Warning: Reading blogs can cause blindness

I was reading an article online recently that has me a little worried. Some researchers at the University of Texas Galveston Medical School have been doing studies on retinal aberrations caused by extensive reading of online material, particularly blogs. The results are distressing.

Believe it or not, reading blogs can make you go blind.

Apparently, the human eye is much better at reading non-backlit text. The florescence of a computer monitor combined with the particular eye movements involved in reading text are a toxic combination, which can cause the eye to gradually lose the ability to discern the high-contrast portions of the screen, which includes all the text.

Some relevant facts about the human eye:

The structure of the mammalian eye can be divided into three main layers or tunics whose names reflect their basic functions: the fibrous tunic, the vascular tunic, and the nervous tunic.

* The fibrous tunic, also known as the tunica fibrosa oculi, is the outer layer of the eyeball consisting of the cornea and sclera. The sclera gives the eye most of its white color. It consists of dense connective tissue filled with the protein collagen to both protect the inner components of the eye and maintain its shape.

* The vascular tunic, also known as the tunica vasculosa oculi, is the middle vascularized layer which includes the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. The choroid contains blood vessels that supply the retinal cells with necessary oxygen and remove the waste products of respiration. The choroid gives the inner eye a dark color, which prevents disruptive reflections within the eye.

* The nervous tunic, also known as the tunica nervosa oculi, is the inner sensory which includes the retina. The retina contains the photosensitive rod and cone cells and associated neurons. To maximise vision and light absorption, the retina is a relatively smooth (but curved) layer. It has two points at which it is different; the fovea and optic disc. The fovea is a dip in the retina directly opposite the lens, which is densely packed with cone cells. It is largely responsible for color vision in humans, and enables high acuity, such as is necessary in reading. The optic disc, sometimes referred to as the anatomical blind spot, is a point on the retina where the optic nerve pierces the retina to connect to the nerve cells on its inside. No photosensitive cells exist at this point, it is thus “blind”. In addition to the rods and cones, a small proportion (about 2% in humans) of the ganglion cells in the retina are photosensitive through the pigment melanopsin. They are generally most excitable by blue light, about 470 nm. Their information is sent to the SCN (suprachiasmatic nuclei), not to the visual center, through the retinohypothalamic tract which is formed as melanopsin-sensitive axons exit the optic nerve. It is these light signals which regulate circadian rhythms in mammals and several other animals. Many, but not all, totally blind individuals have their circadian rhythms adjusted daily in this way.

. . . and a bunch of other really interesting stuff.

If you’ve read this far, I sincerely apologize – the prank did not work for you. You need to have Javascript enabled in whatever browser you’re using to view this post.

Happy April Fools’ Day, 2008.

No Responses to “Warning: Reading blogs can cause blindness”

  1. Plum Texan Says:

    Nice one. I’ll be kind enough to slightly censor the first thing that came out of my mouth (but I was grinning, to be sure):

    You f&*#er.


  2. Hilary from Canada Says:

    Brilliant David!! Thanks for the laugh!

  3. Margaret Says:

    That’s so funny, that I pointed everybody over here from my blog! Can’t think of a cleverer entry. Thanks for the laugh.

  4. Pihoqahiaq Says:

    That was amazingly funny! You got me .. first thing in the morning. I didnt go for the *&@&*$.. but first thing out of my mouth was a big laugh and “You’re a jerk!” Thanks for the laugh!

  5. Nic Says:

    Very good! It certainly had me fooled 😀

  6. Paul Says:

    HA! That was GREAT!

  7. Diana Says:

    Absolutely brilliant!

  8. Rachel Says:

    nice, David!

  9. Woolly Woman Says:

    Love it, love it, love it!

  10. Michelle Says:

    Hey, I was trying to read that!

  11. Jason Says:

    LMAO, too funny.

  12. Kath Says:

    Very clever – best AFD joke I’ve seen in ages!

  13. TheAmpuT Says:


  14. Stephieface Says:


  15. bezzie Says:

    I only do it when Gods not watching. 😉

    Sadly it took my computer a while to let me in on the joke!

  16. Ellen-Mary Says:

    Well done! I totally bought it for a minute there.

  17. Birdy Says:

    Thankfully I “got” it when you wrote about the “fibrous tunic” and was spared the going blind bit.

    Great trick!

  18. Hilary Says:

    SO clever! 😉

  19. Sam Says:

    Best April Fool since the ThinkGeek April Fool’s newsletter. >.>

  20. amanda Says:

    very funny!

  21. Jeff Says:

    Dave, there’s nothing funny about aqueous humor. 😉

  22. Enid Says:

    You’re a genius!!!!

  23. Brian Says:

    way to use your power for good and not evil Droth

  24. Amanda Says:

    Dear David,

    you suck.

  25. Cryssyer Says:

    You suck dude! LOL this was amazingly funny :)

  26. Norma Says:

    ROFL. I wanna steal this! Hahahaaha.

  27. Miss Scarlett Says:

    That’s freakin’ brilliant!