(Otago Daily Times online edition)

Combining disciplines develops new focus

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Prof Barsky points out graphics found on his web site from his desk at the University of Otago's computer graphics laboratory. (photo by Fleur Howe)
By Fleur Howe

What do maths and computer graphics have to do with better eyesight?

Quite a lot if you are unsuited to contact lenses.

Prof Brian Barsky (43), a Canadian-born mathematician and computer science expert, is visiting the University of Otago from the University of California, at Berkeley, for two weeks to share his research on the human eye.

He has a personal interest in the subject, having an irregularly shaped cornea in one of his own eyes.

Unable to find contact lenses to fit his cornea (the front part of the eye) properly, Prof Barsky decided to use his knowledge of maths and computer graphics to work.

"What I realised was that the problem for contact lenses and corneas was a problem about describing precisely a surface shape," he said.

Using mathematical equations, he has devised a more precise method of measuring the surface shape of the cornea, a system which has major implications for eye surgery.

"In the United States and Europe, a lot of surgeries are being done with the intention of changing the shape of the cornea to eliminate eyesight problems."

Prof Barsky says most people have irregularly shaped corneas of varying degrees but measurement of their shape is largely "empirical".

Using a mathematical model, Prof Barsky has improved "corneal topography", a colour-coded system which shows the surface of the cornea as a set of coloured regions, similar in appearance to those seen around a hill on a topographical map.

From the "corneal map", corrective laser surgery could be done with more accuracy and better fitting contact lenses made.

As well as teaching in the computer graphics laboratory while here, Prof Barsky will meet ophthalmologists to discuss research ideas.

Thursday, 19-February 1998

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