The Transfiguration

everything is sacred

Refraction of the Day #1657

with 2 comments

Refraction of the Day #1657

I still find it so striking how discretely light separates when it’s refracted. There is, in truth, a smooth change in the wavelength of light across this little rainbow, but we can’t perceive it that way. I’m a bit too bleary now to investigate it properly, but we are trichromats – our eyes contain only three kinds of color-sensitive cells, and every other color we see is constructed by interpreting the relative excitation of those three cells.

An odd thing: there is no wavelength of light corresponding to magenta. Objectively, the color doesn’t exist. When we perceive magenta, it’s actually absorption of red and blue light – opposite ends of the visible light spectrum – and our brains, instead of averaging the colors (which would make green), invent a new subjective experience to represent the mix of light.

So we have these quirks in perception that make you wonder how honest your brain really is. The zebrafish and zebra finch are both tetrachromats – I’d like to see how they see.

get ready to ignite
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Written by Umbrella Man

April 6, 2013 at 3:08 am

Posted in light

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2 Responses

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    • The mantis shrimp eyes seem interesting – like cones sensitive to only very discrete colors, so everything appears in flat colors. I haven’t had time to listen to the radiolab yet, but I’ll hopefully get to it soon.

      Umbrella Man

      April 9, 2013 at 1:40 am


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