Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary
Biology/Real Universe


Those of us with some sense of masochism sometimes wonder what the universe is REALLY like. Alas, we'll never know. Like it or not, our subjective view of the universe is filtered almost beyond belief. Indeed, with the limitations of our minds, there can be no objective view. Take something seemingly as simple as vision. We can see only a small segment of the electromagnetic spectrum. Our visual interpretation necessarily is far different from that of a bee. What about the color red? Is there a basic physical reason why the particular wavelengths we perceive as red have to be so-perceived? Wouldn't the subjective color yellow be just as valid? For that matter, people with red-green color blindness obviously see red differently, to say nothing of those animals without any kind of color perception.

The point is that in sight, as in almost everything else, what we perceive to be the world is in reality selected portions subjectively interpreted. Based on the real universe? Undoubtedly. But a real universe mostly invisible to us and certainly different than we can ever experience.
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.