changing diet might allow you to see infrared

Thanks to Eric Lundquis for typing this up and putting it on the internet. It’s an experiment done by the army and cited by Rubin, M. L., and Walls, G. L. (1969). Fundamentals of visual science. Springfield, Ill.: Thomas, p. 546, which is in turn cited Sekuler, R., and Blake, R. (1994). Perception (3rd ed.). Springfield, Ill.: Thomas, pp. 62-63:

The following story dramatizes how photopigments determine what one can see. During World War II, the United States Navy wanted its sailors to be able to see infrared signal lights that would be invisible to the enemy. Normally, it is impossible to see infrared radiation because, as pointed out earlier, the wavelengths are too long for human photopigments. In order for humans to see infrared, the spectral sensitivity of some human photopigment would have to be changed. Vision scientists knew that retinal, the derivative of vitamin A, was part of every photopigment molecule and that various forms of vitamin A existed. If the retina could be encouraged to use some alternative form of vitamin A in its manufacture of photopigments, the spectral sensitivity of those photopigments would be abnormal, perhaps extending into infrared radiation. Human volunteers were fed diets rich in an alternative form of vitamin A but deficient in the usual form. Over several months, the volunteers’ vision changed, giving them greater sensitivity to light of longer wavelengths. Though the experiment seemed to be working, it was aborted. The development of the “snooperscope,” an electronic device for seeing infrared radiation, made continuation of the experiment unnecessary (Rubin and Walls, 1969). Still, the experiment demonstrates that photopigments select what one can see; changing those photopigments would change one’s vision.

18 thoughts on “changing diet might allow you to see infrared”

  1. The Great Designer in the Sky made eyes. It is impossible to alter His design. Anti-Christian propaganda like this makes me sick.

    1. Man wrote the Bible and invented God. It is impossible to prove the existance of an invisible being or creator. Anti-Science propaganda like this makes me sick. 😛

    2. To quote you:
      “It is impossible to alter His design.”

      Please, PLEASE, tell me you are trolling. Otherwise, PLEASE explain to me how you account for genetic mutations, as well as scientific GENETIC ENGINEERING that in the most literal sense ALTERS ‘HIS’ DESIGN.

      Grow a brain.

      1. Dude calm down. He was obviously being facetious. No serious Christian refers to God as “Great Designer in the Sky”. I LSTMS.

      2. Genetic mutations are the result of sin, DNA was designed perfectly, all we have to work with is the deteriorated copies of copies of copies and this is one of the results of sin. Genetic engineering is an example of how humans have stewardship of the earth.

    3. There’s noth9ing anti-christian here. You religious reich morons try to play the persecution card at every turn.

      What you really want is the freedom to persecute others without the hindrances of the law and human decency.

      Most of the problems of the world have been caused by religion. Think of the crusades, the inquisition, the dark ages, the witch burnings, the restrictions on learning, free speech, instilling guilt and shame into children, and the wars fought in the name of religion.

      More recently, think of family planning clinic bombings, oppression of gays and non-believers, murders of doctors and homosexuals, imposition of religious beliefs by force of law, and illegal use of public funds to promote particular religions.

      Mankind will never truly be free until the black yoke of religion is lifted by the clear light of truth and rational thinking.

  2. Isn’t this a mutated form of the deliberately constructed rumour circulated in the UK during WWII, that RAF night-pilots were being fed a diet rich in carrots (a strong source of Vitamin A) to improve their ability to see in the dark?

    Why bother? Because we didn’t want the Germans to know we’d developed a thing called radar.

  3. Lol, this is absolutely wrong. If it were true, people on Accutane (a popular treatment for acne administered over a long time that is basically a bonkers dose of vitamin A) would report some visual phenomena.

    Even ignoring the infrared madness, the carrots/vision WWII thing is wrong altogether:

    1. Meno writes:

      Lol, this is absolutely wrong. If it were true, people on Accutane (a popular treatment for acne administered over a long time that is basically a bonkers dose of vitamin A) would report some visual phenomena.

      In all fairness, changing the spectral sensitivity of photopigments does not imply anyone noticing since such changes (if any) could be subtle.

      As for Accutane itself, you do realize that various visual disturbances, including reversible loss of color vision and decreased night vision, are reported as side effects, don’t you? Given this, I’m not sure how it would be so absurd (as to deserve LOL) to wonder if something like this is not happening.

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