Is My Blue, Your Blue?

By: Kara Haselton

Colors. Without them, what would be the value of objects?

We don’t even realize how much we depend on colors for decisions, emotions, and enjoyment. They help us determine what product to buy. How to differentiate cherry tomatoes from grapes. How to choose which shampoo we like better.

Colors are so important that being color blind can prohibit someone from having certain jobs, such as being an electrician or a police officer. They’re important to artists, interior designers, moms, that overly organized girl behind you in World History. But have you ever wondered where colors come from? And who decides what color is what?

Well, that first question, you can’t really answer. If there was ever a time that humanity didn’t realize that everything around them was a different color, I don’t know when that was. But it is fascinating that color itself doesn’t really exist. Color is fully dependent on light. Supposedly, light has different wavelengths, and if those specific wavelengths mix well with an object, then the color of the object will be reflected off into our eyes. Our rods and cones help identify those wavelengths, and that’s how we differentiate color. Isn’t it wild that our favorite color is simply a mixture of varying wavelengths and light refractions?

The fact that light is the thing that actually creates colors makes sense because if you turn the lights off in a room, you can’t tell the colors of any objects even if you can still tell that they’re there. It makes sense that the most important aspect of photography is light. And while people say that Sir Isaac Newton decided which colors are what, he discovered the colors of the rainbow in light. Did he discover color, or just the color within light?

There are a lot of questions one could ask. But, the real question is, how do we know that we’re seeing that same color?

This is blue:

blue
But how do I know that the blue I see is the same blue you see? We might both call it blue, but what if I was actually seeing green, and you were seeing yellow, but we were just taught that that color is blue so we think we’re seeing the same color. How do we know? Just think about the possibilities! We all say that grass is green and the sun is yellow, like the picture below.

colors1

But what if some people see it like this:

Colors2

But you just said that those colors are green and yellow and blue… because that’s what you were taught.

If this were the case, how would that affect the way society runs?

Even if we did see every color differently, it apparently doesn’t affect the way people view and describe those colors.

Everyone agrees that red means passion and chaos.

Yellow is associated with happiness and positivity.

Green means growth and health.

If we did see colors differently, how can you explain that we still get the same feel from each color? People feel so deeply about the emotions that colors elicit that it seems as if it wouldn’t make sense for everyone to be seeing different colors. What if it’s not so much the color, but it’s the connotation with it?

We’re taught that blue is meant to be serene. That blue is associated with water.

We’re taught that purple represents royalty and wisdom.

There’s an infinite amount of color possibilities because there are infinite amounts of wavelengths and kinds of light. There’s an infinite amount of possible mixtures of colors creating even more colors. So, I guess that means our interpretation of the color of the sky is infinite even though we all say it’s blue.

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