As much as we rely on cell phones in our daily lives, they are not without flaws. Many are susceptible to malware, their batteries wear down and being dropped in the wrong way has led to the demise of many a screen.
Much of what can go wrong depends on the model, but there is one thing pretty much all of them have in common: screens and sunglasses don’t mix. You know what we’re talking about.
We’ve all been there, needing to read something on our phone outside, only to struggle because our sunglasses make the screen impossible to see. We could take the glasses off, but the sun is kind of hot and bright so that’s not a great option, either.
Fear not, there is hope yet
Lest you think being unable to read your phone with sunglasses on is just a part of life we will have to accept, understand not only why it happens, but that it does not have to be that way.
At issue is polarization, which we have heard plenty of with glasses lenses. Essentially, the photon particles that make up light travel like a zig-zagging wave on their way to our eye. Unpolarized light particles, however, travel in many directions at once.
The particles react differently when bouncing off various surfaces, which is why some leave us with glare while others, like with our phones, darkness.
What polarizing filters do is absorb light waves that vibrate on a specific axis, so in the case of polarizing sunglasses, the horizontally-vibrating waves are absorbed. Only the vertical waves get past the lenses and to your eye.
The idea is to reduce glare, which sunglasses most certainly do. But in the process, it significantly reduces the amount of light we see from certain screens, like those of cell phones.
So that’s the science. What do we do about it?
The problem is that since our devices have polarizing filters, too. Using them with sunglasses is a bad mix. As we know, making the screens as bright as they can be does not do much to fix the problem.
Since this is all about what path the light particles take to get to our eyes. When staring directly at our phones, the horizontally-vibrating light they produce is blocked by glasses that only allow vertically-vibrating light. Hence, the darkness.
The fix for this is actually quite simple. If you are struggling to see your phone, just turn the screen 90 degrees. Either direction will work.
What this will do is align the screen’s polarizing filter with your sunglasses’, allowing the light to get through the lenses and to your eyes.
Crazy, right? Science has a way of being like that.
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