Human Vision Can Sense a Single Photon | The Institute for Creation Research

Human Vision Can Sense a Single Photon

How well designed is the human visual system? Biophysics researchers from the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Austria and Rockefeller University recently demonstrated that people can see just a single photon of light. This led them to ask how evolution could have crafted a visual system sophisticated enough to overcome the overwhelming problem of discerning single photons from the sea of electromagnetic, molecular, and electrochemical "noise" inside a human head.

Research from the 1940s suggested human vision might have the ability to detect single photons, but the tests available back then couldn't send just a single photon toward an observer's eye. A new setup uses a crystal to split a high-intensity photon into two low-intensity photons. The process directs one low-intensity photon to the subject's eye and the other low-intensity photon to a camera as a crosscheck.

The team performed over 30,000 trials. They wrote in the journal Nature Communications, "To our knowledge, these experiments provide the first evidence for the direct perception of a single photon by humans."1

The designs of the man-made research camera and the human-visual system deserve comparison. The experiment's camera engineers are smart, educated people, and they specified the right materials and the right shapes and sizes for all the camera's components. They arranged them at the optimum angles and assembled them in the right order to manufacture the single-photon-detecting camera. What might they say about the assertion that chance evolutionary processes, not a person, engineered the entire human visual system?

Alipasha Vaziri is the senior author of the report and head of the Laboratory of Neurotechnology and Biophysics at Rockefeller University. He told Rockefeller news,

If you imagine this, it is remarkable: a photon, the smallest physical entity with quantum properties of which light consists, is interacting with a biological system consisting of billions of cells, all in a warm and wet environment. The response that the photon generates survives all the way to the level of our awareness despite the ubiquitous background noise. Any man-made detector would need to be cooled and isolated from noise to behave the same way.2

Indeed, his team had to cool the detector they used, an EMCCD camera, to -80C to get it within the sensitivity range of single photons. Low temperatures reduce the number of random detection events, called noise, which occur even when no photons enter the system. The team also had to optimize their camera by adjusting at least six other parameters, listed in Supplementary Table 2.

These two detectors offer a crisp analogy. If human camera construction and optimization requires sub-freezing and dry conditions to detect single photons, then only a super-human design could overcome the much more challenging noise problem that a wet and warm living environment adds to the human visual system.

References

  1. Tinsley, J. N. et al. 2016. Direct detection of a single photon by humans. Nature Communications. 7: 12172. 
  2. Fenz, K. Study suggests humans can detect even the smallest units of light. Rockefeller Newswire. Posted on newswire.rockefeller.edu July 20, 2016, accessed July 21, 2016. 

*Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on August 8, 2016.

The Latest
CREATION PODCAST
Rapid Erosion Devastates Deep Time! | The Creation Podcast: Episode...
Erosion takes place slowly, over millions of years, right? That's what mainstream science tells us anyway. Or, does erosion happen far more...

NEWS
Flood Solves Land and Marine Mixing Near the Andes
A recent article published by Hakai Magazine claims to reveal secrets of an ancient inland sea that existed east of the Andes Mountains,1...

NEWS
T. rex Out of Nowhere
As one of the largest predators ever at 45 feet long, it’s no wonder school children are enthralled with Tyrannosaurus rex. But where did the...

NEWS
February 2024 ICR Wallpaper
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11 NKJV) ICR February 2024 wallpaper is now available...

NEWS
Evolutionist and ICR Research Both Attempting to Explain Fossil...
Recent evolutionary research is attempting to provide an explanation for why some animals became smaller over time. Or equivalently, it is attempting...

NEWS
Animal Features Did Not Evolve
There’s no doubt that animals in God’s creation have iconic features. The question is, did these features evolve or were they created that...

CREATION PODCAST
Taking a Closer Look at Uniquely Human Eyes | The Creation Podcast:...
While we might take them for granted, our eyes are incredibly complex organs. How do they work? Is it possible for eyes to have evolved over long...

NEWS
The Conserved Complexity of Eye Cell Types
The late leading evolutionary biologist, Ernst Mayr, said the eye appeared at least 40 times “during the evolution of animal diversity.”1...

TECHNICAL PAPERS
Crassostrea Oyster Fossils Show Extreme Longevity
by Jake Hebert, Ph.D., Richard Overman, Frank J. Sherwin, D.Sc. (Hon.) In Creation Research Society Quarterly. 60 (3): 171-190. Abstract This...

NEWS
Fossilized Reptile Skin Is Still Reptile Skin
Skin is the largest organ of your body. It helps maintain a person’s or animal’s homeostasis (a relatively stable equilibrium), insulation,...