[tlhIngan Hol] On Klingon colours: Is the Klingon vision bichromatic?

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Mon Sep 2 05:38:59 PDT 2019

Just so you know, one of the dominant theories about color perception in humans is that we have two of what you are apparently calling “types of retinal chromatic pigments”. We have one that reads high frequency light and one that reads low frequency light and our brains construct all the colors we perceive from the contrast of intensity between these two preceptors.

If a thing is bright to both sensors, it is white. If it is dark to both sensors, it is black. If it is bright to the low frequency sensors, but dark to the high frequency sensors, it is red. All the other colors come from the mix of shades of grey that these two differently focused sensors.

In this theory, which has not been disproven, red/green color blindness occurs because people with the condition have too much overlap in sensitivity between the two sensors. The high frequency sensor doesn’t reject enough low freqency and the low frequency sensor doesn’t reject enough high frequency, so that person can see the color, but can’t perceive which of the two colors it is. Basically, green becomes an extension of red.

The research experiment that accidentally started this theory involved Mr. Land, the creator of the “Land Polaroid Camera”. He set up three black and white cameras, taking a picture of the same still life platter of fruits and vegetables. One had a green filter in front of the lens. One had a red filter. One had a blue filter.

He developed the three black and white pictures and projected them from three projectors, one with a green filter, one with a red filter, one with a blue filter. The resulting projection showed accurate color...

... but when one of the filters accidentally fell off, the projected picture still showed accurate color...

He then experimented and discovered that if any one of the three filters was removed, so that that projector showed the black and white picture without its filter... then the full spectrum of color still showed in the projected image. Remove two filters and the effect disappears.

The dominant theory of color perception didn’t explain this. That theory, begun from autopsies in the 1800s said that the rods in our eyes perceive black and white and the cones consisted of three different types that perceive specific colors (red, green, blue).

What they didn’t mention is that in terms of examining the cones, they all appear to be of one type. To fit the theory, they have to function as three types, even though that’s not what we observe when we examine them, so we imagine that there are three types because that fits our theory.

But if you instead simply break up our retina sensors into the two types we actually find there, rods and cones, then have one create a low frequency image while the other creates a high frequency image and compare and contrast the two images to mentally invent the colors that we see... 

... then the phenomenon of the dropped color filter makes sense, because the black and white picture provides a quantity of light to the total image that augments the identifiable other two colors. The total quantity of light seen by high and low frequencies provides all the colors.

Also, red/green color blindness makes sense, given that it’s nearly always red/green, which has more to do with the absence of contrast of perceived color in the mid-range where contrast should exist — that makes sense as well.

But, dominant theories don’t die easily, even when they have no basis in reality, so we still teach that there are three kinds of color cones in the eye, despite the lack of any physical evidence to that effect, nor any explanation why three types of cones would become confused between red and green more often than between blue and green or red and blue.

The creature that has the most kinds of color preceptors is a crab, which probably doesn’t combine the images to form a wider spectrum of colors than we do. It’s simpler brain probably just sees the specific colors its eyes describe without combining the images to infer intermediate colors... In other words, its vision probably works more like the dominant theory of human color vision describes than the theory that is probably more accurate...

So, I’m guessing that Klingon vision probably perceives colors like we do, though maybe the high frequency sensor doesn’t respond to light quite as high frequency as ours does, hence the “certain shades of purple” problem.

Sent from my iPad

> On Sep 2, 2019, at 1:45 AM, Rhona Fenwick <qeslagh at hotmail.com> wrote:
> ghItlhpu' SuStel, jatlh:
> > How a language divides up its color words has little to do with whether
> > they can visually perceive those colors. There are real human languages 
> > that have the same number of color words as Klingons, but speakers of
> > these languages don't lack our color vision. It's canonically speculated
> > that Klingons can't see all of purple that we do, but otherwise their
> > vision seems to be similar to ours.
> To be fair, we don't actually know this canonically. All we know is that the Klingon visual range extends from (at least) what we call red, to somewhere in what we call blue. How many types of retinal chromatic pigments they have to signal those colours is completely unknown.
> (poD vay')
> taH:
> > When a Klingon points at a yellow plant and says SuD, then points at
> > the green sky and says SuD, it's not that they appear to be the same color
> > to him.
> Again, I don't think we can fairly say that with any confidence. We just don't know one way or the other. I suspect there may be circumstantial evidence suggesting that Klingons may only have two retinal pigments, making them functional dichromats, but whether that's the case depends on how systematic the use of the SuD-Doq and the Hurgh-wov axes is in selecting a spot in the colour space (or, if they're dichromats, on the colour surface). I pondered this on Facebook a little while ago - here's a link to the comment thread if anyone's interested: https://bit.ly/2jUGn0q - but of course my pondering also remains speculative without further clarification from Maltz.
> QeS 'utlh
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