Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Search Challenge (11/5/14): Plausible or not, and why...?

TODAY I want to delve into the more difficult SearchResearch task of trying to validate difficult-to-believe stories. 

This happens all the time, at least to me.  I'm listening to a lecture, or reading a newspaper, or listening to a story on the radio and--WHAM!--there's a story I find a bit... questionable. 

So this week, for your consideration, are two pieces of stories I heard this week that immediately made my Question Antenna go up.  

Our challenge for this week is to try and determine if the story is plausible, or just kinda whacky.  

This kind of search is often complex because of the competing forces at work (some people want you to believe their story, while others seek to deny it).  The research you have to do will always balance the sources you find against each other.  

Here they are:  Can you determine if they make sense or not? 

From: The Pirates Own Book, Or Authentic Narratives of the Lives, Exploits,
and Executions of the Most Celebrated Sea Robbers (1837)
1.  Pirate eyepatches:  In a lecture this week I heard the speaker say that "...the reason pirates are often depicted wearing an eyepatch over one eye is that they'd keep that eye dark-adapted in case they were going to jump aboard a ship they'd captured and needed to instantly be able to see in the depths of a dark ship interior.  Remember, in those days there was no on-ship interior lighting, so you needed to be able to flip up the eyepatch and have one dark adapted eye ready-to-see."   Really?  
2.  Rocker sunglasses:  Recently, the rock star Bono announced that he's been wearing sunglasses constantly for the past twenty years to help with his glaucoma.  I immediately wondered--does that make sense, is it plausible story?  How can sunglasses help with glaucoma? Is it really a treatment?  (Or is it a ruse to give him plausible reason to be cool.)  

Plausible or not?  

Of course, we'd prefer to see reputable sources in your analysis.  So, as you try to figure out if these stories make sense, tell us WHY you considered one source to be reputable... or not.  

Start digging.  This might lead you to some interesting places.   

Search on! 


  1. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers

    Searched and Answers

    1. Pirate eye patches: Really?

    [Pirate eye patches origin]

    Mythbusters says: Pirates wore eyepatches to preserve night vision in one eye. PLAUSIBLE

    Another point of view with historic data.
    WSJ: "...eye sensitivity continues to change for up to 25 minutes..."
    101 Amazing Pirate Facts: Fun Historical Pirate Trivia for kids! book By Children's History Press.

    Book says it was for vision, also talks about earrings and the Jolly Roger
    Pirate: The Golden Age By David Rickman Howard Pyle created the archetypal pirate

    [Howard Pyle]

    Howard Pyle has long been considered ‘The Father of American Illustration,’ as much for his prolific and superb work as a writer and illustrator as for his commitment to teaching

    [howard pyle around(4)pirates]
    [howard pyle around(4)pirates] Book price, december 2, 1921. 6 dollars. Inflation calculator says that is 79.79 current dollars.

    [pirate eye patch fact subject:"History / Military / Naval"]

    After reading, it sounds plausible. They did use eye patches with injuries. Eye patches can help to adapt to night vision and there is no evidence that says thats the true or only reason they wore patches

    2. Rocker sunglasses:is it plausible story? How can sunglasses help with glaucoma? Is it really a treatment? (Or is it a ruse to give him plausible reason to be cool.)

    [sunglasses around(3) glaucoma]

    Reuters: ""If somebody takes my photograph, I will see the flash for the rest of the day. My right eye swells up. I've a blockage there, so that my eyes go red a lot. So it's part vanity, it's part privacy and part sensitivity," the "With or Without You" singer told Rolling Stone magazine in a 2005 interview.

    [sunglasses around(3) glaucoma treatment]

    Does wearing sunglasses help glaucoma?
    A recent report suggests that certain wavelengths of light could be bad for the optic nerve. This hasn’t been proven yet but it would be wise to wear sunglasses and a hat on very bright days.
    Glaucoma Research Society of Canada. A Guide to Sunglasses

    A: Sunglasses help to Glaucoma. They prevent that light hits eye nerves that hurts people. Reading says they should screen out 75-90% of visible light. With that, people has better life. It is not a treatment and yes, it is a tool that helps.

    Very interesting facts and lots of fun.

    1. More on pirates.

      QI Pirates facts

      Eye patches/pirates Fred, I just found this new link with talk forums about QI.

  2. 1. According to Wikipedia (and Mythbusters) the story is plausible. Aircraft pilots have worn eyepatches for this purpose. But Wikipedia goes on to say that naval combat manuals and military histories from the 18th century do not give any evidence of this technique being used.

    Then there is this from the Snopes blog, "What seem to be contemporary portraits of Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd, Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Bartholemew Roberts do not show any of them with eyepatches, nor do their sailors have them. While some of them are on shore, some of them are on board ships. While the pirates in question could have removed them for the portrait or sketch, it would be odd that they would if it was such a common thing." A link to some portraits is included.

    and this: "Wouldn't the lack of short-range depth perception during the fight above decks be a significant disadvantage, or were they relying on being good enough fighters that it didn't matter?"

    and this: "Plus, there's the fact that, in a noisy environment like a ship, your eyes are probably your most useful means of determining threats and by wearing an eyepatch, you basically create a blindside from which enemies can surprise you."

    So there are arguments for and against the advisability of the practice, and little to no historical evidence that pirates even wore eyepatches, let alone for this reason. I'd come down on the side of implausible for this one.

    2. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, "Glaucoma can cause a number of vision problems, such as loss of contrast sensitivity, problems with glare, and light sensitivity." Sunglasses might help with this, so I'd say this one is plausible.

  3. First I want to know causes and the Mayo clinic which is the first result seems like a good place to begin.
    However we are presented with five types of glaucoma. So perhaps [prevention glaucoma] within the Mayo site is better. site.:mayoclinicorg “prevent glaucoma” to Glaucoma Prevention . Included in the list is “Also wear hats and sunglasses if you spend time outside.”
    So that explains why one might wear sunglasses outdoors. Query [wear sunglasses indoors to prevent glaucoma] brings up reports about Bono.

    Richard C. Senelick, M.D.Neurologist, [board certified] wrote an article 2012 in Huffingpost Health Blog “Why Some People Wear Sunglasses Indoors”. He lists several reasons why one might wear them but glaucoma isn’t on the list. Now to qualify his comments is Neurologist a Ophthmalogist? I found at Wiki that Neuro-ophthalmology merges the fields of neurology and ophthalmology. In examining Dr. Senelick’s qualifications he did work in the field of neuro-ophthamology so I would rely on his opinions. I took one step further & began limiting my search to 1990-2001, the time when Bono began to wear sunglasses indoors. This article as well as some others points to dealing with migraines by wearing sunglasses indoors. Trademark, vanity or medical advice it could come down to simply believing this could help and not hurt. No matter, it’s Bono’s trademark and he does it in style.

    1. My first line is missing Query [cause glaucoma] links to Mayo Clinic.

      I decided to search question two first because I felt I would find more information on ophthamology. Now I'll search question #1.

    2. Query [eye patch benefits vision myth or fact pirates]

      Second results

      Comments by Jim Sheedy, a doctor of vision science and director of the Vision Performance Institute at Oregon's Pacific University. And it links to Mythbusters 2007
      Both suggest the idea of maintaining vision a dark environment was plausible. I verified that Jim Sheedy is at the Pacific University Oregon, Vision Performance Institute. Dr.Sheedy is connected to the Pacific University News and there is a link to his comments which also mentions the Wall Street Journal. So I need to see the original article to confirm what he said. He did say “Smart pirates "wore a patch over one eye to keep it dark-adapted outside.". Plausible yes.

    3. Nicely done. Excellent research (and great documentation).

  4. Started looking for the pirate question and there was lots of results that referred back to the Mythbusters TV show on this topic so I'm going to come back to this one after going through the results more thoroughly.
    Moving on to the issue of sunglasses as a treatment for glaucoma did a search for glaucoma sunglasses. The first result was from the Glaucoma Research Foundation and states: "Glaucoma can make eyes highly sensitive to light and glare, with some glaucoma medications exacerbating the problem even further.Sunglasses are an easy solution that makes life more comfortable when outdoors, while also providing critical protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays." I then did a second search "glaucoma treatment sunglasses" and one of the top results was from the Univ. of Maryland Medical Center- The article was pretty long so I used control F to look for the word sunglasses and found that this article also talked about the need for sunglasses when outside or in strong light and went on to say that the wearing of sunglasses would help alleviate the sensitivity to light caused by glaucoma and possibly worsened by the medications but that the use of sunglasses would help prevent cataracts. So Bono's statement that the sunglasses helped with his glaucoma is probably true as his eyes might have been made very sensitive to any light. I didn't find any articles that said glaucoma patients needed to wear sunglasses indoors but all the articles mentioned a sensitivity to light and in Bono's case his glaucoma and the possible amplifying effects of any medication he is taking for this condition makes his story very plausible.

  5. Replies
    1. Good Morning, everyone!

      Thanks to you, Remmij. Very interesting. I liked specially red color in FAA, brain, ET.

      When I was young, thought that airplanes pilots and soccer referees couldn't have vision problems. That was a myth too.

      About ET. In Mexico, Jaime Mausan and his t3rcer Milenio always have brought attention to this phenomeon.

    2. Hello, Remmmij. How do you find so many pages and articles? Very interesting thinks you find. Maybe you should create a Remmijpedia? :)

      I have a lot to read and learn. I didn't understand your question and that is why I don't have an answer.

      In the Art Bell searched for Tesla and found great video. About Popocatépetl; in this time normally we have lots of plume, ash and amazing photos. Did you see the one I just posted?

      Great afternoon, Remmij

  6. I woke up thinking about this challenge (eye patch). Not with an answer yet, but in awe that you were able to find or uncover a question with such recursive results. I spent time reading the discussion board on Snopes regarding it. I'm not pleased with either the Wall Street Journal answer or the Mythbusters. With the Mythbusters, it's a TV show and although it approaches things from a somewhat scientific method, I would not use any of their findings as the end all conclusions.

    The more questions I have come up after reading:
    Why aren't more pirates shown with patches? Surely only 1 or 2 would not be the only ones heading into the darkness of the ship.
    What are the effects of monocular vision and how would that negatively impact their job as a pirate? Depth perception, etc.?

    So I'm off to find a way to break out of this and see if there is any other real evidence that pirates even did don eye patches.

    I hope you'll share how you came up with the challenge.

    1. articles after the turn of this century seem skewed by myth-busters
      some musings on being patchless
      used [pirate eye patch myth]
      Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah
      perhaps useful - pyrates - 1724 earlier survey
      found here: aboot ed - Latin American history?
      goo books
      pergaps an ear patch would have been more handy - TRANSDERM SCOP (scopolamine) aargh seasickness

    2. articles after the turn of this century seem skewed by myth-busters & Hollywood (posted earlier, but failed to show)
      some musings on being patchless
      used [pirate eye patch myth]
      Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah
      perhaps useful - pyrates - 1724 earlier survey
      found here: 'aboot' ed - Latin American history?
      goo books

  7. Search [eyepatch in cinema] turns up this gem

    and Pirate Special: Only rated plausible because there is no recorded historical precedent for this myth. ANd if Mythbusters say it is so, it is.

    I ran the same search in ebsco using my brand new Alumnus card that you suggested we get. 4,500 journals searched and nothing found in them.

    Bono: Yes the shades help to slow the damage to his eyes caused by glaucoma.

    Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology 2007; 35: 305-309 says a family history of glaucoma makes wearing shades advisable.

    I don't know if Mr Bono has a family history of glaucoma. It can't hurt him to use sunglasses to protect his eyes.

    My new card is paying off already.

    Thanks for the tip

    jon tU

    1. Glad to hear it's worked out for you already. Keep it up! (All other SearchResearchers, get busy and get your own!)

  8. Is it me or is it Google?

    I went back to try different search skills and thought I need to practice using what we learned at the beginning of October with Books and LOC subject headers. I tried using what I found Subject:"Pirates" and even Subject:"Pirates--History" and didn't find much.

    I went over to Google Scholar and tried to search for [ pirate eye patch ] and eliminated patents and citations. The SERP was populated with books. The problem is these books were not scholarly non-fiction books, but children's books. Not what I was expecting and not helpful. So were the corpuses separate and now getting cross-referenced?

    1. Hi Dr. Russell and Fred. I was thinking about this: "The problem is these books were not scholarly non-fiction books, but children's books".

      There is a way to exclude some books? I think maybe if we add (-) could work. Or maybe add scholarly to the query?

      [Subject:"Pirates--History" -kids -non-fiction]
      [subject:"pirates--history" -kids] another question is this a good way to search? [subject:"pirates--history" -kids|children]


    2. Fred -- I didn't seem to have that problem. The query [ Subject:"Pirates--History" ] in Google Books gave me a fair number of decent results back, including a lot of non-juvenile books. Some are for young readers, but not all.

      It's true that this search in Scholar doesn't give great results. I take it that there just aren't many scholarly papers on this topic; I guess that doesn't surprise me much. There are a few historical results, but not many about ophthalmology.

    3. Have you tried filtering your search by raising the reading level to advanced/intermediate? I used Query [pirates history eye patch] Reading Level Advanced which gave me several hits including some historical books.

    4. [Pirates: Fact and Fiction] and [Pirates: Fact and Fiction intext:"eye patches"] that I tried after reading Sarah George post, gives good results. I tried this query after doing [ pirates]

      From BBC and National Geographic.
      MYTH: Pirates wore eye patches due to battle scars.
      FACT: The image of the maimed pirate was popularized through Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and it unintentionally expressed an important truth: seafaring was a terribly dangerous line of work. Sailors routinely lost eyes, hands, and legs to flying splinters and chunks of wood in naval battle and to accidents on board the ship (i.e., shifting cargo, falling gear)

  9. Think this search is a reminder to us not to make assumptions.
    I ended up on the snopes site which reminded me that perhaps pirates wearing eyepatches is a fiction anyway – thus the entire premise is suspicious.

    I don't have time to write this up now but in Google Books I found:
    “Under the Black FlagThe Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates” by David Cordingly, 2013.
    Sadly no preview available although there are previous editions of same book with some preview.
    He used to work for the UK National Maritime Museum so should be credible.
    I did find a review of a previous edition at:

    This actually mentions eyepatches as a true occurance.

    I also got completely sidetracked by the National Maritime Museum site which is fascinating – I find ships interesting and beautiful, especially sail ships but even the huge container ships have a certain beauty to me.

    1. I've got this book somewhere at home, and will take a look for it this weekend.

    2. Dr. Russell, I think you have preview of the book that Sarah mentions. I have the preview and no mention about neither eyepatches nor eye patches Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates By David Cordingly, 2013

    3. …doh, meant to add this as a bit o' nautical eye salt… courtesy of S. George
      enjoyed the Black Flag/Wooden Legs and Parrots preview Ramón