Sunday, May 27, 2012

Radiolab podcast on Color

The science podcast Radiolab has released a new program on the subject of color vision. It starts by examining the basic question of whether color exists as a physical fact in the world outside us, or whether it is a creation of our senses.

And it spotlights the mantis shrimp, one of many organisms that see a far wider range of color than we humans do.

The program uses choirs, music, and sound effects to translate visual ideas into colorful audio effects.

Radiolab podcast on color
Wikipedia on Mantis shrimp


Miv said...

Beautiful one!

Hehe, nature is amazing! (but I believe it is as cruel as it is beautiful and vice-versa)

I hope we'll be able to see every possible color in the afterlife :)

Thanks for the sharing and have a nice day everyone :)

Arahmynta said...

Ooooh, good! I wanted to ask a colour question and now it will be on-topic.

I have a copy of Colour and Light, and I was reading on pg 76 on the Munsell classification system.

You said that hues are enumerated by letters (eg. YR = yellow-red) and value is broken up into 10 steps (0-white and 10-black).

But then you DON'T say how many steps there are for saturation. The example has 6 steps from full saturation to greyscale and 6 is the highest number given in the text examples, so is it 6 then?

But then if it is, why 6? Why didn't Munsell use 10 steps like he did with value?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting podcast.

I'm colour blind so I usually avoid colour in my art. Simply because sometimes that yellow I choose is actually a green which can make a real differance when the statue is supposed to be gold.

Yep, being colour blind can be a real pain sometimes.

Michael said...

At 30:20 they start talking about learning to see colors previously overlooked. Perhaps Tetrachromats aren't using their range of vision because they haven't established a category or storage slot in there brain.

This reminds me of a comment Alex Kanevsky made to me. I heard some painters say he's the greatest living painter in America. He has a great photo album on his Facebook page called "Philadelphia, The Most Beautiful City in the World". Being from Philly and keyed into the wry sense of humor, plus having a cartoonist mind I would often make clever-ish comments on his photos. He told me, "You have to be quiet to let the beauty arise." I thought that was rather profound.

Likewise the above mentioned point in the show solidifies the notion that we can look at anything closely, quietly, intently for a long time and new more nuanced categories will likely reveal themselves. New storage slots may suddenly appear in brains and open up a new breadth of perception.

James Gurney said...

Michael, I love the idea of observing quietly and awaiting the storage slots to arise. I think we're influenced in how we see by what others tell us about what they see. To see for ourselves: that is the challenge.

Anon-- I guess what I took away from the show was that we're all color blind in a relative way of speaking. I think the blue-yellow dynamic, which is visible to most color blind males, is the one that matters most in painting. We noticed in looking at the Turner exhibition that most of his color was in the blue - yellow range, and he generally avoided red - green ranges, and it sure worked for him.

Arahmynta -- In the realm of surface color, chroma doesn't follow the 10 step measurement range. Each hue varies in the number of steps in possible chroma, and there's no theoretical upper limit in chroma range. Red goes up to about 26 steps, but it can't be represented on a computer monitor. More at:

Arahmynta said...

O.O Wow. That was not the answer I expected. Thank you, I will read the link.