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davidbriggs
03-13-2014, 02:32 AM
This is a response I produced for the 2014 Flame Challenge, sponsored by actor Alan Alda, to answer the question "What is color?" in a way suitable for school children. I don't know how it will go down with the eleven-year old judges, but I hope it at least gets some adults rethinking what they think they know about colour:
http://www.huevaluechroma.com/036.php

After reading that page you might like to watch the actual video I submitted, which had to be only 6 minutes long. (If you watch the video first, you may want to keep the pause button handy!) I know there are a few minor glitches, but as it was submitted for a competition with a deadline I can't fix them until it's over.
https://vimeo.com/87942146

After reading the page and watching the video, you might like to watch these two rather misleading YouTube videos to see if you can see the problems with them:

This Is Not Yellow (Michael Stevens, Vsauce)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3unPcJDbCc

Colour Mixing: The Mystery of Magenta (Steve Mould)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPPYGJjKVco

You can compare your answers with my notes here:
http://www.huevaluechroma.com/037.php

0chre
03-13-2014, 05:56 AM
:lol: Very funny final statement!

I think the video will be quite difficult to understand for the average 11 year old, but I think the more intelligent and interested specimens will be stimulated to find out more about color.

davidbriggs
03-13-2014, 09:09 AM
Thanks Ochre. I think the task itself was a pretty big ask. Anyway, I wasn't too influenced by the miniscule hope of actually winning, so I decided to keep it accurate and reasonably comprehensive, even where that might make it very challenging for 11 year olds.

WFMartin
03-13-2014, 01:27 PM
Color is the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Also, that is an excellent explanation of the reason that Magenta does not exist in the natural spectrum. (The Mystery of Magenta link).

davidbriggs
03-13-2014, 06:31 PM
Color is the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.


Thanks for trying, but strictly speaking light is the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Colour is how it is visible, how it is experienced.

Tiasa
03-13-2014, 07:23 PM
I donít know about the 11-years olds, but I really liked "What is Color?" I also liked the illustrations. This filled in some of the gaps in my understanding such as why primaries come in 3s, or why colors can be put in a circle.

I am in the United States and only vaguely remembered that the Sydney Opera House is white. At first I couldnít figure out how the picture was related to the text reading ďA white object can reflect light of any colour if the lighting is that colour.Ē (I did a Google search and really got side-tracked with the stunning videos of the Vivid Festival at the Sydney Opera House. Amazing!)

There are many concepts in your video and website that are challenging to my adult mind. Itís possible 11 year olds will get it faster than adults who are trying to square all this with what they already know. (Yikes! it doesnít match up!)

I will return to the website to gather small, digestible chunks. Having it oriented towards an 11-year old makes it easier for me. :) :)

davidbriggs
03-13-2014, 08:16 PM
Thanks Tiasa!

Itís possible 11 year olds will get it faster than adults who are trying to square all this with what they already know. (Yikes! it doesnít match up!)


I very much agree. At the same time I think the concept that colour isn't actually in the light they are looking at can be a difficult one for people of any age to grasp. Yet that point is absolutely central to understanding what colour really is, and is one that most or all of the other scientists emphasized as well. As I said, I think that breaking it down for 11 year olds was a big ask, but in making the video I was consciously thinking that even if it doesn't reach them, explaining everything in as simple terms as possible might help more adults to get it.

0chre
03-14-2014, 12:44 PM
[...]I wasn't too influenced by the miniscule hope of actually winning, so I decided to keep it accurate and reasonably comprehensive, even where that might make it very challenging for 11 year olds.Good decision. Truthfulness and accuracy are sacrificed enough (too many times?) already to make things more understandable. There's nothing wrong with exercising your "brain muscle" from time to time! Maybe you've sparked an interest in science in a few children...

sidbledsoe
03-14-2014, 11:04 PM
Very good information Dr. Briggs, it speaks to some of the musings and questions I have long had about color and "primaries" in particular.
I think it is so neat that when people are talking about how the brain or even the eye works, they kinda go off on this anthropomorphic imagery way of trying to help describe what is going on. Those videos by others are rife with examples of the attempt to simplify conveying such profound concepts. Here is another example:
when an L cone cell responds to light, it doesn't know if it's responding to a small amount of light from the yellow band, or a larger amount of light from some other band.
Sort of like the cone cell is a separate little being with a brain that is capable of reasoning and thought, in and of itself! :D

davidbriggs
03-15-2014, 10:50 AM
I don't think they're really needed in the context, but I've given the "know" some quotation marks in your honour!

bytesniffer
03-18-2014, 08:33 PM
If a room you are in has no light what color is everything.

opainter
03-19-2014, 01:59 AM
If a room you are in has no light what color is everything.
English language does not have a word for this, but German language does. Eigengrau. This means, literally, "intrinsic gray." You see this color when your eyes are closed. You also see it when the room is dark.

davidbriggs
03-19-2014, 08:27 AM
If a room you are in has no light what color is everything.

Is your question more to do with the question of whether coloured things are still coloured when they are in the dark? I think that comes down the different senses in which we use the word colour, rather than to any issue of fact.

If you ask if an apple is still red when it is in a dark room, I could answer in three quite different ways that are all consistent with exactly the same view of what is going on:

1. Yes it is red, because it would still match a red Munsell chip if they were viewed together under the standard lighting conditions specified for measuring Munsell notations.

2. No, it isn't red, because the area of my visual field it occupied would be very dark grey (Eigengrau!).

3. The apple "to speak properly" is not red even in the light, in the sense that the colour red does not reside in the apple itself; the apple only reflects wavelengths that (some) humans see as red.