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Captain Ultraviolet tells all
April 17, 2012 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Late in life, Claude Monet had surgery to remove the lens of his left eye as a remedy for cataracts, and found that as the lens was no longer blocking them, he could now see ultraviolet light.* When Alek Komarnitsky, engineer and self professed geek, had the natural lens replaced in one of his eyes due to cataracts, he found that he, too could see UV. Naturally, he decided to test the limits of his newfound ability, and to show others what it's like to have ultraviolet vision.(*via Kottke)
posted by ocherdraco (39 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
What about flowers???
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:12 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apparently it's also possible to see infrared by changing your diet.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:12 PM on April 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


Whoa, these are the same lens implants that can be used to correct severe myopia? My eye doctor recommended them for me about 3 years ago but I have been too chickenshit to even contemplate it.

omg i could be a superhero
posted by elizardbits at 5:13 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


What about flowers???

Violets look more ultra.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:13 PM on April 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


Come see the violets inherent in the spectrum!
posted by curious nu at 5:15 PM on April 17, 2012 [85 favorites]


Woah, I bought that same UV flashlight off amazon last week.
posted by mrbill at 5:22 PM on April 17, 2012


Very cool...
posted by zeoslap at 5:33 PM on April 17, 2012


Fascinating. Imagine going into a bar or nightclub with black-lighting and having it look totally illuminated with crazy purple light.
posted by delmoi at 5:37 PM on April 17, 2012


delmoi: My glasses fluoresce slightly under UV light. It's a lot different of course, since the light isn't focused on the retina. Everything in some nightclubs and all laser tag arenas just looks a little glowy-hazy.
posted by aubilenon at 5:41 PM on April 17, 2012


Come see the violets inherent in the spectrum!

Help! Help! I'm being refracted!
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:41 PM on April 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


That komar.org site is What the Web Is For (AKA "The Old Man and the C: Drive").
posted by jayder at 5:46 PM on April 17, 2012


I have plastic lenses in both eyes (cataracts), and all I can see is a hash pattern when I look at a point source in the dark. I think the pattern is partly marks on the surface of the lens. So far, no UV to speak of. I can, however, hear the fridge door opening in the middle of the night.
posted by sneebler at 5:55 PM on April 17, 2012


jayder, I totally agree. Just my luck that his is the sight that came up when I googled "aphakia uv simulation"!
posted by ocherdraco at 6:13 PM on April 17, 2012


AAAAAAAAAAAAH! I meant site, not sight! *weeps*
posted by ocherdraco at 6:15 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I meant site, not sight! *weeps*

It's OK. That's actually a great spelling pun.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:25 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think I can naturally see in the UV a little bit, in one eye. Whenever I see blacklights, the light always seems much brighter to one eye than the other, enough so that it's hard to look at. I don't have any idea why this might be the case, although I am very farsighted in one eye and normal in the others, which could be related.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:33 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is fantastic, and I have to say Komarnitsky is also in addition to engineer-geek, a great photographer (and large ham). Those are some of the clearest illustrations I've seen in a while...kudos!
posted by psoas at 6:48 PM on April 17, 2012


Whenever I see blacklights, the light always seems much brighter to one eye than the other, enough so that it's hard to look at. I don't have any idea why this might be the case, although I am very farsighted in one eye and normal in the others, which could be related.


Let me guess, Mitrovarr-- your left eye is the one that can't see the black light very well, and also the one that's farsighted.

In American cars, the light from the often open driver's-side window is much brighter in the left eye, causing the left lens to be much yellower in many people at a fairly early age, and therefore less able to pass light on the blue end of the spectrum.

That same light causes cross-linking in the lens, making it stiffer and less able to accommodate, which leads to farsightedness in that eye.
posted by jamjam at 7:45 PM on April 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


[Sightation needed.]
posted by Edogy at 8:17 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ah, I see what you did there.
posted by blurker at 8:35 PM on April 17, 2012


I am very farsighted in one eye and normal in the others

I wish I had more than just two eyes. Heh. I love typos!
posted by limeonaire at 8:54 PM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


jamjam: Let me guess, Mitrovarr-- your left eye is the one that can't see the black light very well, and also the one that's farsighted.

Actually, no. My right eye is the one that's farsighted, and it's been like that my whole life. I don't remember for sure which eye sees UV, but I think it's the right.

I suspect the scenario you outline does happen to people, but I tend to keep my car windows shut (don't like bees) and I wear sunglasses almost all of the time I'm outdoors.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:07 PM on April 17, 2012


How interesting. Thanks for posting this.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:56 PM on April 17, 2012


There's a very good reason our eyes block UV light. UV light damages DNA and our retinas don't have a protective layer of melanin like our skin does, for obvious reasons.
posted by euphorb at 11:37 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've always found certain types of blue lights, especially some twinkle lights, somehow manage to "tickle" my vision. It's the only way I can describe it. I see something extra. Kind of like an aura or something. It's fuzzy. And it somehow "tickles", in a visual way. It isn't all blue lights, only some. And the same 'fuzzy' quality is something I see in black lights.
posted by Goofyy at 11:39 PM on April 17, 2012


Goofyy, I get that too, but I have no idea what causes it. My guess has been there is a little near uv at the end of my visual spectrum, and so I don't see it right. But its only a guess.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:05 AM on April 18, 2012


Anecdote has it that when he stopped seeing everything blurry, Monet said "Oh nozes, I see stuff like Bouguerau does!".
posted by lucia__is__dada at 12:24 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I got excited about this for a moment, and then recalled that my lens (I've only had one eye's cataract removed so far) was marked as filtering UV. Which, as euphorb mentions, is a good thing in the long run. Even if it's not as cool in the short run.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 2:40 AM on April 18, 2012


Weird. I can usually see when a blacklight tube is on, too. It's not vividly bright as in his example, but it's never dark as he depicts for "normal" vision.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:36 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


My father had cataract replacement in one eye with a Crystalens as well.

He told me the same thing, that he was walking through the mall and saw the bright glowing ball of light. Surprised at first, he soon realized he was seeing UV light. He's was a RF engineer and figured it out on the spot.

I forwarded him this linkage and hope to get his comments.
posted by Argyle at 6:57 AM on April 18, 2012


Thorzdad: In my experience, most blacklights are just a fluorescent lights of a certain color (read: spectrum) with a cover over the bulb that's supposed to filter "visible" light but not UV light. So what I think you're seeing is the fluourescent light turning on and off, which is what most of us see.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:39 AM on April 18, 2012


I have plastic lenses in both eyes (cataracts), and all I can see is a hash pattern when I look at a point source in the dark. I think the pattern is partly marks on the surface of the lens. So far, no UV to speak of. I can, however, hear the fridge door opening in the middle of the night.

sneebler, it's possible that instead of plastic lenses, they accidentally implanted a dog's cochlea.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:57 AM on April 18, 2012


And lucia__is__dada: I now have an internet crush on you.

Anecdote has it that when he stopped seeing everything blurry, Monet said "Oh nozes, I see stuff like Bouguerau does!".

posted by IAmBroom at 8:58 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I, too, see UV light. And I can see you bastards eying the flowers in my garden. Stay the hell away from my nectar. - Mel Lifera
posted by bigskyguy at 10:41 AM on April 18, 2012


Really seeing UV should be an undescribable experience like seeing octarine. Just seeing some more blue sort of suggests a mere malfunction, doesn't it?
posted by Segundus at 1:17 PM on April 18, 2012


Really seeing UV should be an undescribable experience like seeing octarine. Just seeing some more blue sort of suggests a mere malfunction, doesn't it?

Ultraviolet just stimulates the blue cones. Apprently, cones will respond to light down to 370-ish nm (while ultraviolet is 10-400 nm).
posted by yath at 3:22 PM on April 18, 2012



Fascinating. Imagine going into a bar or nightclub with black-lighting and having it look totally illuminated with crazy purple light.

Heh. It's always looked like that to me.... Black lights glow bright and purple.

I always thought it was because the lights were just really deep purple and not truly very much UV, but maybe I'm a freak of nature.

I think I'm going to have a buy a blacklight now. For SCIENCE!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:15 PM on April 18, 2012


Fascinating. Imagine going into a bar or nightclub with black-lighting and having it look totally illuminated with crazy purple light.

and

Heh. It's always looked like that to me.... Black lights glow bright and purple.

I always thought it was because the lights were just really deep purple and not truly very much UV, but maybe I'm a freak of nature.


Same here. Black lights drive me crazy. Or, they drove me crazy until I got contact lenses with UV protection in them. Exact same prescription, but the change to UV blocking improved my vision tremendously.

When I would see a blacklight, I would see the tube glowing sort of a pastel violet. But surrounding the tube was a blob of "dark violet" light. Now all I see is the tube glowing.

I also have a slight astigmatism, and I think that affects how I see narrow spectrum colors. If there is a police car with those new LED lights blazing, the farther away I am, the more the colors shift. At a half mile away, the reds appear to come from mostly where they are supposed to. But the blues appear to come from underneath the car.
posted by gjc at 6:49 AM on April 19, 2012


OK, yeah, I have this, in just one eye.

I had a cataract 10 years ago so they emulsified my natural lens with ultrasound and sucked it out through a tube, then put a little silicone lens in its place.

It's awesome. A) I can see again, B) without the severe myopia I always had in that eye, and C) Black lights look really freaky with one eye able to see UV and one eye not.

Black lights or other blue-UV sources have either a dimmish light through my left eye, or are very bright, with an illuminating halo, and these views alternate back and forth when I open one eye then the other. I first noticed this the Halloween after the surgery when I was putting up black lights for our porch decorations.

I recently got a blue laser pointer and the dot is super bright with my right eye, and just ordinarily visible with my low-tech left eye.

For a long time, I thought that my left eye was just blocking the blue (the lens yellows as you age), but I asked my boys what they saw, and it's clear that I can see further into UV than they can.

I kind of want to get lens replacement surgery on my other eye so I can get rid of the one contact lens I wear, which irritates that eye quite a bit and which has really messed with my short-range depth perception. I'm holding out for better replacement lenses that let your vision accommodate to near and far, of which there is one on the market now, but I don't really want to be a pioneer. (My current artificial lens is fixed-focus, and it means I need bifocals for flexible vision.)

OK, after writing this little bit down, yes, this guy's pictures basically match what I see.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 11:26 PM on April 19, 2012


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