What is Zero Parallax?

A brief introduction

Parallax is viewing error. As an example, looking at an analog clock (the kind with a big hand and a little hand), from the side we might see that it’s 3 o’clock when it’s actually 3:01 or 3:02.

If we understand that our relationship to a clock affects how we view the time we can either adjust our position relative to the clock, or account for our viewing error.

This is how we can achieve zero parallax when looking at a clock.

As well as for reading time accurately, understanding parallax can also be important when measuring chemicals.

Zeroing parallax when measuring chemicals

In junior high school chemistry class our teacher taught us (when measuring fluid in a beaker) to always put the beaker on a flat and level surface and to measure with our eye-line even with the surface of the liquid. With our eye-line perpendicular to the side of the beaker, and level with the surface of the fluid, we removed viewing error due to parallax.

This was particularly important when doing experiments because quantities of chemicals had to be precisely mixed. This was to get the desired effect, but also for repeatability.

In bartending school we also learned about parallax. We learned this so as to not rip-off our customers by under-pouring.

Why pilots need to zero parallax

A friend told me how important this ninety-degree viewing angle is when viewing instrumentation when piloting a plane.

With analog instrumentation, a pilot has to make sure that they are reading without viewing error, so that they know, for example, exactly how high of the ground they are. So this means reading the instrumentation at 90 degrees. It also means lining the eyeball up with the measurement pointer.

Something else that a pilot has to account for, particularly when landing, is the offset due to their position in the cockpit. The same is true when driving a car.

In either case, if we are aware of this offset and how it affects our notion of where our vehicle is with respect to the road, or the runway, we can account for it and center our vehicle with respect to the strip of tarmac we are moving over.

Understanding how things relate

Whether viewing a clock, liquid in a beaker, or an altimeter, zeroing parallax is about understanding how things relate and how we relate to things.

Zeroing parallax also about understanding how we relate to relationships between different things. And so we could label this as “bias”.

In terms of bias, zero parallax is about removing bias or biases, or being aware of biases so that we can account for them both in ourselves and others.

Being aware of our "positional bias" while driving a car of flying a plane, we can take that into account and center the plane over the runway, or center the car within our lane if we choose to.

Figuring out parallax

Often times we don’t know how we relate to something unless we change our point of view.

So for example, shifting our position with respect to a clock, moving from left to right, we can see that in one position the time seems to be 3:02 but as we move further to the right, the apparent time changes to 3:01, to 3:00, to 2:59.

More importantly, we can notice that as we move towards a perpendicular position, the big hand becomes more vertical.

But once we pass the perpendicular, the big hand moves away from the vertical, but in the opposite direction.

We can repeat this process a few times and in the process position ourselves at the center point between where the hand appears to lean one direction or the other.

Because a change in viewing angle allows us to see how we relate to something, the process of achieving zero parallax includes being able to switch points of view so that we can notice how our relative position affects how or what we sense or perceive.

We may need a few repeated changes in position to first of all notice any changes. We can then try to find a viewing angle where parallax is minimized. Failing that, we can use a position that is clearly defined so that we can easily find that position. You could think of this as "adjusting" or "fine-tuning".

You could liken this process to tuning a radio.

Giving ourselves Agency

The really cool thing about changing our position relative to a clock is that we can do this ourselves. We can give ourselves agency. Taking note of any changes that result from our change in position, we can self-calibrate or self-assess to determine the best viewing position.

Note that a change in perspective can also occur from a simple change in wording.

Writing one of the previous asides about bias, that was the first time that I used the word bias as a metaphor for parallax.

While not a perfect metaphor it opened the door to a simple explanation of what parallax is. And it also brought up the question of what the difference is between parallax and bias.

While moving with respect to a clock, or changing viewing angle with respect to an altimeter or beaker is relatively easy, it can be harder to apply this idea in other aspects of our life, or so it would seem.

How do we zero parallax with respect to our own direct experiences?

That requires a slightly more in-depth discussion. A lot of it relates to concepts from the world of math.

It also looks at consciousness, what consciousness is and just as importantly how different modes of consciousness allow us to change perspectives so that we can work towards zero parallax.

And some of it uses simple re-usable constructs like [ideas], [relationships], and from another point of view information and energy (or change) for building modular mental models.

And that’s a lot of what this website is about. If it isn’t about how to zero parallax, it’s about how apply understanding (or learning to understand) to the solving of problems. And it may include notes on using python, latex, excel, bbedit, regex, and essays on books I've enjoyed, mostly science fiction and fantasy.

But for more on the machinery of how to zero parallax read on.

Published: 2022 04 17
Defining ideas, relationships (and change) for better understanding, problem solving and experiences