Science!: Black Holes, Night Vision and Garbage

Lauren Admire | 14 Sep 2009 17:00

Eat a Leaf, Get Night Vision

The night-vision goggles from the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Prestige Edition were a decent start, but wearing those bulky frames in public may draw more than a couple of stares. So, what is a person to do if he or she wants to see in the dark and isn't an owl? Buy eyedrops.

Back in the early 90s, while the rest of the world was listening to grunge rock and purchasing flannel shirts in bulk, marine biologist Ron Douglas was making a Scientific Discovery™. A species of dragonfish (No, not this kind, this kind. Scary, I know.) is one of the few deep-sea fishes that can perceive and glow red light. The red wavelength does not travel very well through water, and thus deep-sea predators and prey are likely to only be sensitive to blue light. The ability to transmit and detect red light is advantageous, allowing the dragonfish to deter predators or detect prey without giving away its location. Even more peculiar, the dragonfish uses a common chemical to detect red light: chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll is more commonly known as the molecule that "makes plants green." So, what's it doing slumming around with the color red, parading around the town like a two-bit strumpet? Well, red light absorbed by chlorophyll molecules provides some of the energy necessary for a plant to begin photosynthesis. In other words, chlorophyll is especially good at catching and containing red light - it's a red light corral, if you will (Not to be confused with the Red Light District).

Ilyas Washington, a scientist at Columbia University, has performed experiments on mice and rabbits using Douglas' dragonfish findings as a foundation. If dragonfish could use chlorophyll to enhance its vision, why can't other animals? After all, the mechanisms of vision are mostly the same throughout the animal kingdom. He found that placing a derivative of chlorophyll into mice and rabbit eyes allowed them to double their night vision.

This phenomenon works by allowing your cone cells to see color in dim light. In the nighttime, cone cells are rendered nearly useless, but chlorophyll drops could increase the eye's ability to detect red light, thus upping your Night Vision stat by 5.

The drops aren't out in the market yet, and likely won't be for quite some time, so until then, use your Modern Warfare goggles at your own discretion.

Source: Discover

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