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Surviving in Space



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Which Way Is Up?
Photograph by Cary Wolinsky


Seeing really is believing: A man strapped to a wall in a special room that has been slowly tilted 90 degrees—putting him on the floor—is persuaded by his surroundings that he is still upright. In this tumbling room at York University in Toronto, mannequins, tables, and cups are all bolted in position to keep them from falling. Though gravity-sensing organs in the subject’s inner ear tell him he’s horizontal, his eyes—cued to what he sees in the room—overrule this information. Spin him and another effect is produced. “He’s influenced entirely by what he sees,” says Ian P. Howard, director of York’s Human Performance Laboratory, “and he perceives that he is vertical, cartwheeling head over heels.” Astronauts in orbit can experience a similar illusion. With no gravity cues, they rely on what they see for spatial orientation.



Camera: Nikon N90
Film Type: Fujichrome Provia 100
Lens: Nikon 17-35mm
Speed and F-Stop: 2 sec @ f/11
Weather Conditions: N/A
Time of Day: N/A
Lighting Techniques: Strobe and tungsten mix


SPECIAL EQUIPMENT OR COMMENTS:
The tumbling room at York University presented a special challenge because I had to find a place to hide all my lights in the room, then I had to secure them so that when the room rotated on its axis the lights would remain in place. Jim Zacher, one of the principal investigators in the project, worked with me for two long days to set up the lights and secure them. Robert Allison, another investigator on the project, had the unfortunate job of being the guy on the turntable.


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