Alphadictionary.com

pseudoscope

Printable Version
Pronunciation: s(y)u-dę-skop Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: An optical device that distorts vision so that concavity and convexity are reversed, resulting in the opposite of stereoscopic vision; "Eschervision", so to speak, for M. C. Escher once used a pseudoscope when painting his mentally confusing picures.

Notes: The practice of using a pseudoscope is pseudoscopy [s(y)u-dah-skę-pi] and vision so distorted is pseudoscopic [s(y)u-dę-skah-pik], as pseudoscopic mirrors at an amusement park. The term is used widely in discussions of holography for, if you flip a hologram over, it seems to be inside out, a pseudoscopic effect. A pseudoscopic view is one in which the raised surfaces seem sunken and sunken surfaces, raised. To see the pseudoscopic effect, click on the picture below.

In Play: What a view! Myopic refers to short-sightedness, but today's word suggests a reversal of perspective, so that the prominent seems diminished and the diminished, prominent: "Sometimes the press presents us with a rather pseudoscopic view of events in the world." While few of us will ever use or even see a pseudoscope, distorted vision is something we come in contact with all too often: "The marketing firm I work for is a huge pseudoscope that leaves you with a false sense of reality."

Word History: The term comes from an invention by the physicist Charles Wheatstone (1802 - 1875). The word is based on the Greek pseudes "false" from pseudein "to lie" + skop- from skopein "to look at, examine". The root for scope is actually spek- "observe". The [p] and [k] underwent metathesis (switched places) in Greek. It is thus also the source of Latin specere "look", a root we find in perspective, inspect, spectator, spectacle, and dozens of others. It also underlies Old Germanic spih-on "spy", which ended up as spy in English and was borrowed as shpion "spy" by Russian. In fact, James Bond's archenemy, SMERSH, is a blend of smert' shpionam "death to spies", a secret Soviet counterintelligence agency during World War II. (We are not so pseudoscopic as to misjudge our debt to Greg Rutter of Queensland for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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