Wake up from a coma. Pull the curtains of the window and look out. The sun is perched on the horizon. Can you tell if it rises or falls?
By contemplating this scenario while watching the sun at dawn or in the evenings, we could sense the difference between these two parts of the day. But in reality, it is impossible to completely separate our perception of a view from our awareness of the hour. So, is there any objective way to distinguish sunrise from sunset?
According to physicists David Lynch and William Livingston, the answer is yes and no.
All “twilight phenomena” are symmetrical from the two opposite sides of the Earth and occur in reverse order between sunset and sunrise, which means that it is not an intrinsic natural cause of a major optical difference between them and we should not be able to distinguish them … However, two human factors can destroy this symmetry.
The first is in our heads. At sunset, our eyes have adapted to daylight and even tired of daytime work. As the light fades, we can not adapt as quickly as darkening the sky. Some nuances can be lost or perceived in a sunset-specific manner. At sunrise is the opposite, the darkness of the night has left us with a sharp vision and every single, even slight, minor change in the colors of the sky is obvious. In short, one can take more colors at dawn than at night.
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