The Forbidden Colors

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If you come to think about it, by using the colors green, yellow, blue and red we can describe any other color within the visible light spectrum. Purple for example can be described as a reddish blue, orange as a yellowish red, lime as a yellowish green and cyan as a greenish blue. But what do you call a reddish green or a blueish yellow? Don’t try to mix these colors down on paper because we are talking here about light, not pigments.

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To make it easier for you, let me tell you that these colors don’t theoretically exist and thus the term “forbidden colors”. First of all, in order for an object to have color, it also needs an observer to see it. Color doesn’t exist on its own. It’s simply an interpretation of our brains in regards to different wavelengths of light being reflected back into our eyes.

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And our eyes have same sensitive receptors (cones) that transform that light into different colors. These cones detect red, green and blue at different wavelengths and these wavelengths sometimes overlap. When green overlaps with red we usually see it as yellow, but if the frequency is not that of yellow light then it’s either green or red. It can’t, however, be both at the same time. The same principle applies for both blue and yellow colors.

Now, two scientists by the mane of Hewitt Crane and Thomas Piantanida have come up with an experiment back in 1983 that made the unimaginable visible just before our eyes. They were able to bring to light two colors which don’t have a name.

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By creating some images of red and green (and blue and yellow) stripes next to each other and made sure that the viewer only saw each stripe with the same individual cones, over some time these colors blended together into something never seen before.

Even though volunteers were aware they were seeing something totally different, they found it extremely difficult to explain what they were experiencing. Present was also a well known artist, familiar with colors and pigments and not even him could describe the things that literally, nobody else had ever seen before.

We wanted to show them to you but unfortunately that’s not how it works!

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