What it's like to see 100 times the colors you see



This makes me think of the current rage on tumblr, Twitter, etc. with the white/gold vs blue/black dress. It seems the people who see the dress as blue/black have greater color distinction in the structure of the rods & cones in their eyes.

Apparently from someone named “swiked” on tumblr:

Your eyes have retinas, the things that let you interpret color. There’s rods, round things, and cones that stick out. The “cones” see color. The “rods” see shade, like black, white and grey. Cones only work when enough light passes through. So while I see the fabric as white, someone else may see it as blue because my cones aren’t responding to the dim lighting. My rods see it as a shade (white). There’s three cones, small, medium and large. They are blue sensitive, green sensitive, and red sensitive. As for the black bit (which I see as gold), it’s called additive mixing. Blue, green and red are the main colors for additive mixing. This is where it gets really tricky. Subtractive mixing, such as with paint, means the more colors you add the murkier it gets until it’s black. ADDITIVE mixing, when you add the three colors eyes see best, red, green and blue, (not to be confused with primary colors red, blue and yellow) it makes pure white.—Blue and Black: In conclusion, your retina’s cones are more high functioning, and this results in your eyes doing subtractive mixing.—White and Gold: our eyes don’t work well in dim light so our retinas rods see white, and this makes them less light sensitive, causing additive mixing, (that of green and red), to make gold.

to prove this theory I turned my phone brightness from the lowest to highest and saw it switching from white and gold (at the lowest) to light blue and darker gold (at the highest) meaning people that see blue and black are more sensitive to light (better eyesight and not looking at the sun like your moms told you)
**Also if you see white and gold sometimes, blue and black another, or a combination of the two, your eyes are very average, and it could change because of YOUR rooms lighting or the tilt of your phone. This is the same manipulation they use for optical illusions.


Interesting. I’d’ve expected someone with just one extra colour cone to see just 4! colours, or 24, rather than 100s more.

I wonder if this isn’t case of someone trying to imagine how the world appears to those of us crippled by trichromacy and making it flatter than it really is to us. After all, I can see a few extra colours in ‘green’ grass, too, I just don’t normally take time out to describe them all.


Or, ya know, she could be full of crap.

Her description of what she sees reminds me of what audiophiles hear that the rest of us mortals couldn’t possibly understand.


this is close, but not quite right. The correct explanation here is that our brains are doing their normal thing which subtracts the color of ambient light from the colors of everything we see. But the ambiguous lighting of the photograph leads our brains into a boundary case, which we attempt to solve basically however we can—it seems pretty likely that whatever kind of lighting you’ve been exposed to recently has an effect.

For example, people have gotten up and gone for a walk outside and when they came back the dress was white and gold rather then the blue and black they saw originally.


Ooh, interesting!

today’s XKCD does a pretty good job of explaining it:


Here are a few MOOCs on vision, light, the brain.

Probably a lot more people interested now than 24 hours ago.

I will say that I looked at the dress at the same time as a couple of other people, so we were all in the same room and took turns looking at the same screen, and yet only one saw blue/black, so I’m not sure that’s a 100% explanation; however, it makes the general explanation very easy to understand.

Screw visible colors, give me cones able to sense near-IR and then we’re talking.

There are experimental cures for color-blindness that could potentially be able to do this.


I feel like I am channeling Marvin the Paranoid Android, when I say, “She can see a hundred times more colors? That sounds simply dreadful.”


It’s not dreadful for her but for everyone else around her who cannot understand why exactly the same color “does not match”.

To quote Simpsons, “Lisa the Iconoclast”:

Lisa: I’d like 25 copies on Goldenrod.
Clerk: Right.
Lisa: 25 on Canary.
Clerk: Mmhmm.
Lisa: 25 on Saffron.
Clerk: All right.
Lisa: And 25 on Paella.
Clerk: Ok, 100 yellow.


Also, I don’t buy that a reproduced image (via film or video screen) of blood would carry the same visual information that seeing it first hand would.


When I look straight at my LCD monitor, I see white and gold, when I lower my point of view and look at the monitor from the more acute angle, the dress becomes black and blue.

The miracle of polarizing filters, everybody.


Depends a lot on factors like lighting, recording medium, viewing medium. If the photons going to the eye trigger the cones with the same intensities, the color will be perceived as identical.

Assuming we discuss color only, not the other aspects of the scene.

While I do think it’s a color-temperature problem and not the weird rod & cone situation quoted earlier, I think it’s a little more complex than that. The xkcd suggests there is some sort of uniform lighting, but in the picture the background in sunlit (as on the right) but the dress and woman are in the shade (as on the left).

I don’t believe that color shift on TN monitors is due to the polarizers (IPS panels also use polarizers).

There’s the old conundrum - what if you look up and see a blue sky, but the other guy sees a completely different color, and thinks it’s called “blue?”

If everybody calls the grass “green” and this one person says it’s full of pinks and oranges, maybe she has a really strange idea of what pink and orange are. If that’s what she actually sees, why doesn’t she call it “green?” If the grass looks the same color as a pumpkin, we have a different term for that: “color-blind.”

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Yes, but can she see Squant?


Use a spectrocolorimeter.

Conundrum. Philosophers. Able to kill years with discussions that can be resolved with a simple off-the-shelf equipment and a trivial experiment.


oddly enough i saw the dress as a pale blue/lavender with gold trim.