Since I have not seen any brave souls posting results of the looking-around exercise, I did it myself … from my desk at work.

Here’s the list for Trial 1:

  • Lego model of the Taj Mahal
  • Wall clock
  • Pictures of turtles and snails taped on the wall
  • Turquoise Buddha head
  • Short row of paperback books
  • Squeeze bottles of alcohol and metallographic etching solutions
  • Large inflated plastic globe

In this first go-around, my eyes seemed naturally attracted to what was in front of me, larger things, such as the large globe hanging from the ceiling, the clock and the Taj model. Then I brought my attention closer to me and noticed the books and squeeze bottles to my left and right.

Here’s the list for Trial 2:

  • Empty spray bottle of diamond abrasive
  • Metal shelves with tested parts from the lab
  • Binocular microscope
  • Computer tower on my desk
  • Scissors
  • Scanner
  • Tops of avocado plants visible behind room divider

In this second go-around, I had to work a bit harder to focus my attention on specific items, such as the scissors and the boring (if large) shelves. The binocular microscope and the empty abrasive spray bottles, the “background” items of a metallurgy lab, did not jump out at me until I was “looking for things to see.”

Here’s the list for Trial 3:

  • Plastic John Deere toy tractor model
  • Magnifying glass on cast iron stand
  • V pattern on chair upholstery
  • Blue bag on chair seat
  • Yellow flecks in the chair upholstery pattern
  • Small chime
  • Framed art of peacock pair on tree
  • Snake climbing up tree with peacocks

In this third round, small details of larger things start to appear: the V pattern on the upholstery and then the flecks on that same upholstered chair. Again, since I am typing, I mainly saw things in front of me until I remembered that there is stuff behind me as well. The peacock art is behind my head.

This makes me guilty of doing what some attendees at a presentation I gave some years back did. Not a single one turned around, even though they were all standing up. There were 70 people in the room. This clearly showed how easy it is to let our sensory input draw our attention at the expense of what our minds know is probably out there. In fact, I had been doing this exercise for a long time before anyone “saw the walls” of the room we were in.

Now that I have been typing for a few minutes, and have recalled the walls, floor and ceiling to my attention, I am going to focus on the area of the carpet behind my chair. 

  • Lighter colored area where my chair routinely rolls
  • Fading “halo” between heavy wear and “normal” appearance.
  • Alternating red and white spots, creating a zigzag pattern in the gray background pattern.
  • Gray yarns are actually made up of mostly dark gray individual strands with some white streaked in.
  • The red and white zigzag pattern is also made of a yarn that has both red and white at all locations.

I will state that I have been renting this office space with this carpet for five years now. I had never bothered to notice the zigzag pattern specifically prior to now. So what, you may ask. Well, now my brain is awake and primed to look for both details and surroundings (walls, ceiling, etc.) This methodology of knowing how to look at what is present is a major help to seeing the details and avoiding overlooking the bigger picture when we do any sort of failure analysis. There has been a lot of work done over the years in this field of “priming.” Click here for an example.

So, now that my neurons are primed, I am going to take a look at a photo of a fracture surface that I have not looked at in some time. We will discuss the details in our next blog post.