Science Scan

An eye-opening memoir

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Fixing My Gaze" (Basic Books, $15.95)

Susan R. Barry shares her story of learning to see in three dimensions in this memoir. As a child, Barry had three operations to fix her crossed eyes (a condition called strabismus), but she didn't realize that she couldn't see in 3-D until she attended a college lecture on vision. (A professor was explaining the now disproved theory that people with strabismus would never be able to see in 3-D, even if their eyes were later straightened, because that ability could only develop early in life.) Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks wrote about her in a 2006 New Yorker article, dubbing her "Stereo Sue." The best moment of the book is when Barry explains the surprises of seeing a 3-D world for the first time at age 48, after completing visual therapy: "A large sink faucet reached out toward me, and I thought I had never seen such a lovely arc." As a neurobiologist, Barry is in a unique position to tell her life story because she can, and does, give scientific explanations for why her eyes and brain could not produce 3-D images, and how she fixed that problem.


Global snapshots

"One Day on Earth"

What will you be doing on Oct. 10? Grab a video camera and start shooting because a group called One Day on Earth is looking for volunteer filmmakers to tell unique stories about their lives on that day (10/10/10). The footage will be edited down into a two-hour film that ambitiously aims to document snippets of the human experience in every country in the world for that 24-hour period. According to a statement on the project's Web site, this "will foster a greater sense of global empathy and, ultimately, action towards a more sustainable and equitable planet." Sign up at

-- Rachel Saslow

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