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Pleiades's picture

Mary Jane (the computer)

So I was in physics lab a few weeks ago doing the lab on optics. We were looking at different colors and were told to interpret them as a human, and then pretend as if a robot named Mary Jane was receiving these colors as an input as well. The way we see color and the way MJ ‘sees’ color, as a computer is vastly different. To us any color not in the spectrum (ie. Magenta) is our brains interpretation of a combination of signals from cones that are activated by wavelengths corresponding to colors that are in the spectra. There is no wavelength for light that is magenta (there are really only wavelengths for red, blue and green). Basically when we see magenta, the signals coming in to activate the cones are purple and yellow (I think) but our brain says ‘oh that’s magenta’. MJ, on the other hand, just sees the wavelengths that correspond with purple and wavelengths that correspond with yellow. The lab went on to push us to diagram how MJ would see a lion and a tree. We, of course, see yellow and brown and green and say, ‘oh lion’ run or ‘oh, tree’ picnic. What MJ sees is different wavelengths corresponding to light of those colors, but they are not integrated as we do. I think that some of what the lab was getting at (from a neurobio. standpoint) was our brain is at first similar to MJ’s, we just get in the same wavelengths, but then, unlike MJ, we combine this information to consolidate it all. Perhaps this is a coping mechanism for our feeble brains to be able to deal with the enormous amount of sensory input. If this is true, perhaps it is from an evolutionary advantage that we don’t ‘see reality’. I still think it is for the best and reality is only what we are able to see anyway, so get over yourself Plato. Trapping yourself in your cave is making you miss out on reality.  

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