Neon and Florescent

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Have you every considered how exactly neon colors work ? What makes them brighter or more visible than normal primary or tertiary colors?

As we all know the whole concept of neon florescent color originated with lighted signs. Neon, like all inert or noble gases have no color, smell or taste, but they do emit certain colors when ionized while trapped in glass tubes.  They were, and sometimes still are, used as an advertising strategy to draw eyes away from competitors painted signs and toward the light up variety. While the signs themselves have diminished in popularity, the colors became widely available and have became part of the cultural vernacular. 

The colors themselves, neon green, electric blue, hot pink, all changed the color landscape for fashion, interior design and even architecture, by redefining and expanding the contemporary palette. But now that these bright colors are no longer restricted to lighted signs what makes them so visually striking?

Amazingly, ultraviolet pigments, previously only associated with flowers and iridescent animals, can now be manufactured and added to paints to give them the glow of lighted signs. Commonly called dayglo colors, what makes them fluoresce is that they absorb light you normally can’t see (UV light) and then release that energy as visible light. When in sunlight, or another source of UV light like a blacklight, the colors reflect more light back into your eye. Thus these colors seem brighter and more energetic than everyday colors which can only reflect visible light. The end result is that there is actually more light from those colors interacting with your brain neurons which produce our perception of color.

Today these colors are used for everything from clothing, cars and nail polish to monetary notes, and drivers licenses. It is amazing to think that neon colors push the limits of human visual perception. Before their invention there were few sources of of this visual phenomenon but as our mastery of color through science grows so to do our experiences of the color around us.

– Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
– Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

A Cure for Color Blindness

Could a pair of specialized spectacles be the cure for color blindness? An American research institue based in Idaho called 2AI recently announced exactly that. 

The Oxy-Iso lenses were originally developed to help field medics spot bruising and veins in an injured patient that would have been otherwise difficult to see allowing for better immediate treatment on site. Anyone who has had an IV can attest it’s not an experience you want to endure over and over again because the medic could not see the vein clearly. But in a small percentage of test users, those that suffered from red-green color blindness, their red-green vision as well as their ability to see veins was greatly enhanced. 

While this is not a exact cure, just as wearing prescriptions glasses or contacts is not a cure for those of us who are near-sighted, it has the potential of greatly enhancing the color perception of the wearer. The downside to the technology at this point is that the lenses can not be worn while driving as they make yellow nearly invisible. So why use them at all? Why is seeing just a few more colors all that necessary?

Mark A. Changizi (pictured above), the Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, states why red-green color vision is so important to our species. Previous theories thought that our three cone system evolved as follows: yellow-blue for living in a world with mostly green plant life, greyscale for depth and contrast, and red-blue for picking brightly color fruits out of the background. The problem with the rationale comes when you examine the diet of various primates who have the same color vision as we do. Depending on the geographic location and the diet of the species, you see huge variety in the visual requirements for survival. Wouldn’t evolution have specialized vision to accommodate the diet of each species over time if that were the case? 

Changizi thinks those primates weren’t looking at food but instead looking at each other. He postulates our “color vision was for sensing others of our own primate kind, to sense the … signals we display on our faces, rumps and genitalia.” And the human color vision even “evolved above and beyond that found in other mammals… allowing us to sense colour-signals on the skin, including blushes, blanches, as well as sensing health.”

This is an exciting break through for the few women but nearly one out of ten men that suffer from the condition. We want to know what you think. Are you color blind or know someone who is? Would you consider a sometimes fix for your red-green color blindness to perhaps see faces and emotions more clearly? Let us know in the comments.

– Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
– Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio