How the Eye Sees Color

Have you ever wondered how your eye sees color? What makes it possible to see the color blue the way we see it? Have you ever looked at a juicy piece of orange fruit and wondered how it got that color? Light is an extraordinary source of energy, but it also carries an incredible amount of information.

For many years, people were baffled by how our eyes perceive color. Throughout history, many scholars proposed various theories about what light was and what it can do. Thanks to modern day technological advances and scientific discoveries, we have finally found the answer to how our eye sees color.

How the eye sees color or how we perceive colors to be is a very fascinating process; and it all begins with light. Light is made up of electromagnetic particles (otherwise known as photons) that flow in straight lines called rays. The rays of light appear to be invisible but when combined with each other they are white. However, this is not always the case; for example, take a look at a rainbow.

Because a raindrop has so many sides, as light rays pass through it the rays split up and cause many different colors. Light is so interesting because without it we would have no colors. A cucumber is not really green without the light that reflects off of its skin. This means that because of the absorption and emission of light, objects have certain colors. The length of the light, known as the wavelength, determines what the color of an object will be. The most accurate definition of light that we have today says, "Color is the visual effect that is caused by the spectral composition of the light emitted, transmitted, or reflected by objects."

To learn more about what light and color is take a look through the 5 resources that we have provided. We so often take for granted the amazing gift that is light, but with a little effort on our part we can come to a greater understanding of what it is made up of and how it affects our everyday lives. You will also find a step by step process as to how your eyes see color which will be very useful in further understanding light and color. In addition, take a look through the linked sites that we have supplied below. They are creditable, informative, and will help in your understanding of light, colors, and vision.

Learning about light can seem confusing at times, but with the proper amount of effort anyone can understand one of the world’s greatest wonders.

  1. The invisible light that the sun emits shines on an object.
  2. The object absorbs the light rays of the sun and reflects the color (which is determined by the wavelength the light traveled) to the human eye.
  3. The eye then collects the color of the object and delivers a message to the brain.
  • How Do We See- An overview about color and light and the effects that wavelength has on how our eyes perceive colors.
  • Theory of Color- University of California- Los Angeles provides a great summary on the theory of color as well as some interesting facts about light.
  • Benham's Disk- Instructions to the highly esteemed Benham’s Disk experiment. This helps to understand light, color, and perception.
  • Visual Perception- An excellent summary on the nature of color and the role that it plays in our daily lives.
  • Primate Color Vision- Dennis O'Neil elaborates on primate color vision and explains some differences with color blindness.
  • Are Cats and Dogs Color blind- The Cornell Center for Materials Research explains how cats and dogs see colors differently than humans.
  • What Is Color Blindness- The Color Blind Awareness organization provides a great overview about what color blindness is and the different types of problems.
  • Color blindness and Occupations- This is a good article about how people’s lives and occupations can be affected by color blindness.
  • What Is It Like To Be Colorblind- Kids Health provides an synopsis of what people who are colorblind face in life and how they overcome certain struggles.
  • Vision Simulator- A great interactive tool to understand what people who are colorblind or have cataracts see in life.
  • Light- Virginia Community College describes what light is and provides a lab as well as a quiz to help in your understanding.
  • Color Vision Test - Read information about how we see color.
  • Animal Color Vision - Animals such as cats and dogs see colors differently than humans.
  • Color Blindness and the Internet - This page from usability.gov discusses the benefits of having a website that will work well for people with and without color blindness.
  • Differences in Color Vision - This page discusses several of the different types of color vision problems and their causes.

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