Sometimes an inspiring thought just pops into my head. I have long admired the really great optometric comic, Sight Gags by Scott Lee, OD as well as the beautiful and vibrant comedy and comics of Beatrice the Biologist. I think their work may have had a hand in my urge to take out my simple watercolor kit and one of my very inky (and easily smeared) pens and draw up a little optometric comic of my own! And there it is above!

I can not say that this is my first time using art in my science writing though. I did draw and paint slides for my various guest blogs on Scientific American’s guest blog network like the “bee-u-tee-full” bee pics I included in Well I’ll BEE, Bees see UV and also who could forget my blue ketchup on burger and fries painting for Looks Can Taste Deceiving but this one was a bit different. The other paintings and drawings were included in the context of a scientific article. To restrict your writing to 4 panels in a comic strip is challenging to say the least. There is so much to convey as well as portray. You have to be concise, easy-to-undertand and have proper flow. Learning to write comic strips is like learning how to restrict your ideas and opinions to 140 characters on Twitter. You have to take your initial idea, polish it, break it down, shorten it and put it back together. Oh and try to make it funny which is a whole other story altogether.

Anyway, I had fun creating it. And I think I did a pretty good job for my first time. I already learned a lot and was even able to tweak it here and there thanks to the friendly advice, support and direction of John Murphy (one of my senior editors at Review of Optometry, no relation to me), Dr. Brett Paepke and Margery Weinstein. Thanks guys!

And who knows, maybe there will be some more Friday Funnies in the future! We’ll see if the lightning of inspiration strikes twice. But in the meantime, follow Dr. Scott Lee’s funny Sight Gag comics as well as Beatrice the Biologist’s fantastic work! Have a Funny Friday!

PS- I am certainly open to tips from more experienced artists as to what pens and software programs to use and how to convert the artwork of the comic into a reproducible form (photograph versus scan, etc). Feel free to contact me on twitter or facebook with tips! Much appreciated!

Well hello there …


Photo by Full Circle Photography /Frank Padrone

…and Welcome to “Science Hidden in Plain Sight!”

I started this blog about five years ago and back then I never knew it would be the spark that would lead to the flame that would start the wild fire of passion that I now have for science writing. As many of you know, I have been freelance science writing and blogging A LOT all over the web and in print. While I still consider this to be my home blog, the posts here are rather sparse because of my virtual travels to the other places and spaces where I have been exhibiting my writing.

So I am writing this today to let you know, even though you may not see fresh footprints, I will always leave you a path to where you might find me. Consider my Articles page to be your trail map (as well as my portfolio in case you want to peruse my previously published work.) You can also receive the newest links to my work as it is released and other tidbits from around the web that I find interesting by following me on Twitter and liking me on Facebook.

I appreciate all of you for reading this, my blog and all of my articles. I was honored to receive the New York State Optometric Association’s 2013 Communications Award “in recognition of [my] efforts to enhance the public’s interest and understanding of vision and how it relates to their emotions, environment and everyday lives through [my] various published articles.”

To me, being honored like that was huge! And really, it’s only the beginning! I am feeling adventurous and ready to challenge myself. I am pulling up the anchor and setting sail to see how far my writing can take me. It’s going to be an interesting journey.

So climb aboard, crew and keep your eyes thirsty for more “Science Hidden in Plain Sight.”


Get ready to play “Where’s Murphy?” at Vision Expo East!

Hello all! Tomorrow is the big day, the start of Vision Expo East 2013! I am the VEE correspondent for Review of Optometry magazine and will be at Expo Thursday March 14th through Saturday the 16th live tweeting and tweet pic-ing from some of the CE classes, exhibits and the showroom floor! I wanted to really reach out to the readers of Review of Optometry mag so we came up with a little game called “Where’s Murphy?”

Similar to “Where’s Waldo?” except that instead of searching the crowds for a handsome young man in glasses and a red and white striped shirt, you will be looking for me, Dr. Cheryl G. Murphy! A picture of what I am wearing that day at Expo will be posted by Review of Optometry early in the morning. (I will try to wear bright colors or something that will stand out as you are visually searching a crowd.) Then, when you see me at Vision Expo East in between classes, out on the exhibit floor or even in line for coffee come and say hi! I will ask you for a quote along with your name, practice name, town and email and your quote may be tweeted by Review of Optometry, shared through their facebook account or used in my Vision Expo wrap-up article in an upcoming issue of Review of Optometry! With over 6,000 followers, that’s a lot of press!

Have your voice and opinions heard! Take a chance and Play “Where’s Murphy?” and you just may have your quote about Vision Expo shared with our wide audience!

Behind the Scenes at
‘Science Hidden in Plain Sight’
(image courtesy Gotcha! by Erica)

Hey all,

I just updated my portfolio here on the blog to include my september publications. Last month over on Review of Optometric Business, I spoke about how it is important for docs to keep their passion for science alive and their skills sharp by choosing continuing education courses that excite them.

I also wrote an article for Review of Optometry magazine on the first successful, functioning bionic eye implant performed by researchers in Australia.

And for those of you getting into the halloween spirit lately or for those of you who just enjoy a good scare, I wrote What was that! The Science of Fearful Eyes for Huffington Post Science. This was the first time I have ever blogged there but you can expect more Science Hidden in Plain Sight on Huffington Post Science again soon since I have been invited back.

I have also been brainstorming for my presentation on online science communication that I will be giving at Optometry’s virtual online conference, Seeing is Believing 2013. This is a conference for those in the eye care industry that is really cool, the first of its kind. You can hear lectures and see presentations online from great speakers all from the convenience of your own home. No traveling to and from, taking off of work, schlepping involved! The conference is January 30 and 31st, 2013 from 2:00-10:00 pm EST but the beauty of the conference is that the lectures can be accessed for up to 30 days after they air so you don’t have to sit there at those particular times and watch them, you can do so when it is convenient for you! Sweet! For those who do watch the lectures at their scheduled times, they will benefit from a live chat with the speaker at the end! I really like the idea of an online conference. I am a strong believer in networking online and have met some incredible scientists, doctors, editors and writers because of it. People I would have never “bumped” into on the street or may have been a little too shy to approach at a  gathering of 1000 people plus.

So, back to my presentation! I am really honored that they asked me to be a speaker!  I want my presentation to be really fresh and interesting. I am thinking about different formats aside from the normal powerpoint slide presentation and narration. Any ideas? It is pre-recorded which takes some of the pressure off and gives me the chance to possibly do some really extraordinary things that you might not be able to do or access in a live, in-person presentation. Any suggestions or thoughts just shoot them my way, please!

So, lots of excitement going on! Just wanted to update you all on what’s happening behind the scenes here at Science Hidden in Plain Sight! Don’t forget to keep in touch via facebook and twitter as well!

My heart and books have always been connected, but ever since temporarily losing my ability to read during a transient ischemic attack, the connection has grown even stronger!

Ok, so recently  an incredibly interesting paper came out of the journal, Neurology. It was a very descriptive account of the bizarre experiences of two people with Balint Syndrome. According to the authors’ of the paper, Balint Syndrome is “a rare neurologic disorder…” and is “characterized by one or more ischemic strokes to the parietal and occipital cortices.” Reading about the extraordinary things that they experienced during their strokes and thereafter reminded me of my own TIA experience and how I temporarily lost my literacy because of it. Losing my ability to read for those few hours really shook me. It is something we learn to do at 5 years old and now it had somehow been erased from my mind. I could see words on the page and letters but I could not comprehend them. It was as if I was looking at a foreign language. After going through that experience, I have been inspired to pursue the ‘writing career’ I had put on the back burner for so long. To hear more on my own personal story, you can read the full article here. I feel quite connected to this topic, obviously, so I may write a blog on Balint Syndrome in the near future. I will absolutely keep you posted of that.

In the meantime I urge you to read the paper in Neurology and to never chalk off “something weird” that may be happening to you, it may be your body’s way of giving you a warning sign that there is a immediate threat to your health present. In the case of a stroke, the quicker you reach out for and receive medical attention, the better. I am very lucky to have had no residual effects and to have had the congenital hole in my heart fixed so that I will be less likely to have another incident in the future. I want other people to become familiar with the signs of a stroke or TIA and seek treatment promptly if they ever experience any of those warning signs.

If you would like to learn more about TIAs and strokes, visit the National Stroke Association.

50,000 and it feels so good!


Full Steam Ahead!

Well, when I first started this little blog about four years ago, I had no idea where it would take me. All I knew was that I liked writing, I loved science and I immensely enjoyed talking to patients (and anyone who would listen for that matter) about vision and the world around us. I am happy to announce that this blog has now over 50,000 views, a reach I never could have even imagined would be possible. I remember writing my first post and seeing it get over 20 views and being so happy. I never thought it would take me as far as it has.

I have been able to write for Scientific American Magazine’s guest blog a dozen times, became a regular blogger for Review of Optometric Business, became a Contributing Editor for Review of Optometry magazine, was featured as a guest blogger on Scientopia and won a national writing contest to become the Guest Editor-in-Chief of 20/20 magazine and have continued to write for them.

But perhaps one of the best parts about having this blog has been finally listening to that little voice inside of me, which I think all writers have, telling us to write, write and write some more. I have found inspiration in famous quotes and from bloggers, writers, photographers, artists, scientists and editors that I have met. Their words keep me going, giving me hope and encouraging me to do what I love and the rest will fall into place. Sometimes, you just have to follow your heart and go for it.

That said, despite ongoing freelance writing projects to be published elsewhere I have decided to write here at least once a week. I have been focusing so much on other channels of social media (my facebook and twitter account) that I have left my blog a bit dusty. Time to shake it off and start anew!

So, you’ll be hearing from me on a more regular basis. I will also of course always update my portfolio on here to keep you posted on what I am having published elsehwere. I have some exciting new projects coming up and am always looking for more, so feel free to contact me with science writing opportunities. I am also open to public speaking events or running continuing education classes for optometrists on science writing or blogging. I am looking to expand the number of projects I am working on and will be committing a large chunk of my time to science writing and related projects from here on out.

So thanks for the encouragement!

And I hope you continue to enjoy the ‘Science Hidden in Plain Sight’ I strive to uncover! 

Cheryl Murphy OD

When our minds play tricks on us (image by Martine Lemmens/stock xchng photo)

This week I am over at Scientific American talking about a topic that just fascinates me, Charles Bonnet Syndrome. This is a condition that I happened to stumble upon while researching something else. I have never seen a patient with it but know of other eye docs who have and the stories that their patients tell are really amazing. One eye doc said that one of their patients had seen pink chickens, another’s had seen babies crawling and their late wife.

Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a condition which affects people who have suffered visual field loss. These people sometimes see images in their vision, images that are sometimes pretty wild and fantastical. In my research I read that some compare Charles Bonnet Syndrome to phantom limb syndrome in that both have neurological sensations that are produced when function is lost but not to worry, the frequency of these phantom sensations (or in the case of Charles Bonnet, haunting imagery) tends to decrease over time.

People with Charles Bonnet syndrome are “psychologically healthy” and their hallucinations involve no other sense (taste, touch, smell, or sound) as in other types of hallucinations. Also, those afflicted are very much aware that what they are seeing is not real though they hasten to tell others about it for fear they might be seen as having cognitive decline or mental impairment which is not the case.

Those with Charles Bonnet should be encouraged to tell others of the unwanted images so that their medical professionals can provide help and reassurance. The hallucinations won’t last forever, once the brain gets used to the newly acquired defects in the visual field the uninvited “visions” will subside.

Oliver Sacks gave a wonderful TED talk on the subject of Charles Bonnet Syndrome in which he quoted Charles Bonnet speaking of visual hallucinations saying that he wondered how “the theater of the mind could be generated by the machinery of the brain.”

How hauntingly complex the visual system is!