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Why can two eyes see the same object?

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When we look at an object with our eyes, both eyes receive light reflected by the object at the same time and send signals to the brain. The brain then combines the information from the two eyes to form an image. In that case, why do we grow two eyes? Why don’t we choose to grow only one eye in the center of the head, like the Cyclops in Greek mythology?

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Two eyes allow us to see three-dimensional images, which one eye cannot do. The two human eyes are about 5 cm apart, so the two eyes can see the same object from slightly different angles.

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This can be verified through practice: stare at an object about 30 cm away from you, such as an alarm clock, and first observe with both eyes; then cover the right eye and observe with the left eye; finally cover the left eye and observe with the right eye. You will notice that the position of the clock is moving because the two eyes are actually looking at the alarm clock from different angles. The right eye sees a little more to the right side of the alarm clock, and the left eye sees a little more to the left. If you simply stack the images in the two eyes together, they will not completely overlap.

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When the brain receives two pictures, it integrates them into a three-dimensional image. Looking with both eyes helps us judge depth. In contrast, looking with one eye, you will find that the alarm clock seems to be flatter. This type of observation is called binocular vision. Just like looking at distant objects with binoculars, we also see the world through two lenses.

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The eyes of adult insects are called compound eyes, and compound eyes consist of many small eye faces, each of which is equivalent to a lens.

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For a long time, we have thought that the “compound eye” is only a patent of insects, etc., and the human eye is a “single eye” and a “camera eye”. Because the “eye” of dragonflies and flies is under the microscope, it is a “whole eye” composed of many “independent eyes”, and each “independent eye” plays the “function” of an eye. And our human eye is an “eye” like a single-hole camera under the microscope, so people call our eye a “camera eye”.

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However, when you do the following experiment, you will change your previous view. Take a wire that is neither thin nor thick, such as a earphone cable. Then close one eye and bring the earphone cable to your eyes. At this time, you will find that you can see the “behind” through the earphone cable. However, the “camera” will not work, it will be “blocked”. So why is this the case? In fact, this principle is the same as when we see things with two eyes, we can see the things behind through our fingers. The principle is the same, that is, what one eye sees compensates for what the other eye does not see. So that is to say: all the visual cells in our eyes act as “one eye” to compensate each other for vision.

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A fly usually has more than 4,000 small eye faces on the surface of one compound eye, and when it looks at a flower, a small part of the flower appears in each small eye face. The fly’s brain then integrates thousands of images to form a complete image of the flower, a process like putting together a mural from thousands of mosaics.

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For animals with compound eyes, the closer they get to an object, the better they can see. For humans, when we stick an object to our eyes, the image of the object becomes blurred. But for a fly, it’s only when it’s lying on top of the object that it can really see the object clearly. After all, insects are small animals, and for them, the real threat usually appears within a few centimeters, not a few meters away.

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