Topic: Perceive writing a check
June 25, 2019 / By Carley Question:
In a story I'm writing, the main character can see a bit into the infrared. The way I've always understood it is that color is created because of the different wavelengths of light and that humans just happen to see light between the wavelengths corresponding to violet and red. I picture light as this row of colors with ROYGBV in the middle, but there are still imaginary colors below violet and above red. As if our visible spectrum is just a window that only sees a certain range of colors out of the greater whole. So I figured that if someone could see into the infrared, there would be new colors in addition to the ROYGBV and that those colors would be inexplicable to us. I wanted the character to see one color above red, and I named this color "laris." Instead of it being ROYGBV, it would be LROYGBV.
Back up though. If we could see a few wavelengths above red, would this really be a new color? I figured it would have to be a mix between red and another color, just as orange is a mixture of yellow and red. But then I thought about violet. Orange is between its primary colors and so is green, but how the heck is violet a mix of red and blue? Red is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It can't just loop back to the beginning, can it?
So I have this question and it may be very confusing as to what I am asking, and the answer might be even more confusing. The question is this:
Does color actually "exist," meaning are red, blue, etc. actual physical things, or just how the human brain processes certain wavelengths?
I ask because this would be an explanation why violet appears to be a mix between red and blue--that's just how the brain is making it look.
Assume that colors are just what the brain makes of light wavelengths. Imagine someone who sees in the visible spectrum plus some wavelengths above red. If I shined a light with a wavelength above red onto this person, would they see a whole new color? Or would the traditional colors "stretch out" to fit the wavelength range, making the range of what appears to be a certain color a bit more than what it is to us? It would still be ROYGBV, but ROYGBV would cover more wavelengths.
If wavelengths after red do become new colors, would violet still be violet? Or would violet be a mixture of blue and my imaginary infrared color, laris?
So these are the possible models I've come up with where someone can see a few wavelengths above red:
1. They would see ROYGBV but ROYGBV would cover more wavelengths. The minimum wavelength of blue for us would actually be the end of their violet wavelength because it would have been made bigger to fit the longer wavelength range.
2. A new color, which we will call laris, would be made. Instead of ROYGBV it would be LROYGBV. This doesn't make sense though because violet is a mix between red and blue, so...
2a. The new spectrum would be LROYGBS, where violet is replaced with a new color which I will call Siral. Siral would be a mix between laris and blue. I create this because the combination of the first and penultimate colors on the traditional spectrum, red and blue, create the last color. It might work the same way with a new spectrum.
3. xxxxxx. The colors would be entirely different from the colors that we know but it would have a pattern like ours, except only those who see in that spectrum would understand it. Instead of trying to work in a new color into the traditional spectrum, an entirely different spectrum would be created. This would have to mean that, say, blue doesn't actually exist but is rather just the color that our brains make of a certain wavelength. If this one is true then it raises the question of what animals like snakes and birds see, as those don't see entirely in our visible spectrum. Does my pet bird see my yellow shirt as yellow, or something else?
I probably lost you long ago and I won't get frustrated if no one responds to this question. Defining color and trying to imagine new ones are humongously difficult tasks. Thank you if you did manage to stick with me through all that, and thank you very much if you have the answer.
Andri | 9 days ago
If the human eye had receptors that could detect infrared, there could be additional colors. It's hard to imagine because everything we perceive are just mixtures of three colors. But check out the site I cited (it's just Wikipedia) and scroll about 1/4 of the way down. you'll see pictures of what the rainbow's colors look like to colorblind people. They have no idea how to perceive some colors and can't possibly imagine what they look like. Pretty wild to think about.
Some animals see a different range to us. Some insects, such as bees, see into the ultraviolet (but they lose red). Humans and some primates are tri-chromatic, but most animals are either bichromatic, or monochromatic (they see black and white).
Being tri-chromatic, we have three receptors that let us define color. One tells us whether it is yellow or blue, one tells us red or green, and the third dark or light - that's all we've got.
So for example violet light actually triggers the yellow-blue as blue and the red-green as red, and our brain calls that violet. As you point out it's weird, I like to refer to purple/violet as a "pigment of the imagination".
If you think about these receptors you will realise why you can have a bluish green, or a reddish yellow, but you can't have a bluish yellow or a reddish green.
Some people (only women though) are thought to have an extra receptor - they are quadrachromatic. It doesn't let them see a different range but it would for example let them see two different types of green where normal people only see one.
For your story concept I think you need to build the eye from the ground up. Give them 4 or more receptors, and realise that just like us there will be combinations of wavelengths that when processed by the brain look the same (look up "metamers" for more on that).
When you consider the colors we see, "orange" is just a word we use for a reddish yellow (or a yellowish red). In fact many cultures don't even have a word for the color "orange".
Taking out orange leaves us with RYGBV, which is our R-G and our Y-B spliced together and then V tacked on the end. It's a pretty neat "design" and hard to tweak.
One suggestion would be to give them an extra receptor that simply picks up either infrared or ultraviolet.
One thing I would say is that color naming is very arbitrary, and very open to personal/cultural experience. In the end you probably don't want to bore your audience with too much detail about the anatomy of the eye. Throw in term like quadrachromatic or even quintachromatic, and they'll buy it. Have your character use made up names for colors.
I didn't read the whole thing, but to answer your question - possibly. We get infrared radiation in the form of heat, not light, so we can't see any colors, but if we could actually SEE infrared radiation we would get more colors.