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Deep Thoughts About Color


Isaac Newton is well-known for the interesting color science he performed in 1665, when he used a prism to split sunlight into all its constituent parts that humans perceive as a rainbow. His experimentation showed that light is a physical thing in the physical world, and that the colors humans see are the visible representation of that light energy. This is just one part of the path to discovery and understanding color.

Physical and mental colors

The observation of a yellow crocus appearing violet briefly in the mind's eye of the poet Goethe transformed into deep thought. Though Newton proved that the colors in light exist in the physical world, perhaps they merely start there and finish in the human mind. Certain scientists believe that color has an objective reality, but if the colors humans see are tricks of the imagination, then a perfectly objective view doesn't exist.

Color receptors

To understand this interesting color science, consider the color receptors of humans versus other animals. Humans have three color receptors, dogs have two, and the butterfly has 5-6 kinds of color receptors. When looking at a rainbow, humans see seven colors, dogs see 2-3, and butterflies see more colors than humans can name. The mantis shrimp has 16 color receptors but its mind is so tiny that it doesn't have the ability to perceive what it's seeing. It's a violent creature with no interest in beauty, so a rainbow is trivial to them. Ultimately, it's not about how many color receptors an animal has, but how they receive those colors. This implies that humans appreciates the rainbow most due to his or her imagination and perception.

Explore the full capabilities of applying this interesting color science to your home by contacting our imaginative and experienced professionals at Dunn-Edwards Paints®.