I say things like this so often that I'm starting to wonder if this just happens to everyone all the time, or maybe it's just a factor of how many books I read. But it happened again! Twice in the same hour, I learned the same esoteric factoid from two different books.
In A Short History of Nearly Everything, during a short discussion on the history of magnifying lenses, I was informed that Vermeer is reputed to have used a camera obscura to capture the quality of light and detail that he did. Apparently he had a good friend who produced some of the most amazing detailed drawing of highly magnified specimens know at the time. This friend, whose name I don't remember, was very secretive about his methods, and it is suspected that he introduced Vermeer to the camera obscura.
When I got on the T, I turned off my mp3 player and opened my book, The Memory Keeper's Daughter. The book is only okay--slow, standard examination of a marriage falling apart. Kind of boring, kind of overblown. But on this day, on the first page I read (178, maybe), one of the main characters, an amateur photographer, explains to a guest how Vermeer used a camera obscura to create some of the best effects in his paintings.
The mind reels.