For some time I’ve been interested in what the world looks like with a different sensorium, so I was curious to know what the world would look like if we could see the polarization of light. To try it out, I bought these glasses and started wearing them:

They are linearly polarized like polarized sunglasses, but the polarization of one eye is 90° off the other. The result is that unpolarized light passes through unmodified, but linearly polarized light shows up differently in each eye, which gives an interesting “shimmer” effect.

Usually the world doesn’t look that interesting with them on, TBH. For most of the day, the only polarized light you see is reflections, so your attention is drawn to cars, plastics and other man-made things.

Around mid-morning, though, it seems that a lot more sunlight in the sky is scattered off the atmosphere, which causes it to become polarized, which gives the sky a very strange appearance.

Here’s the sky at 11 AM in CT with no filter, 45° filter and 135° filter:

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You can get something of a sense for how it looks by looking at the 45° and 135° photos side-by-side, then letting your eyes unfocus until the details line up like a stereogram (e.g. magic eye puzzles).

Here are two pictures I’ve stitched together to make that easier:

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Fun fact: This is also a great way to solve “spot the difference” pictures, because when you treat two basically identical photos as a stereogram, you get that “shimmer” effect on anything different between the two, making the answer obvious:

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