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Summary form only given. The human visual system is the result of evolution by natural selection and hence its design must incorporate detailed knowledge of the physical properties of the natural environment. This is an obvious statement, but the scientific community has been slow to take it seriously. Only recently has there been an increased effort to directly measure the statistical properties of natural scenes and compare them to the design and performance of the human visual system. This work describes some recent studies of the chromatic and geometrical properties of natural materials and natural images, as well as some perceptual and physiological studies designed to test how those physical properties are related to human perceptual mechanisms.