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Instead, to try to get the photoreceptors to respond to longer wavelengths of light, they supplemented their diets with vitamin A2, or 3,4-dehydroretinol, which certain other animals, such as freshwater fish, use to see in the near infrared.
“From an organic chemistry point of view, this event should not happen. As wavelengths get longer, the energy of the light gets weaker, and in the infrared it should be too weak to excite the chromophores in our photoreceptors. Visual pigments were still able to respond to infrared light, suggesting that another process was taking place: two-photon isomerization (, doi:10.1073/pnas.1410162111, 2014).
In this situation, the photopigments themselves absorb two photons at once.
Recently, Krzysztof Palczewski of Case Western Reserve University was given a serendipitous opportunity to pick up the thread.
He was in Poland in 2012 accepting an award for scientific achievement when he struck up a conversation with another award recipient, Maciej Wojtkowski, an engineer at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun.
Night after night, he could see all of the moon, regardless of what phase it was in.
His daytime vision had also changed: sunrises were especially spectacular, almost neon in their brilliance.ast year, Jeffrey Tibbetts looked up at the moon and saw something he had never seen before: despite its being a crescent moon, most of it covered in the Earth’s shadow, the entire circumference was visible to him.“Oh god, it was really cool,” recalls Tibbetts, who cofounded the independent research organization Science for the Masses.He attributes these new qualities to a crowdfunded research project he was leading (and participating in) to expand humans’ visual range into the infrared.For three months, Tibbetts and the other participants had gone on a diet deficient in vitamin A1, or retinol, which is essential for the function of the light-capturing chromophores in our photoreceptors.Sporadically in the 20th century, scientists had reported that humans could detect light in the near infrared, hundreds of nanometers beyond the accepted limits of our visual abilities.The US military even looked into the phenomenon at one point.In the 1970s, David Sliney worked for what was then called the US Army Environmental Hygiene Agency, located at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.“At the time there was some interest in how easy it was for individuals to see infrared searchlights,” Sliney recalls.If this happens with, say, a laser of 1,064 nm, the resulting stimulus to hit the photoreceptors would be a light of 532 nm, which would appear green.But the exact mechanism of humans’ ability to see in the deep red was never nailed down.