Being able to see colors is amazing, and it is something we take for granted. We wake up in the morning and see the colors on our curtains, the beautiful blue sky, and many colorful things all day long. People who are colorblind can still see colors; they just don’t see them the same way that most people do. There are some people who see more colors than most people. A tiny number of people can see 99 million more shades than everyone else.
The people with this significant boost in vision can see more colors than you could ever imagine. Doctors tested people with this ability using three extra colors that appeared inside a special light device. Those who see colors usually didn’t see any difference between the three shades they were shown. The people with this bionic color vision could clearly differentiate between the three shades.
Outside the Lab
The people with this excellent color perception can see different hues outside of the lab, while they are out in the world. When light hits the water, these people can often see a pinkish glow that isn’t viable to others. When you look at pebbles, you will see them as gray. When a person with this supersonic color perception looks at the same pebbles, they will see specks of blue, yellow, green, and orange. People who have this supersonic color perception should consider themselves lucky. The world is an even more beautiful place when you can see so many more colors.
Experts wanted to know why people are able to see almost 100 million more colors than both. The question of how it happens was asked back in 1948, but the necessary studies weren’t performed, and the right questions weren’t asked. Recently, experts have taken another look at the initial research because they wanted answers. Surprisingly, the answer to this question is relatively simple.
Objects Don’t Have Color
This might sound very strange to most people, but objects don’t have any inherent color. They actually absorb certain shades of light and reflect others. What bounces back is what you see. The light hits the retina, and it sits in the back of the eye. This is how we determine the color of different things.
To make this a bit easier to understand, experts have offered up some examples. We look at ripe bananas, and we see them as yellow. They absorb all light with wavelengths between 570 and 580 nanometers. When the light bounces back, the wavelengths create the yellow color. An apple will absorb all wavelengths excepts the ones that we see as red. When you see something white, like a piece of paper or a car, something is reflecting back all of the light’s wavelengths. When you see something black, it has absorbed all of the different hues. Everything else that we see is varying amounts of green, blue, and red light. These three shades create a very visible color on the spectrum.
The part of the eye responsible for processing these wavelength combinations in the retina. It is made up of millions of rod and cone-shaped cells, and I considered to be an extension of your brain. The rod and cone receptors transform light into nerve impulses. The information is sent to the optic nerve and then to the brain’s cortex. It is the rod and cones placement that helps us see color the way that we do.
A Genetic Condition
It is believed that people who can see millions of more colors than most inherited the condition from a parent. A woman named Concetta Atico realized early on that she could see many more colors than most. Her mother realized this when she was very young, and often told her that she would be an artist or an art instructor one day. Her mother was right, and when she got older, she enjoyed mixing many different colors of paint to create vibrant colors. When Concetta would talk about colors shimmering on water or across the rocks, her students would agree, but most didn’t see what Concetta was seeing.
A 4th Cell
Experts have figured out why some special people can see millions more colors. It was determined that the genetic defect is a fourth type of cone cell that most people don’t have. Experts tested 25 women who had the fourth cone cell type. They proved that an extra cone was at work in the subjects who saw millions of more colors than most.
Anyone who has this extra cone cell should consider themselves lucky. Being able to see color this way can make even the bleakest place look absolutely beautiful. This condition affects a tiny fraction of the population, and those who can see these colors see the world in a way that we all could only dream of.