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Why Light Isn’t Made of Photons

Click The Lightswitch

I like this illustration of what happens in the rod cells of your eyes. There’s really nothing there that links visual experience with optical mechanics. There’s a lot of complementary processes going on in the visual system:

1. Your rod and cone cells are constantly pumping glutamate into the synapse, and when light hits the Vitamin A molecules stuck inside the opsin proteins that make up the rod.

2. The Vitamin A molecule changes from it’s alcohol shaped isomer to a more, uh, erect aldehyde shape, which pushes the protein around in whatever way it can.

“The molecule undergoes a series of shape changes to try and better fit the binding site. Therefore, a series of changes in the protein occurs to expel the trans-retinal from the protein.”(source)

3. The mechanical changes in the opsin protein cause the rod cell to change its electric charge.

4. Hyperpolarization of the rod cell stops it from releasing glutamate, which has the effect of simultaneously

5. Turning off (hyperpolarizing) the main on-center group of cells that stimulate each ganglion and turns on the surrounding off-center group of bipolar cells that lead to the ganglion. (YouTube)

6. It appears that the elongating of the retinal (Vitamin A isomer) molecule allows the rod cell as a whole to absorb more visible light – so that detecting light makes your eye become more sensitive to light. Sort of like your eyes are opening their eyes.

7. “The nerves reach the optic chasm, where the nerve fibers from the inside half of each retina cross to the other side of the brain, but the nerve fibers from the outside half of the retina stay on the same side of the brain.” (each side of your brain gets a compete stereoscopic image, one L+R and the other R+L. It’s really a stereo stereo image.

This is just a casual overview. Feel free to correct me if I have it wrong.

The impression I get only makes me more convinced of my interpretation that photons cannot be considered light in any way. Photons are quorum synchronized reciprocal changes among atoms.

What our visual cortex would ‘see’ is nothing more than interruptions in the flow of glutamate in bipolar cells, which in turn are nothing more than responses of a stack of protein sheets to the adjustments in the shape of Vitamin A molecules. What is tickling our nervous system is not photons, but orchestrations of symmetric changes in cellular biochemistry.

The claims of vision being a transduction of optical information is misleading. It implies that we are getting a directly anamorphic imprint of photon impacts, when in fact, our visual experience, even if it could be described in biochemical terms, is quite indirect. What the brain detects is like news coverage of an electoral college voting on an issue in another country.

Of course, none of this begins to address the hard problem. Photons, molecule, cells and brains would have no way of producing seemingly non-molecular qualia like color, orientation, and beauty if they were the simple mechanical objects that we presume. The brain does not need to make an image out of glutamate fluctuation to be functionally informed by it. The data is already there, what more would be required?

Light is not a representation of photons, or glutamate, or cell polarizations, it is an anthropological scale sense of visual relation. Not a substance or an ‘energy’ but a sensitivity to objects being energized. As the so called ‘dark current’ of our retinal cells suggest, it is the job of our eyes to silence the noise of our brain and to open the bidirectional pathways of sense and motive; of receptive understanding, and projection of attention.

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