Please consider the above words carefully before proceeding. If the student is not capable of separating this work from that of the current texts based on a less comprehensive knowledge of vision, he probably should not proceed within this site. If he or she is sufficiently intellectually advanced, this site can be a goldmine and we would be happy to support their investigations. Links to other good sites based on the conventional wisdom are listed below.
This site contains two major branches. The main branch is dedicated to the detailed understanding of vision. The second branch is focussed on the understanding of the neuron and the neural system supporting vision.
A series of simple tests of our understanding of vision appears in Chapter 1 of the text Processes in Animal Vision. These simple tests of vision can be explored by all k-12 students. Most of them can be performed in a classroom environment with a little planning by the teacher. Experiment 126.96.36.199 can be quite startling and cause considerable class discussion. We would be happy to help any teacher arrange this experiment. Just request a little help usaing the comment page of this site.
The following sites provide excellent material on the subject of vison and color for the K-12 student. The sites are based on conventional material and are not compatible with the more advanced material on this site:
The WEB EXHIBITS SITE of Brandeis University. This site includes paths to many other sites of interest to the younger student.
The following simple tests are designed to acquaint the student with some of the conventional statements made about vision and test their validity. This will better enable the student to evaluate some statements of folklore, found in both the popular and scientific literature on vision, that have risen to the level of an axiom.
188.8.131.52 Adaptation--There is frequent reference to the synchronous adaptation of both eyes in response to a change in light level to either eye. While in a dimly lit room, less than one-half moon outside, close one eye and turn a light on for a few seconds to a minute. Turn off the light. Now observe how much detail you can see with the open eye. Close the first eye and open the other eye. Observe how much detail is visible. Alternate eyes a few times. The level of adaptation is clearly quite different in the two eyes; although looking in a mirror will confirm that the irises of both eyes have contracted to the level established by the eye open to the higher light level. Conclusion, the irises of both eyes normally operate in synchronism, however, the major adaptation process in vision operates individually in each eye and is independent of the iris.
184.108.40.206 Peripheral Color Vision--Look straight ahead while bringing a reasonably large (1/2 inch square) object of red or blue from behind you into your peripheral field of view. Note the angle when you first see the color of the object. This experiment should clearly show you have color vision at angles greater than 60 degrees from the optical axis, the area that is claimed to be limited to "rod" vision in both the scientific and popular literature.
220.127.116.11 Foveal vs peripheral night vision--On a clear night, take your star map and go outside to look at the stars. It is best to be thoroughly dark adapted (at least 20 minutes to be fair). However, the point can be made with less dark adaptation. Our object is to see how much more sensitive our peripheral vision is to our foveal vision. The most sensitive part of our field of view is about five degrees temporally (toward our ears in the horizontal plane) from our point of fixation. This is the location of the optical axis of the eye. The photoreceptors located there are about 50% larger in diameter than in the fovea. Our object is to see what is the dimmest known star we can see using our most sensitive area and using our fovea. Don't use a red star in this initial experiment. Most people will find the difference in stellar magnitude between these two stars is less than one. One stellar magnitude is a factor of 2.5:1. This is a difficult experiment because of the small difference in sensitivity actually involved. Try using the stars of Ursa Major (the big dipper). Can you see all four stars forming the cup of the dipper with both your foveal and your most sensitive vision.Clearly, our night foveal vision is not limited by "cones" in the fovea, with a sensitivity 1000 times less than "rods," as frequently stated in the literature. It is limited by the smaller cross-sectional area if the photoreceptors in the fovea and the poorer performance of the elliptical lenses of the eye five degrees from the optical axis when the iris is fully opened (related to the Stiles-Crawford Effect). The first cause introduces a factor of about 2:1 and the second cause accounts for a factor of less than 1.5:1.
18.104.22.168 Night Color Vision--Step outside on any clear night and look up at the stars. Do you see any colored planets or stars? Mars, "the red planet", should be easy to see somewhere along the ecliptic if it is in the sky. There are many colored stars, and many of these have names given to them in ancient times. According to the Field Book of the Skies, "There is a wide variety of tints easily seen with the unaided eye." These usually range from green to yellow to red. Can you recognize the color of a star while looking directly at it? Do you have color vision under low light conditions in your fovea?
22.214.171.124 Eye as a Camera--While looking straight ahead and without moving your head, note closely the field of view you perceive. Without moving your head or blinking, move your line of sight 5-10 degrees to either side and back. Try up and down by 5-10 degrees. Did the overall scene that you perceive move or did just your eyes move? Would you expect this result if you took a picture with a camera and then took a second picture with the camera turned 5-10 degrees? The process of detecting and perceiving information by the eye will be addressed later.
126.96.36.199 Eye as a Change Detector--During your next eye examination, while sitting at the Visual Field Analyzer --a device that presents a uniform white field to the eye-- repeat a simple experiment fully explored by Yarbus in the 1950's. Before the technician inserts a stimulus into this uniform white field, note that in the absence of any blinking or head movement, you begin to observe a darkening of your field of view after 1-3 seconds. If carefully done, you will become completely blind during this experiment. This is not the normal result obtained with a camera. It is the normal response expected of a sensor that is a "change detector."
188.8.131.52 Bright Adaptation as opposed to Dark Adaptation--After attending an afternoon movie and becoming fully dark adapted, walk quickly out of the lobby of a small theater (or out the emergency exit) into the bright sunlight. Neglecting the pain for the moment, how long does it take before you can see effectively? It probably takes a few seconds, the period required for "Bright Adaptation." Both "Bright" and "Dark" adaptation need to be considered, explained and quantified.