A lesson from an aquarium

I don't have an aquarium of my own, but I have been "fish-sitting" for a friend while she is on vacation. Perhaps I've paid more attention to the fish than I might if I had my own. This aquarium is a rectangular tank, its flat glass walls held together by rather broad metal strips at the corners. The fish are beautiful in their varied shapes and colors as they dart back and forth.

One day I noticed that there were two identical fish headed toward the same corner. Both were rising and going down, flipping their tails and moving their gills in exactly the same way at the same time. I could see one fish from the end glass and the other from the side as they swam toward the corner nearest me.

Of course you know that it was the same fish that I saw through both glass walls. Although there appeared to be two fish, I was sufficiently aware of the laws of refraction to recognize the deceptiveness of what met my eye. I had not the slightest doubt that the two fish were really one and the same fish.

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June 16, 1986

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