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Followup: Ultraviolet Vision After Cataract Surgery 311

xmas2003 writes "Several months ago, I posted to Slashdot about being able to see ultraviolet light after cataract surgery. While a lot of the discussion whimsically discussed the best way for 'Captain UV' or 'UltraMan' to use this 'super-power,' there were some people who were skeptical or (incorrectly) said this is Tetrachromatic vision. I've subsequently done more testing using an Oriel Instruments MS257 Monochromator and was able to see color down to 350nm — below the usual ~400nm limit of the visual spectrum. It's also easily demonstrable with a pair of 400nm and 365nm UV flashlights. Some readers who also have UV vision commented this can be quite annoying at black-lit Disney Rides, Halloween Haunted Houses, etc. Fortunately for me, it's just an interesting oddity so far. Along those lines, some interesting related stories about using UV vision during World War II and Star Gazing. Finally, many/most people end up getting vision debilitating cataracts, so my experience having a Crystalens implanted after cataract surgery may be informative."
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Followup: Ultraviolet Vision After Cataract Surgery

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  • by waterbear ( 190559 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:39PM (#39033991)

    Seeing UV after cataract surgery proabbly isn't a 'tetrachromic' effect. Human eye lenses are naturally yellow at birth, browner as we get older, browner still and they start being called 'cataracts'. They filter out the UV at any age. So the retina never usually gets a chance to try out its UV-seeing ability using its basic trichromatic receptor kit.


  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:41PM (#39034019) Journal

    I read somewhere (on the net of a million lies) that Bees (and other insects) can see polarized light. Then you can see flowers in a whole way (and maybe better find your way home).

    Or get circularly polarized contact lenses and see like a mantis shrimp!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:46PM (#39034087)

    In other words, does your new ability simply "shift" frequencies ?

  • Try Some Astronomy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Iskender ( 1040286 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:47PM (#39034095)

    The relatively bright star Adhara (Epsilon Canis Majoris) is actually the brightest star in the sky in UV light. Of course you don't have pure UV vision but rather just a bit more UV bias.

    However, since you seem to enjoy an experiment I suggest going somewhere where at least the brightest stars are visible, and comparing relative brightnesses between stars with a person with average vision.

    Some background and a chart for Adhara below. It's close to Sirius which in turn is easy to find by using the belt of Orion. [] []

  • Re:Come back... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:47PM (#39034105)

    Having hearing aids can be much the same, only its possible (but usually very inconvenient) to take them out. Since starting at a medical facility, I've had several instances of my hearing aids picking up incredibly high pitched noise to the point where I had to leave the building. No one else even noticed there was a noise, much less one that powerful.

  • by RDW ( 41497 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:48PM (#39034109)

    This quite cool:'s_brush []

  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:52PM (#39034179)

    A young adult scifi book I read long ago took advantage of the fact bees can see into the UV spectrum as a plot device to navigate through a forcefield that was invisible to humans, but was "bee purple". Here's a little more information on bees:

    "Honey bees and people do not see eye to eye. Humans see the colors of the rainbow; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet (otherwise known as ROY-G-BIV). Although honey bees have a fairly broad color range, they do not see red and can only differentiate between six major categories of color, including yellow, blue-green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet. They also see a color known as "bee's purple," a mixture of yellow and ultraviolet. Differentiation is not equally good throughout the range and is best in the blue-green, violet and bee's purple colors."

    Source: []

  • Re:Come back... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @12:58PM (#39034269)
    Don't hearing aids have magnetic detectors to work with telephones better? If that's the case with your hearing aids, you might be detecting high frequency magnetics that other people won't be able to hear.
  • Re:Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @01:02PM (#39034329) Journal

    Can you see through clothes?

    Apparently not, and honestly I'm having a hard time figuring out what good having UV vision is. What can you do with it? In your last /. post you called it a "superpower". [] Is it? How is seeing UV "super"? You're not faster or stronger or can fly or move things with your mind or see in the dark, you just see a spectrum of light no one else can. It's like being able to spit 100 yards, what good would that be? In fact I'd think it would be annoying, now I'm seeing things other people aren't, so lights might bother me while everyone else thinks it's fine and I'm the only one having a problem.

    Actually that's a good question: since you see UV light, could you use a UV flashlight to walk around in what appears to be almost complete darkness but you see just fine with the UV flashlight? I suppose that would be cool, not sure how useful that would be but interesting anyway.

  • Re:Come back... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @01:08PM (#39034377) Homepage

    I have tinnitus, and can hear the whine of tubed TV's, tubed radio's(I own one), power adapters, various tube lights, and all that over top of it. I'm in my mid 30's. Actually it aggravates my tinnitus to the point where I need to put in ear plugs so the *weeeeennnneeeeeeee* doesn't get any worse.

    Generally anything above what people consider "whisper quiet" I find loud. Probably has something to do with the head injury 14 years ago, but I had sensitive hearing when I was a kid, but it's only gotten more-so as I've gotten older. Though my neurologist can't find anything wrong, neither can any other specialist I've been to.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @01:08PM (#39034391)

    A few years back my brother (who was about 14 at the time) got a Wii and was having trouble getting the controller to work. I was troubleshooting with him over the phone and asked him if the sensor bar was plugged in and he responded "I think so, no wait it's not. The light's not on." I asked him what light? The only lights on the Wii sensor bar are the infrared lights. He said he knew that, but they weren't on. Apparently he can barely see infrared light. I did some tests with some remote controls that do not light up when pressing the buttons and would ask him to tell me when I press the button. Not very scientific I know, but it was enough for me to prove that he does indeed see something. He can see the lights on remote controls, night security cameras, and of course the Wii sensor bar. They all appear very faint, but over Christmas I got him some cheap toy night vision goggles which apparently use infrared LED's and it was bright enough in a very dark room to act as a flashlight for him.

  • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @01:13PM (#39034473)

    That's weird, you mean not everyone sees that? When I put on my polarized shades in the car my window tinting has those little spots all over it (at least, as far as I can see). I just assumed that's the way it was for everyone.

  • by joneil ( 677771 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @01:24PM (#39034593)

    As somebody who is colour blind and undergone some extensive testing for it, I've been told by several people that the "normal" range of human vision between 400nm to 700nm is more or less an average. Everyone is different, and just as some people can naturally run a mile in 6-7 minutes with little training while others would have trouble walking a mile in 20 minutes, it is the same with our vision. IMO, a more true statement would be that the "weighted average" of human vision is 400 to 700nm, but the extreme ranges *might* go anywhere from say 350, 360nm to perhaps 720 or 730 nm.

          For example, even without a yellowed cornea, some people may not see into the UV at all. There are also suggestions - would not go so far as to say a sound theory - that some well known artists from days past had, perhaps without ever knowing it, natural extended vision into either the UV or IR, or perhaps even both. Just as it is claimed that some famous musicians from the past had a naturally extended range of hearing.

          Another thing to be aware of is that, at least IMO, the medical profession as a whole really seems to have little interest in this area. Specific example, I am colour blind, but it is very poorly understood. Also, since childhood, I have been extremely sensitive to bright light, but my night vision is superb, and apparently above that of the average person. I cannot tell you how many specialists I have either called or visited over the years, but the response is generally "I don't know" or "well, just live it it". It almost seems to me that if you cannot treat it or fix it right away, and you aren't going to die from it, why bother with it. so I have a small fortune invested in prescription eyeglasses, and I wear them even on cloudy days. You get some weird looks, but you get used to it.

          As for "proof", I can understand dealing with skeptical people. In terms of my own night vision, I had trouble even convincing my wife when we were first married. I solved that one real quick one night camping. Walking from our campsite to the washrooms, I left the flashlight behind. I was able to find my way no problem, but my wife keep tripping over rocks or branches in the dark. Even holding her hand she keep tripping or bumping into things. She sure wasn't impressed, but she has never doubted me since. :)

  • Re:Come back... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @01:39PM (#39034763)
    I had the same problem until I was in my mid-tweties. I could hear VERY high frequency sound. The ear doctors equipment tested me all the way up to the limit of his testing equipment. I could "hear" when the headlights were turned on in a car. I could hear radio towers when we drove by them. It was so high pitched it was more like I felt the noise than heard it, it was very hard for me to pin-point the source, it was not very "Directional"

    But then, some time when I was around the age of 23, I went to a Motorhead concert. It cured me. I couldn't hear AT ALL for 2 days after the show, but after the ringing finally subsided I had normal hearing. Thank you Lemmy.
  • by Spectre ( 1685 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @01:46PM (#39034845)

    I cannot tell you how many specialists I have either called or visited over the years, but the response is generally "I don't know" or "well, just live it it". It almost seems to me that if you cannot treat it or fix it right away, and you aren't going to die from it, why bother with it.

    Call around, find some more specialists. One of the simplest and least expensive treatments for color blindness is to consistently wear a red contact lens on one eye (always the same eye) and a clear contact lens on the other. Even if you don't need contact lenses to correct a different vision problem. Sure, it looks a bit weird, but only people who right in front of you and look you in the eyes are going to notice. It doesn't take too long for the brain to adapt the difference in signals from the two eyes to provide a "color cue" that restores a lot of the capability for the typical red-green colorblind-afflicted individual.

    I don't know if there are similar treatments for other forms of color-blindness, but there likely is ... don't give up!

  • Re:Cool (Score:4, Interesting)

    by T-Bone-T ( 1048702 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @02:33PM (#39035445)

    The problem is he is sometimes seeing violet where everywone else sees black. A black object is black because it is not reflecting the wavelengths you are trying to detect. If something is perceived to be black to everyone else and is referred to by its color, he may not know which object is being referred to because everyone else's black object is his violet object.

  • Re:Come back... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JigJag ( 2046772 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @02:39PM (#39035521)

    33 years-old here. After reading your post, I decided to retry the Mosquito test.
    In normal conditions, I can't hear it, but there is a trick to hear it if you want. The idea is to increase the pressure in your inner hear (akin to compressing when scuba-diving: you pinch your nose while blowing air through the nostrils). Then, I can hear it clearly.

    The opposite is true by the way. If you want to decrease your hearing (like when at a concert or riding a train/subway): under-compress the inner hear. Close your mouth and pinch your nose while taking in some air forcefully. Immediate and temporary noise reduction in the order of 15 to 20 decibels if done right. I even found a way to do it without pinching the nose. To reset, yawn.


  • Re:Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Tuesday February 14, 2012 @02:41PM (#39035539) Homepage Journal

    Difficulty seeing in a high-UV environment would be the least of my worries. If I found myself suddenly able to see UV, I'd be more worried about the increased risk of getting cancer of the optic nerve.

    Because UV is generally considered to be moderately dangerous, I would argue that this is a design flaw in the replacement lenses, and an easily fixable flaw at that. Until the manufacturer realizes their mistake, you should always wear a pair of clear glasses or sunglasses with a UV-opaque coating (on the outside) and an anti-glare coating (on the inside) to reduce the risk of permanent damage to your eyes.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.