OSA's Digital Library

Journal of the Optical Society of America

Journal of the Optical Society of America

  • Vol. 27, Iss. 4 — Apr. 1, 1937
  • pp: 165–175

The Constancy of the Blue Arc Phenomenon

SIDNEY M. NEWHALL  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA, Vol. 27, Issue 4, pp. 165-175 (1937)

View Full Text Article

Acrobat PDF (1248 KB)

Browse Journals / Lookup Meetings

Browse by Journal and Year


Lookup Conference Papers

Close Browse Journals / Lookup Meetings

Article Tools


No abstract available.

SIDNEY M. NEWHALL, "The Constancy of the Blue Arc Phenomenon," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 27, 165-175 (1937)

Sort:  Author  |  Journal  |  Reset


  1. Variously known as the blue arc effect, the blue arcs of the retina, the blue brushes, le phénomène des arcs, die zwei Bogenstreifen, die Nebelbogen, das Neuroaktionsphosphen, and die Elliptischen Lichtstreifen.
  2. Favorable conditions of occurrence of the phenomenon are given in the section on calorimetric technique.
  3. J. E. Purkinje, Beobachtungen und Versuche zur Physiologie der Sinne, 2, 74 (1825).
  4. A complete bibliography of the arcs may be found in the following available papers: D. B. Judd, Nat. Bur. Stand. J. Research.2, 441 (1929) and B. Friedman, Arch. Ophth. 6, 663 (1931). In the present paper, therefore, it has usually seemed sufficient simply to cite the name of the investigator.
  5. The principal argument is the close spatial relation of arcs and bundles. But there are also the less brilliant blue lancet, spike, or Lanzettstreifen, and the blue halo, oval, haze, glow or retinaktionsphosphen, which are believed to be allied effects involving neighboring areas and which have been discussed by H. Gertz, Ellis, Ladd-Franklin and Amberson.
  6. The theories of the arcs have been summarized by B. Friedman, but only two of them still seem plausible, i.e., the electrical which is favored by H. Gertz, O. Gertz, Troland, Amberson, Davis, Ellis, Snell, Friedman, and the bioluminescence view favored by Druault, Ladd-Franklin, and Judd.
  7. The writer is indebted to Dr. Judd for various suggestions regarding this study and manuscript.
  8. This refers to the universal agreement on a characteristically present, dominant blue component, but the following list shows the variety in the subjective estimates actually reported by various investigators; purple, slightly reddish-blue, pale reddish-blue, blue to purple variation, violet, blue-violet, whitish-violet, blue, reasonably pure blue, whitish-blue, matt light blue.
  9. This result was for a range of retinal illuminations from 5 to 640 photons. Nearer the threshold, however, the arcs appear to increase in brilliance with increase in stimulus. Cf. H. Gertz, Hubbard, Ellis, Judd, and Snell.
  10. The several estimates of duration average somewhat less than 1 second. H. Gertz's estimate was 0.75 to 1.0; Troland's 1.0; and Snell's 0.8 sec.
  11. S. M. Newhall, Psychol. Monog. 47, 199 (1936).
  12. L. T. Troland, Psych. Rev. 22, 167 (1915), and J. Exper. Psych. 2, 1 (1917).
  13. Beyond the field, these arcs accurately converge toward, and sometimes seem to join at, the projected papilla. Subject H regularly reported that the arcs joined and he was trained in the introspective school. Incidentally, if the juncture is real and at the correct angular distance from the fovea, there is here definite evidence for vision in the blind spot.
  14. D. B. Judd, J. O. S. A. 23, 359 (1933).
  15. A wave-length number ending with a small c is the complementary of the matching color. This convention has been used regularly in the wave-length specification of the arcs because the arcs usually fall in the purple.
  16. D. B. Judd, Nat. Bur. Stand. J. Research 7, 827 (1931). D. B. Judd, J. O. S. A. 23, 359 (1933). A. Klughardt, Zeits. f. tech. Physik 10, 101 (1929).
  17. The measure of the "possible variation" is three times the standard error, i.e. 3 σm, which includes virtually the entire effective range for statistically normal data.
  18. Since the relation between retinal illumination and brilliance varies enormously with the region stimulated, the photon or unit of retinal illumination cannot be used even as a relative measure of brilliance when comparing different regions. For that purpose we have, therefore, employed the foveal photon. This psychophysical brilliance unit is defined in general as the brilliance corresponding to a foveal, or at least macular, stimulus of 1 photon.
  19. S. M. Newhall, Psych. Rev. 35, 46 (1928).
  20. D. M. Purdy, Brit. J. Psych. gen. sec. 21, 283 (1931). S. M. Newhall and R. R. Sears, Comp. Psych. Monogs. 9, 1 (1933).
  21. Troland not only observed that his arcs were regularly very weak but also showed experimentally that their brilliance exceeded but slightly the brilliance of primary threshold stimulation. The entire brilliance range of his arcs was given as approximately 0.0009 to 0.0031 photon which is below our threshold brilliance and below representative threshold brilliance values for primary foveal stimulation. This discrepancy might be due to difference in instrumentation, sensibility, or the fact that Troland's comparison field was approximately the same distance from the projected fovea as was his matched arc. Therefore his match was in terms of a "peripheral" photon whereas ours was in terms of a foveal photon. A brilliance standard from a photon falling on a peripheral area would necessarily yield a numerically lower brilliance determination than the foveal match. Thus the different brilliance reported might be due to the different brilliance unit employed.
  22. G. E. Müller, Ueber die Farbenempfindungen (Leipzig, 1930), p. 370 and Zeits. f. Sinnesphysiol. 65, 282 (1934). J. D. Achelis and J. Merkulow, Zeits. f. Sinnesphysiol. 60, 95 (1930). F. P. Fischer and K. vom Hofe, Arch. f. Augenheilk. 105, 443 (1932). A. Bogoslovsky, S. Kravkov, and E. Semenovskaya, Fiziol. Zh., U. S. S. R., 814 (1935). A. I. Bogoslovsky, v. Graefes Arch. Ophthal., 133, 105 (1935).
  23. Of interest in this connection is the fact that chromatic effects from externally applied electrical stimuli have been reported in which the hue has been called violet or greenish-yellow according to the direction of the flow of the current. H. Gertz, in the 1909 paper, has cited such electrical complementary effects as a basis for explaining the alleged chromatic after-arcs. He reported that the complementary sensation would arise when the extrinsic current was merely cut off.
  24. G. E. Müller, Zeits. f. Sinnesphysiol. 65, 274 (1934).
  25. Apart from the general implications of the duplicity principle and the Purkinje phenomenon, there are various specific indications of a high sensitivity of violet or blue receptors at scotopic or low levels of illumination. A. König, Sitz. d. preuss Akad. d. Wissenschaft, Phys.-math.,577 (1894). J. v. Kries and W. Nagel. Zeits. f. Psychol. 12, 1 (1896). W. Nagel, Zeits. f. Sinnesphysiol. 44, 5 (1909). V. O. Siven, Arch. Ophthal. 42, 156 (1913). O. Kroh. Zeits. f. Sinnesphysiol, 53, 187 (1921). M. Tscherning, Ann. d'ocul. 159, 632 (1922). H. v. Helmholtz, Physiol. Optics. O. S. A. trans. II, 347 (1924). H. E. Roaf, Discusion Vision, Physical Soc. Pub., 316 (1932).
  26. At the arc threshold, where stray light is at a minimum, Judd even found short wave stimuli to be more effective than long wave.

Cited By

Alert me when this paper is cited

OSA is able to provide readers links to articles that cite this paper by participating in CrossRef's Cited-By Linking service. CrossRef includes content from more than 3000 publishers and societies. In addition to listing OSA journal articles that cite this paper, citing articles from other participating publishers will also be listed.

« Previous Article

OSA is a member of CrossRef.

CrossCheck Deposited