Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Millions of Colors, So Little Time. And Space.

These days there are hundreds and hundreds of colors of Delica beads (for the non-beaders out there among my 12-minus-3 loyal readers -- I'm pretty sure 3 bailed after the McCain Photoshop Incident -- Delicas are Miyuki's brand of tiny cylindrical Japanese beads). A lot of the colors are surface variations of the same core bead colors; you know, a matte surface or a rainbow (AB) surface. And then there are the transparents. And the matte rainbow transparents (Ok, I might be making that up!) Still, that's a lotta color to play with.

At a recent workshop I wrote in my handout that the human eye can discern about a million different colors. Well, that info was based on my notes that are at least 10 years old, so last night I googled for:
how many colors can human eye see?

(Well first of all let me just say you couldn't pay me enough to be the lab rat that had to distinguish a million colors. Can you imagine the eye test for that??? I mean, I like color but I seriously doubt I could sit still that long.)

So here's what I found. Seems opinions range quite a bit. Suffice to say, it's a lot more than Miyuki makes. Fortunately beads are compact.
  • Ask Yahoo says "nobody knows" and "millions and millions.
  • WikiAnswers says "blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah" and never answers the question. I did find out I'm a trichromat with a 10% chance of having an extra color receptor, though. Gads!
  • On a different page, WikiAnswers cuts the blahblah completely and states, simply: between 35k and 55k. Unfortunately they don't explain what a "k" is. I think it's thousands?
  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says some women can see 100 million colors. Pity the housewife who had to prove that.
  • The gods and goddesses on Mount Wikipedia say it's . . . to tell ya the truth I couldn't FIND the answer but this line did pop out (ew!): "Eyes can be eaten by humans; in some countries" LOLOL!
  • The RGB video phreaks at ArsTechnica variously claim the number is 3 million, 16 million, and fortunately somebody over there named stickboy got everybody back on track by pointing out humans don't see in bits and bytes. {SNORT!
  • I found an interesting article at The Visual Body, but unfortunately my cone cells got fatigued before I located the answer. ;-)
When I dig up my favorite color & physiology link, buried in my notes somewhere, I'll revisit this topic because now that I've been entertained by the above, I really would like to know who decides this stuff and whether it's based on a guess or an actual study.

P.S. I stole the little Delica images above from Sandi at Stormcloud Trading Company. Tell her Miz Mary sent ya. ;-)


  1. You know, this is actually very interesting! I find it fascinating that even to go looking for answers required such a dexterity of mind!

    And on the less serious side...

    So, here's a, thought provoking question to this topic - how many colours can one see with Rose-coloured Glasses?

  2. >>>>>how many colours can one see with Rose-coloured Glasses?


  3. A McCain Photoshop incident? Did I miss something? I gotta go look at some back postings!


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