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Color conventions
Wednesday, June 01, 2005

How do we, as a society, agree on color conventions?

What is color?
The perception of color by human beings can be considered a physical and psychological phenomenon.

Light in itself is an electromagnetic radiation wave (Or a particle, depending on who you talk to.) Colors are, then, waves with different wavelengths and intensities.

The human eye has evolved to "decode" these waves and covert them into something that we interpret as color. Hence, color is an illusion that only exists in our minds (Like everything else, according to some other philosophical concocts.)

I'm not making this up. It is a well known fact...

All colors, then have a few things in common, among them, the same electromagnetic radiation wave types.

Most humans decode these waves in a similar manner and hence agree that a particular wave "is" the same color for the majority of the population. I.e. Red is red and green is green. Unless, you are color-blind: red is green and green is red.

Now that we've agreed that we must agree to name a color in a certain way that is distinguishable from all others (red from green, et al), then we as a society (and humanity in general) must agree that certain colors represent, or convey different ideas in different situations.

For example:
    Red - Why did we agree to use "red" as the stopping color?

    Most cultures that I know of use red in their "STOP" signs and traffic lights.

    Interestingly enough, red seems to be the favorite color for corporate logos: red seems to be the color people are most "attracted" to - I've read it somewhere, I just can't remember where, but it has been studied and documented by some academic and hence red is over used in corporate logotry.

    Trust me, it's no coincidence Coca-Cola, Toyota, Cannon, Zellers (if you are in Canada), or Compaq, to name a few, use red in their corporate identity.

    Yellow - Why is yellow the color of caution?

    My guess is that yellow is the color of some disgusting things. I.e. We humans have a gag reflex to "gross" things as a defense mechanism. For example, we vomit if we taste something foul. Our body is telling us that whatever is making is gag, could kill us, hence the body has learnt to expel things that could kill us. Evolution ONE, gross gaggy things ZERO.

    It is very rare you see normal people eating gross things. I.e. Rats, or raw sewage. Unless, it's on TV - Everyone wants to be famous (I guess) and shows like Fear Factor (If you are in North America) make apparently rational people do really stupid, if not psychopathic things to their bodies.

    Green - Why is green go?

    If you are a curious cat (I'm not that old, I just find it funny when we are referred to as cats), you've probably noticed that green is the most occurring natural color out there.

    Everything that has to do with vegetation is green and it occurs naturally - We, humans, don't have anything to do with it. Unless we make it look yellowish. I.e. Deforestation from space looks like a desert. A desert looks yellowish. See yellow above - Coincidence? I think not.

    Green gives us life - Without green, our world would look like Mars. Perhaps not red, but very desert like.

    On a side note, most green live things are composed of chlorophyll, which aids photosynthesis, which is he chemical process of converting sun light into living energy for plants. Now, you know...

    Blue - Why did Micro$oft pick blue as the blue screen of death? Why not red, or green?

    I know it's not black, because we really need to know that something has crashed our computer (Nothing should - But, it's just an OS). If it were black, we probably wouldn't even notice something is wrong. We would just think the computer is off. Duh!

    White - Why on this earth do painters use white as the color of their painting uniforms?

    Have you noticed?

    Painters (Not the artistic type, but regular professional house painter) wear paint-covered WHITE coveralls. Do they know that white gets dirty really quickly?

    If you recall your optics from physics or some old tale about Newton and his prism experiments, white is the combination of all colors.

    The irony is not lost on me when white is used by painters. I.e. All the paint smudges (of different colors) on their coveralls do NOT make white :)
Most of the answers to these stupid little questions are probably easy to find in some library or web site, however, I have no incentive to find the answers, as of yet.

If you know why and how we have settled on using these color conventions, leave a message for all of us.

For those in the Commonwealth of Nations, color is spelled "colour." I've used color, since I'm trying to save bandwidth (not really) and it's much easier to write than colour. Plus, color is the Spanish spelling, anyway, and a big part of my brain thinks in Spanish. I lost track of which part of my brain, though.

BTW, I really don't like this colonialist "Commonwealth of Nations" term when referring to countries that were "governed" by the United Kingdom as part of the British Empire. We are in the 21st century, aren't we? At one point, being part of the Commonwealth of Nations did have some economic incentives. The whole purpose of belonging to the British empire was to open lines of commerce and such. Now a days, this idea of globalization has kind of made such early 20th century treaties, well, almost obsolete. I.e. We are in one big economic pot and territorial distinctions seem a bit childish, in my opinion.

BTW2, countries belonging to the Commonwealth are in fact sovereign and independent states (Canada, Australia, et al). But we are not republics, like our neighbor to the south. I.e. The head of state could be an actual human being with gentlemen Cs and speech impediments. Our head of state is some one with super powers. I'm not sure who it is at this point in time. However, blue blodded he/she is - Here we go with the color thing again. Why are they "blue" blodded?

Note that one of the big "advantages" of the label is that our money still has pictures of Queen Amidala of Nabu. Or maybe it is the queen of Middle Earth - I can't recall.

7:25 AM | 1 comment(s) |


Its Naboo
By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:38 AM

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