Buttercup. Cerulean. Periwinkle. Blush. Asparagus. Puce. Vermilion. Marigold. Burnt Sienna.
I used to fantasize about being the person who made up color names for crayons, paint chips and turtlenecks in the L.L. Bean catalog. There is something so romantic about being able to give connotations (all those random poetic associations) to something as fundamental as color.
At some point, it also occured to me that not all humans see color the same way- I remember learning about about red-green color-blindness, as well as engaging in arguments with various family members about particular colors (“Mom, your [90’s era] windpants are purple.” “No, they are not, they’re royal blue.”)
So this week, when The Dress That Broke the Internet went viral, I (and everyone else) watched as our feeds exploded with declarations of “White & Gold!” or “Blue & Black!” The best of it was what seemed like a fairly straightforward argument about color of a dress (which we know can be photoshopped and back-lit any number of ways to look differently) mutated into a really interesting conversation on the science of human perception. h/t to all the folks who posted stuff!
- Adam Rogers at Wired examines some of the science of color perception, sparked by the dress controversy.
- Jonathan Corum at the New York Times provides some helpful graphics explaining perceptual shift in color based on lighting.
- Colm Kelleher at TED-Ed has a great primer on color vision.
- Michael Stevens (aka Vsauce) links our personal perception of color to the philosophical concept known as “Theory of Mind” in this video ~10 min.
- Kevin Loria reviews a RadioLab episode that posits that ancient people didn’t perceive the color blue the way we do (relevant segment starts at 47:30). This is fascinating when I think about the color tekhelet, which in modern Hebrew in “light blue,” but in ancient times could have been blue, purple or even red. There is archaeological evidence that the source of the tekhelet dye was Hexaplex trunculus, a sea snail that lives in the Mediterranean.