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Author Topic: What is colour? When green is blue and blue is green.  (Read 7803 times)
dreed
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« on: June 20, 2012, 12:04:41 AM »
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http://www.empiricalzeal.com/2012/06/05/the-crayola-fication-of-the-world-how-we-gave-colors-names-and-it-messed-with-our-brains-part-i/

This makes for an interesting read.
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Farmer
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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2012, 06:06:27 AM »
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Interesting.  If you are interested in colour science, I recommend http://www.mostlycolor.ch/ and going through a lot of the past articles (they have a lot of discussion about colour naming and the like).
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Ray
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« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2012, 07:03:08 AM »
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That certainly is interesting, Dreed. I recall finding it very strange many years ago when I first came across the claim that the ancient Greeks were not aware that the sky is blue. Despite their great interest and involvement in art, sculpture, drama, philosophy and poetry etc, there was apparently no record of any ancient Greek commenting that the sky is blue.

I wondered at the time whether it was correct to claim that the real reason was because the ancient Greeks were physiologically unable to discern that the sky is blue, or whether they actually were able to discern that the sky is blue but didn't consider it to be worth mentioning.  In other words, it was too commonplace; of little interest. What was perhaps more interesting for them was whether the sky was light or dark, which is something they did mention in their literature.

To add to the mystery, the ancient Greeks apparently did have a word for blue. I believe 'kyanos' is the Greek word for Lapis Lazuli, as well as dark blue tiles or dark blue enamel on pottery. It's the origin of our word 'cyan'.

The article you link to could explain how a culture might fail to make an association between the blue of lapis lazuli and the blue of the sky.
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stamper
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« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2012, 03:17:26 AM »
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Ray...you need to get out more? Smiley And dodge the men in white coats at your front door whilst exiting. Smiley Wink
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Ray
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« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2012, 04:52:32 AM »
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Ray...you need to get out more? Smiley And dodge the men in white coats at your front door whilst exiting. Smiley Wink

Don't blame me if you happen to be intellectually challenged, Stamper.  Grin
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Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2012, 05:04:38 AM »
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The ancien Greeks had no need to comment on whether or not the sky was blue; for a start, they mostly didn't know they were going to become Greeks and when you have no tourist trade, why would you find it worthwhile remarking on the colour of the empty space above you? Far more important that space after dark, when colour is but a memory and the real value of the sky comes into its own: navigation! As long as they knew and had commonly accepted terms for both red and green they were home and safe, man-made collisions avoided unless heavy drinking had been enjoyed.

Now, had they been able to enjoy photography as well as/instead of the juice of the grape, then yes, they'd have been well versed in the nomenclature, numerical make-up as well as characteristics of underexposed Kodachrome 25 and Velvia 50. Technicolor and probably lapis lazuli, too, would have been credited with mind-blowing visual properties. Just be grateful they didn't have the Web.

Rob C
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stamper
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« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2012, 05:48:20 AM »
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Don't blame me if you happen to be intellectually challenged, Stamper.  Grin

Ah....just more pertinent things to dwell on. Wink
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Jim Pascoe
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« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2012, 07:33:36 AM »
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The Greeks would not talk about the sky being blue because it's always blue.  If you live in England a blue sky is very rare and therefore a subject for comment.  We rarely comment on green grass in England because we have plenty of it, and it's always green because of THE INCESSANT RAIN! There I feel better now.  I should be photographing babes in a hot tub at a local holiday park, but the weather has conspired against me again.
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Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2012, 08:27:20 AM »
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The Greeks would not talk about the sky being blue because it's always blue.  If you live in England a blue sky is very rare and therefore a subject for comment.  We rarely comment on green grass in England because we have plenty of it, and it's always green because of THE INCESSANT RAIN! There I feel better now.  I should be photographing babes in a hot tub at a local holiday park, but the weather has conspired against me again.


I hope those babes are over seventeen!

Rob C
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Ray
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« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2012, 09:10:27 AM »
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The Greeks would not talk about the sky being blue because it's always blue.  If you live in England a blue sky is very rare and therefore a subject for comment.  We rarely comment on green grass in England because we have plenty of it, and it's always green because of THE INCESSANT RAIN! There I feel better now.  I should be photographing babes in a hot tub at a local holiday park, but the weather has conspired against me again.

You know, that's a good point. The last time the sky was blue in England was Wednesday afternoon at 3.46pm in 1960. I was there and made a note of it in my diary.
A few years later, when hitchhiking through Greece, I had a lasting memory of blue skies, red poppies, Retsina wine, and wild parties involving the smashing of empty wine glasses into the fireplace, and picking up chairs with one's teeth.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me, so you'll just have to believe what I write.  Grin
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Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2012, 02:17:32 PM »
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You know, that's a good point. The last time the sky was blue in England was Wednesday afternoon at 3.46pm in 1960. I was there and made a note of it in my diary.
A few years later, when hitchhiking through Greece, I had a lasting memory of blue skies, red poppies, Retsina wine, and wild parties involving the smashing of empty wine glasses into the fireplace, and picking up chairs with one's teeth.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me, so you'll just have to believe what I write.  Grin



You pick up chairs with your teeth because of the effects of Retsina. You might also feel inclined to tear your hair out, but wait: there are  better ways of winding down. I learned this the nice way in Cyprus after consuming my share (and most of my wife's share) of the aptly named Aphrodite white... it sure works, and I have often wished that it had been available in Mallorca. Who'd need a siesta and sleep?

;-(

Rob C
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Ray
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« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2012, 03:49:43 AM »
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You pick up chairs with your teeth because of the effects of Retsina. You might also feel inclined to tear your hair out, but wait: there are  better ways of winding down. I learned this the nice way in Cyprus after consuming my share (and most of my wife's share) of the aptly named Aphrodite white... it sure works, and I have often wished that it had been available in Mallorca. Who'd need a siesta and sleep?

;-(

Rob C

Actually, Rob, I should make it clear that I was not one of those who picked up chairs with their teeth. I'm far too sensible. I was just amazed to see the local farmers do this. However, I recall doing a bit of dancing, getting very drunk, and sleeping on the hard floor of the Inn. I recall being surprised that I didn't have a hangover the next morning and was feeling quite envigorated after a good night's sleep, despite the hard floor. In the morning, I recall the vivid experience again of a glorious blue sky, clean air, and lovely red poppies in the fields, as I set off on my way, in very high spirits.
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Rob C
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« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2012, 02:11:45 PM »
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Actually, Rob, I should make it clear that I was not one of those who picked up chairs with their teeth. I'm far too sensible. I was just amazed to see the local farmers do this. However, I recall doing a bit of dancing, getting very drunk, and sleeping on the hard floor of the Inn. I recall being surprised that I didn't have a hangover the next morning and was feeling quite envigorated after a good night's sleep, despite the hard floor. In the morning, I recall the vivid experience again of a glorious blue sky, clean air, and lovely red poppies in the fields, as I set off on my way, in very high spirits.



I believe you; I'm assured that you are still over the legal driving levels of alcohol after a good night's sleep because it's very slow to leave the blood stream when you sleep. Best to stay riotously awake and sing (for example) the entire night away instead.

8-)

Rob C
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Ray
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« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2012, 06:05:51 AM »
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I believe you; I'm assured that you are still over the legal driving levels of alcohol after a good night's sleep because it's very slow to leave the blood stream when you sleep. Best to stay riotously awake and sing (for example) the entire night away instead.

8-)

Rob C


Rob, I was hitch hiking. Being over the legal limit was not a concern. My exhiliration the following morning was not due to the alcohol still in my blood, but the wonderful countryside, the clear and clean air, the amazing blue (or kyanos) sky, and a complete sense of freedom and joy.
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Rob C
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« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2012, 05:26:02 PM »
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Rob, I was hitch hiking. Being over the legal limit was not a concern. My exhiliration the following morning was not due to the alcohol still in my blood, but the wonderful countryside, the clear and clean air, the amazing blue (or kyanos) sky, and a complete sense of freedom and joy.


Don't let that go; it probably won't come back if you lose it.

Rob C
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lfeagan
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« Reply #15 on: July 17, 2012, 07:31:21 PM »
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Great read. I learned a lot. Thanks for posting this.
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dreed
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« Reply #16 on: September 11, 2012, 04:47:19 AM »
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Part II

http://www.empiricalzeal.com/2012/06/11/the-crayola-fication-of-the-world-how-we-gave-colors-names-and-it-messed-with-our-brains-part-ii/
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2012, 08:14:05 AM »
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I think he's ascribing far too great a relationship between colour differentiation and language. 
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Ray
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« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2012, 09:14:14 PM »
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I think he's ascribing far too great a relationship between colour differentiation and language. 

Disagree. I think he got it about right. In fact, I'm surprised the differences are so subtle, except in the case of young children who are in the process of learning the names of colors.

It seems entirely plausible to me, if a person doesn't have a word for the object that is seen, or the sensation that is felt or perceived, there will be at least a slight delay in differentiation.

I believe that certain primitive cultures, remote tribes with their own unique language, do not distinguish between different species of trees. They have just one word to describe all trees. However, that does not mean that such people are not able to visually distinguish between the different shapes and sizes of leaves, and the different textures of bark on different species of tree, but it must surely make the entire process slower and more confusing.

What I find particularly interesting is this lack of specific, primary words that distinguish between blue and green in may cultures, including China, Japan and anctient Greece, as well as less prominent cultures.

This must surely seem particularly odd to most of the readers of this forum who have a fair experience in photography and understand that Red, Green and Blue are the three primary colors. Blue and Green are primary colors yet certain cultures do not verbally distinguish between them. That is a surprise, surely.

Attempting to understand how this can be, I recall that during certain conversations in the past, with people who were not into painting or photography, being surprised that sometimes someone who was undoubtedly intelligent was not familier with the word cyan. Didn't know what color it specifically referred to, although they would certainly have heard of the word.

What's going on here, I ask myself? I'll venture an explanation.

In some cultures, Cyan is the primary color which encompasses both blue and green. That which we consider a pure blue is merely a bluish shade of cyan. That which we consider a pure green is merely a greener shade of cyan. One can get by with just one word for blue and green.
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opgr
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« Reply #19 on: September 14, 2012, 04:38:26 AM »
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It is actually very simple: when we learn colors as infants, we usually are being taught incorrectly about colors. Pure Cyan doesn't typically exist as a subtractive colorsubstance, neither does pure Magenta, so we usually are taught subtractive colormixing based on impure colors, which also due to the complexity of the names, are taught as "Blue" and "Red" instead.

Later in live most people have very little need to distinguish colors any further. And then it is no different then asking people to distinguish between different chords in music. (Uh oh, did I just link auditory and visual properties???) Most people can distinguish between Major and Minor chords, but how many people can name a Major 7th or a Major 9th if they hear these? Not to mention absolute hearing. How many people can actually name the base note of a chord? etc...

But that doesn't take away from the fact that people can still enjoy and appreciate music, as well as visual arts, in all its complexity and nuances. So, people don't necessarily have to be colorblind or tonedeaf, even though they may have never learned the appropriate words for the constituent parts.

What the language experiment primarily teaches us imo, is whether there is some survival need to making the distinctions, possibly related to regional features and cultural habits, not whether there is some inherent visual acuity relation. In that respect I have always wondered why we don't have a specific word for the color between Cyan and Green, even though the color does appear often enough in images for example where ocean and beach meet. I would think that the color happens often enough to be named by western society? (I am referring specifically to the set of general primary colors, not the artist colorpalette naming).
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Regards,
Oscar Rysdyk
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