Thursday, April 7, 2011

Principles of color perception

Have you ever tasted tea made by by the British? It's delicious full bodied and adds that dose of comfort one might need at times.

I had a Eureka moment a few weeks ago as my wife was walking back to kitchen to add more milk to the coffee I had just made. One of the things that has always fascinated me was how she is able to produce tea and coffee that tastes the same every time. Then it hit me that the problem I  have is changes in the size of the  container. I used lingual heuristics like fill the coffee cup 3/4 with boiling water and add 1 teaspoon of instant coffee, finish with 1/4 of milk. This works until you face coffee cups of different sizes where the ratio of milk to coffee changes due to the change in absolute size of the container.


So I realized that there is another way. My wife's mind remembers the color that she likes it and comes up with the correct ratio both for tea/water and stewing time or coffee/water and then from those two substances in ratio to milk. Color is ratio! That's all you have to know to create consistency.

Additionally imagine a coffee cup as being a little like a cell in any living organism. They come in different sizes and are filled with nutrients taken in, but they all very in size and nutrients they may contain at any given time.   The goal of every body  is to convert those materials into energy, but variations in nutrient density, cell resources and energy varies. So as a gatherer of cells you want to pick the ones with the best efficiency in order to get the most from the size of the materials you are taking in. Color is a way of viewing the ratio of any size of cell with consistency. Meanwhile numeric ratios must always be re-adapted to the variability of cell size.

This is not a new finding. Benoit Mandelbrot in his paper "the Coastline of Britain" wrote about how the measured distance of the coastline changes based on size of the tool that does the measuring. The same thing happens when my mind gathers numeric data about how much of something to put into container, or tries to perceive with numbers how much of something is in a container. 

Using color adapts to the underlying fractal geometry of nature and is an ingenious way of producing consisting in the face of variability with a simple rule.

However the body never had to confront the use of artificial or manufactured color. Color of this type produces the signal of the yellow, blue and green but doesn't carry with it the long memory of placing that prospect upon a color scale that fits the evolved association pattern(in other words our memory association can become faulty in the face of novel introductions).

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