Category Archives: biology

The Gift of Color Vision

There is a rare condition that’s not fatal, but many artists would kill to have it. It is called tetrachomacy. Its main symptom is near-superhuman vision.

Impressionist painter Concetta Antico has tetrachomacy. When she examines a leaf, she sees a “mosaic of color,” not just shades of green.

“Around the edge I’ll see orange or red or purple in the shadow; you might see dark green but I’ll see violet, turquoise, blue,” she says. In her line of work, this ‘disorder’ is a rare gift that produces extraordinary works of art.

Tetrachromats have more receptors in their eyes to absorb color, letting them see hues that are invisible to everyone else. The average person has three cones, or photoreceptor cells in the retina that control color vision and allow people to see up to a million colors. Tetrachromats have four cones, so they can detect nuances and dimensions of color that others can’t.

Researchers believe that one percent of the world population is tetrachromatic. According to Kimberly Jameson, a cognitive scientist at the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences at the University of California in Irvine, the differences between the color range perceived by a tetrachromat and someone with normal vision is not as drastic as the difference between someone who is colorblind and someone who is not.

After studying Concetta Antico’s genes, Jameson determined that her fourth cone absorbs color wavelengths that are “reddish-orangey-yellow.” As a cognitive scientist, Jameson is fascinated with how people like tetrachromats can form and communicate concepts, especially since their visual perception of the world is so different.

Research suggests that tetrachromacy may be more widespread than assumed: those who have it don’t always notice because they haven’t trained their brains to pay attention. Antico admits that she was more color-aware than most children; at age seven she was painting and thoroughly fascinated with color. Because of the extensive exposure at an early age, her brain wired itself to notice and take advantage of her tetrachromacy.

She actively supports continued research into mutations that affect color perception. Her reasons are personal: five years ago, her seven-year old daughter was diagnosed as colorblind. Antico believes that the more she helps science professionals understand tetrachromacy, the better they will be able to help her daughter one day.

Kimberly Jameson agrees. “If we understand genetic potential for tetrachromacy and how their perception differs,” she says, “we can understand quite a lot about visual processing of color that we currently don’t understand.”

Antico may actually be helping colorblind individuals via her art. She has been teaching painting for over 20 years, and many of her students have been color-deficient. Jameson has looked at their artwork and found it to be surprisingly color-aware. She believes that Antico’s sensitivity to color differences at a very early age may have given her the understanding and articulation to help these students. It’s a hypothesis that still needs to be proved empirically, but raises the possibility that people’s perception of color can be improved by retraining their brains.

Antico has her own art gallery in San Diego and hopes to one day open an art school for the colorblind, to help them improve their color-awareness.

“What if we tetrachromats can show the way to color for people who are less fortunate than us?” she says. “I want everyone to realize how beautiful the world is.”

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:

EnChroma Introduces Colorblind People to Color

The Importance of Color Vision and Art

Blind Artist’s Vision is Clearer than that of Sighted Individuals

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Can Changing Your Diet Alter Eye, Skin Color?

green and red healthy foodIt’s really happening: some people who follow raw diets are claiming that over time, their eye and skin color change.

Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram, who blogs for FullyRaw, claimed in a YouTube video that her diet turned her eyes from dark brown to hazel, and she swears that blue is not too far off. Skeptics are scoffing, but she’s not the only one to make this assertion. According to Conscious Nourishment, a popular raw food blog, Steve Factor, “The Pure Energy Chef,” has noticed a gradual color change, too.

Carrillo-Bucaram, known among raw foodists as ‘Fully Raw Kristina’, said in her blog that eating a raw vegan diet not only cured her of the hyperglycemia that plagued her since childhood, it also changed the pigment in her irises. She consulted an iridologist, who told her that a poor diet creates toxic buildup that is reflected in the eyes.

“The cleaner you become, the cleaner your eyes become. I ate fully raw and I allowed my body to cleanse itself naturally,” she said, believing this caused the change in eye color.

Although no studies provide solid evidence for such claims, many raw diet aficionados and alternative healers believe that brown eyes signal the presence of toxins in the body, while blue eyes represent good health. They assert that when a person becomes healthier, their irises gradually turn blue or even light gray due to the body’s regeneration of new cells.

The effect of diet on skin is less controversial. It’s a running joke that snacking on too many carrot sticks will turn your skin orange, but there’s a real basis for this lighthearted warning: hypercarotenemia, or carotenosis, is a light orange skin discoloration resulting from high levels of carotene in the blood. It’s caused by eating high amounts of vitamin A, which carrots have in abundance.

Isabel Marant, the French fashion designer, says that she drinks carrot juice to give her skin a healthy glow. She told Harper’s Bazaar, “It’s true. I’ve noticed that I tan easily without being in the sun when I drink a glass of carrot juice.”

PlumbTalk Women - Lessons in Nutrition - Facebook AlbumIn 2010, Dr. Ian Stephen, who has studied the way a person’s face can affect how others perceive them, researched the connection between skin tone and a healthy appearance. He and his assistants discovered that a diet rich in certain fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, cantaloupe, and tomatoes (which are high in carotene) result in a golden-hued complexion for certain study participants.

“Most people think the best way to improve skin tone is to get a suntan, but our research shows that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is actually more effective,” he said.

Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables can improve your skin tone and may change your eye color, but it will definitely give you more energy, improve your digestion, and reduce your risk of developing heart and cardiovascular disease. That alone is enough to adopt a healthier diet. Blue eyes and a natural ‘suntan,’ should you experience either, will be an added bonus.

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:

James Ostrer’s Junk Food Art

Food Never Looked So Good

Coloring Each Season with Healthy Food

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A New Art Form that Involves your Favorite Beverages

Florida State University is drawing attention from the art world, and surprisingly, the attention isn’t focused on the art department, but on what’s being photographed through a microscope.

Have you ever wondered what the molecules of your favorite beverage look like?  Well, Florida State University did, and what they found is truly a beautiful and artistic display.

Most of us know that when light passes through a crystal it is refracted into a rainbow.  So, imagine if the crystals we used came from your favorite beverage.  What would you expect to see?

Florida State University has been drying drops of beverages on glass slides; allowing them to dry out into clusters of crystals and then passing light through them as they take a look through a microscope.  The affect is a kaleidoscope of color.

Above: Vodka molecules,  Here: Tequila Shot

Each image is unique due to the composition of crystals.  For example, sugary beverage crystals will look different from pure beverage crystals like what might be found in Vodka.

Don’t be fooled though, this process is hardly simple or quick.  As true artwork it can take many slides of a dray, crystallized beverage to find a single image that is worthy of being called art.  Michael Davidson, a scientist and now artist, has taken up to 200 slides before finding a shot he believes to be art.

These images are being sold as pieces of art.  BevShots, based in Tallahassee Florida, is a good place to start shopping for these colorful pictures.

You are sure to be transfixed by the combinations of colors and patterns that the microscopic molecules create.  The variety of designs is mesmerizing.  As you peruse through the multi- colored crackle effect derived from vodka, to the bold blues and greens of a tequila shot, to the almost floral imaged produced by Coca Cola, you will sit in both awe and anticipation.  No two images are alike so you are sure to find something that catches your fancy.  More that likely you will be caught up in the experience of art at is most unique and mind blowing.

Pictured Here: Coca Cola

Beverage molecules as art?  Who Knew!

Photos found at: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2011/12/tiny-bubbles-your-favorite-drinks-magnified/

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Snug as a Bug

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Bugs are miniature marvels that are quite diverse. Entomology, a specialty in the field of biology, is the study of insects and includes more than two thirds of all known organisms. These creatures include bees, beetles, flies, moths, butterflies, ants, grasshoppers, crickets, dragonflies, earthworms, snails, slugs, arachnids, and centipedes. We’ve put together a fun collection of colorful bug illustrations in this set. You’ll find a worm in an apple, a smiling snail, a grinning spider, a busy bee, a whimsical spider, a lady bug on a green leaf, a snail in its shell, and a moth showing off its colorful wings.

This set contains 25 paintable patterns.

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