I heard a fascinating podcast on Radiolab yesterday about color perception. I knew that most animals see less colors than humans, but never knew that some animals can see vast amounts of colors we can't. Humans normally have three types of cone cells and are therefore trichromatic…. however it has been suggested that as women have two different X chromosomes in their cells, some of them could be carrying some variant cone cell pigments, thereby possibly being born as full tetrachromats and having four different simultaneously functioning kinds of cone cells. One study suggested that 2–3% of the world's women might have the kind of fourth cone that lies between the standard red and green cones, giving, theoretically, a significant increase in color differentiation.
This of course made me wonder and hope… could I possibly one of the chosen few with super color sense? Researching the phenomenon online I found a test here, but after taking it my hopes were dashed with a crappy score. Of course, I do have a pretty dirty laptop screen.
There was so much amazing information in this podcast (here's a link)…. they went on to talk about someone who noticed in Homer's Odyessy his odd descriptions of colors. And then that he never once mentions the color blue. Studies of ancient texts reveal a pattern: across all cultures, words for colors appear in stages. And blue always comes last. Theories are that it's due to how rarely blue occurs in nature and the fact that it's the most difficult pigment to create for paint or dye. Because of this, many cultures have no word for blue.
I think I'll paint something blue today.