Real-world superpowers: Eye surgery lets some see well into the ultraviolet

Replacing natural corneas leaves eye able to see higher-energy colors than unaltered humans


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Most patients going in for radical eye surgery hope the surgeons won't have an accident that makes their vision any worse.

Some wake up to find they can see colors far beyond the range humans are normally able to see.

There is increasing evidence that patients who have cataracts, cancer or other eye problems treated by having their corneas surgically removed and replaced with artificial alternatives, often end up able to see colors in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum – colors of light visible to night-hunting raptors, some lizards and, oddly, ants, but not to humans.

If this were a comic book or science fiction novel, this is where you'd find descriptions of strange creatures visible only in ghostly purple light, strange doors undetectable those not afflicted by aphakia, whole civilizations and a really coherent plot involving a threat to the human race that can be foiled only by humans able to see into The Purple.

Unfortunately, while the ability to see farther into the ultraviolet than other people is cool, it's not exactly a superpower. (It does do some really wacky things to the colors you're used to seeing, though.)

The colors of light classified as ultraviolet are only one step above the normal human visual range, for one thing.

Even un-aphakian humans can see some ultraviolet – which is used primarily to make raves and clubs look cool under black light (for the hipsters) or to identify bodily-fluid stains on sheets and furniture in hotel rooms (for the germophobes).

Photo Credit: 

Alek Komarnitsky

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