Is it possible to see new colors?

  1. Suppose u have a healthy human being that can see and has seen all the colors in the visible spectrum.

    Is it somehow* possible for this person to see new colors** that he had not seen before?

    *For instance through:
    - hypnotism
    - meditation
    - taking drugs
    - near death experiences
    - a seizure
    - etc.

    **either being ultraviolet/infrared, or a complete figment of his imagination
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. I'm trying to think if I've ever heard anyone claim they saw completely new colors in any kind of experience, and I don't think I've run across it.

    This subject came up in a thread a few months ago. I guess alot of people have found the idea appealing.
     
  4. mezarashi

    mezarashi 660
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    How would you describe a new color? (o'.')
     
  5. I read it in Near Death Experiences a few times and it wasnt a blind persons NDE. Often the colors are described as especially bright or vivid or however u put it, but ive also read about seeing completely new colors. Here is an example:

     
  6. I've read several accounts of mescaline inducing this phenomenon. I'm pretty sure at least one of them came from PiKHAL (Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved), by Alexander Shulgin. I'm out the door right now, but I'll try and come back with a full quote.

    It makes sense to me that it should be theoretically possible to apprehend unprecedented colors during some sort of disrupted (e.g. seizure, psychotropics) or unnaturally stimulated state (e.g. TMS, or with less confidence, meditation). The eyes are passing data on to the brain containing either somewhat preprocessed color information, or they're leaving it up to some region back there to figure colors from the raw data. Either way, I'm sure whichever part of the brain actually percieves the color is more flexible than the system which provides it input. So it would follow that chemically stimulating it would offer at least a chance of causing some of those possibilities to be unearthed.

    I, personally, tend to see a very alien sort of purple, not quite like any purple I've ever seen naturally, whenever I've been stoned. But I don't qualify that as one of these experiences.

    lates,
    cotarded.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2005
  7. DocToxyn

    DocToxyn 432
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    Yes, I would agree with cotarded, that it will most likely be impossible to change the physiological structures and processes that the eyes/nervous system uses to detect color. You are more likely to achieve this via changing how the brain interprets the signals. Of course you are going to struggle with any way to accurately quantify this, simple subjective observations like "wow, I've never seen that green before", won't cut it in the scientific realm (especially in an uncontrolled, pharmacologically-induced state :bugeye: )
     
  8. does the color of barney the purple dinosaur count as one of these strange colors?

    it makes sense that you would sense these "undetectable" colors of the spectrum in any state of mind with a lower... brainwave frequency? (there was a word for this frequency i read in a book a while ago, i dont recall the exact word) caused in deep meditation, near death experience, etc. your mind is in a different state of thought, perception, and awareness, so detection of colors that are totally new to the human eye doesn't seem too strange an idea
     
  9. Ok but if the manipulation occurs in the data translation area, are we still actually talking about new colors or instead unique "internal" manipulations?

    Isn't the visible light spectrum (and my man Roy G Biv) pretty solidified by now?

    Would things like infrared sight count as new colors or new senses? To that end, biologically speaking, where do the senses begin and end within the brain?
     
  10. Colors as we know them are already "internal" manipulations. Strictly speaking, there is nothing inherent in the light we percieve that should cause anything but different shades of grey. Instead, our brains take the different wavelengths collected by the eyes and produce the fantastic fiction we know as "color". The diferences in wavelength are real, but "colors" are totally created in the brain.
     
  11. In the aspect of seeing new colors, a appropriate way to describe our prespective is that of a blind person trying to describe a normal color such as blue, green, etc. Except we can assume that the color(s) have the same qualities as the ones we see.

    It's quite mind boggling in my opinion to think that more colors exist than what we are use to.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2005
  12. Creativity begins by imagining something never observed in reality but manifesting products of the imagination into reality may not always be possible although they can sometimes be represented in artistic expressions. Perhaps it is in the realm of creative imagination we produce these super-natural colors.
    I wouldn't say that no colors exist in reality by virtue or our means of perceiving them. Even our imagination needs something to work with.
     
  13. You ought to read up on the eye's three color sensors and how the brain takes that imput and creates the experience we know as "color". The differences in frequency are real and objective, but what our brains make of those frequencies is completely fictional. This happens at a basic neurological level, and isn't caused by "imagination" the way you might imagine a dog with six legs or a pig with wings.

    It took me a long time to realize that all our senses are like that. The exact experience we have isn't objective, it's merely extremely useful. When you touch something, the way that feels is actually arbitrary. Had we evolved differently, touch would have a whole different quality. When you taste something, you are really, authentically, sensing something external to you, but the specific quality of the experience is arbitrary. The specific way coffee tastes is a product of the brain, not a quality inherent in the coffee.
     
  14. Creativity begins by imagining something never observed in reality but manifesting products of the imagination into reality may not always be possible although they can sometimes be represented in artistic expressions. Perhaps it is in the realm of creative imagination we produce these super-natural colors.
    I wouldn't say that no colors exist in reality by virtue or our means of perceiving them. Even our imagination needs something to work with.

    You ought to read up on the eye's three color sensors and how the brain takes that imput and creates the experience we know as "color". The differences in frequency are real and objective, but what our brains make of those frequencies is completely fictional. This happens at a basic neurological level, and isn't caused by "imagination" the way you might imagine a dog with six legs or a pig with wings.

    By “imagination”, I was referring to those ‘other’ imaginary (actually fictional) colors.

    When I use the term “color” I am referring to the stimuli received from the object, (an attribute of the object in certain lighting conditions), not the process of perception. The important thing is that when we see a traffic light is red (as a ripe tomato), as opposed to amber or green most of us can agree that it is a good idea to stop, at least until no one gets hurt. Fortunately most of us agree on color ostensively without the need to demonstrate scientifically how we arrive at this determination.

    It took me a long time to realize that all our senses are like that. The exact experience we have isn't objective, it's merely extremely useful. When you touch something, the way that feels is actually arbitrary. Had we evolved differently, touch would have a whole different quality. When you taste something, you are really, authentically, sensing something external to you, but the specific quality of the experience is arbitrary. The specific way coffee tastes is a product of the brain, not a quality inherent in the coffee.

    If one finds pleasure in placing ones hand on a hot stove, that is an aberration, not an arbitrary experience. The fact that we evolved the way we did is, for better or worse, a fact. Only a confirmed coffee hound would insist that coffee taste sweet, not bitter.

    That we perceive reality through a specific means does not alter the reality that it is reality that we perceive. Objectivity is a choice, to base our knowledge on our perception of reality. This is the only window we have to access the external world. Any knowledge we deduce from that point on must rigorously follow the rules of logic or we soon end up in an intellectually incomprehensible mess. Declaring that the color red (or green or blue) does not exist in reality is irresponsible and potentially dangerous. When objectivity is reduced to the arbitrary, the fictional, we have ceased to be objective.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2005
  15. Q_Goest

    Q_Goest 2,976
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    I would agree, and at the same time I can see the counterpoint:
    Now I've not thought this through, it only just occured to me so I beg you not to hold me responsible <grin> But...

    What we measure in regards to color is a wavelenth. What we measure in regards to heat is a temperature. By analogy, how we measure a photon will determine whether it exists as a particle or a wave. Is there any reason to suggest that color and heat exist in a similar way? The difference here in the analogy seems quite apparant, we don't have any tools to measure the red-ness of a color except for our eyes, or the heat of a high temperature except for our nervous system. Nevertheless, could it be that there is a physical way of measuring something that results in what we percieve as color or heat? :confused:
     
  16. The wavelength/frequency of light (electromagnetic) waves range over a continuum including radio, visual, x-ray and gamma rays. We can assign a specific wavelength of light to the color red so that for the purpose of information exchange (communication) we can use the term red as a type of shorthand for that particular wavelength value upon which we agree. This can be measured to a high degree of precision when/if necessary. I believe color is associated with the energy level of a photon but I will leave this for a photo-physicist to explain. How precisely our eyes measure each color in terms of wavelength I do not know.

    As for temperature (heat); it is commonly advised to use a thermometer to measure water temperature where safety may be a concern. I have noticed a startling relationship between pain and actual tissue damage in regards to temperature.

    There is a relationship between color and temperature of a flame (red flame not as hot as blue flame) but I believe other factors (the type of fuel) need to be take into consideration. I hope this information is suitably accurate and somewhat pertinent to your question.
     
  17. Q_Goest

    Q_Goest 2,976
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    Hi Dmstif' … Thanks, I'm familiar with all that you're saying. That really doesn't help much unfortunately.

    I don't like to talk for others, so I'll only suggest that what Zoobyshoe is suggesting and what I hear you replying in return seem to conflict. Hence my response.

    You said: I believe color is associated with the energy level of a photon but I will leave this for a photo-physicist to explain. How precisely our eyes measure each color in terms of wavelength I do not know.

    That starts to get to the point I think. Our eyes have an interaction with the light of wavelength "red" and that interaction then progresses through the nerves in the eye to some place inside the brain. Our neurons don't transmit that wavelength, they transmit a signal in a very different form altogether, just as a movie camera transmits a signal that doesn't have the actual wavelength of light in it anywhere. Nevertheless, somehow our mind then perceives a color. But does that color actually exist in the sense that it really is red, or is it merely an interpretation our mind puts to the wavelength of light received? If we evolved differently, would our brains perceive red as blue instead? or green? Why does our brain interpret that particular wavelength as "red"? Why should it interpret it as a color at all? Why not a tone of grey - after all, the range of visible wavelengths is continuous over a small range of the em spectrum, so why wouldn't the brain perceive that as a grey scale?

    I believe the philosophical answer to this, and the one most of science recognizes is that our brains interpret the light as red because that is how we evolved, not because there is anything inherent about the particular interpretation our brain makes of that wavelength.

    Regarding my previous post, if the color red was actually some inherent feature of that particular wavelength then that would predict that all animals that can see color that evolved from some different and previously color blind animal, would all perceive red as the same color. I suspect there would be numerous predictions such a suggestion would have, though I tend to doubt there is anything 'red' about that particular wavelength of light and just thought it was an interesting idea to kick around.
     
  18. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
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    Briefly, in the retinas of our eyes are molecules that will warp when they absorb a photon. Different ones will warp from different energy bands of photons. These bands are rather broad and overlap; we can see four or five of them (men mostly four, some women can get five.

    The warping molecules send a nerve signal to the brain. The visual cortex then does a subtraction, so it is the difference of the intensities of the bands which is sent on for higher processing. Eventually - it hasn't been completely unravelled - this issues in our perception of the colored scene we are looking at. The whole business of naming colors is a social thing. Different peoples have different ways of splitting up the colors, although tests have shown we all (color-blind people apart) see the dame frequency/energy bands.

    See what I said above. What we call, say, red-orange would be still classified as "hot-bright-color" by some tribespeople. The core color we call red (fire-engine red) is perceived pretty universally as a central core color. Blue and green are a lot more variable.

    Acually our retinas have two separate sets of visual bodies; the "cones" with the warping molecules and the "rods" with a simpler system that comes into play when the light is bad - not enough photons to do the color processing from. The rods do see in a grayscale, as you can find out for yourself by looking at colored objects at night in dim light.
     
  19. Somehow you mistook me to be saying something I definitely wasn't. Reality is real, yes.
    I don't disagree with this at all.
    It's neither irresponsible nor dangerous. It's simply true.
    The arbitrariness of our experience of color is the objective reality of the phenomenon. That is: what is objectively real about our perception of color is that the details of the experience is created in the brain.
    Consider an analogy to sound: if a sound increases in frequency smoothly we percieve an increase in pitch only. With light, the increase in frequency results in arbitrary changes in quality that aren't a smooth continuum. It is as if a sound changed from sounding like a cello within a certain range to sounding like a flute in the next higher frequency range, and then like a harmonica in the next range up. The different frequencies are real, but the subjective qualities they seem to have are created in the brain.
     
  20. Q_Goest

    Q_Goest 2,976
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    Hi SelfAdjoint, thanks for the info. I'm not all that familiar with how exactly light is picked up by our eyes, and I do appreciate the explanation. However, I guess since both D' and yourself seem to be missing the fundamental point that I've tried to make must mean I'm not explaining things very well. Perhaps Zoobyshoe's example where he starts out "Consider an analogy to sound:" might help. I'll see if I can elaborate on that again, but I guess it's difficult to understand because what we see as color is considered real to a layman, but it's not. It is an interpretation the brain makes of a given wavelength.

    From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_spectroscopy
    In other words, most of the em radiation emited by the sun is in what we call the "visible spectrum". It's visible because the sun emits most strongly in this spectrum and our eyes evolved in order to pick up this particular set of light wavelengths. If our eyes picked up ultraviolet or infrared light instead, our eyes would have to be MUCH more sensitive to such light because there is so little light being emitted at those wavelengths.

    Consider this possibility. What if humans had evolved near a much cooler star where most of the light came off in the infrared spectrum instead of the "visible"? Then we probably would have evolved eyes that could take advantage of the larger amount of light the Infrared star (Itar) gave off. If the Itar gave off infrared light instead of 'visible' light, our eyes would have had to evolve so we could see infrared light instead.

    What would it be like to be a person living on a planet near the Itar? Would we see colors? If our eyes worked in the infrared region instead of the visible region, would we no longer see red, blue or green? Would we see different colors such as ired, iblue and igreen? Or would we not see any colors at all? Would everything have a red/grey color to it, like a monochromatic light that has a red tinge?

    There's no reason to believe any given wavelength has a specific 'color' which is inherently bound to it. The wavelength of 620 to 780 nm registers as red to humans because we've evolved like that. Our brains interpret this particular wavelength as red because our eyes evolved to take advantage of the spectrum of light given off by the sun. Had we evolved near the Itar, we might have evolved eyes and brains that had a much lower frequency corresponding to red.
     
  21. Q_Goest

    Q_Goest 2,976
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    Question for Zoobyshoe/others: Can we prove that light does NOT have some inherent color associated with certain wavelengths? I don't know that we can.

    Color blind people can't be used as an example of how specific light wavelengths don't correspond because their eyes are found to miss some important part, ie: the eye is defective in some way. So a defective eye can't disprove this.

    One prediction that could be made (that light has some inherent color) is that different animals that evolved from different color blind predecessors would have evolved the same qualia to specific wavelengths. For example, if we found dogs evolved the ability to see color, and if dogs evolved from color blind wolves, and assuming man evolved from some color blind ape, and assuming dogs and humans evolved to see the same "red" which corresponded to a given wavelength of light, then there is some evidence that there might be some inherent feature of light that corresponds to color.

    We might figure out that we see the same "red" as such a dog because the eyes evolved the same exact properties for example. The eyes had the same exact receptors.

    I don't know if this is provable or disprovable but I would be interested in exploring the possibility.
     
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