Imagine humans with a brain capable of processing gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet, and infrared radiation.

Would the resulting image be a juxtaposition of how the image would look for each specific wave, or would it look completely different?

Also, what physical characteristics should this type of eye have?

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    $\begingroup$ (1) If their eyes can receive longwave radio they must be huge. (2) The characteristic of eyes is that they can form an image. Good luck forming an image based on 500 meter medium-wave radiation. (3) Anyway, while we know how to focus radio waves and microwaves and light, nobody has any idea of how to focus X-rays or gamma rays. The point being that no answer is possible, because human knowledge has not yet progressed sufficiently. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 30 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ As Alex states, to have the same resolution as the human eye at medium wave, you'd need an eye well over 6,000 km in radius. Imagine the cost of a visit to the optometrist. $\endgroup$ Aug 30 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ Fair points. I should remove radio waves out of the equation. $\endgroup$
    – lollo259
    Aug 30 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ What anything “looks like” is not an objective function of the emitter. We see “green” when energy of 550 nanometers activates a cone receptor. The fact that it is “green” and doesn’t look the same as “blue” is entirely up to the receptor neurons and the brain. Dogs don’t see color at all, every color is a shade of grey. There is no objective answer to this. Any line of sight wavelength that excites a receptor can be seen in the way you the author decide. Gamma won’t work in a hard science world, it destroys rather than activates a receptor. Keep the science fiction tag on this. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Aug 30 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ Also bees can see UV and flowers take advantage of this by having a UV color reflection in their petals. IR is likewise easily explained. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Aug 30 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


For how things would look to the superhuman, you have your choice. The human visual system plays a lot of tricks with color already to allow us to see what we do see wikipedia on color spaces So you could just say that this superhuman maps the wider spectrum to the ordinary color space, so they don't see any 'new' colors, but things won't look the same color to them that they do to us, and they'll have problems with things like photographs and video displays not looking right. Alternatively, you could say the superhuman gets a higher dimensional color space ( there are a few people who actually have this ),so they'd be seeing lots of colors people have no names for, and may or may not have issues with displays.

There's also the issue that you can't see details smaller than the wavelength of light you're using to see it, and you can't resolve images well if there isn't much light available. So infrared is going to look a bit blurry, and radio wave images will just be vague blobs. Gamma and x-ray will have the issue of there not being very much gamma or x-ray to light things up with, so anything you see with that will be super grainy and hard to make out - like photos taken at night but moreso. If you see a nice crisp image using gamma rays, you know you're getting a lethal dose of radiation!

Finally, you have the issue that we see things around us because light strikes those things, and more or less ricochets off them into our eyes. So light that's useful to see things with has to bounce off of things at large angles. Longer wavelengths move more like ripples in a pond; they tend to go around or through obstacles and continue on the direction they were going. Shorter wavelengths move more like particles, bouncing off of things easily. (That's why the sky is blue and sunsets are red - of the light passing overhead, it's the short blue stuff that can bounce down to you, and the long red stuff is what can pass through all that air between you and the horizon with out getting scattered away). Anyway, the super short wavelengths like gamma and x-rays move like bullets. A gamma ray striking a typical atom is going to drill right through instead of bouncing. So you could see bright sources of very short wave stuff like gamma and x-ray sources, and you can see through things if the x-ray source is behind something, but you can't really use them to light up an area flashlight-style. Same for very long waves - they don't scatter well either, so your superhuman could see that a radio tower was transmitting, but the transmissions wouldn't light up the area for him.


This would not be possible with a single eye configuration.
Part of the issues is that the different wavelengths of light interact with different "antenna" lengths.

In general the longer the wavelength, the bigger the antenna you need. The rods and cones in your eyes interact with light in the visible spectrum. You would need corresponding structures for each wavelength range.

The lenses of your eyes focus light from in front of you onto your retinas. Light is refracted through the lenses to form this image.

Different wavelengths of light refract differently, this is why a prism can split a beam of white light into a rainbow.

Making a single lens structure that can handle a wider range of wavelengths isn't really feasible.

This is further complicated by the fact that many wavelengths will happily pass right through you.

You would have to wear a lead helmet to even be sure that the Xrays that your Xrods detected were coming from in front of you, rather than through your skull.

Apparently Goldfish can see some Infrared and Ultraviolet, so it is for sure possible to expand the visible spectrum with conventional biologics.


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