The Case of...Kevin Mueller, the Cautious Pilot
1) Why would Captain Mueller and his copilot sit in darkness before taking off on a night flight?
Captain Mueller and his co-pilot sat in the dark cockpit to get their eyes adjusted to the night time, so that their eyes would produce more rods which aid in seeing in dim light.
2) Why would the mysterious object have first appeared to Mueller in his peripheral vision?
The ‘rods’ are thin, cylindrical receptor cells in the retina that are highly sensitive to light, they also play a role in peripheral vision. Since the pilots sat in the dark cock-pit the rods in their eyes were more sensitive to the light they saw.
3) What cues might Captain Mueller have used to determine that the mysterious object was much closer to his aircraft than any light source on the ground? Why might it have been difficult to determine whether the object was actually moving?
The Captain noticed that at first the light was faint but growing brighter, and the light stood out against the darkness of the sky. Becoming clearer as the Captain’s plane approached the source. It was difficult to determine whether it was moving because his aircraft was also moving.
4) Even though many of the passengers were awake and looking out their windows, only Captain Mueller and his co-pilot noticed anything amiss. Why might the passengers have failed to notice the object when it was so obvious to the pilots?
The object was more noticeable to the pilots because their eyes were sensitive from sitting in the dark cock-pit. Their eyes were prepared to see in the dark and their eyes had become sensitive to light due to the presence of rods in a good amount.
5) Several of the passengers did, however, notice when Captain Mueller changed altitude despite having no visual cues as a reference. Describe the sense that allowed these passengers to detect the aircraft’s motion.
The passengers noticed that Captain Mueller had changed altitude because their