TED Conversations

Ivan Nel

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Do we see the exact same color?

Is my red and your red, the same color.

My answer was - Yes, it could vary slightly but the color should be the same. Because if we had to seperate light waves, and only allow red light in - if we both saw light, we would both have to be seeing Red.

My friend threw a spanner in with - the input is the same, but how my eye perceives that light could vary. His example was if you submitted a sound at a frequency of 100hz, and we both hear that sound - due to varying thickness of our eardrums - my ear could perceive that as 101hz, with his at 99hz.

Does the same apply to the eyes ? Is there a way to prove that we see the exact same color when we see Red.

Added, i also think that light is deflected differerntly depending on what it passes through, therefore green eyes pass light differently to Brown eyes, as do blue eyes. Could we therefore assume that all green eyes see the same Red ?

My friend also believes that as you have a unique thumbprint, you have a unique retinal print - which means that each person interprets light uniquely.

your input would be appreciated.



Closing Statement from Ivan Nel

Joee Ern, I do agree - One just has to think how Women are more expressive, hence they identify far more colors than your stereo-typical male.

an example is, what i call Red - A more expressive woman could call either Maraschino, or cayenne.
What i call purple, someone else could call either maroon, plum, eggplant, grape, orchid or lavender.
Green can be called honeydew, lime, spring, clover, fern, moss, flora or seam foam.

Whilst i do agree that we see different shades, What i am asking is whether or not its possible to prove that we are seeing the same color of the spectrum at all.

By isolating Red light, if we both saw a color, we are both seeing red. But there is still no way to prove that the red i am seeing, is not the blue that you are seeing.

Thanks everyone for your answers.

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  • Sep 14 2012: I like the idea of a unique retinal print and it's something I ponder over often. When I had an ear infection once, everyone sounded like a dalek. No-one else could hear this distortion and I thought it was similar to the reaction I have to black and white patterns due to a scotopic light sensitivity, whereby the black and white patterns 'move' and wave around, giving me terrible headaches.

    I also wondered whether it doesn't matter what our retina or ear drum are doing if our brains all interpret the signals differently. We may all be seeing a particular part of the spectrum, but does that mean that our brains all interpret this information in the same way?

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