What do you see when you turn out the light?
April 21, 2017 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I wish I had known this before we got married, but my wife and I may be from different species! The only remaining question is, who is the alien? Please read and tell us (based on your own experience of the earth) who the alien is.

When I yawn, I hear a sort of rushing sound in my ears that dampens external sound. My wife, the alien, claims that her ears turn off and no sound comes in.

When my wife closes her eyes, she sees black. Nothing else. When pressed on the subject, she grudgingly admits to sometimes seeing some tiny white dots. No color. I, alien, see a canvas of multi-colored dots (mostly reds and purples, but occasionally greens and yellows) that sort of swirl around slowly and change depending on external light.

Clearly, one of us is human and the other should be deported safely off the planet, but who?
posted by bluejayway to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Your experience is the same as mine, and I'm an alien, so....
posted by elke_wood at 8:35 AM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your wife is the sound alien.

You are the vision alien.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:35 AM on April 21, 2017 [26 favorites]

In both cases, I am you, the alien.
posted by General Malaise at 8:36 AM on April 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

When I yawn I hear myself making yawning noises, which is loud (because it's so local) but doesn't actually block or suppress other noises.

What I see in the blackness when I close my eyes depends on how tired I am and what I've been looking at, and can include both those experiences. I only get full color sparkles (like old-fashioned TV static, only less of it, and with colors) when I haven't had other inputs for a while; computer screens, brightly lit areas, etc tend to overwhelm the sensors such that the "off" state just looks black, the sensitivity has to recalibrate before the little lights and colors come out. Also, watch for floaters, softly defocused non-sparkly organic matter in the eye fluid, which remind me of looking at pond water under a microscope; I only see floaters when I concentrate but this can be either with eyes open or closed.
posted by aimedwander at 8:42 AM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yawn: whooshing sound

Eyes closed: varies greatly, rarely black, sometimes patterns, colors, black and white (I've always figured it's my synapses firing randomly when not receiving information from my eyes -- which is an entirely science-free theory)

Alien: probably all of us
posted by mcduff at 8:43 AM on April 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Usually when I yawn, I mostly hear normally. Occaisionally (usually if sick, or just having been working out), my eustachian tubes will open while I yawn, and then I get the super rushing sound that will drown most anything out.

When I close my eyes, if I'm in a dark environment, I mostly see dark. But there's slight neon'y patterns that can be made out if one tries to inspect the dark. It's really kind of odd just how something can be a neon color but so muted as to almost not be seen (I'm assuming this is my cones firing oddly according to what they last saw, while the rods are appropriately reporting mostly dark). I don't see dots, but swaths of colour.

If I close my eyes during the day, then it's mostly muted slightly shifting neon patterns, and a bit of subdued dark. If I keep my eyes closed during the day, the neon patterns don't die down in 15-20 minutes, but instead become a bit more vibrant. I'm kind of surprised I don't spend more of the time with my eyes closed. Similarly, not dots, but bands with bends and angles.

Alas, I was switched around 3 times shortly after birth in the hospital; possibly it should have only been 2 times, maybe a 4th happened and no one noticed. I.E. I'm not fully sure if I'm the human or not.
posted by nobeagle at 8:43 AM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it adds anything to the discussion (I think it does not, but the alien disagrees), I have chosen for my human form to be of Caucasian, Ashkenazi Jewish descent. My wife's chosen disguise is of Thai/Chinese origin. (Except for for when her cybernetic implants are being serviced. At those times she appears French.)
posted by bluejayway at 8:45 AM on April 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm with you on whooshing yawns and mostly with you on patterns, although mine are more orangey-red-yellow, I'm not sure if they've ever gotten to purple.

That said, I am fully willing to volunteer for deportation into space, as this planet kind of sucks at this point, so I don't know if you want to claim me for your species or not.
posted by Stacey at 8:49 AM on April 21, 2017

I used to see those multicolored dots when I closed my eyes. Now I no longer do -- I mostly just see black. Make of that what you will.
posted by JanetLand at 8:50 AM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Blackness with a few white dots when I close my eyes in the dark. Sound seems muted when I yawn.
posted by 256 at 8:59 AM on April 21, 2017

I only see the multicolored laser show in my eyes when I'm pressing or have recently pressed down on my closed eyelids (like if I'm rubbing my eyes because I'm tired, etc.).

As for yawning, my cybernetic implant malfunctions on the regular and while I don't hear anything (or hear the absence of anything), my eyes tear up, often with enough force that it looks like I'm crying.
posted by cooker girl at 9:01 AM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

My yawns don't affect my hearing, but I can make my ears do that whooshy thing independently, without moving my mouth or jaw.

When I close my eyes, I see red if the ambient light is bright, black if it's darker, sometimes with blobby afterimages of lighter or brighter things. Sometimes a moving TV static-like texture shows up, but it's faint and monochromatic.

If I press gently on my closed eyes, after a few seconds I can often see a dense, allover squiggly pattern, sometimes with a kaleidoscope-like tiled pattern. This used to freak me out as a kid because I thought I was somehow looking at my brain.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:17 AM on April 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have the yawn thing you have; also, apparently my skull is unusually conductive or resonant or something, because when I have the phone on one ear I sometimes hear the sound resonating in my other ear in a whooshing way. Seems human enough, or maybe more human than human in the case of my thing?

You should go get a vision check-up, including a retinal scan, to make sure the pattern of dots you see when you close your eyes isn't indicative of anything that would be problematic for a human.
posted by limeonaire at 9:18 AM on April 21, 2017

I don't notice an effect on my hearing when I yawn (aside from the sound of the yawn itself). Sometimes it makes my ears pop, but that's a physical sensation, not auditory.

When I close my eyes I see all sorts of colors, mostly in the red range, but also yellow and sometime electric blue. Sometimes I see rings that I have always thought were some sort of reflection of my own iris, but now that I say that, I'm not sure where I got that idea or why that would happen.
posted by Kriesa at 9:19 AM on April 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

when I close my eyes I see black (or brownish-black to reddish-brown, depending on the ambient light) with sort of an all-over blotchy overlay pattern that's either yellowish-brown or purple depending, again, on the lighting, some occasional pinpricks of light, and the floating faces of those I've wronged. my yawns woosh. HTH
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:27 AM on April 21, 2017

Yawn: Whooshy ears.
Closed eyes: Reddish-to-yellow blobby patterns when there is a bright light, mostly black otherwise. Once when I had pneumonia and was feverish and on several medicines, I had the bright pattern effect you describe.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:30 AM on April 21, 2017

Yawn: Whooshy ears, but I can also just tense something in my head to make my ears whoosh without yawning

Closed eyes: static-y black, for the most part
posted by Vibrissa at 9:43 AM on April 21, 2017

- When yawning, I get the roaring in my ears. It's basically the same sound I get when I pop my ears or perform the Valsalva Maneuver.
- When I close my eyes, it looks dark at first; if I look more carefully and focus on what I can see, it can start to look like black and white moving patterns, or hazy spots of color including green, purple, yellow, red.
- I have my suspicions but I can't say for sure that I'm not an alien; sorry.
posted by ourobouros at 9:48 AM on April 21, 2017

I'm not 100% sure on the yawning thing (give me five minutes...) but for sure there is some color when my eyes are closed. These light shows are perfectly normal for earthlings and are called phosphenes.
posted by karbonokapi at 10:21 AM on April 21, 2017

When I yawn I just hear the sound of the joints articulating, a bit like knuckle-popping sounds. I can, in fact, pop my jaw sometimes which is rather unpleasant. There's no diminishment of external noise, just more joint sounds.

Closing my eyes is like turning off my eyes. I don't see black or colours, it's more that my visual sense turns off.
posted by bonehead at 10:22 AM on April 21, 2017

If you are an alien, you are in good company, because the filmmaker Stan Brakhage was an alien too. Some of his most beautiful films are explorations of what he called "closed-eye vision" -- what you see when you close your eyes -- and "a canvas of multi-colored dots...that sort of swirl around...and change depending on external light" would serve as a pretty good description of many of them.
posted by 826628 at 10:47 AM on April 21, 2017

Caucasian, Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

Hey me too! And I get the whoosh sometimes (and, like Metroid Baby I can sometimes make it happen on its own) and other times not. I never get the "ears turn off" thing. When I close my eyes it's like it's dark out at night but I can make out shapes sort of moving around slowly. In fact one of my get-to-sleep maneuvers is to slowly follow the patterns around behind my eyelids (usually amorphous blobs but sometimes slightly more active shapes usually it's a stress thing). I never get anything that could be considered as specific as dots.
posted by jessamyn at 11:20 AM on April 21, 2017

Whooshing sound when I yawn really big; otherwise, no real sound change.

What I see when I close my eyes varies greatly. Sometimes a sort of static black/dark grey. Usually, black/ dark grey as a background with shapes of skyscrapers, trees, landscapes, pathways, wave, sky, people, etc., and the scenes change as I watch. I enjoy that. Sometimes I see swirls of colours, but usually it's when I press my closed eyes with my fingers. Closing my eyes while lying on the beach in bright sunlight = lots of shimmering colours.

And, like all other sighted humans on this planet, I think?, if I have been staring fixedly at an image, then close my eyes, I see the image shape in the reverse colour.
posted by mmw at 11:38 AM on April 21, 2017

yawn: whooshy ears, external sounds are dulled but definitely not blocked. I can hear just fine.

eyes closed: totally multi-colored always, but especially if I apply any gentle pressure rubbing my eyes. I always thought this had to do with blood, veins, and thinness of eyelids. When I was a kid, I remember thinking it was like a kaleidoscope up in here. I had no idea I was an alien.

This question made me yawn. Twice.
posted by juliplease at 12:03 PM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I can force the yawn-whooshing by prolonging popping my ears (aka the Valsalva maneuver).

Also, I get green blobby moving shapes when I close my eyes. This is a "Level 3" closed-eye hallucination induced by the hypnagogic effect.

More info about Closed Eye Hallucinations - there are a lot of options!
posted by bookdragoness at 12:09 PM on April 21, 2017

I'm pretty much you. Yawning doesn't significantly change my hearing unless I have a head cold. As for closed eyes, sometimes it's colored (usually more red/blue, rarely green) dots, but usually there are more oozing patterns of deep violet and/or dark blue (the blue sometimes has a slight greenish tinge) either swallowing up the black or being swallowed by the black. Often the edges are brighter​. Rarely, I even get what looks like a bright flash of white across a large part of my vision.
posted by wierdo at 1:02 PM on April 21, 2017

Oh, FWIW, I've considered myself the alien (Martian, if you want to get specific) since I was 3 or 4. I presume that's why sunlight is so painful to my eyes and I burn easily, anyway.
posted by wierdo at 1:06 PM on April 21, 2017

For yawning it depends on if I'm trying to suppress it - if I'm trying not to open my mouth too much and I'm tensing my throat muscles, like in that meeting I was just in, it definitely feels like "my ears closing". I don't think I hear a whoosh otherwise, except for whatever yawning vocalizations I might make.
posted by Lady Li at 1:19 PM on April 21, 2017

I am you, think I am human, but many people who know me well say I am like a human/robot hybrid (an "android," if you will). Anyhow, I see intensely bright colors when closing my eyes. I even see the spots with my eyes open, when rooms are dimly lit or dark. My eye doctor said this was not typical, but there is nothing wrong with me. It is called visual snow or visual noise and is a type of closed-eye hallucination.
posted by sockermom at 3:17 PM on April 21, 2017

I only see blackness when I close my eyes and I am a Vulcan currently stationed on earth to do my field work for my degree in Human Studies. So, do with that data point what you will.
posted by Michele in California at 4:09 PM on April 21, 2017

Wait, does everyone breathe in when they yawn? I barely take a breath at all. Consequently, I do not hear a whooshing sound (although I also have problems with my Eustachian tubes). What I hear instead is the blood running through, I guess, my ears. Sort of that roar of the sea you hear when you put your ear up to a seashell.

When I close my eyes I see colors, patterns. Sometimes flashes, sometimes concentric waves of soft light. Maybe I'm not an alien, maybe I'm always tripping balls. That would probably explain a lot.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:56 PM on April 21, 2017

Yawning has no effect on my hearing and I see no colors, except some white dots. I had absolutely no idea until now that anyone experienced these things differently!
posted by cnc at 4:58 PM on April 21, 2017

The rushing/whooshing noise that everyone is talking about is from the tensor tympani muscle. Some people can voluntarily control it to make noise and some can't. It shows up during yawns, too.
posted by whitewall at 5:12 PM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am also you in both sound and sight. I have green eyes, and am told that folks with lighter colored eyes are more sensitive to light. Maybe you're seeing a bit of light through your eyelids but your wife is not? Does she have darker eyes than you?
posted by blurker at 6:45 PM on April 21, 2017

The only way to turn off my vision is to turn on my verbal and turn it up to high. So when I tuck myself into bed with the lights off and its time to sleep, I go into story telling mode; otherwise all those scintillating galaxies and nebulae can be a tad overwhelming. In daylight when just normally using my eyes I can generally focus and not notice the visual snow, but the moment I close my eyes the combination of multiple overlaid after images can last for ages - well, fifteen minutes or so, and the regular dots and lights distract me into looking for patterns which gives me eye strain. I also know when I have just fallen asleep even though I am still aware of thinking, because sounds start appearing as lights, and a sound which startles me is like a sixties op-art poster appearing briefly at high brightness -GAHH!

Different migraine medicines (triptans, topirimate) and SSRI's change how much these visuals appear. Apparently they are what is referred to as "migraine aura" except I have never not seen them, one reason why it took so long to get my migraines diagnosed as migraines. Of course, I was emesis trained before I was toilet trained due to sick headaches since early toddlerhood, so I have probably been having migraines since long before I was verbal. My primary migraine trigger is light, so much so, that direct sunlight will cause me a migraine within several seconds.

Several members of my family are on the autism spectrum and my understanding is that my visual traits and migraines are a variant in sensory processing, which is to say, rather than being neurotypical, the visual part of my brain is wired differently and more, so that I am essential constantly getting extra data from the visual processing part of my brain, whether it is useful data or not. As well as autism spectrum, blindness runs in my family. It looks like I carry a defective X chromosome. Males in my lineage have so much trouble making sense out of the visual messages they are receiving from their perfectly normal and functional eyes that they can develop nystagmus (wobbly eyes that give up trying to actually stay still) and are legally blind.

I also always hear something, a faint ringing in the ears (kind of like a mosquito, only grainier?) which I was originally told was just hearing changes in my blood pressure. Except when it is blood pressure changes it goes in and out: whum-whuuum-whum... When I yawn there is every noise you can think of, crackling earwax, pneumatic noises like subway trains- Silent? It's so noisy when I yawn it's hard to hear anything over the din that yawning makes.

I'm sorry.... I think that your wife is a nice human girl and that she should brace herself for future revelations concerning your momentous heritage. She might possibly wish to take a course in unarmed zero-gravity combat, learn to fire a laser accurately in the light bending vicinity of a black hole, and maybe study a little theoretical physics. However, since you carry the infinite star charts of all the galaxies in the cosmos behind your eyelids, I think that if she can successful fight both of you free from your renegade first cousins, your directions and a little seat of the pants combat pilot skills will enable her to get you both safely back home.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:20 PM on April 21, 2017

My experiences are like your wife's. I am surprised at her communicating these to you. We all have gone through extensive training to conceal the many, mostly minor, differences, from humans. I suggest for your own peace of mind that you cease to compare physical differences.

And tell mrs bluejayway to keep her trap shut, for heaven's sake.
posted by kestralwing at 10:48 PM on April 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

wooshing yawns here, and also I get red and blue swirling dots. I remember as a kid it took me forever to fall asleep and I would watch the dots and pretend that they were candy that I could eat. I got pretty damn bored lying around in the dark not being able to sleep.

a sound which startles me is like a sixties op-art poster appearing briefly at high brightness

holy shit I get that too! it's really weird.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:39 AM on April 22, 2017

Wow, I also get the falling-asleep, unexpected sound = visual burst! I thought that I was alone and guessed that I must be mildly synesthetic. Fascinating to hear that other people experience it, too.
posted by spelunkingplato at 7:15 AM on April 23, 2017

Subtle waves of dark red and blackness when I close my eyes. Ears both have a rushing sound when I yawn. Otherwise, each has a different (high-pitched) frequency. Left ear has two tones. The ear sounds may be generated by the mother ship to make the dog next door bark. If so, they work fine.
posted by mule98J at 10:12 AM on April 23, 2017

When I close my eyes, or with my eyes open in the dark, I see static. About half as many dots as here.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:30 PM on April 24, 2017

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