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The eye can detect an impressive amount of detail, considering how small the image is on the retina. To get some idea of how small the image can be, consider the following example.

Size of image on retina

What is the size of the image on the retina of a 1 . 20 × 10 2 size 12{1 "." "20" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - 2} } } {} cm diameter human hair, held at arm’s length (60.0 cm) away? Take the lens-to-retina distance to be 2.00 cm.


We want to find the height of the image h i , given the height of the object is h o = 1 . 20 × 10 2 size 12{h rSub { size 8{0} } =1 "." "20" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - 2} } } {} cm. We also know that the object is 60.0 cm away, so that d o = 60.0 cm size 12{d rSub { size 8{0} } } {} . For clear vision, the image distance must equal the lens-to-retina distance, and so d i = 2.00 cm size 12{d rSub { size 8{i} } } {} . The equation h i h o = d i d o = m size 12{ { {h rSub { size 8{i} } } over {h rSub { size 8{o} } } } = - { {d rSub { size 8{i} } } over {d rSub { size 8{o} } } } =m} {} can be used to find h i with the known information.


The only unknown variable in the equation h i h o = d i d o = m size 12{ { {h rSub { size 8{i} } } over {h rSub { size 8{o} } } } = - { {d rSub { size 8{i} } } over {d rSub { size 8{o} } } } =m} {} is h i size 12{h rSub { size 8{i} } } {} :

h i h o = d i d o .

Rearranging to isolate h i size 12{h rSub { size 8{i} } } {} yields

h i = h o d i d o .

Substituting the known values gives

h i = ( 1.20 × 10 2 cm ) 2.00 cm 60.0 cm = 4.00 × 10 4 cm .


This truly small image is not the smallest discernible—that is, the limit to visual acuity is even smaller than this. Limitations on visual acuity have to do with the wave properties of light and will be discussed in the next chapter. Some limitation is also due to the inherent anatomy of the eye and processing that occurs in our brain.

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Power range of the eye

Calculate the power of the eye when viewing objects at the greatest and smallest distances possible with normal vision, assuming a lens-to-retina distance of 2.00 cm (a typical value).


For clear vision, the image must be on the retina, and so d i = 2.00 cm here. For distant vision, d o , and for close vision, d o = 25.0 cm , as discussed earlier. The equation P = 1 d o + 1 d i as written just above, can be used directly to solve for P in both cases, since we know d i and d o size 12{d rSub { size 8{0} } } {} . Power has units of diopters, where 1 D = 1/m size 12{"1D"="1/m"} {} , and so we should express all distances in meters.


For distant vision,

P = 1 d o + 1 d i = 1 + 1 0.0200 m .

Since 1 / = 0 size 12{1/ infinity =0} {} , this gives

P = 0 + 50 . 0 / m = 50.0 D (distant vision).

Now, for close vision,

P = 1 d o + 1 d i = 1 0.250 m + 1 0.0200 m = 4.00 m + 50.0 m = 4.00 D + 50.0 D = 54.0 D (close vision). alignl { stack { size 12{P= { {1} over {d rSub { size 8{o} } } } + { {1} over {d rSub { size 8{i} } } } = { {1} over {0 "." "250 m"} } + { {1} over {0 "." "0200 m"} } } {} #= { {4 "." "00"} over {m} } + { {"50" "." 0} over {m} } =4 "." "00"D+"50" "." 0D {} # ="54" "." 0D {}} } {}


For an eye with this typical 2.00 cm lens-to-retina distance, the power of the eye ranges from 50.0 D (for distant totally relaxed vision) to 54.0 D (for close fully accommodated vision), which is an 8% increase. This increase in power for close vision is consistent with the preceding discussion and the ray tracing in [link] . An 8% ability to accommodate is considered normal but is typical for people who are about 40 years old. Younger people have greater accommodation ability, whereas older people gradually lose the ability to accommodate. When an optometrist identifies accommodation as a problem in elder people, it is most likely due to stiffening of the lens. The lens of the eye changes with age in ways that tend to preserve the ability to see distant objects clearly but do not allow the eye to accommodate for close vision, a condition called presbyopia    (literally, elder eye). To correct this vision defect, we place a converging, positive power lens in front of the eye, such as found in reading glasses. Commonly available reading glasses are rated by their power in diopters, typically ranging from 1.0 to 3.5 D.

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Section summary

  • Image formation by the eye is adequately described by the thin lens equations:
    P = 1 d o + 1 d i and h i h o = d i d o = m . size 12{ { {h rSub { size 8{i} } } over {h rSub { size 8{o} } } } = - { {d rSub { size 8{i} } } over {d rSub { size 8{o} } } } =m} {}
  • The eye produces a real image on the retina by adjusting its focal length and power in a process called accommodation.
  • For close vision, the eye is fully accommodated and has its greatest power, whereas for distant vision, it is totally relaxed and has its smallest power.
  • The loss of the ability to accommodate with age is called presbyopia, which is corrected by the use of a converging lens to add power for close vision.

Conceptual questions

If the lens of a person’s eye is removed because of cataracts (as has been done since ancient times), why would you expect a spectacle lens of about 16 D to be prescribed?

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A cataract is cloudiness in the lens of the eye. Is light dispersed or diffused by it?

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When laser light is shone into a relaxed normal-vision eye to repair a tear by spot-welding the retina to the back of the eye, the rays entering the eye must be parallel. Why?

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How does the power of a dry contact lens compare with its power when resting on the tear layer of the eye? Explain.

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Why is your vision so blurry when you open your eyes while swimming under water? How does a face mask enable clear vision?

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Problem exercises

Unless otherwise stated, the lens-to-retina distance is 2.00 cm.

What is the power of the eye when viewing an object 50.0 cm away?

52.0 D

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Calculate the power of the eye when viewing an object 3.00 m away.

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(a) The print in many books averages 3.50 mm in height. How high is the image of the print on the retina when the book is held 30.0 cm from the eye?

(b) Compare the size of the print to the sizes of rods and cones in the fovea and discuss the possible details observable in the letters. (The eye-brain system can perform better because of interconnections and higher order image processing.)

(a) 0 . 233 mm size 12{ - 0 "." "233"" mm"} {}

(b) The size of the rods and the cones is smaller than the image height, so we can distinguish letters on a page.

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Suppose a certain person’s visual acuity is such that he can see objects clearly that form an image 4.00 μm high on his retina. What is the maximum distance at which he can read the 75.0 cm high letters on the side of an airplane?

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People who do very detailed work close up, such as jewellers, often can see objects clearly at much closer distance than the normal 25 cm.

(a) What is the power of the eyes of a woman who can see an object clearly at a distance of only 8.00 cm?

(b) What is the size of an image of a 1.00 mm object, such as lettering inside a ring, held at this distance?

(c) What would the size of the image be if the object were held at the normal 25.0 cm distance?

(a) +62.5 D

(b) –0.250 mm

(c) –0.0800 mm

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Questions & Answers

what is a wave
Williams Reply
wave means. A field of study
what are Atoms
is the movement back and front or up and down
how ?
wave is a disturbance that transfers energy through matter or space with little or no associated mass.
A wave is a motion of particles in disturbed medium that carry energy from one midium to another
an atom is the smallest unit( particle) of an element that bares it's chemical properties
what is electromagnetic induction?
How is the de Broglie wavelength of electrons related to the quantization of their orbits in atoms and molecules?
Larissa Reply
How do you convert 0.0045kgcm³ to the si unit?
how many state of matter do we really have like I mean... is there any newly discovered state of matter?
Falana Reply
I only know 5: •Solids •Liquids •Gases •Plasma •Bose-Einstein condensate
Alright Thank you
Which one is the Bose-Einstein
can you explain what plasma and the I her one you mentioned
u can say sun or stars are just the state of plasma
but the are more than seven
list it out I wanna know
what the meaning of continuum
Akhigbe Reply
What state of matter is fire
Thapelo Reply
fire is not in any state of matter...fire is rather a form of energy produced from an oxidising reaction.
Isn`t fire the plasma state of matter?
all this while I taught it was plasma
How can you define time?
Thapelo Reply
Time can be defined as a continuous , dynamic , irreversible , unpredictable quantity .
unpredictable? but I can say after one o'clock its going to be two o'clock predictably!
how can we define vector
I would define it as having a magnitude (size)with a direction. An example I can think of is a car traveling at 50m/s (magnitude) going North (direction)
as for me guys u would say time is quantity that measures how long it takes for a specific condition to happen e.g how long it takes for the day to end or how it takes for the travelling car to cover a km.
what is the relativity of physics
Paul Reply
How do you convert 0.0045kgcm³ to the si unit?
What is the formula for motion
Anthony Reply
V=u+at V²=u²-2as
they are eqns of linear motion
v=u+at s=ut+at^\2 v^=u^+2as where ^=2
Explain dopplers effect
Jennifer Reply
Not yet learnt
Explain motion with types
Acceleration is the change in velocity over time. Given this information, is acceleration a vector or a scalar quantity? Explain.
Alabi Reply
Scalar quantity Because acceleration has only magnitude
acleration is vectr quatity it is found in a spefied direction and it is product of displcemnt
its a scalar quantity
velocity is speed and direction. since velocity is a part of acceleration that makes acceleration a vector quantity. an example of this is centripetal acceleration. when you're moving in a circular patter at a constant speed, you are still accelerating because your direction is constantly changing.
acceleration is a vector quantity. As explained by Josh Thompson, even in circular motion, bodies undergoing circular motion only accelerate because on the constantly changing direction of their constant speed. also retardation and acceleration are differentiated by virtue of their direction in
respect to prevailing force
What is the difference between impulse and momentum?
Momentum is the product of the mass of a body and the change in velocity of its motion. ie P=m(v-u)/t (SI unit is kgm/s). it is literally the impact of collision from a moving body. While Impulse is the product of momentum and time. I = Pt (SI unit is kgm) or it is literally the change in momentum
Or I = m(v-u)
the tendency of a body to maintain it's inertia motion is called momentum( I believe you know what inertia means) so for a body to be in momentum it will be really hard to stop such body or object..... this is where impulse comes in.. the force applied to stop the momentum of such body is impulse..
Calculation of kinetic and potential energy
dion Reply
K.e=mv² P.e=mgh
K is actually 1/2 mv^2
what impulse is given to an a-particle of mass 6.7*10^-27 kg if it is ejected from a stationary nucleus at a speed of 3.2*10^-6ms²? what average force is needed if it is ejected in approximately 10^-8 s?
speed=velocity÷time velocity=speed×time=3.2×10^-6×10^-8=32×10^-14m/s impulse [I]=∆momentum[P]=mass×velocity=6.7×10^-27×32×10^-14=214.4×10^-41kg/ms force=impulse÷time=214.4×10^-41÷10^-8=214.4×10^-33N. dats how I solved it.if wrong pls correct me.
what is sound wave
Nworu Reply
sound wave is a mechanical longitudinal wave that transfers energy from one point to another
its a longitudnal wave which is associted wth compresion nad rearfractions
what is power
it's also a capability to do something or act in a particular way.
Newton laws of motion
power also known as the rate of ability to do work
power means capabilty to do work p=w/t its unit is watt or j/s it also represents how much work is done fr evry second
what does fluorine do?
Cheyanne Reply
strengthen and whiten teeth.
Practice Key Terms 2

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