Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Search Challenge (8/12/15): Finding things from other cultures

Often the most difficult ... 

... Challenges come from friends who are Googlers (so they've already done their own searching on the topic), and who are still stumped by what they seek. 

Difficult Challenges are also characterized by not knowing where to start.  That was the case a couple of weeks ago with the oddly-shaped industrial roof-line, and it's definitely the case when you're searching for something that's NOT in your own culture.  In Search Challenges like this, you literally don't know where to start, and that makes the searching harder than usual.  

Two we have two Challenges, one that's difficult (from a Danish Googler friend) and one that's pretty straightforward, but also comes from another culture.  

Challenge #1 comes from my friend Elin. She's a Google Researcher from Denmark who wrote to me with the following question:  

I am looking for the name (and detailed function) of an instrument I remember from my childhood, in  early 60s.
Back then, it was common that opticians had this mounted on their storefront window, for the education and amusement of bypassers on the sidewalk, and most likely also to bring people into buy new frames and lenses.
When you looked, with one eye at a time, into a scope, you would see colored circles, I think it was a blue circle with a larger red one behind. Deformity in the circle was an indicator of astigmatism (as far as I remember), but perhaps there were other aspects as well.
As kids, we loved to "test" ourselves when we walked by the store.  Maybe we were early quantified self'ers...  
I have asked around among people aged 50-60, but no Americans seem to have experienced this. Some Danes and Germans remember this, growing up in urban cities with lots of store fronts.  But nobody seem to remember the name and exact functionality.

1.  WHAT is the name of this device that Elin describes?  Can you figure out who made (or still makes) them? 

This week's second Challenge comes from my travels in northern California.  While on a trail walk, I came across the following fascinating place.  Here are my pictures from that remarkable field of beautifully carved wooden sculptures with images of horses.  I somehow doubt they were put here by the Dothraki.... 

Click on each of these images to see the photo in full resolution.  

You can see why I was so astonished at running across these posts, kind of in the middle of an open field.  What?  How?  And furthermore, Why?  

2.  What are these posts for?  Who built them, and why?  

Remember to let us know HOW you found the answer, what you did to make your research path work out!  

(Caution:  Neither Elin nor I have the answer to Challenge #1, so we'll be searching as well this week.  But I do know that Challenge #2 is fairly straightforward. But if the SRS Regulars aren't making any headway by Friday, I'll post a hint in an update.)  

Search on!  


  1. [Denmark OR Germany optician 1960..1970]in Web and Images.

    Image Fun image and not what we are looking for.

    [optical signs store denmark]

    [ribena denmark ancient opticians store]

    Also searched Google Advanced Search trying only Denmark. And asked someone that lives there. Still waiting answer.

    Tried other queries with no results. Be back with other results.

    1. Ramon, I too have asked a Dane about this. She is a Medical Doctor and may know someone who knows someone...I hope we both have a reply

      jon tU

    2. Wrote and asked to British Optical Association Museum, the College of Optometrists about the instrument.

      Neil Handley answered and told me they never heard of that instrument and share this with us. "British optometrists were, for a long time, strongly discouraged from having any form of window display at all, on the grounds that it was unprofessional and smacked of commercialism."

      Very interesting, right?

    3. After a few common-word searches, I also came to the conclusion that I would not be able to tell what might have been correct about Elin's instrument. (I found the Duochrome Disks, as others have as well, and several of my [circle astigmatism ...] queries led to Placido's Disk, but I couldn't tell if it was associated with a scope and was popular the 60s in Denmark, Germany etc.)

      So like Ramón, I decided to search for places that might have either photos, artifacts ... or experts whom I might ask if they recognized the instrument from Elin's scanty description.

      [antique optometric instruments] led me to:

      a) the Harold Kohn Vision Science Library at the SUNY College of Optometry (

      b) the American Optical Association Foundation (archives/museum) (, and

      c) the New England College of Optometry (

      I wrote to each. I heard back promptly from helpful folks at SUNY, who passed it on to her faculty, and NECO, who recommended that I contact Dr. David Fleishman, M.D., who "is curator of an online exhibit of antique spectacles and other vision aids ( and an expert on optical history" ... and is associated with the Ocular Heritage Society or the Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors Club.

      Searching for [history optometry Denmark] led to this 1965 article (behind a paywall), which might contain an answer: "Optometry in Denmark" by Nielsen, J.F. -- American journal of optometry and archives of American Academy of Optometry 42: 1965 Jan pg 24-30 ( Maybe someone has access to this publication?

      ... and the European Council on Optometry and Optics ( ... whom I wrote, asking the question.

      I'll report if I learn anything interesting. :-)

      -- Mike in San Jose

  2. These are ceremonial hitching posts called serge, built and erected as part of the Days of Sakha Culture Festival to recognize the Yakut people.

    Examined the EXIF data from photos, and the lat/long led to map of Northern California focusing on Gualala Point Regional Park

    Googled: wooden horse totems gualala point regional park
    Searched images, and found several photos of these statues

    A website with beautiful photos of the statues being carved:

  3. 2. What are these posts for? Who built them, and why?

    Jeffrey's places it/them near Sea Ranch in Gualala Point Park. We recall that there was a Russian trading post/fort here Fort Ross 200 years ago. This finds many more images: Anthonia C says Russian ceremonial poles called Serge (ser-gay). There was a Sakha Festival 2014 honoring the relationship with the Sahka people in Russia who first came to Fort Ross 1814.

    Culture Incarnate: Native Anthropology from Russia
    By Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer says on pp 202 The serge was used not only as a tethering post but also as a sacred marker of special occaisions

    Short vid of the poles being carved 2014 at

    And at the same address a 20 minute vid in which the poles are called totem poles

  4. 1. WHAT is the name of this device that Elin describes? Can you figure out who made (or still makes) them?

    [optical device instrument red green circles]

    A very technical article which describes its use for determination of degree of 'perfect' eyesight...(exactly why it wouold available in an optician's office)...

    The Duochrome Test is based on the principle of axial chromatic aberration, that is, that the shorter wavelengths of light (i.e., green) is refracted more by the eye’s optics than longer wavelengths of light (i.e., red). The duochrome test examines the position of the focus of the green and red wavelengths with respect to the retina and theoretically enables precise determination of the spherical correction or of the Circle of Least Confusion (COLC).
    Was promoted by but made for Harry Freeman by Raphaels Ltd. He built upon the work of Louis Cowen from Brixton.

    jon tU

    1. Great job Jon, I think you have the answer. After reading your post:

      [optician devices duochrome test]

      The Ophthalmic Assistant, explains why red-green is more used than cobalt-blue.

      [optician devices test]

      Optical instruments gallery

      The target objects in this example are known as Verhoeff's Circles (the black circles in the colored part. Snellen test is mentioned. One of the colours is always red. The other may be green or blue.

      [Verhoeff's Circles]

      [old opticians devices]

    2. I did find the Duochrome test as well and it may be the test but I think we need to find the "scope". At the same link I noticed it said "used in conjunction with the crossed cylinder". That is what I have yet to find & was it available in mid 20th century in Europe.

      If this is a scope then we have some credibility that it was a tool used as a preliminary test. We will need to confirm its uses as well.

      I hope to find time to explore this further.

    3. Jon, hope you have a better answer, the person I asked said she didn't know the device.

      RRR, you are right, no scope. Maybe as The College of Optometrists say, "'The red and green bit' on an optician's test chart can also be a separate instrument", we need to verify.

      Also, maybe view all these: Optical instruments

      The Sutcliffe New Keratometer was a heavy beast on an iron tripod stand. Developing out of the Chambers-Innskeep (Chicago) model of 1899, it featured a head rest, single eyepiece, astigmatism dial and lamp unit on a swivelling base. The second instrument shown is from circa 1907.

      Tried using queries like [Germany optician astigmatism instrument 1950..1970] and similar. Only found this link with images that show instruments: The Museum Collections held at the Archives & Museum of Optometry No answer, and plenty of interesting things. Sadly carousel hardly changes photos.

  5. 2. Downloading the picture of the center post, using exiftool, locates the image as being:

    GPS Position : 38 deg 45' 25.57" N, 123 deg 31' 2.12" W

    Google Maps shows it's just off the Sea Ranch Golf Links and near Gualala Point Regional Park.
    Searching for [horses near gulala point regional park] leads to a description of the Sakha Cultural Festival at

    -- Nick

  6. After spending time searching for tools used by opticians/optometrists I'm mid 20th century from credible sources I couldn't find a scope described even in loose terms. I think this challenge is complicated by the fact that we don't know if this tool was a legitimate tool for testing. If not we would be looking for a marketing tool.

    1. On spec I decided to search "kaleidoscope" thinking that this type of scope may have been used for entertainment by opticians. Turns out there is an eye condition called the kaleidoscope effect but other than the that nothing concrete.

      My next avenue will be searching for magazines or newspapers with advertising of this tool by opticians. Perhaps someone has explored this already.

  7. 2. What are these posts for? Who built them, and why?

    Exif Data: 38.757103 degrees N, 123.517256 degrees W

    [horses totems gualala california] web and images

    A Day with the People of Sakha "...The cultural festival today is designed to further strengthen the bonds between our regions here on the Sonoma Coast and the Sakha Republic in the Russian Federation.

    Sakha Cultural Festival

    Yakut Totem Ceremony

    "...Ancient nomadic tribes such as the Yakutians use "serge" as a pole to tie their horses. But it has deeper meanings as a symbol of life, people's spirit, connection between generations, and a sacred symbol as a world tree or tree of life..."

    [serge horses gualala california ]

    Represent humanity's desire to survive through obstacles

    [horses yakut serge gualala california]

    A Sakha Serge was created for a sweeping bluff at Gualala Point Regional Park. A ceremonial hitching post.

  8. [duochrome app] finds several for your mobile device. So still being made. Just a slightly different mode of operation. Great for field testing of visual acuity.

    I went my academic journals library to see what they had to say about duochrome and this led me to the apps

    jon tU

  9. My Danish Doctor's reply just in:

    Your asignment wasn't as easy as I first suspected. As a matter the fact I haven't been able to come up with an answer. Unfortunately! I've talked to friends and family - none of them have ever heard about such a device. Closest bid came from a colleague of mine who wanted to name the device 'a chaval'. I haven't been able to conform his answer though - and I guess I should also mention that he's an otorhinolaryngologist!!!

    Not much help from Birkerød I'm afraid. I'm sure the question will haunt me for a while. I will of course get back to you if I find the answer.

    Best wishes from all of us to all of you,

    jon tU