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← Sky-blue-pink. A colour never before seen?

justaperson's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by justaperson

I'm skeptical of synchronicity, but it happens that I was just thinking about this the other day. Someone was telling me of a friend who had had cataract surgery and as a result of some glitch was now able to see ultra-violet. I remain skeptical of the claim, but it made me wonder, 'suppose we could see ultra-violet, what would it look like? It's absolutely impossible to say, simply because it's impossible to describe 'red' without calling it red.

As a musician, I might make an analogy between the color-blind person and a person who can hear all the tones in the diatonic scale except one. If that person were a composer, it would seem natural to her to write music without, say, the tonic of the scale. To the rest of us such music would sound vague, inconclusive (literally!) and incomplete. To turn the analogy back on itself, suppose the case of a color-blind painter. He wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a set of colors with reds and one without. To the non-color-blind seeing his work, the paintings would appear drab and limited, taken as a body of work. It makes me wonder if color-blind people are less interested in art than others.

Another thing worth contemplating is the idea that as many of us age and our senses of sight and hearing become compromised, the brain steps in and in effect tells us that we are doing about as well as we always have (up to a point, and then we get so bad the brain can't keep up). For example, until I had cataract surgery on one eye, I thought I was still seeing colors OK until I compared my 'new' eye with the 'old.' The color vision of the latter looks positively dingy compared to the former! But I hadn't noticed the change because it happened over time. Similarly, we don't notice our increasing hearing loss (if we have it) so much when we hear familiar speech and music, because our brain fills in that which we actually don't hear and makes us think we're hearing things we're not.

Sat, 12 Jun 2010 18:22:45 UTC | #479683