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Human eye spots single photons

Ability to detect smallest unit of light focuses debate on vision sensitivity

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9:00am, July 28, 2016
eye detecting a photon

FLASH OF LIGHT  People were able to detect single photons in a recent study, indicating that human eyes are sensitive to individual particles of light.

Human eyes are capable of detecting a single photon — the tiniest possible speck of light — new research suggests.

The result, published July 19 in Nature Communications, may settle the debate on the ultimate limit of the sensitivity of the human visual system, a puzzle scientists have pondered for decades. Scientists are now anticipating possibilities for using the human eye to test quantum mechanics with single photons.

Researchers also found that the human eye is more sensitive to single photons shortly after it has seen another photon. This was “an unexpected phenomenon that we just discovered when we analyzed the data,” says physicist Alipasha Vaziri of Rockefeller University in New York City.

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