Ever fancied having a superpower? Something you can call upon when  you need it, to hand you extra information about the world? OK, it’s not  X-ray vision, but your eyes do have abilities that you might not be  aware of.

We are all familiar with color and brightness, but there  is a third property of light: “polarization,” which tells us the  orientation in which light waves are oscillating. Animals, like bees and  ants, use the polarization patterns in the sky as a navigation aid. But  few people, even in the scientific community, are aware that humans can  sense the polarization of light with the naked eye.

In research we’ve just published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B,  we used an experiment that was originally designed to test the visual  abilities of octopuses and cuttlefish to investigate our human ability  to perceive this polarized light.