aside, Feynman's student Mark Kislinger was a postdoc in the particle theory group at UofC when I was a grad student there.

    Unexpectedly, Mark announced he was leaving physics to go to med school ... Nambu himself tried to persuade Mark to reconsider, but Mark was determined. ... I believe Mark became a very successful LASIK surgeon, and is now retired.

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  13. I wear contacts, and have considered lasik... but my eyesight is not that bad -- sometimes, I forget that I'm not wearing contacts until I try to read a street sign or something else far away. Also, I don't know if you can get it done multiple times, as your eyesight naturally degrades.

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