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Some news story now circulating states that

A BOY has stunned medics with his ability to see in pitch black with his cat's eyes that glow in the dark.

Doctors have studied Nong Youhui's amazing eyesight since his dad took him to hospital in Dahua, southern China, concerned over his bright blue eyes.

Dad Ling said: "They told me he would grow out of it and that his eyes would stop glowing and turn black like most Chinese people but they never did."

Medical tests conducted in complete darkness show Youhui can read perfectly without any light and sees as clearly as most people do during the day.

The Daily Telegraph

The story seems plausible, but I can't find much information other than this short blurbs reproduced elsewhere by not very reputable media outlets; always giving the same story quite short of details. So, is there any truth to the story?

Added: A CCTV9 report makes it clearer that the tests were done in "near darkness" and the boy's eyes aren't claimed to "glow", but to reflect light.

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    "The story seems plausible" ..... what? No, it's not. – Fake Name Jan 28 '12 at 0:23
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    Why would glowing eyes make you able to see better in the dark? This makes no sense whatsoever... – Rory Alsop Jan 28 '12 at 0:47
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    Cats or dogs can not see in pitch black either. They can see in much lower light than humans, but not pure darkness. – TehShrike Jan 28 '12 at 3:28
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    Maybe they meant 'glowing' as in 'not brown' (ie, everyone's expecting darker pigment in the eyes, not a bright or 'glowing' one). I would think that such extreme photosensitivity at night would mean that he's either a) detecting wavelengths we usually ignore or b) extremely good at picking up wavelengths we normally pick up. If it's b, and his eyes don't compensate for bright light normally, he might have a hard time operating in daylight. Also, I'm not sure how many photons are around in 'pitch black', but it may be just 'a very dark room'-- there could still be some light there. – mmr Jan 28 '12 at 4:19
  • in one article, I read his teacher played ball with him in dark and he caught em all. Makes his teacher a mutant too, right? Anyway, @mmr That article also read that he has problem in broad daylight. Option b I guess then. – Bibhas Jan 28 '12 at 9:07
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The claim that the boy may have unusually good night vision is possible. The other claims associated with the story seem to have been exaggerated or misinterpreted.

I'm going to quoting excerpts from this LiveScience article from January 31st, 2012.

Night vision is made possible by a layer of cells, called the tapetum lucidum, in the eyes of cats and other nocturnal animals. This thin layer is a "retroreflector" — when a beam of light hits it, it reflects the light directly back along its incoming path. The reflected beam constructively interferes with the incoming light beam, amplifying the overall signal that hits the retina and enabling the animal to see in very low-light conditions. Retroreflection also causes cat eyes to flash when they are lit upon at night, and experts say Nong's eyes, if they are truly catlike, should do the same.

...

In the footage, Nong's teacher claims the boy's eyes flash when shined with a flashlight in the dark, but the reporters don't seem to be able to catch the effect on camera. When Nong's eyes are illuminated in the dark, they appear normal. James Reynolds, a pediatric ophthalmologist at State University of New York in Buffalo, noted, "A video could capture [eyeshine] easily, just like in nature films of leopards at night."

...

in the footage, the reporters gave Nong a questionnaire to fill out while sitting in a dark room, and they acted surprised by his ability to see and complete the fill-in-the-blank form. Even if he doesn't have cat eyes, he may nevertheless have unusually good night vision, Reynolds said. He could have a rod-rich retina, for example — a retina that contains a higher than usual number of cells involved in light detection. Or the video could be a total hoax.

The best answer seems to be that at the moment, we don't know. The claims about the boy having cat's eyes, his eyes glowing or other similar claims are unlikely for the reasons explained by the experts in the LiveScience article.

Whether or not the boy has unusually good night vision remains to be seen.

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