The other day I ran across an interesting statement from a scientist (which I’d attribute if I could recall where I read it) to the effect that the “universe has no colors.” He went on to explain that what we see as colors are essentially the different energy levels of photons either emitted by or reflected from objects and that colors are the interpretation of those levels by our brains. Experiments and observation have determined that this visual perception differs from species to species and between men and women. Women perceive more different shades than men in the ranges of blue and green.
None of this is necessarily particularly surprising, and while colors may only be an interpretation of photonic frequencies by my gray matter, I certainly prefer that interpretation to shades of gray. To me, it would seem that living in a world of gray would be rather depressing, but that just might be my personal bias.
Years ago, Charles Harness wrote a book entitled Redworld, set on a world around Barnard’s Star where colors and color perception are very different because Barnard’s Star emits largely reddish light and the planetary atmosphere is an oxygen/ammonia mix. The result is that all the planetary phonic frequencies, if you will, are overwhelmingly shades of red and ochre, and the intelligent humanoid life there has evolved to discern a wide range of reddish shades, but infrequent “colors” like violet or yellow are perceived as gray or black. I won’t speak to the accuracy of this depiction, but since Harness had an undergraduate degree in chemistry, I would suspect it’s largely correct.
In retrospect, Harness was on to something, although I didn’t see it that way when I first read the short novel nearly thirty years ago. Since “colors” are more easily and quickly distinguished than are shades of gray, that interpretation enhances our perceptive ability, and as a result, our survivability as a species, and the same would have held true of Pol and his people in Redworld.
Yet how many people consider how perception colors not only our views of the world [yes, it is a terrible pun], but biases how we think? And yet, that perception of the universe varies between individuals and species… and yet, as the protagonist in Redworld is told, white [or blond] for him is black.