Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Beauty of Colours

I have always been interested in colours. Yes, life would be terribly dull without them. But we have been tuned to perceive colours as the material object, instead of realising the mechanics of our colour perception- and what we cannot see.

During high school, i remember learning about how the eyes process the lights around us to create perception. But we didnt go further on that, and i didnt try to go intensively on that chapter either, coz basically, we all studied FOR exam lol. Then interestingly, during IB, i got the chance to take higher level biology, and we indulged ourselves in neurons and the brains..and i got the chance to learn literature from Dr Reed, and we indulged ourselves in sensing the hidden meanings of words and sentences, and create imaginations and perceptions of our own.THAT'S LITERATURE people!

Most significantly, during IB, i learned Theory of Knowledge (TOK) by MR Shaw, and one of the main chapters of the subject is on "what is true and what is not". It did touch about how do we know a true religion a bit, (i remember osem sending warning messages to all of us about this), but i will not explain on that part. But TOK also touched a lot on our perceptions of the world, one specific task was whether colours are true.

Now in uni, all praise to Allah, i was moved enough to take psychology, which led me to the task of researching on how lights and colours affect our perceptions. And later today, i'm assigned to watch the sunset and write a report about it, or something like that.

Colour is a perception. They are distinguished by the light’s wavelengths generated through the eyes, and our brain processes this information to produce a visual display (IN THE BRAIN) that we experience as colours. This means that colours only exist within the brain. All along, it is solely light that is travelling from the object to our eyes,and it is solely light that we are actually seeing/watching, the object itself is not coloured, do you get what i'm trying to say?.

I wont go deeper into the scientific mechanism of how we derive light, coz its toooooo long, i'd have to touch on the eyeballs and neurons and brain parts,but basically,visible light that we see is merely just a small part of the full electromagnetic spectrum, which extends from cosmic rays at the highest energies down through the middle range (gamma rays, X- rays, the ultraviolet, the visible, the infrared, and radio waves) all the way down to the lowest energies. We see only the visible. In simple words, our eyes and brain do not provide visual perception of the non-visible light from the sun. In simpler words,we don't see everything. full stop=)

However, some animals can be different;

1. Bees
We see red,they see black+ uv purple,
we see orange they see yellow/green,
we see Yellow they see Yellow/green+Uv purple,
we see green they see green,
we see blue, they see blue+Uv violet,
we see violet they see Blue+Uv blue,
we see Purple they see Blue,
we see White they see Blue green,
we see Black and they see black.

2. Dogs
Instead of seeing the rainbow as violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow, orange and red, dogs would see it as dark blue, light blue, grey, light yellow, darker yellow (sort of brown), and very dark grey. In other words, dogs see the colours of the world as basically yellow, blue and grey.

3. Birds
Birds typically can see far better than humans can. Their colour perceptions are those of humans + uv rays.

4. Deep sea fish
Until recently it was believed that deep-sea fish were unable to see red light, as these wavelengths are filtered out before reaching deep water. It turns out that a variety of these fish see colours in red, and this fluorescence is visible for short distances.

5. Snakes
Certain species of snake have thermal pits in addition to their eyes, extending their spectral range into the infrared.

6. Bulls.
Interestingly, bulls are not able to distinguish colour and would see the bullfighter’s red cape in shades of grey. They follow its movements, but do not perceive it as red - the red colour is only useful in its effect on the human spectators.

A recent debate was initiated by Liz Elliot, when Liz claimed that pink is not a colour, as it does not exist in the spectrum of visible light i.e. the rainbow. She goes on to explain that when red and violet light (longest and shortest wavelength) enters the eyes at the same time, our brain processes these two extremes by inventing a new colour halfway; which is THE VERY VERY BEAUTIFUL COLOUR PINK. So, pink is our brains' own creation, not existing in the spectrum of colours. And if its just a mind's creation, its nothing more than a perception.

When people see new colours, they tend to ask, “Has someone invented a new colour?”.I once asked my mum that, and she thinks i think too much hah.Well, they have not, but they certainly have invented new materials that produce colours (reflect/absorb lights) that people could not make before. Things like new paints, new inks, new kinds of televisions.However, when we experience new colours, we tend to think that they are invented. That is because colour is truly a perception that is unique to our brains and we tend to consider any new colour experiences as new "inventions",when its not.

We even dream in colours! And why wouldn't we? What we see in dreams is believed to be stimulation of the visual areas of the brain from the brain itself rather than from our eyes. If those areas of the brain can help us perceive colour based on the signals from our eyes when we are awake, why shouldn't they also be able to produce colour perceptions when stimulated by the brain?

Now come to think of these, if different beings can see different and limited sets of colours their whole lives, then the colours we see are not exactly there, right? And, if there are colours like pink, which are totally invented by the brain itself, then, that colour does not exactly exist if our brain disfunctions right? And, when we can even perceive colours when asleep and with our eyes close, then those colours don’t exactly exist right?If we only manage to see colours because we have a part of our brain that perceives light that way, then if we dont have that brain anymore, the colour cease to exist. It wont be there anymore, its not material.

I'm very intrigued by the fact that the colours we see, are our own creations.sorry, i mean, our "mind's" own perception. its almost like we ARE living in a world of perception. or a world of imaginations. or a world dreams. we only say the world's a reality because this is the ONLY dream that we keep back coming to, that we keep wake up to, apart from the ones we see in sleep, or the ones in the other dimensions. And just imagine, when we wake up to the day of judgement, even this world of so-called-reality cant be denied its similarity to just-a-dream.

In the midst of our varied ability to perceive different wavelengths, Allah SWT has stated in the al Qur’an, “No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision” (surah al An’am; 103), signalling how our Creator the Almighty knows the limitations and differences of the visions of His creations.Wallahu'alam.