It is through optics and imaging that physics enables advancement in major areas of biosciences. This chapter illustrates the enabling nature of physics through an understanding of how a human eye is able to see and how we are able to use optical instruments to see beyond what is possible with the naked eye. It is convenient to categorize these instruments on the basis of geometric optics and wave Optics.
- 26.0: Introduction to Vision and Optical Instruments
- Intricate images help us understand nature and are invaluable for developing techniques and technologies in order to improve the quality of life. The image of a red blood cell that almost fills the cross-sectional area of a tiny capillary makes us wonder how blood makes it through and not get stuck. We are able to see bacteria and viruses and understand their structure.
- 26.1: Physics of the Eye
- The eye is perhaps the most interesting of all optical instruments. The eye is remarkable in how it forms images and in the richness of detail and color it can detect. However, our eyes commonly need some correction, to reach what is called “normal” vision, but should be called ideal rather than normal. Image formation by our eyes and common vision correction are easy to analyze with Geometric Optics.
- 26.2: Vision Correction
- The need for some type of vision correction is very common. Nearsightedness, or myopia, is the inability to see distant objects clearly while close objects are clear. The eye overconverges the nearly parallel rays from a distant object, and the rays cross in front of the retina. Farsightedness, or hyperopia, is the inability to see close objects clearly while distant objects may be clear. A farsighted eye does not converge sufficient rays from a close object to make the rays meet on the retina.
- 26.3: Color and Color Vision
- The gift of vision is made richer by the existence of color. Objects and lights abound with thousands of hues that stimulate our eyes, brains, and emotions. Two basic questions are addressed in this brief treatment -- what does color mean in scientific terms, and how do we, as humans, perceive it?
- 26.4: Microscopes
- In this section we will examine microscopes, instruments for enlarging the detail that we cannot see with the unaided eye. The microscope is a multiple-element system having more than a single lens or mirror. A microscope can be made from two convex lenses. The image formed by the first element becomes the object for the second element. The second element forms its own image, which is the object for the third element, and so on. Ray tracing helps to visualize the image formed.
- 26.5: Telescopes
- Telescopes are meant for viewing distant objects, producing an image that is larger than the image that can be seen with the unaided eye. Telescopes gather far more light than the eye, allowing dim objects to be observed with greater magnification and better resolution.
- 26.6: Aberrations
- Real lenses behave somewhat differently from how they are modeled using the thin lens equations, producing aberrations. An aberration is a distortion in an image. There are a variety of aberrations due to a lens size, material, thickness, and position of the object.
Thumbnail: The human eye, showing the iris. (CC-BY-SA-2.5; "Petr Novák, Wikipedia").