Quantum Physics, Light Polarization and the Vision Process

by Gerald Huth on July 13, 2005

One generally overlooked property of the Fourier  plane ( or focal plane), formed by the retina of the eye is that time is brought into coincidence at this point, i.e., that all light rays that enter the eye reach the retina in time coincidence.

In fact, this is one of the most fundamental properties of the Fourier plane. Feynman calls this a “trick” of the nature of a condensing lens (such as the lens of the eye)……

To quote Feynman “…by slowing down the light that takes the shorter paths (i.e., though the center of the lens): glass of just the right thickness is inserted so that all of the paths (i.e., light paths) will take exactly the same time”.

The concept of a “zero time” for all light rays interacting with the retina? To what end?…. and seemingly never before considered. There is even experimental evidence in the vision field for considering short (quantum) time with the isomerization event of the retinal molecule within each receptor having been measured as ocurring in femtosecond ( 10>-15 sec( time. Although this result has been known for quite some time it’s meaning has not been considered with the view of the eye as a slow, frame-by-frame camera.

Also, considering that the aspect of spatial dimensionality is introduced in this concept (“optical antenna lengths”), as opposed to  the dimensionless abstract notion of “a photon hitting something”, it would seem that light polarization may play a role in vision. Human vision is generally insensitive to polarization. An explanation for this seemed to me to lie in the hexagonal (in the fovea and peripheral retina) and octagonal (rods-around-cones point at 7 1/2 degrees) symmetry of the retina. Nature was therefore accepting six or eight different angles of polarization..leading to general insensitivity to polarized light. But… within the eye itself. polarization effects seem to exist (Haidenger’s Brush, etc.). What is the state of polarization (circular, etc.?) at the point where light interacts with retinal outer segment…?




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Marco May 13, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Dr. Huth,
could you please clarify once again the process of vision and how fourier transform comes into play. I understand the math and ray tracing but lack the physical picture.
Once an object reflects light, each point emits billions of ray in all direction and the job of a lens is to catch some of them with the noble goal to reproduce a point on the object as a point in the image plane….The eye adjusts the f length of the its lens so that the image always forms on the focal plane(retina). Is this bogus?
Many thanks,

ghuth May 15, 2006 at 8:17 am

How the eye forms an image..a question that is never discussed. Paraxial rays from that object enter the eye and are focused onto the fixated all-cone fovea to produce the ‘outline sketch’ of the image solely at the long wavlength limit of visual response. You might see here the optical (or Fourier) transform of the outline ‘rabbit sketch’ figure in my original paper that will best convey this idea (‘Optical’ transforms are used instead of ‘Fourier’ transforms because we lack the technology to simultaneously detect the intensity and phase of light forming an image). Periperal rays entering the eye illuminate the area surrounding the fovea add detail and color to the ‘ sketch’ image. The ‘color sensation’ is determined by ratioing light falling on either side of the 7 degree (‘pure green’) angle. You correctly seem to assume that the retina is the focal (or’Fourier’) plane of the eye…this is not assumed by the vision field, rather, it is tacitly (and maddingly!) assumed that the retina forms the ‘image’ (or ‘camera’) plane of the eye. At the focal or Fourier plane image information is encoded in two terms..intensity and phase…. satisfying the Fourier equation with phase encoding the direction from whence the particular light ray came. It rather easy to see (at least for me) how an image might be reconstructed at this plane. Understanding 2-D Fourier transforms is complicated, however. Read Brian Hagan’s paper where a rather elegant explanation of the Fourier transform is presented..’in the Fourier transform the large becomes small…and vice versa’ I hope this helps.

shiba November 27, 2006 at 12:27 pm

some of my students at grade 8 are investigating eye abberation as a project. i can not find suitable articles & experiments for them.
can u help us?
shiba malek
8 grade physics teacher

Kyle July 27, 2007 at 3:43 pm

I totally agree. How did you get this info?

Web Hosting Reviews August 21, 2007 at 8:53 am

confusing stuff

ghuth August 21, 2007 at 10:11 am

Perhaps – but it might be expected to be in the process of modernizing (and rationalizing) the process of vision for the first time in a hundred year! For what its’ worth – and in summary – the retina interrogates reality i(i.e. an image is formed on the retina) in the realm of quantum physics in the 10>-15 sec time scale and at the single quantized event level. This image is transmitted and slowed to human nervous system scale by transit through the optic nerve (the actual function of this nerve fiber bundle) and actually appears in the visual cortex of the brain as a coherent image. Moreover, the retina (and eye) is not the passive receiver that has for so long been imagined but rather, as antenna theory proposes, transmits each light ray back along the exact path that it entered the eye via optical phase conjugation. This work having explained that the retina is actually the Fourier (or focal) plane of the eye this naturally follows. The retina is a phase conjugate mirror. We thus continually interrogate (“connectedness”) external reality and this must have some bearing on the mysterious subject of consciousness.

Confusing stuff!!!!!


Kyle November 20, 2007 at 3:17 pm

I am a physics PhD student with degenerative retinal disease. I really want to research the retina or some aspect of the visual process using condensed matter methods. Can anyone point in the direction of current research, methods, or any other information that will allow me to get fully integrated into the field? What needs to be done, what can get funding, and from where? If anyone can help I would appreciate it greatly. Please post a reply or email me at kkean001@ucr.edu

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