Art Meets Science in Tallinn

Convex Lens - Version 3

I’ve had a lifelong love of science, and it travels with me wherever I go. My natural curiosity and scientific training lead me to look beyond what’s happening and ask why it’s happening.

This is fun (for me at least), because it turns the world around me into my own science lab. Here’s an example.

Blue Bottle

I took this photo from a window overlooking the main square in the historic center of Tallinn, Estonia. When I snapped the shot, I was trying to be artsy-fartsy, and didn’t realize until I returned to our apartment that the image in the bottle was flipped, both top to bottom, and side to side. The spire on the 13th Century Town Hall is now pointing down … of course, the bottle is acting as a convex lens! This is exactly what Optics 101 tells us it should do.

Fast forward a few months to my eye doctor’s office, where as usual, I’m waiting. I’m looking at a creepy picture of the inside of my eye, and suddenly, the blue bottle flashes into my mind. It occurs to me that the blue bottle is doing exactly what my eye does when I look at something.

And since I had time to kill, I thought this process through. The town hall obviously starts out upright. The image goes through the bottle, and is flipped upside down, and right to left on the backside of the bottle. This upside down image then hits the lens behind the cornea of my eye, and is flipped again onto the backside of my eyeball (just like the bottle.) Then my brain jumps into action and mentally flips the image again, so what I actually “see” is oriented correctly. Phew!

I admit that my mind works in strange ways sometimes – probably most of the time. And over the years, poor Terri has been subjected to more unsolicited science explanations than she can count. But it certainly perks things up – for me anyway. Cool science demo, or waaaay too much time on my hands?

Happy Trails,

P.S. If you want to see this concept taken to an entirely new level, check out the marvelous photos by our blogging friends Pam & Richard at Naturetime.

Last Updated March 1, 2020

Town Hall

Photo Credits:
1. By CoolKoon via Wikimedia Commons
4. By MrPanyGoff via Wikimedia Commons


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

29 thoughts

  1. Lovely photo.

    But James, yes, you do have way to much time on your hands – lol. But what else is there to do in a Dr’s waiting room to pass the time.

    I’m usually lucky in my own GP’s waiting room. They have the latest National Geographic and my favourite English magazine (Country Living). They are 2 of the (few) magazines I read from cover to cover.

    1. Thanks for the comment Vicki, and for dropping by the blog. It’s always interesting for me to see the magazine selection in waiting rooms. Frequently, it says a lot about the personality of the person in charge. Auto repair shops always have an eclectic assortment, which usually includes a golf magazine (the assumption being, if you drive, you like golf.) ~James

    1. Carol, sometimes it takes a bit of thought (or a check of the calendar) for me to determine the day as well. But I see this as a good thing. For me, this means that I’m on my own schedule, and not someone else’s. ~James

  2. Really cool – it’s fascinating to think how your brain processes information and to wonder if everyone sees the same things and experiences the world the way you do. Neat pictures!

    1. Thanks Katy, for dropping by the blog, and for the comment. I find this sort of thing fascinating as well. I’ve always had an interest in quantum physics (at the “quantum physics for dummies” level), and some of the concepts at the level of the super small will really rock your world. ~James

  3. Cool post, definitely James. I struggled with the sciences back in the day, and in retrospect should’ve given the arts a bash. But I know a good photo when I see one. Good fun. 🙂

    1. You’re right, but if you’re like me, anything can be grist for the old bloggin’ mill. Check out the top menu bar on our home page under “Extra Credit.” There’s a pull-down menu for the “Science” category. Most of these posts are based on things we encountered and did in our travels. ~James

  4. Love this post… and your science brain at work. My hubby is a physicist and our day is filled with stuff like this… at first I thought it was weird, but now I’m curious (after 41 years !!!)

  5. Love it! We are science geeks ourselves, especially since Richard is a biologist specializing in microbial forensics. We’ve done some photography with images in water drops, and the same upside down principle applies. Neat stuff! The blue bottle image is great.

    1. Thanks Pam, and wow! Microbial forensics and images inside water droplets. You just twanged my science tuning fork. I would love to see some of the water droplet photos. Do you have any on your blog, or elsewhere that I could see? ~James

  6. I vote for cool science demo! I love when I take a shot and later find that I’ve captured something cool, quite by accident. Blue bottle is awesome

    1. Thanks Laura. I really like the blue bottle as well. In my professional life I was a geophysicist in oil exploration. I and all of my colleagues had a saying that applies here: “Luck counts too.” And this is a perfect example. ~James

    1. Thanks for visiting the blog JD, and for the comment. I’m always happy when someone likes one of my science posts. Catching the inverted image was an accident, but it makes a nice memory of Tallinn. ~James

  7. Travel (and everyday life) offer wonderful opportunities to learn something new. It’s fun that you seize them, James, and embrace your sense of curiosity. How long did you spend in pretty Tallinn? Our one-day visit tempted us to return for a longer period, but in the summertime! 🙂

    1. Thanks Tricia. We spent a week in Talinn, which was perfect for us. Terri (as usual) found a nice small apartment about 50 yards from the plaza, and it was wonderful. If you return, you can certainly do it in less than a week, but a few days would be nice. Re: the post. I’m always glad when one of my science posts is well received. ~James

  8. Great lesson! My dad, brother, and I always had long detailed discussion about random scientific, mathematic, political, etc things (for example discussing the characteristics of a convex lense). It drove my mom nuts as she isn’t really big into logic discussion and debate – she more prefers to take in the beautiful details of a view (eg the lovely blue color of the bottle and the unusual bars on the window)! Glad to know other people share my love of random scientific thoughtfulness!

    1. Thanks Jen. If your Mom was outnumbered 3 to 1, I can imagine her frustation. But on the upside, it probably gave her an opportunity for some alone time. I will always value my science training, because there isn’t a day that passes that I don’t see something that makes me curious. Of course, this isn’t really any different than artistic types seeing a pattern in the clouds that reminds them of a Renoir. I guess it’s really comes down to being in the present and appreciating our surroundings. ~James

Leave a Reply to Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s