Why Dogs See Fewer Colors than Humans, with Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek

source: Big Think     2016年6月15日
“What we perceive as color — what we perceive as light — corresponds to a very narrow band of frequencies, out of an infinite continuum," says Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek. Frank Wilczek's book is "A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design" (http://goo.gl/AnhnnD).
Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/frank-wilc...

Transcript - In the nineteenth century with Maxwell’s synthesis of the laws of electricity and magnetism physicists started to realize that what we perceive as light is deeply understood as a kind of disturbance, electric and magnetic fields. That gave us a new concept of the possibilities of perception of light that show us that we’re missing a lot. The electromagnetic equations permit radiation of any wave length and of any frequency – what we perceive as color – what we perceive as light is corresponds to a very narrow band of frequencies out of an infinite continuum. Not only that but even within that band we take three averages. We don’t sample all the different frequencies but just three averages. That’s called trichromatic vision. So for instance in computer displays there are three different kinds of lighting elements used. When you see on your menu the choice of millions of different colors that doesn’t mean different lighting arrangements, lighting possibilities. It means different combinations, different relative intensities of just three. Any perceived color can be synthesized from three basic colors.

Other creatures see less. Dogs, for instance, see only two kinds of colors like color blind people see basically only two kinds of colors. Other creatures see more. Other creatures – many insects and birds see four or five colors. They also sample kinds of light, kinds of electromagnetic radiation that humans don’t see. There’s infrared radiation. There’s ultraviolet radiation. Maxwell’s equations which describe light also describe radio waves and microwaves and x-rays and gamma rays. So all those things are possible forms of vision that human’s natural endowment doesn’t tap into. But it’s out there. On the one hand it’s very important to make concepts visual because it taps into very powerful methods of processing that we have. And on the other hand scientific knowledge of what light is shows us that our natural perception leaves a lot on the table and so it leaves us with the program of doing better with telescopes, microscopes, spectrometers and other kinds of gadgets that I’m developing for everyday life that will allow us to see more colors.
The human perception of color is limited really by the principles of quantum mechanics. It’s interesting to compare the human perception of color to the perception of sound. Our perception of sound in one way is much richer. Read Full Transcript Here: http://goo.gl/JNiHct.

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