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China Medicine Idle Science

Chinese Boy Claims To Have Cat-Like Night Vision 171

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-see-you dept.
Oswald McWeany writes "Reports swirling around the Internet are that a boy in China may have cat-like night vision. The boy with eerie blue-eyes was able to fill out a questionnaire in the dark and his eyes reflect like a cat's when a light is shined on them. No reports yet if he marks his territory or is litter box trained."
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Chinese Boy Claims To Have Cat-Like Night Vision

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  • Blue eyes? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:05PM (#38916699)

    Blue eyes? He just uses prescience to find if the answers he's about to write down are correct, much like Paul Muad-Dib the God-Emperor did later in his life. Nothing new here

  • by Sez Zero (586611) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:06PM (#38916719) Journal

    And there you were complaining about all the toxic waste that cheap manufacturing and lax environment laws in China.

    We could have blue-eyed sightseeing children here in the US, but, OH NO, you had to have cheap iPhones!!

  • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:07PM (#38916751)
    From an evolutionary standpoint, I would think such a radical mutation impossible, unless his family has been selectively breeding for night vision for thousands of years.

    I suspect instead this is just sensationalism and the boy has moderately better vision in low light, without the reflective light collection mechanisms that exist in other animals.
    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:10PM (#38916807) Homepage

      He had a surgical shine job.

    • by FudRucker (866063)
      maybe a dormant gene went active, if they find it that would be cool if anyone could go to a doctor's office and get gene therapy and after a couple of visits to a doctor BAM! you got night vision too
      • If, and only if, you also had your iris recalibrated to handle the higher sensitivity...

        I'm by no means in genetic-freak-vision territory; but even with merely good low light vision and pale blue eyes, going into sunlight downright hurts for a few minutes until a combination of squinting and iris closure gets the light levels back to acceptable.

        You Would. Not. Want. to be the poor sucker who suddenly acquires inhuman low-light sensitivity without the accompanying optical gizmos for handling daylight..
        • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:19PM (#38916973)
          Iris closure happens in seconds. What you are experiencing is a secondry, slow method by which the eye adapts to different light levels. The concentration of rhodopsin is actually changing. Light breaks it down, but the photosensitive cells continually regenerate it - so when you're in the dark, levels build up and increase sensitivity.
        • by X0563511 (793323)

          For a few minutes?

          My friend, the pain does not stop until the sun goes away (or you just put on sunglasses)

      • Except as the geneticist in TFA pointed out, it isn't 1 gene, its many, many.

        They all produce some change, which is why evolution takes time to produce features or turn them on (and why, say, large portions of the population don't have a mutation to produce Vitamin C). There isn't just a magic switch to turn on adaptations, regardless if our ancestors might have had a trait in the past.

        It took many generations to lose traits incrementally, and will be the same when getting them back in the same way.
        • by Phernost (899816)

          Your statement is not completely correct. It is possible for a single mutation to effect multiple genes and sections of DNA. These mutations need only occurs in the dark DNA, or junk DNA whichever you prefer. Remember only about 1.5% of the human genome is protein coding exons. How many are silent genes? How many are broken? All questions needing answers.

          A programming analogy might be to say a program is DNA. Running the binutils program “stings” over that program displays all it's possible

        • by sjames (1099)

          To develop a new trait from nothing, yes. However, a single mutation can prevent a gtreat many genes from being expressed. It stands to reason that an opposite mutation could, generations later, re-enable all of the necessary genes in a single event.

          However, I'd say it's more likely he just has really good night vision on the extreme end of the human norm rather than a novel (for humans) eye structure.

    • by Nadaka (224565) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:21PM (#38916999)

      That isn't how mutation works. There does not need to be a goal for something to happen. This could be the result of a single gene affecting the expression of many proteins, or it could be a mutation that activated some of the dormant genetic material.

      • Exactly, and even a cat who could read and write could not "complete[..] a writing test in a pitch-black stairwell" - they need *some* light to see.

        This silly piece is nothing but sensationalism and should not be on Slashdot.
    • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:28PM (#38917093) Journal

      From an evolutionary standpoint, I would think such a radical mutation impossible

      From a reading-that-statement standpoint, I would think you having more than minimal education in the biological sciences would be impossible.

      Mutations are a contributing factor to evolution, not a sole cause of it, or caused by it. There is no "evolutionary standpoint" on a single mutation occuring.

      That being said, it may be an *unlikely* mutation, but with over 7billion people, quite a few people will have rather unlikely mutations. And a single point mutation could conceivably cause a change the density of photoreceptor in the eye, how good they are at capturing photons (the human eye "sees" only about 4-5% of the photons that pass through it).

    • The Chinese LOVE these kind of stunts (like the absurd claims regarding "Chi") "Monks" who use electric drills on their bodies or use a sweaty palm to pick up a large jar, etc. The Han/Communist Chinese seem to find it necessary to make extravagant claims about almost everything!

      Bigger
      Better
      First
      Faster
      Older
      Longer

    • What do you call people who have been, "selectively breeding for night vision for thousands of years"?

      Ninjas!

    • by gtall (79522)

      Nah, it was aliens, someone contact the Greek guy with flyaway hair on the H2 channel, he'll explain it all.

    • That eye doctor seems like an educated imbicile.

      Nobody said the reflective layer was fully formed and functional, only that the boy can see in the dark like a cat.

      Moreover it's not out of the realm of possibility that a fully formed and functional organ could appear because of a single mutation. By causing a single mutation, the dormant tooth producing genes in chickens have been made to produce teeth for instance.

      It could be that a human ancestor had a fully formed reflective layer much like a cat's and t

  • Night vision (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:13PM (#38916861) Homepage Journal

    I still have very good night vision, but as I age it's not as effective as it was when I was a teenager. I have above average visual acuity, which I think is the basis of it. Having blue eyes I can't see as being relevent or even reflecting eyes (hay, anyone ever hear of red eye?) His irises are simply able to dilate enough to let in more of the limited light available and has sensitive Rod cells.

    • by tchdab1 (164848)

      I was told that most animals can see better in the "dark" than we can because of a reflective lining inside their eyeball that augments available light.
      Not true?

      • Re:Night vision (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Sockatume (732728) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:53PM (#38917555)

        Many animals have such a coating, but not all do. Some of them just have bigger eyes, bigger pupils, better night-adapted biochemistry, or some other adaptation.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by ackthpt (218170)

          Many animals have such a coating, but not all do. Some of them just have bigger eyes, bigger pupils, better night-adapted biochemistry, or some other adaptation.

          And they often lack Cone cells, which provides more space for Rod cells. Nightvision is typically not in colour as the more sensitive of the two (Rods and Cones) are Rods.

    • I've always had great vision, including night vision. A recent trip to the eye doctor (first one in at least 20 years) confirmed that my vision still scores at 20/20 or better. I found this hard to believe because my vision is noticeably worse than it was five or ten years ago, which makes me wonder how the world looks to people who live their whole life with bad vision. Also, curiously, I have blue eyes and have suffered with red eyes in every picture ever taken of me. Three of my kids have blue eyes a

      • How does the world look to people with bad vision? Blurry, mostly. More specifically, though, the most obvious change for me when I got glasses for the first time was realizing that kids draw trees with one green blob at the top for simplicity's sake. I did it because that's what they looked like.
    • I'll have to second that.

      I've always had an uncanny ease to move about in near darkness but never thought much of it. A few years ago when I got my right eye corrected through laser surgery, the doctors couldn't believe how wide my pupils could open up; makes sense.

  • So many are missing is that evolution tends to jump like this. As such, the implication is not that radiation does it, but that life borrows from each other. We will find a number of virus in the future that are asymptomatic, but are carrying genes from one species to another.
  • There's got to be a ceiling cat / nyan cat joke in here somewhere.
  • Do creepers flee when he is near?

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:30PM (#38917139)

    Despite the claims that his eyes have a retroreflective tapetum lucidum, they can't capture it on camera:

    http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/2115-china-cat-eyed-boy-night-vision.html [lifeslittlemysteries.com]

    In the footage, Nong's teacher claims the boy's eyes flash when shined with a flashlight in the dark, but the reporters don't seem to be able to catch the effect on camera. When Nong's eyes are illuminated in the dark, they appear normal. James Reynolds, a pediatric ophthalmologist at State University of New York in Buffalo, noted, "A video could capture [eyeshine] easily, just like in nature films of leopards at night."

    I can't seem to take a flash photo of my dog without seeing her eyes shine back at me, so I don't see why they can't capture the effect in this boy if it exists.

    I think he's just a blue-eyed chinese boy (which is unusual but not unheard of) with exceptionally good low-light vision, but I don't believe he's developed the same low-light vision adaptation that some animals have.

    • by russotto (537200) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:35PM (#38917227) Journal

      Yes, his eyes look like ordinary blue eyes to me. Seems to me his mother really pulled off a fast one on his father. "Ooh, it's a mutation, has nothing to do with my job as a tour guide for Western visitors."

      • by eggstasy (458692)

        Blue is the "true" color of the eye. Anything else implies there is some pigment - such as melanin - being produced.
        He could have simply gotten a mutation that prevents the eye from secreting melanin, and indeed blue-eyed people are supposedly more sensitive to light. They do, after all, come from those cloudy northern european countries full of pale white people.

        • Shouldn't the true colour be red? As with, for example, albinos, people that don't produce melanin?
        • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

          Blue may be the true color, but not producing the pigment is a mutation. A normal non-mutant eye is brown. This mutation happened before, and the first guy with it was probably very successful with the ladies (after getting past the whole "it's a devil baby" phase, I assume). No reason it can't happen again.

          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080130170343.htm [sciencedaily.com]

          At the same time, I call BS on most of the story. I've seen too many hoaxes fall apart after they hit the international news scene.

    • by Chrontius (654879)
      I had a biology professor who studied with someone who had a tapetum lucidum, which was great fun when they were working on a field survey in the desert at night -- the guy almost got shot as an aggressive coyote until he got close enough for the others to see his outline. Fortunately, the professor wasn't a trigger happy sort of person.

      Anecdotal reports in that class suggested that humans were selectively bred for lousy night vision; those whose eyes glowed in the dark were burned as witches or lynched
      • by hawguy (1600213)

        I had a biology professor who studied with someone who had a tapetum lucidum, which was great fun when they were working on a field survey in the desert at night -- the guy almost got shot as an aggressive coyote until he got close enough for the others to see his outline. Fortunately, the professor wasn't a trigger happy sort of person.

        Anecdotal reports in that class suggested that humans were selectively bred for lousy night vision; those whose eyes glowed in the dark were burned as witches or lynched as werewolves or whatever during the middle ages. Also, physics suggests that increasing light sensitivity by using a tapetum lucidum comes at a cost to resolving power and angular resolution.

        I'd like to see a source for this -- having a human spontaneously develop a tapetum lucidum seems unlikely and details about any human who did so should be well documented since it would be such an unusual case.

        http://www.livescience.com/18209-china-cat-eyed-boy-night-vision.html [livescience.com]

        Furthermore, there is no single genetic mutation that could produce a fully formed and functioning tapetum lucidum, Reynolds explained; such an ability would require multiple mutations, which don't just happen all at once. Evolution happens incrementally, he said, not by leaps and bounds. "Evolutionarily, mutations can result in differences that allow for new environmental niche exploitation. But such mutations are modified over long periods. A functional tapetum in a human would be just as absurd as a human born with wings. It can't happen,

        • by Chrontius (654879)
          I'll see if I can't find a bit more information about this guy from my professor.

          Also - pre-adaptation? It's entirely possible that there's a recessive mutation in a regulatory gene; some people lack the entire gene complex or a significant portion, and others have it intact, but deactivated.

          I figure once gene sequencing makes it mainstream, we may be able to elucidate this quickly and without drama. We may also be able to find drugs that reactivate a dormant night-vision complex, or supply the miss
      • by Oligonicella (659917) on Friday February 03, 2012 @03:44PM (#38920287)
        "Anecdotal reports in that class suggested that humans were selectively bred for lousy night vision; those whose eyes glowed in the dark were burned as witches or lynched as werewolves or whatever during the middle ages."

        No. I'm a long-time studier of that period because of all it's lunacy and a I don't recall glowing eyes being a big deal or mentioned at all, anecdote or otherwise. It was religious beliefs coupled with economics that powered the purges.

        Add to that the Middle Ages was European, and one has to wonder why the rest of the world's population of eye-glowers has disappeared?
        • by Culture20 (968837)

          one has to wonder why the rest of the world's population of eye-glowers has disappeared?

          Because no one wants to mate with what looks like an aggressive coyote when the lights go off?

        • by Chrontius (654879)
          I should have been more clear that was speculation on his part, I suppose.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@l y n x . b c .ca> on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:31PM (#38917149) Journal
    Yeah, I know that cats aren't completely color blind, but they only have about a tenth the density of cones in their eye as a human with normal vision does, and to us, such imagery would look highly desaturated.
    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      Yeah, I know that cats aren't completely color blind, but they only have about a tenth the density of cones in their eye as a human with normal vision does, and to us, such imagery would look highly desaturated.

      Vision is as much what goes on in the various higher-level parts of the brain as the original physical response of the eye to the stimulus.

      Saying that something that cat "sees" would look desaturated "to us" is open to question because what the cat "sees" is determined by its brain, which we can assume is designed to work with the cats eyes and hence wouldn't "perceive" it as desaturated.

      But even ignoring this philosophical issue, I suspect that- could we wire a cats eye up to a human brain- the other A [slashdot.org]

  • X-Men (Score:5, Funny)

    by wiedzmin (1269816) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:31PM (#38917157)
    How is there no X-Men reference anywhere in the article or the comments? Are we afraid of copyright lawsuits for uttering the brand? :)
  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday February 03, 2012 @12:33PM (#38917191)

    Looking for some authentication here...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It is 100% verified bullcrap. The fact the voice-over SAYS his eyes glow like a cat's doesn't really cover up the fact the video shows they don't.
      How dose this stuff get on /.?

      • do they take pictures of his eyes in the dark? Because a cat's eye's don't so much glow as reflect light.

  • The spice must flow, and all that.
  • Did he pay a doctor 20 menthol cools to do a shine job on his eyeballs?

  • that you are what you eat.
  • In the video they said that a teacher noticed that he had to squint in the sunlight when playing. Question: how do you tell when a chinese kid is squinting? Seriously though how do you tell? Some asians have eyes that look more or less closed all the time so how do you tell the difference between someone with normally mostly closed eyes and one that squinting in normal light because it is too bright for them? Wouldn't it be more of the case that you'd notice it when the kid was in a darker room that, "oh lo

    • Oh and my night vision is pretty good too. I usually work with machines with the light out and my coworkers are stumbling around. Mah, helps me see the lasers better than with the lights on and everything being bright. Also was very useful when sneaking up on people when I was in the army :-)

  • Have you ever seen a typical Chinese person drive?

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