By Bob Jamison

          “Oh wad some powr the giftie gie us; to see oursels as ithers see us”: From a poem, “Ode to a louse” by Robert Burns (l759-l796), the poet often known as the poet of Scotland. The satirical comedy in a poem was said to come from an event in church. It seems Miss Bertie, better than you, was in her finest garb. A person sitting behind her noticed a louse crawling up the back of her neck, though not so uncommon in those days of the 18th century. The supposition was that she was not so clean as she was assumed to be.

          We might say at times sight is confusing if not deceiving. Take for instance what lower forms of animals might see. An example could be your family dog. If you stand perfectly still on your lawn and your dog runs around the corner he will NOT recognize you unless the wind brings your scent to him. Move and he has you identified. Why? That’s my question.

          Cats have rods and cones in their eyes that make them a remarkable night hunter. Their slanted pupils become wider which apparently brings in more light. This was discovered by some scientific experiments to determine why some animals are striped and maybe why even some fish are as well. The search centered on zebras. The greatest enemy of zebras is lions. The study hypothesis included that the zebra’s bold stripes makes it clearly visible in daylight but at night when cats stalk prey, the zebra becomes invisible. That was their speculation.

          How they discovered this was watching lions at night with night vision goggles. It seems that these special ‘see at night’ goggles might resemble the cat’s ability to see in the dark. But lo, while watching zebras they walked freely among wildebeest at night and were not seen through the night vision goggles or by the other animals they said. Is it true? You decide.

          Some time back a study was made about shark attacks. A simple experiment included two black wet suits which are normally worn by divers in colder water. Each suit was filled with fish. One suit remained black and the other painted with white stripes. The black suit was torn to shreds by sharks and the striped one untouched. Did the stripes make the suit appear to be invisible to sharks?

          Outdoor lovers such as birders, hikers and hunters (particularly bow hunters) have been a favorite customer of camouflage clothing. Some garments are even sprayed or washed with scent eradication material that is said to disguise human odor most animals detect. But what about color and patterns or even artificial leaves made with plastic to ensure their concealment? Is either being effective?

          Printed patterns on clothing resembling woods or brush have been best sellers. Why not striped camouflage? Doesn’t it make sense that if some animals have distorted vision by striped patterns that clever designs of limbs with subdued background and prominent limb patterns might be effective? Some advertisers of camouflage clothing claim that patterns of blue colors are not seen by most animals.

          This brings to mind why some felons are dressed in black and white stripes while in prison. Is it because humans can see them better? It would seem so and if they escape and find themselves in a zoo amongst a pride of lions, maybe they would be saved. After all, striped clothing could have helped Daniel.