The music world was shaken briefly this week when lead guitarist with rock band U2, Dave ‘the Edge’ Evans, literally walked off the edge of the stage during a sell-out performance in Vancouver. Fortunately Dave survived the fall intact enough to joke about it later. It got me wondering what may have led to the fall? One possible explanation is a scientific one.
First a definition
Rod cells (or rods) – photoreceptor cells concentrated at the outer edges of the retina at the back of the eyeball which are sensitive to dim light and are almost entirely responsible for peripheral vision and/or night vision.
The human eye is built differently in men and women
The eye is an extension of the brain. The retina at the back of each eyeball contains about ninety million rod-shaped cells to handle vision in dim light including peripheral vision and/or night vision. It may surprise you but most men have less peripheral vision than most women. This is because men have less rod cells than women in the back of their eye balls. In fact, women are so sensitive to dim light that they find strong light stressful – painful even. That is why more women than men wear sunglasses. In contrast, most men are comfortable in bright light as it eliminates the need for them to rely on their weak peripheral vision.
Do women have eyes in the back of their head?
You’ve no doubt heard that women have eyes in the back of their heads. You may have grown up believing this was true of your Mother who seemed to know what you were doing, even when her back was turned. Most women’s peripheral vision is effective up to almost 180 degrees. It is weak or absent in most men. A man’s eyes are larger than a woman’s and his brain configures them for a type of long distance tunnel vision, which means he can see clearly and accurately directly in front of him and over great distances – almost like binoculars. This allows a man to focus clearly on a distant target while women can monitor everything going on around her. This is part of the reason why women can cook dinner and watch the kids at the same time – a recipe for disaster with many men.
Men stare – women don’t
The number of men injured or killed on our roads is more than double that of women. Not only will men will take more risks crossing the road than women, but as they get older their poorer peripheral vision increases their injury rate. Men tend to stare i.e. they concentrate on getting somewhere or something across the street and just don’t see the car coming. Car insurance statistics show that female drivers are less likely to be hit on the side than are male drivers. The lack of peripheral vision in men obstructs their ability to see traffic approaching from the side. Socks, shoes, car keys, wallets and even kerbs they’re all there, but men just can’t see them as well as women can – unless of course they stare. In fact, far from being bad manners, staring is a man’s way to compensate for their lack of peripheral vision.
Back to the edge
Chances are that the Edge simply walked off the edge because like most men of his age he just did not see it, due in part to the steady deterioration in a male’s already weak peripheral vision. I am happy to hear that Dave survived with only a few scratches.