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Is it possible to create a new color? One that does not already exist?

For years I have thought it possible to generate a color that has yet to be defined, but perhaps such a thing is not possible within the limits restraining the human eye. More so, do animals see colors not perceptible to humans?

Topics: art and science
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    Nov 9 2011: Colors are qualia. They are created in the brain. To see more colors we would have to be able to alter brains. The real world is colorless, orderless and tasteless. Color, smell, taste and sound are not an objective phenomeon. If there were not sentient creatures they would not exist. What we experience is a virtual reality. Your body is an organic detection device that transmits electrical signals to our brains. Our brains then create an image from these signals. The image it creates is at best nothing like the real world we live in, if infact we live in a real world. The truth is we have no way of know if we really have bodies or brains. We could be a computer on laboratory table being feed input from another machine. If we takes this one step further, we realize there may be no sun, no Earth, no stars, and no other humans. The bottom line is we really have no way to know if anything we observe is real or not. The ony thing we can be sure of is what we experience. We experience love, fear, pain, misery, pleasure, colors, smells, tastes, sounds, and tactile sensations. If you could the world more accurately, you might see your body as complex field that exists everywhere in the universe simultaneously, but finds itself most of itself here on Earth. Atoms from your body are spread over space-and time at this very moment interact with objects in distant parts of the universe. Of course, you don't see this, and it doesn't seem like it is very relevant to your existence. We only see frustums of world-branes in space-time. If we saw world-branes motion would cease to exist, and we would see the past-present-future all at once. That is if any universe actually exists. Personally, I think it is all just a bad dream.
    • Nov 11 2011: Thanks for the bad dream Michael.
      Colors are NOT qualia. They are NOT created in the brain.

      The reason for this concerns the relationship between experience and the real. If you are interested in this I'd appreciate you browsing through some of my many comments on the subject before replying too quickly.

      The philosophical outline is roughly this: we begin with personal experience; we 'comprehend' experience and recognise a real world; we then wonder what the relationship of experience is to this real world.

      You have expressed the notion that experience is produced by the real world, that qualia are created by the brain. But neuroscientists have never found qualia - how could they; what could it be? If we could discover qualia we would find ourselves in a hopeless tangle - self referential or infinitely regressive, take your pick. Not surprisingly, by accepting that qualia exist you have trouble deducing that the real exists (Berkeley). This I would suggest is absurd.

      It should be obvious that if the real is a comprehension of our experience then it would be conceptually disordered to feature experience itself as an entity in that real (read: qualia does not feature as an entity in the real).

      If we introduce the concept of perception and say we perceive the real (AND generalise and say that ALL experience is the perception of something) then we can express the relationship between experience and the real as - people are objects that perceive. Experience is what it is like for objects to perceive. Experience is expressed in the form "I perceive X" (and not "I HAVE the experience X"), where 'I' is the object that perceives.

      Color is never abstract. We say, for example "I perceive a blue X" but not "I perceive blueness".

      Hence, we can theorise widely about color but can only EMPATHISE in terms of the colors that we ourselves perceive (which is determined by our design as a perceiver) eg. a color-vision person can IMAGINE black/white vision but not vice versa.
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        Nov 11 2011: There is no objective world.
        Seeing, the seen and the seer is one action or process.
        What you see is what you are.
        "I" is no object, factual it is nothing; call it a concept or construct from the ratio.
        Michael gave a marvelous description of the unthinkable.
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      Nov 11 2011: Michael Wolok,
      I don't know where you've got all this from but it's fantastic.
      Maybe a bit incomprehensible for most people for they first have to release their conditioning to “Mara” or identification with appearances. If they do they can remember how they were assembled into the person they are.
    • Nov 13 2011: Michael, solopsism is an intriuging but ultimately futile intellectual pursuit. If we are not to trust our senses to any degree, then there is very little work that we can do to affect change in this world.

      The soft rescue from it is simply - 'congruence'.

      That is, if what I'm seeing is congruent with what I'm touching, what I'm smelling, tasting, my memories and knowledge of the world, congruent with the scientific testing, etc, etc... then it is *good enough* for us to trust and move on from.

      That said, you're very much right in the sense that we intercept a portion of the world through our senses - our sense of reality is very much a relative thing. We percieve a macro scale world that operates at a certain speed, because those are how our sensory and processing tools function. Without special equipment, we can't at all percieve the microscopic scale world - bacteria, cells (I think?), let alone atoms and molecues are smaller than the smallest visible light wavelength - objects of such scale can't even be readily or reliably reflect light.

      But it is pure pseudoscience philsophobabble to think that we can percieve beyond our inbuilt senses through our minds as Frans seems to be suggesting. But I may be misunderstanding his and your positions - but the word choice and phrasing is sending off red flags, indicating that the line of thinking that you're both engaged in is another form of dualism.
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    Nov 12 2011: All of the physical properties of light cannot be changed... so we need to change color perception:

    One could try and engineer a new kind of neurons and light receptors that are sensitive to UV or Infrared, and feed it to the brain.
    But that would also need a new kind of color-opposition cells... whether this will give rise to a new color sensation is a question that only can be discovered if it can be experienced by a conscious being ale to report it.

    Call the new color octarine please!
    • Nov 12 2011: Logically, I can't see why it wouldn't create a new colour sensation. After all, there exists a fair degree of variance in colour perception among humans - from young to old as well as those with colour blindness of differing colours.

      But imagining different colours from the ones we are familiar with is certainly quite a difficult task. I'd go so far as to say, impossible, but with less than full certainty.
    • Nov 12 2011: Aha! so we'd have to assume that color is linked/locked up with sensation - but only when observed. A sort of of ColorQuark model then?
      Here's a worthwhile read re: properties of color and beyond.
      http://www.webexhibits.org/causesofcolor/index.html

      As an aside:
      When I was just out of college, (in the last years of the print media era) the ad agency I worked for had print reps regularly visiting us for proofing work in progress, or pre-press proofing. I used to be amazed at how subjective color matching could get.
      We worked of course within the pantone color wheel and the defined industry standards for specing color to printed matierials. One rep told me once that the color I was concerned about on a proof was absolutely correct - I just needed to view it under color correcting light. Certainly, he was correct - but the problem was, nobody BUT the printer viewed it under those lighting conditions. Perhaps the formula was correct, but the result wasn't - so I modified the specs to accommodate for more typical lighting conditions.
      Color isn't simple, nor is it something we can create - it's something that is intangible, somewhat describable and totally subjective. We can come close to seeing color the way our neighbor does - but we don't match exactly, there will always be a slight difference in perception - some noticeable, some not so much.
      Still, there is something so satisfying about a brand new box of crayolas. (all the senses are stimulated, not just sight) ;)
      • Nov 13 2011: Elaborating further on what you're saying Libbey; Variation in colour and its perception can exist on many levels...

        Lighting conditions as you've stated - but also the finish of the colour (specularity, even the chemical finish can change the shade a tinge; some finishes age and become yellow over time), the surrounding relative colours - are physical changes that can occur on the surface been viewed...

        Perception can also change - most notably in colour blindness people, but also subtly in the same person - as we age, our cells and body parts degenrate - our retinas, the rods and cones are no exception. The number of cones that we have to recieve colour is decreased - colours literally appears less intense; provides us with a smaller dynamic range of percievable shades of colours.
        Genetic factors can also influence the number of said cones and the activity rate of the cones, as well as the way the brain connects and relates those colours to other portions.
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    Nov 9 2011: Colors cannot be created, only perceived.
    The limit is given by your apparatus of perception which can differ with animals.
    Animals often see less or different colors than we can.
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      Nov 10 2011: Fran, I was wondering if there might be different colours in different parts of the universe where they might be refracted by different elements. I also wonder if there might also be colours that our visual apparatus might not be able to percieve. I did an entire course on perception and learned that many animals see only in black and white but some see a far greater spectrum than we do. I cannot help but wonder if creatures in different conditions than we have studied (as in some in very deep seas or in other parts of the universe )might not have the abilty to percieve differently.
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        Nov 10 2011: Debra, as far as I know I can tell that colors are distinctions made by the brain from the energy our eyes have captured. Those distinctions have developed from any meaning a particular part of the spectrum had and played in surviving. Some colors are more or less dictated by plants by the way they communicate with animals. They reflect a segment of the spectrum to advert the ripeness of fruit. This has no meaning for carnivores so they can't see it. Other animals communicate with colors and made it into language.
        Some insects see a lot of colors that we can't and outside the spectrum that is accessible to us.

        That we can see only three colors has to do with the cells of the retina that are equipped to catch those frequencies. So as we haven’t the ability to see a particular segment from all frequencies it never becomes color.

        The intensity where with we can see any color can vary enormously. All in all, seeing light isn’t much different than hearing sound.

        I hope you do well and wish you all you wish for.
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          Nov 11 2011: Frans, I'm interested in plants that reflect some light to prevent fruit ripening-can you fill me in? The closest example I know is that green light is not useful for photosynthesis, therefore it isn't absorbed by chloroplasts, and this is why many plants are green.

          I guess evolution of the life around us could produce species that reflect different combinations of light, creating new colours.
        • Nov 11 2011: Hi Letitia,

          New colors cannot be created. We do not create a new law of nature simply because we discover it. The full wavelength spectrum is similar to a set of numbers. Compare the numbers 1, 2, and 3 to the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. If we were to choose random wavelength frequencies and random decimal numbers in between 1-3, no wavelength nor numeral amount could possibly create new numbers and colors, it would only produce different variations of the colors and numbers.
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          Nov 11 2011: again, two questions here:

          1. one is for an unknown person: who upvoted austin's post and why?

          2. question to austin: do you imply that we cannot create new poems, because it is just another different arrangement of letters?
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          Nov 11 2011: The brain creates color. Humans see more than three colors. The human eye is able to determine hundreds of not thousands of different wavelenghs of light that strike the eye (so long as they are in the the visible part of the spectrum). The eye then sends an electrical signal to the visual cortex in the brain. I believe this the visual cortex is located in the occiptial lobe at the back of brain. The brain then creates the colors we perceive. Color are not material, nor are they objective properties. The human eye may have just three color receptors, but these color receptors are abe to determine the wavelength of light that reach the eye. For example, if we look at a yellow flower, our eyes can determine the flower we are looking emits light that corresponds to the wavelength we know as yellow. Our eye interpolate the data they receive. There are some situations where the eye can be tricked into seeing a wavelength of light that is not present.
        • Nov 11 2011: Hi Krisztián,

          Of course we can create poems. Poems are direct products of intelligence; they are created as a result of complex thoughts and emotions. All variations of wavelength (or color, as we perceive it) can be produced naturally. Even if we were to discover a wavelength which is extraordinarily rare, we do not "create" it simply by discovering it!

          (Why does it matter who upvoted my response?)
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          Nov 11 2011: austin, it is hurtful to me that i have to explain that. you are not participating in this conversation, only with your keyboard, but not brain.

          color is a series of wavelength intensities. poem is a series of letters. if we can not create a series of wavelength intensities, how can we create a series of letters? what is the difference?

          you say all possible spectra exist. how is that different than all possible arrangements of letters exist?

          ah, and about the last question: because your comment was very lacking in content, was not deep, did not show any signs of actual understanding of color perception, nor it indicated understanding of ontology. i would like to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling that we have upvoting droids and/or bots again.
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          Nov 12 2011: Austin, let me clarify: While I agree with you that there is a finite number of colours/wavelengths of light available in the natural world I was thinking along the lines of evolution manipulating what colours are able to be perceived by a particular species.

          So if a plant (as the example) evolved such that it was a different colour (I was thinking due to metabolism but there could be other reasons) would an animal that depends on it for survival (like humans) co-evolve to be able to recognize this new (and maybe previously undetected) colour?

          This thought came from Frans' comment about plant colour and got me to thinking about the fact that plants look green to us because of their need for specific wavelengths of light for photosynthesis. I think its humbling to remember that our senses evolved in the context of our environment and all of the other species that we share the earth with.

          I'm not sure that numbers are the best example since they are symbolic products of the human imagination, whereas colours are more directly linked to input from our physical environment.
        • Nov 12 2011: Thank you for clarifying, Krisztián.

          The upvote was certainly not a droid, according to my TED e-mail updates. They can admit who they are if they would like.

          As far as my knowledge of ontology and perception goes... I don't need to know much about ontology to comment on colors. I only need to know that how we perceive colors is directly correlated to the wavelength and frequency of the energy that hits our eyes. I'm slightly insulted you feel that way, but I guess I kind of understand. And my previous comment was not deep because I did not feel like a deep response was needed to answer the question. I am sorry, in the future I will provide a richer, deeper explanation or I won't add my thoughts.
        • Nov 12 2011: Colours can't be 'created' - colours are simply EM radiation of a certain spectrum (what we call the 'visible' spectrum). It may be possible for someone or something to percieve a different or greater spectrum of EM radiation than what the average human does - just as there are variances of how well any given person can detect colours.

          Would it be possible for us to percieve a greater set of EM wavelengths in the future? Perhaps through genetic enhancements. That wouldn't *just* introduce more colours though... it would alter how we view existing colours dramatically - in the sense that things that are emitting/reflecting visible and IR/UV light (which would be most things; especially in the daylight) would be be combined to alter the percieved shade of colour.

          In this sense, the word colour is a convenient term for us under normal circumstances, but like with many other words and concepts, once we begin to push the boundary of what defines them and how we understand them - the word begins to lose cohesion and applicability. As a result, it would appear that much of the disagreement about 'not creating new colours' comes down to semantic misunderstandings and incongruencies.

          @ Kris
          Your passive aggressive hostility is unnecessary. Demand to know who upvoted and why? Who the hell do you think you are man?
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          Nov 12 2011: austin, you certainly do not know how the color perception works. color is not dependent on the "frequency of energy". rather, the spectrum. a spectrum is a much richer information than a single wavelength. i find it troubling that you still haven't followed up on that, even if pointed out that you are actually wrong.
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          Nov 12 2011: george, it is good that you added your opinion. it is not that good you added an opinion discussed already, so it is rather redundant. and wrong. because as i've already said, a poem is just a series of letters. so one cannot invent a new poem, right?

          and what do you mean by who am i? who i need to be to ask a question? do i need a permit?

          last question: do you know what passive aggressive is? if so, do you misuse it intentionally?
        • Nov 13 2011: *edit*
          Forum software ate some of my previous post, so I'll rephrase.

          You're acting like a giant douche Kriz, please stop for the sake of the forum. You are engaging in passive aggressive behaviour right now. Every single sentence and paragraph you reply with is a form of passive aggression - a double speak expressing - 'good you added your opinion, but actually, bad you added your opinion', 'you don't know what passive aggressive is, stop using it.'

          Let your arguments persuade - adding 'you're wrong', or some such is a sign of poor argumentative technique, and also a sure sign of arrogance. You are not an authority on light or perception; that much is obvious from your conflation with letters and 'wavelength intensities'.

          If collectively, we're repeating arguments, it's because we don't find whatever it is you're saying convincing in the least - and more to the point, we're finding that the position that we're arguing (somewhat independently) is the more convincing position.
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          Nov 15 2011: Krisztián and Austin, in no perticluar order,

          Just a few nibbles of food for thought on the matter....

          Colors are not created, rather, they discovered. To create a color would have been like creating gravity or magnetism....those forces were always there, it just took time for adequate documentation to reflect such discoveries.

          The color pallet is NOT finite, it's totally infinite. For example, if 1,2,3 relates to; red, green, blue we can take any combination of any color and divide or multiply it's intensity by 1/2. This tangent would flow like pi-- it can't be completed or defined accurately in it's entirety, by definition.

          Furthermore, if we define a color based on a perception of given wavelengths, then our system of observation is askew due to our color perception being in a constant state of change. If we rely on mathematics to define a color-set, we still lack consistency based on math being "propiganda-like" in the same fashion as is language (eg; english, Русский , etc).

          That having been said, we have mustered up a realtivly-reliable means by which to measure and define specific wavelengths that can reflect various; colors, sounds, textures, etc etc).
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      Nov 10 2011: how about this: paintings can not be created, only perceived.
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    Nov 10 2011: What if someone is color blind? Would this new creation of colors matter to them?

    All and all, and as stated before, it all goes back to the health and function of ones brain, rods, cones, occipital lobes, axons, neural transmitters, if light can transfer from being electromagnetic to electrochemical properties etc...if any one of these are damaged or not functioning correctly, this may have an effect how light is perceived therefore, affecting color. In other words if my memory serves me right, we can only see a set amount of colors.
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      Nov 11 2011: Are there people who are completely color blind? I only know about the red/green colour blindness. You raise an interesting point though which is: can you only think about things you can sense? Does a person who goes blind later in life, think about more visual images than someone born blind? And if not, are we hard-wired to expect certain sensations and to categorize them in certain ways? It seems that we maintain a high degree of plasticity in brain function so my opinion is that if we had reason to categorize colours differently, or came across a new colour (even new to us), that we could "invent" a new colour so to speak.

      We use UV and fluorescent dyes in research with the aid of technology to make them visible, now I'm wondering if I should name them... If technology allows us to expand on the limitations of the eye, do those newly accessible wavelengths of light count as "colours", or are colours something that by definition needs to be seen by the human eye and interpreted by the human brain?
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        Nov 12 2011: The answer to your question is yes. Total color blindness is called: Achromatopsia (http://www.achromat.org/) This is one of many links found on Google. I have heard that red/green but there is also blue/yellow color blindness which is called Tritanomaly.

        For your next question I would say yes as well (obviously this can be debated but I'll offer my opinion nonetheless). I would make this claim because much of what we experience is from our senses but if you go further than that it really goes back to how our brains interpret information and make sense of the experiences that we have. For example if I was to damage my pre-frontal cortex, this would have devastating effects on my perceptions of the world and how my brain would interpret the information from my senses. The same would be said if I was to damage my left temporal lobe and lost some of my memory due to my hippocampus being injured.
        In other words, much of what we think about is what is going on during our lives. If we were not able to have experiences, make sense of them, we would not have anything for our minds to think about.

        I do have a question though: I agree with your statement about how we maintain a high degree of plasticity in regards to brain function but aren't we hard-wired already to see only a certain set and combinations of colors? The only way I see a new color coming into existence is if there were a combination of colors put together to create this new one. But I still think the brain would have already been capable of creating an experience for this new color since it is perceived by us. In other words I do not think the new color is as original
        as we may think it is due to the fact that its perception would have been stored in us.

        Great question but I think its all dependent on sensory input. If our Brains cannot make sense of the experiences that we are having then we are dumbfounded. If we do not experience it, then it does not exist (in the subjective sense)
        • Nov 12 2011: Our brain is much less 'hardwired' than most people would intuitively believe. We don't even automatically form visual cortexes - they develop from the low level pattern detection of the electrical signals sent from the retinas after converting them from light.

          During the first few days, weeks and months, our brains are furiously wiring themselves to make sense and order of all this raw data. The consistency of our environment, along with the consistency of the neural connections between brain and sensory is such that it appears that we are 'born' with visual cortexes.

          As it relates to what you're saying - if we had the necessary equipment to detect greater EM wavelengths then we already do, then our perception of colour would change correspondingly.

          If we were somehow to integrate these new sensors/eyes into a person that is already familiar with colour... then I'm not so sure how well this information would be integrated into our system, even with neuroplasticity... would 'new' colours be percieved, or would the way we percieve colours simply be distorted?

          Probably, at least initially, the percieved colours may be distorted - the low level electrical signals recieved from our retinas not been properly integrated into higher level neural heirachies that inform us of our perception of colour - but over time (no idea how long) the brain may make sense of the new electrical patterns, eventually allowing for a new colour perception.
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        Nov 12 2011: Oliver Sacks wrote a book called Island of the Colorblind in which he documents his experiences visiting a couple of islands in which a large proportion of the population have achromatopsia.

        This condition involves not only color-blindness but also an acute sensitivity to light.
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    • Nov 11 2011: Hi jack, it is possible. You just did it!
  • Nov 13 2011: Hello Jake!

    I have noticed one important thing according to your question.... When I am totally in love... I do see new colors.. So I am quite sure that if you have this feeling of a color in your mind..why could you not create one then? Just look at the nature...the flowers and so on..I think you will find the answer there.. Or what do you guys think? All people have feelings and every feeling has an own color... if you just stop and breathe...and feel.
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    Nov 12 2011: Hi Jake, my thinking is that the results of studies on science of color have been in for a long while now. We humans are limited by our "hard wiring" in this world. By which I mean we perceive that which we are capable of.
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    Nov 12 2011: Color is an odd concept. I think that our perception is very limited in regards to the nature of reality. Is is very possible that somewhere in the universe there is an entirely different "color wheel" that we have not discovered yet.
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    Nov 12 2011: It depends on what you mean by "yet to be defined."

    If you've weeded through the good and bad responses below, you probably understand that your retina has three different types of color receptors that respond differently to different wavelengths of light. Because our brains are also involved in the process of color perception it can be quite complicated, but at a basic level the color you see is the result of ratio of stimulation to each of the color receptors. You can think of them as three dials which you can turn independently.

    Now you might be able to arrange the dials in such a way that they haven't ever been before, but you wouldn't really be creating a color that has yet to be defined. At best you might find a shade of blue that's a little greener that what you've see before, etc. You won't invent a color that makes you say wow! I don't even know what to call that. The reason is that the gamut of possible colors has a hard boundary defined by the pure spectral colors. All other colors that we make by mixing the spectral colors are just less saturated variations of the them. Also, even though you can move the dials smoothly allowing an infinite number of variations, our eyes can only distinguish color differences with a limit precision. This brings the number of actual colors the human visual system can distinguish down to about 10 million.

    To get a truly new color, you would need to add another dial—or more precisely a new receptor. Many birds have eyes with a fourth cone type that is receptive to UV light. This is called tetrachromacy—in contrast to our trichromatic vision. It is very likely that they see colors in a way you can't imagine. It has be hypothesized that some people are tetrachromats.

    Other species like the mantis shrimp go even further. Their eyes can sense UV, IR and the polarization of light. I would love to know what the world looks like to a mantis shrimp.
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    Nov 12 2011: Saw your reason,I think maybe you are right.Just do it and I look forward to seeing the new color.
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    Nov 12 2011: I think it is impossible
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      Nov 12 2011: why impossible ya i mean that colors are nothing but perceptions but it does't mean that we cannot have a new one its just may be we have't try every one... one more thing what we see is a reflection so i think that would increase the possibilities of having new one..
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    Nov 12 2011: .
    .
    Hye Jake! I thought i'd throw in my $.02...

    Colors, like gravity, planets or electricity, are not humanly created, rather simply- they were discoveries.

    Considering the color pallet of our visible spectrum is infinite, one could spend their entire life reviewing that spectrum and never come close to seeing all the different possibilities.
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    Nov 11 2011: Wondering how to answer your question, I came up with two others questions first:

    1.) If I say I see light-bluish-green. And you agree to see the same. How do we verify that our words connotate the same empirical phaenomen?
    There is no way to do this! Research even shows that this is dependent on cultural traditions. There are cultures which can name colours I have not ever heard off. So I have not ever seen them either!

    2.) What did green look like 100 years ago? It was physically different - obviously for polution asf... But would we use a different word - "greenish today" and "greenish yesterday"? No - we speak of the color as if it is constant. Which is surely wrong.

    Taking these answers I believe: Yes - you might see constantly new colors, if you venture to new culture and places and times. And if one sees a color which is new to one - isn´t this a new color?
  • Nov 11 2011: That is such a cool idea!

    3 things determine color:
    1) characteristics of the lightwave
    2) a detection aparatus
    3) an interpretation apparatus

    There are lots of lightwaves out there not associated with colors. If you add a new pigment in the retinal cells, maybe use a mutation or an inhibition mechanism, and you find a way to get your brain to interpret it as something different that what we've got, wala! you've got a new color.

    that's a wonderful idea, Jake. Impractical, but if you research it enough, you may find a way around it. Try animal models, but you'll have to find one that has extensive similarities with the human brain.
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    Nov 11 2011: have heard that some painters like Monet created their best works of arts durring the time when they were sufferein from eye problems or serious malfunctions so they were able to see differently. a new dimension of colors maybe
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    Nov 11 2011: Interesting topic!

    Yes! Other animals see different colours than humans. Birds have much more developed eyes than us and have evolved intricate patterns on their feathers due to the pressures of sexual selection. (Peacocks are one example but we only see a fraction of the detail another bird would perceive). Another example are the UV patterns of flowers that are used to attract pollinators who can see the UV spectrum.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_drori_the_beautiful_tricks_of_flowers.html

    On a totally different (and more philosophical) note, I do think it is possible for us to imagine colours we can't see from experience. I have something called "synesthesia" where, based on odd neurological connections, you see or associate colours with letters numbers and my 5 is a sort of blue/purple that I've never actually "seen". That might not make sense unless you have this condition. Does anyone else on TED have synesthesia? And if so, are any of your colours non-naturally occurring?
    http://www.ted.com/talks/vilayanur_ramachandran_on_your_mind.html#.Trzd_h423UM.facebook
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      Nov 11 2011: Hi Letitia,
      I can recall some of it from the first schooldays. The letters and numbers had some senses as color or feeling/taste with it. It has past but I can remember.

      About birds yes. The paradise birds from New Guinea are an exemple and amazing. I' think it's the greatest show on earth.
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      Nov 11 2011: On your question, Letitia: " I'm interested in plants that reflect some light to prevent fruit ripening-can you fill me in?"

      I'm not sure what you ask for but this I know.
      All fruit is green as it is growing and uses energy like leafs do.
      Leafs protect themselves from too much light with the color red to reflect it. The same chemical is used to the fruit as it's full grown. Animals have learned to detect it.
      At first it looks less green and is associated with more taste (sugar). Ever looking for less green for a better taste, translates to an attractive color we call red.

      That’s the origin of synesthesia as impressions aren’t assigned to specific meanings and localized.

      The other way around as animals are looking for red that color is favored and becomes stronger.
      So color vision has to be developed and cannot pop up spontaneously.
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      Nov 11 2011: Hi Letitia!

      So you are interested in synesthesias too! I thought you might enjoy seeing a conversation we had about them. There were some great personal experiences and references so you might enjoy taking a look!

      http://www.ted.com/conversations/2611/the_man_who_tasted_shapes_h.html
    • Nov 11 2011: If you discribe a colour as being blue/purple then it already exists within the normal colour spectrum. You may have never seen it in real life but no doubt if you sat for long enough with some paint and mixed red and blue into purple then kept adding blue you would eventually find your colour.
      Im sorry if this comes across as being negative but my interpritation of the phrase 'new colour' implies a colour that cant be made through mixing any colour contained within the normal colour spectrum that we can percieve i.e red, blue, yellow, green, purple, orange.
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        Nov 11 2011: This is getting at a common theme which is: what is a new colour: being able to detect a new wavelength of light? (which is impossible with out tethnology or evolution or manipulation of the eye somehow) or is a new colour a new recognition: the classification of existing colour differently?

        My description of 5 as purple/blue is limited by the language I have to describe it to you but it is not a colour, or mix of colours I've ever seen
        • Nov 12 2011: That sounds interesting and trippy - but the unique blue-purple (ultraviolet?) colour that you percieve is... still been percieved in one manner or the other isn't it (even if not in the conventional sense).
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    Nov 11 2011: what about those who are under infulence, like mushrooms. do they see new colors because of the fresh new frequency of signals streamed along their nervios system( like in nerves which transmit the signals) or now they can recieve new waves wasn't able to sense before(like in brain itself)? are there realy any known border between nerves and brain?
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      Nov 11 2011: Mind altering drugs couldn't cause the brain to actually "sense" new colours because vision is limited by the structure of the eye, but possibly you could "imagine" or perceive different colours? Its an interesting thought. The brain IS neurons so no, there's no border. what connects the brain structure and consciousness is still unknown though.
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    Nov 10 2011: There are apparently 118 elements in the known universe so maybe there could be colour variants but I don't think that there are colours completely different in our own colour spectrums
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    Nov 10 2011: I was asleep under an oak one day, and I had this epic dream. I remember it all originated in my eyelids, there I could see the most beautiful colours I had ever seen. It was sunrays beaming through the dense leaves, flickering a bit.
    I focused as much as I could on the colours and realized that I was creating the shifts in tone with my brain. I could concentrate and make purple or orange.
    But then there it was, the mix of the two, quite dark and quite shiny as well. Beautiful. I slept the afternoon off, as I had been dumped by my girlfriend.
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    Nov 10 2011: Does anyone read the other answers before posting their answer?
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      Nov 10 2011: Hi Michael! To answer your question, some of us do but it is not a requirement for others. Some participants simply drop in and answer the question because their time is limited and they just have fun participating as they can. No one here is expected to have the answers as though from Mt. Sinai. It is a very egaliarian place. We all participate as we are able. Sometimes we challenge and debate if we are sufficiently engaged but it would be very hard on the ego for anyone who expects to be recognized as 'the ultimate expert'. People will often recognize a particularly cogent or insightful response with thumbs up.
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      Nov 10 2011: if you think about it, this question can only get yes answers :)
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        Nov 10 2011: You're wrong and I'll prove it as soon as I figure out what you mean by "gay schools shouldn't be supported by governments."
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          Nov 10 2011: i can't wait
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          Nov 11 2011: @ Jack Payne: Wow! I sure hope that you are joking but even then this comment would be in poor taste! In Canada, where I originate it would be considered 'hate speech' as well.
    • Nov 11 2011: I have thought of that myself... lol
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      Nov 11 2011: and what about the OP? does he read the answers and comments in his own conversation?
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    Nov 10 2011: New colurs are out there. We just need to see them.
  • Nov 10 2011: Actually, yes.



    There you go...... what, you can't see it? I call it "transparency".
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    Nov 9 2011: Create a new color?

    I could modify your question a little to make it even clearer.I see its not about creating new color, rather its identifying a color or naming a particular shade of the color.

    I see two things which involves in the above question.
    1.Reading the color(look at the shade)
    2.Classifying the color/labeling the color.(Identify it as ping,green,blue etc)

    The key for your question lies in the second part I feel.
    As you might have observed.Its a common observation too; that the way brain classifies color is way different in males and females.A male brain can label as blue while a female brain can get more accurate/detailed on the same color as tiffy or some other shades in blue. So its more about the classifying part that a possibility in naming a new color can be possible.

    Also, as you rightly pointed out, its more about the limits of the human eye that adds a constrain to the first part i.e. looking at the color.
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    Nov 9 2011: Years ago as an undergraduate in art school I was taking a chaos theory course. It started creeping into my own art work. I theorized that light waves could be scaled up or down like notes on a piano. Eventually a 440 A note could be scaled to a corresponding light wave and be associated with that color. Perhaps there are other ways the light spectrum could be associated with sound waves or other frequencies?

    Regarding animals abilities we need to consider the strength of olfactory senses. The tie with memory for people and as a way of investigation is important.
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    Nov 9 2011: Can you even verify that we perceive colours the same today? We have a vaguely shared experience, but do we 'see' the same thing?
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    Nov 9 2011: strangely, the answer is yes.

    the color perception of the human eye is rather simple. it senses brightness and it senses three different summations of intensities on each wavelengths. that is, we have a "red" detector, that senses 730nm wavelength with the most sensitivity, and the more different the wavelength, the less intense the sensation. and so on with the "blue" and the "green" sensors.

    what is interesting here is that a certain wavelength, say 550nm, will be sensed not only by the closest sensor type, but actually all of them, with different intensity. so it does matter what is the actual composition of the spectrum. with mixing certain pigments together, you can create colors that are unique, and not easy to reproduce. and you can create colors that are impossible to reproduce using only a limited set of pigments, or the RGB colors of a computer display.

    alas, i can't recall the name of the person, but an artist guy specifically designed a paint that is impossible to show on RGB displays. of course, we can approximate it with a nearby color, and the difference is not noticeable for an average person.

    and yes, animals usually see different colors than us. plus, we ourselves see colors differently. especially the blue sensors are somewhat different in each person. that's why there is so much debate about greenish-blue colors, whether they're blue or green. because some people actually sees them more blue, others more green.
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      Nov 9 2011: I would love to share my learning about different color models just to add to what you have quoted.

      When you spoke about the artist who could paint, which is impossible to show on RGB displays, I have read that the CMY model is closer to what we humans perceive as against the RGB model that is used in display technology today.The reason could be the different color models used here.Although difference is too small, the studies have shown CMY fits the color model the humans perceive as against the RGB model that is in use across the digital world.
    • Nov 13 2011: Interesting that I scrolled down far enough to see this post of yours Kris. It's far less disagreeable than your other positions and replies above. To an extent, I even agree - but I'd think that it's probable that we've already created colour palettes that cover the entire and more visible spectrum of every human on earth, even if we haven't already named these colours.

      I mean, as long as you can get lasers or a combination of lasers that can combine to produce a large and continuous spectrum of colours (with different colour intensities) then we've got that covered.

      I can also see from this post why you'd conflate colour intensities with 'letters' - although I'd argue that this is a poor analogy that isn't quite suitable for the discussion at hand - because letters can be created arbitrarily, and represent discrete elements (that usually reflect discrete sounds), where as you can only move along a spectrum of possible detectable light intensities - if you completely fill out that (multiple colour) spectrum, then you have all possible colours that can ever be detected by a modern human being.
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        Nov 13 2011: what is even more interesting is that you engaged in a debate with me *without* reading my position first. you also called me passive aggressive, while i'm quite active aggressive, and i want to reduce the noise coming from people with no understanding, but with opinion. i'm very much disturbed by that. i would say, american education fails. but alas, this kind of behavior is wide spread all over the world. people just can not say "i don't know". either they don't care, or they have an opinion regardless of their actual knowledge of the topic. in addition, i'm also pissed by people calling me aggressive and intolerant using the most aggressive and intolerant words. do you picture yourself a patient and cooperative person? hope not.

        could you please explain to me what lasers got to do with spectra? or you just used the word "laser" because it is cool?

        do you actually understand my wavelength-spectra, letter-poem parallel? because what you are saying here is in no sense in any relation with it. or you have no idea how color comes from the spectrum, or what spectrum really is.

        can i please just get an "i don't know" answer already? looking forward for it.
        • Nov 13 2011: I reserve civility for those that are civil to begin with. For overbearing jerks and arrogant douchebags, I bring out the rhetoric.

          Lasers relate to reproduction of spectrum in that they can be combined in precision manners to reproduce a wide (possibly complete) spectrum of visible wavelengths.

          Colour is the perception of the 'visible' spectrum of EM wavelengths - our retinas converting EM wavelengths into bio-electrical impulses that are in turn interpreted by the visual centre of the neocortex.

          In the case of letters and poems - what you're attempting to say is that an infinite variety of poems can be created through the use of a limited variety of letters - the parallel is that an infinite variety of percieved colours can be created through a limited set of perceptual mechanism (cones for red/blue/green light detection).

          However, I would dispute that on technical and philosophical grounds - technical in the sense that our retinas do detect discrete numbers of photons which make up light - and we can only recieve so many photons of a given energy before our sensory systems are overwhelmed or damaged - which provides an upper bound on the range of visible spectrum that our sensory system can even recieve - which in turn doesn't map exactingly to how we percieve that recieved sensory information.

          On philosophical grounds; the visible spectrum although very large is very different in nature to poems and letters. Where the range of possible poems is infinite in the sense of ongoing discrete numbers, the visible spectrum is 'infinite' in the sense that there is an infinite range of values between 2 relatively modest discrete numbers. Moreover, there is a very large range of values that can be percieved even by a single colour cone alone - as such the cone to letter analogy does not map at all.
        • Nov 13 2011: Also, your comment was buried 4 days deep into the thread. It's near the bottom of a fairly long page. It's foolish to think that everyone should read every comment before participation - reacting aggressively to that is counterproductive and even futile.
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        Nov 13 2011: so i'm not going to get that "i don't know" from you it seems. you continue to misrepresent how vision works.

        i'm not aware of any application of lasers that even resembles your description. to put a complex spectrum together, you need many different wavelengths. a laser produces a single wavelength. this wavelength is not even tunable in the most cases. some lasers can be tuned, but their spectrum still consists of one line.

        what you don't seem to understand at all is the way our light receptors work. nor how pigments and other natural object work and why they have color. but you don't ask. you just go ahead and explain something you don't know. can you tell me the reason for that?
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    Nov 9 2011: buddy...god has already created everything on this earth...what human does is that he finds it out and its reason of existence...i don't think we can create a color which doesn't exist..though we may discover a new color which anyone has never found out
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    Nov 9 2011: Humans have access to a limited spectrum of wavelengths of light.
    In that spectrum are all the colours visible to us. You may only chose a colour in that spectrum (if you want it to be visible) and give it a name, like KLEIN did with his notorious blue.
    • Nov 11 2011: Hi Gerald, "KLEIN did with his notorious blue." I like the notorious blue! That is a wondemous colour!
      Colour's will always be created, as long a humans, stay intellectual. Take care Gerald