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Journal of the Optical Society of America

Journal of the Optical Society of America

  • Vol. 46, Iss. 8 — Aug. 1, 1956
  • pp: 634–639

Retinal Noise and Absolute Threshold

H. B. BARLOW  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA, Vol. 46, Issue 8, pp. 634-639 (1956)

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It is shown that the absorption of one quantum can excite a rod in the human retina, but that at least two, and probably many more, excited rods are needed to give a sensation of light. It is suggested that noise in the optic pathway limits its sensitivity, and this idea is subjected to an experimental test. The hypothesis is then formulated quantitatively, and shown to be able to account for the above experiment, and also the disagreement in the literature between those who believe that the absorption of two quanta can cause a sensation, and those who believe that 5 or more are required. The formulation of the hypothesis is used to calculate the maximum allowable noise (expressed as a number x of random, independent events confusable with the absorption of a quantum of light) in the optic pathway for the absorption of various fractions of the total number of quanta incident at the cornea.

H. B. BARLOW, "Retinal Noise and Absolute Threshold," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 46, 634-639 (1956)

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