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The map is not the territory.

You probably think you know what a nuclear explosion sounds like.

You're probably wrong.

The first footage released of hydrogen bomb tests was silent. A foley was dubbed in, using a standard explosion or cannon sound effect repeated to form the familiar continuous, ominous rumble. (If you think about this, it's pretty obvious that the footage most of us are used to is dubbed, because audio and visual are simultaneous--and these films are shot from miles away from the blast site.)

Here's what it really sounds like.

(Blast begins at 2:20, sound arrives at 2:54)

...a gigantic slam. And then a rumble, but a lighter one than we're used to hearing.

Now, I don't think was done to fool anyone. I think it was done because, as film makers from Roddenberry to Lucas have discovered, a silent explosion lacks a certain visceral punch for most people.

To fix that, they used what they had to hand.

The point here, inasmuch as I have one, is that the media we consume produces our map of the world. We process our understanding of reality through those filters: the human brain deals with a world of unrelenting complexity by finding patterns and filtering out input deemed to be irrelevant. Our bodies are optimized for this process, in fact: thus, as opportunistic omnivores, we readily taste salt, sugar, protein, acid, possibly fat--and certain classes of toxins!--but cats and chickens cannot taste sugar. (Some cats may have a limited ability to do so.) Cats, however, appear to be able to taste adenosine triphosphate: they're obligate carnivores, and that is the taste of meat.

Dogs are better at tasting and digesting starches than their wild wolf ancestors: they have adapted to a life on humanity's midden heaps. Bees sense magnetic fields and the ultraviolet colors on a flower petal that seems plain white or blue to human eyes.

Alien perceptions, in other words, necessarily produce an alien map of the world. And manipulated perceptions produce a manipulated map of the world.

And to further complicate the matter, one's acculturation strongly affects how one processes--filters--information, and what patterns one finds there.

All our maps are of necessity flawed. We can't see through our friends, as a dolphin--a living echogram machine--can. We can't smell incipient cancer or a seizure about to happen, but our family dog can. And we can't correct for every bit of spin--intentional, careless, or just necessitated by human limitations--that creeps into our information flow.

We can, however, be aware of a truism coined by a subject of one of the world's great police states, where spin and message control was a way of life--and for many, of death: that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.



You can read more about this at the nuclear secrecy blog that Alex Wellerstein runs. He has another product called NukeMap that allows you to see what an atomic bomb would do to your neighborhood.

one of the world's great police states, where spin and message control was a way of life--and for many, of death

This is a really weird way of describing Elizabethan England.

AFAIK the "more things in heaven and earth" line is originally from Shakespeare's Hamlet.


And this is probably one of the "unchangeable and fixed" elements of the universe. The earlier "Mitochondrial Singularity" post on March 25th mentioned us becoming symbiotes to our machines, and the possibility of us gaining dolphin-like echogram senses or seeing directly in ultraviolet or electric fields is clearly on the table.

However, all that will do is change the mapping parameters. The game will remain the same.

Level up!


"This is a really weird way of describing Elizabethan England."

Well there's the whole Virgin Queen thing and constant war worries and the catholic/protestant game of pass the parcel and Sir Francis Walsingham. I'd say it's a very accurate description.


Regarding nuclear blasts, last night in the US on PBS there was a show about the recent Russian meteor bang. They compared it to a nuke going off. One thing that made it less disruptive was that it was at a shallow angle and most of the blast wave was pushed forward. If it had been more vertical and/or exploded at a lower altitude it likely would have wiped out the town. It exploded about 15 miles up which was why the blast was as weak as it was and why it took minutes to get to the ground after the flash.

One lesson from the show, if you see a huge flash in the sky, get under cover. Looking out the window is a bad idea.

Sorry for a bit off topic.


Back on topic. I interact with people who get their news from opposite ends of the universe. Daily Koz for some, Fox New for others. It is interesting how much both of them miss because it isn't covered by their preferred news outlet. Which only deepens the divide between their outlooks on life.


EXCEPT IIRC ... "Hamlet" was written after James I & VI came to the throne. And if Tudor/early Stuart England was supposedly a police state, how rated would the countries where the inquisition held sway be rated? I reject the assertion, utterly. We were then in a state of war, where an interantional terrorist religious organisation was trying to overthrow our monarchy & state, & since it actually succeded in killing two Kings & one "noble leader" & "Father of his country", the fears were real & justified. So, the situation was like, say WWII, but that does NOT make it a police state, does it? I admit, running across Walsingham could be very bad for your health, though!

Getting back to the second main subject, there is a video (on YouTube somewhere, IIRC) of people actually standing underneath [ about 8 miles underneath ] a live airburst (small) nuke ... The flash, followed by nothing followed by the blast-wave is very impressive & terrifying. Perhaps someone can find it again, for our instruction & give a link?


'the situation was like, say WWII'

Except that a determined invasion attempt was launched.

Had that attempt succeeded and the 'tyrant' Elizabeth been executed no doubt the English would have celebrated their deliverance from her 'oppressive' rule. Apart from those massacred or burnt at the stake.

'the whole Virgin Queen thing'

grrr-arrrgg @ 4

An effective female ruler has been regarded as a kind of monster down to modern times. No-one sees anything odd in a male ruler waging war or acting ruthlessly at times.


The nuke sound is similar to the "silenced gun" sound in movies.

Actual gunfire is loud enough to damage human hearing, so TV gunfire is considerably quieter. Gunfire with a sound suppressor sounds like ordinary gunfire made considerably quieter, but it's hard to distinguish that on TV, so they use a completely unrealistic sound for "silenced" guns.


There's and ultra-short—I think by Asimov—about the first high-frame-rate movie of an atomic blast. And, for a few dozen frames, the fireball is the face of Satan.

Watch the video closely, there looks, briefly, to be a face in the column of smoke and flame, on the left. We see such things everywhere, nothing remarkable. But I wonder at the relative dates of this test and of the stpry.


Depends on the silencer. The Mk 5 model of the Sterling submachinegun, in British Army service as the L34A1, is not silent. You can hear the noise of the bolt moving forward, and it's louder than the noise of the round firing.

Something like a .22 LR is pretty quiet, and I could see film and TV having a problem with relative noise levels. Besides, if you want noise you can have a dangerous muzzle blast.


Not clear on this. I like the 'phut, phut' of silenced pistols on tv and on film. Is that not actually the sound? And does a silenced submachine gun make an awful clatter interspersed with 'phut, phut' sounds? I've no acquaintance with any kind of weapon, I'm afraid.


Sounds, reloading your weapon, ricocheting, debris, dust...

Always exploding vehicles and sounds of lasers being fired in the emptiness of outer space...

... the list goes on.

The funniest thing is that, arguably, most people have no actual experience with gunfire, explosions and certainly not with space lasers - who was the first to decide that if you stop a car by wall it has to explode?


Just as an aside to Joan's point, we don't all come with identical abilities to smell, taste, discriminate colors, etc. Think of a painter, a wine taster, a musician with absolute pitch. I know one woman who says she can recognize the smell of cancer. I wouldn't be surprise if there were a lot of others.


the usual round used is the .45 auto colt pistol, as it is subsonic

compare and contrast suppressed and normal .45 ACP M1911s

only automatic pistols can be suppressed, most revolvers cannot - however the Russians made one called the Nagant in 1895 which was unbelievably effective


@12: "I like the 'phut, phut' of silenced pistols on tv and on film. Is that not actually the sound?"

No, it definitely is not. Search for "silenced gun" or "silenced pistol" on youtube (eg, ) and you'll find videos that will give you the idea of the actual sounds silenced guns can make.

I know nothing about guns either, but I got curious about this issue once a few years ago. Besides the sound of the exploding gunpowder, a lot of the sound a gun makes is from the sonic boom of the bullet. Silencers are great at suppressing the sound of the explosion, but useless for suppressing the sonic boom. However, there exists subsonic ammunition, which, like it says on the tin, shoots bullets at below the speed of sound, so there's no mini sonic boom. A few years ago I watched a youtube video (which I don't have time to re-find right now) that showed how combining a silencer with subsonic ammunition can result in a gun that is quiet enough that the sound of the mechanism of the firing pin hitting the bullet is the loudest thing you hear.


My first reaction to the map/territory dichotomy was "hey, isn't that exactly what Nate Silver talks about in his book?"

Back to David L (#6), I find it justified to try and read/watch/listen as much as you can to the media sources of "the other side" (whatever division of sides you're considering at the moment). This is even more true on the global scale- how many of us read Chinese media, or even Al Jazeera?


Civilians were allowed to watch this blast from 11 miles away,

I would pay at least as much as the gate fee for a major rock concert, to attend such a thing.

What finer thing than to watch the light of ten thousand suns challenge infinity? And, given how much it has affected our world since 1945, how few people have actually gotten to see it?


Who is Nate Silver? I first read about the map not being the territory in a certain infamous book by we well known yet not so popular now SF author. Shortly followed by reading it in the source he got it from Korzybski's General Semantics.
Of course Korzybski probably nicked it from somewhere, although I haven't seen any evidence as to where.

The caution is justified, given how complex things are nowadays. We can see the downside in the managerialist obsession with targets and metrics, which in the case of the Staffordshire hospital trust were fiddled so as to resemble the territory as little as possible.


Thanks for the links (and also glaurung-quena @ 16).

The Nagant.. I'm just going to watch it again.:)


Speaking of extrasensory perceptions, note the "motorboating" sound when you see the nuke detonate. As one of the commentators notes, it's the sound of the camera's vacuum-tube sound amplifier reacting to the EMP.

With my 1:1 scale map of North America, Aaron


It is certainly true that the media--including literature--paints our map of the world. For example, we "think" more people die of plane crashes than car crashes (becaue plane crashes get more press). We think the way people look in films is "normal," and anyone who looks different (i.e. normal) needs plastic surgery or a gastric band. This is particularly scary now that film studios are CGI-brushing every "flaw" in even the most photogenic anorexic stars.

This is a huge political problem in the USA, where the Koch brothers and company have convinced everyone that taxes are high and the government spends too much on freeloaders, whereas in fact government spending has gone down and the average person works too hard.


In fact, there are dogs trained to recognize the smell of cancer, diabetes, and epilepsy. A trained dog can detect when you're about to have a seizure and warn you in time to prepare.


Also, silencers/suppressors lose effectiveness after a few shots, so using them with submachine guns probably isn't a good choice.


Who is Nate Silver?

Lior K. is making a joke, I think. Nate Silver runs which presented very good maps and predictions regarding the 2008 and 2012 US Federal elections.

Nate was accused of Left-wing bias because his models gave a high probability of an Obama win and a Democratic Senate majority, when the Right "knew" that it was a very close race. Nate's predictions proved to be quite accurate.

Got to keep the troops rallied,   Aaron


good thing they put in a proper explosion sound, and not something like a the "jelly splosh" effect used by The Goons.

*sounds of running *

¬Little Jim "he's fallen in the water"

ahem , one for goon fans, there ...


I think I first came across "the map is not the territory" in a book by the cybernetic-anthropologist Bateson back in the remote hippy era. As for the comment "we "think" more people die of plane crashes than car crashes (because plane crashes get more press)"...this is also a slanted statement because we also know that in an individual plane crash (which is the only kind we are ever going to be in), we have a much greater chance of dying than in an individual car crash. Not much comfort to think while your plane is going down that there are many less plane crashes than car crashes.


Or think of a color-blind man. The interesting thing is that the heterozygous daughters of colorblind men may actually see more colors than normal, because they have both defective and normal rods in their eyes, and they process colors in different ways. At least one of these women has been found, so the condition exists, although how they wouldn't know they have super color vision without a complex test that's been administered to relatively few women.

The bigger issue, as Pete noted, is that 90% of perception goes on inside peoples' brains, which is why illusions happen, among many other things. One example on TV is an African tribe that doesn't have the words to distinguish between blue and green, but has many words for green (due to their dependence on various plants). According to a TV show I was watching, they were able to distinguish between shades of green that looked identical on TV (this may have been an artifact), but they couldn't spot an azure tile among green tiles. Their language dictated their color processing to that degree. It's an odd variation on good ol' Sapir-Whorf, but it exists.


Jay wrote: Also, silencers/suppressors lose effectiveness after a few shots, so using them with submachine guns probably isn't a good choice.

You're overstating this; they all overheat, but the ones that drop off after 3-4-5 shots are only the liquid cooled ones or the ones with steel wool.

The better solid state suppresors can be fired for 100+ rounds of fully automatic fire with only gentle degradation, and eventually overheat and failure of the can or internals.


Perhaps, if the Singularity comes, hyper-intelligent computers will keep us around because we can smell their "incipient cancer or a seizure about to happen".


Humans are necessary for keeping hyper-intelligent computer networks supplied with humorous cat videos.



Or think of a color-blind man.

I deal with that every day.

"Red" and "green" are a major hassle. Yes, we'll color-code "danger", "electically hot", and traffic lights to colors 15% of all males can't see...


Really? 15%

I thought it was more like 2%

And, I used to know an R/G colour-blind man, who said that it was saturation, or lack of it, that was the problem. Within 25 metres of traffic-lights, he could clearly distinguish different colours, and a London bus, next to a green coach, could clearly be told apart. but, once you are into Ishihara territory, with pastel shades of pinkish & pale green, then ... not a hope.


There is a wide spectrum if this. I can see red and green and traffic lights are not an issue. Well some of the new LED yellows look some what green to me and the TiVo green and yellow dots look almost identical to me.

But my biggest issue is is with patterns. Those color dot tests are mostly opaque to me. Tell me the color if the item and I can usually trace it and then tell you what it is but without the hit its "where's Waldo".

Took my wife several years to accept that I can't pick ANYONE out of a crowd. I have to focus of each face one at a time to find someone.


but it's hard to distinguish that on TV, so they use a completely unrealistic sound for "silenced" guns.

Even non silenced TV guns, while qiuter than real gun, have a non trivial charge. About 20 years ago an actor with apparent little brain power blew his out kidding around with a prop gun by not realizing blanks had real explosives in them.


I had a lot of fun once setting up an eight color chart that could also be read by the color-blind. Fortunately I had an RG-blind friend who vetted it for me. It wasn't just the hue I manipulated, it was all the other variables. For example, dark red and a light green are easy for everyone to distinguish.

Still, even for "normal" people, color perceptions seem to vary between men and women. If you want to have an interesting and possibly uncomfortable discussion, get a mixed group together, pull out a bunch of reds, oranges (red+yellow), purples (red+blue), and start asking where they'd set the boundaries among the different colors, which ones are red, which ones orange, which ones magenta, which ones purple, etc.

I suspect you'll find that people will a) disagree where the boundaries are, b) are quite sure that they're right and everyone else is wrong (as with all unquestioned assumptions), and c) once you've sorted through that, really do see colors somewhat differently.


It struck me, hard, how different the sound of the opening of "Saving Private Ryan" is to most movies. It can't be as loud as the real thing, audiences would sue the cinema, but it goes as far as it can. The sound comes at you from all sides. The bullets move. And two of the Oscars it won were for Sound Effects and Sound Mixing.

It is possible that modern movies are rather more realistic in gunshot sounds. And maybe not. It's apparent from some of the YouTube videos I checked that live video of guns on a range can be very inaccurate.


It is my understanding that a gunshot with a non small load in a car or small room will render most people deaf for a while.


Indeed. Not deaf, but your ears will certainly ring. You might also want to consider gloves and safety glasses to protect exposed skin from the broken glass that will ensue.

One of the advantages of suppressors is that they make it harder to identify the firer's position; if you hear a supersonic bullet go past you, you hear a "crack" - but what you listen for is the "thump" that follows, as it's the sound of the muzzle blast, and gives you the true direction. It can be confusing when near buildings, from the reflected sounds.

One of the things the Army checked every few years was my hearing. Given that I spent my childhood playing the bagpipes in a Pipe Band, I spent a couple of years running the battalion shooting team, and my hobbies include target rifle shooting... They were normally quite surprised when I tested out with normal hearing and I turned 40 still able to hear that "mosquito" sound that's used to deter teenagers from hanging around. I wear hearing protection whenever possible; but presumably I'd be even better off if I hadn't done all that band practice until my ears rang... Anyway, they got to the point that they were issuing several sets each of those individually-moulded £200+ a set electronic ear defenders to the infantrymen in Afghanistan. Expensive, but cheaper than the alternative (the Irish Army got crucified in the 90s over hearing disability claims from former soldiers)

My maternal grandfather was R/G colourblind; my mother has excellent colour vision; I'm colourblind (as are two of my cousins, from my mother's sister).


Minor note - a few of the extras for Saving Private Ryan were amputees, leading to this conversation:

Director's assistant: "Okay, for this scene I want you to imagine you've had your leg blown off"

Ex-serviceman extra: "Yes, I'm pretty sure I can imagine what that would be like"...


I can certainly understand if high end equipment works better than the suppressors that I'm familiar with, which were handcrafted by bored redneck teenagers. Our idea of premium equipment was the stuff we made while we were sober.


Color perception is a fascinating example differences in viewpoints. There have been a number of reports about how a substantial number of people have the ability to see higher and lower in the spectrum. Particularly, 50% of women may have this ability.

The following Wikipedia article discusses the visual spectrum:

I've wondered since reading about this how expanded spectrum might affect other aspects of vision.


And, I used to know an R/G colour-blind man, who said that it was saturation, or lack of it, that was the problem.

Within 25 metres of traffic-lights, he could clearly distinguish different colours, and a London bus, next to a green coach, could clearly be told apart.

but, once you are into Ishihara territory, with pastel shades of pinkish & pale green, then ... not a hope.

Yeah, that's me. Irish/Scots blue eyes, reddish hair and all. Up close, I can see red roses against green foliage; back up a bit and no way. Early autumn wonderfulness is lost on me. Forget Ishihara except for a couple of charts.

A couple of times I've experienced red-green inversion. Once I glanced up and saw a bright scarlet St. Patrick Day hat going by -- a second look showed it to be green.


Actually not. Shakespeare was born a Catholic and married into a Catholic family at a time when Protestantism was the (enforced) state religion, and when practicing Catholicism was tantamount to treason. It was a time when the monarchy was essentially an institutionalized hereditary dictatorship. One obtained a government position by appointment, and those appointed did not have to answer to an electorate. People were routinely arrested, imprisoned, tortured, convicted and executed without due process and not infrequently on the basis of their religion or on totally trumped up charges. Shakespeare's plays had to be vetted by a government official to make sure they contained nothing which that official considered "treasonous" (and he could be arrested and the play banned if that official thought it did). His theatre (among others) could be and was shut down arbitrarily on the say-so of an official appointed by the crown, etc., etc.


I think that these ideas might be an explanation for Fermi's Paradox, if there ARE intelligent aliens to be had. We simply are not currently equipped to detect, sense and realize where the aliens are.

Hmm, there's an idea--building an AI for the purpose of the AI to search for other intelligent life.


Yes! Quite true on all counts! I discovered this when I tried to do a Ph.D. that dealt with user interface issues.

It's not easy to set colour boundary perception rules and, also, the way people are often divided in colour-blind/not colour-blind (or with that third element of R/G added) is completely loony given all the other variations outside those dual or three way ones. And then there's the question of denial. The worst about it is that computer programmers and the managers (former computer programmers themselves) are ll too often in denial of the reality of their own capacities when it comes to colours.

But it doesn't stop with colours. After all this started off with the sound of an atom blast.

There are tactile elements involved when you hear a song. Some people are very sensitive to a beat, going crazy when the musicians don't follow rhythm. Others don't mind about bad rhythm but go crazy when singers are a bit off the correct notes.

Of course my greatest interest is with shapes and how people "map" them, given their importance in user interfaces and that I'm close to colour blind in some shadings. I'm as much fascinated by the denial of the inability to spot shapes (and related matters like not knowing where true North lies) as well as that inability.


I had to break the heart of a postgrad researcher at our firm when he presented a colour-based design tool to our (tool design) team. It felt like kicking kittens when I had to point out that his lovingly-created graphics were incomprehensible to me, and likely another 10% of the population...



I'd forgotten about this, but it's possible under some circumstances to see the direction of polarized light with bare eyes.

Google "Haidinger's Brush" or follow this link.

I've seen Haidinger's Brush, so it's possible. Not easy, but possible.


Rick York @ 42 I've wondered since reading about this how expanded spectrum might affect other aspects of vision. Olaf Stapledon covered this in "Last & First Men" where later humans had different colour-vision ...

@ 44 Utter tosh. ANY EVIDENCE AT ALL for "Shakespeare was born a catholic" ??? No, being a catholic wasn't treason - with one exception (in York - a horrible case) ALL those executed under Liz were knocked off for actual treason - trying to kill the monarch & overthrow the state, inculding at least one case where the exceuted victim was almost certainly deliberately betrayed by his "own side" so as to make a high-profile "martyr" - Edward Campion was caught far too easily, in my opinion. Meanwhile, it was Bloody Mary that killed people for just being the wrong sort of christian. In fact Liz had a deliberate policy: "We will not make windows into mens' souls" In other words, provided you observed the outward forms, you were left alone - she actually had to hold some of her more Calvinist (euw) ministers & followers back, from doing the exact reverse to what Mary had done.

You are also applying 21st C standards to the 16th. Compare the other states at the time, huh? Or look at the slaughter in the Nethelands by Alva, & the murders of Henri III, Henri IV, Willem the Silent .... The catholic church was an international terrorist organistaion, as well as a state. And, as someone else has pointed out, an invasion attempt (1588) was actually mounted.

Going back to the original post ... Some information about the people who stood right underneath a A-bomb is to be found RIGHT HERE ... and a YouTube video of the whole thing, if you want a really scary experience is to be HERE as well Note the silent pause between the flash & the blast-wave.


'Shakespeare's plays had to be vetted by a government official'

Actually, the Elizabethan theatre was probably the least censored and most liberal in content, subject matter and expression up until the Theatres Act of 1968 abolished theatre censorship. Yes, that's 1968.

The Court actually protected theatres, actors and playwrights from Protestant extremism. Under the Commonwealth the theatres were closed down and theatrical performances forbidden. How's that for censorship?

Of course, if a play containing obviously containing treasonable content been presented for public performance the audience would have rioted, lynched the players and burnt down the playhouse. Elizabeth was a popular monarch.


To which I may add, the curious case of William Byrd composer to the Chapel Royal - and a Roman Catholic. One could not even begin to imagine a protestant filling such a post under Mary ......

One should also remember that in (IIRC) 1570 the then Pope, Pius V "released" subjects of Elizabeth from their alliegance to the crown and urged the overthrow of the "heretic" female monarch. So that there was real, genuine cause for alarm & concern. It should be noted that the papacy does not seem to be able NOT to meddle in the internal affairs of countries over which they have no jurisdiction, right up to the present day. Not a policy expected to win friends & influence people!


As I was coming through a paradigm-shifting life-restructuring series of events about 24 years ago, a woman who was to become one of my dearest friends and mentors repeatedly told me--with varying degrees of humor and frustration--"the map is not the territory!" The experiences I've had have proved her correct. Ms Bear's cogently stated point--that we can only process the information we are provided--is one that seems to be being avoided in the majority of the comments that have been posted to date.

Not only do the-providers-of-information have agendas,those agendas are both overt (what will sell copy and fulfill existing expectations) and covert. Covert agendas being those which are based in the presenters' own view of reality and the way things are. We view Shakespeare's England as a period of creativity and renaissance because that's the vision we have been given by those who wrote (and are writing!) the histories of those times. History is created by the victors, who have an underlying need to legitimize their own behavior in 'winning' the conflict.

Kudos to Bear for providing us the opportunity to examine our beliefs, and our willingness to look at how we allow ourselves to be distracted by the technicalities of example and metaphor from the central thrust of the article. I don't think any 'police state' was ever termed thus during its existence by those who were invested in and participating in the mechanism of the government. Outsiders and malcontents (aka the oppressed) may have seen the state as totalitarian . . . but those who were 'in power' saw themselves as protecting their way of life from the enemy.

Each individual brings her or his life-experience-to-date and personal agenda to bear on every scrap of information received and transmitted. We all filter and magnify based upon our beliefs. The trick is stepping far enough aside to be mindful of our own preconceptions and how they influence our assignment of meaning to events.


I don't consider England in Shakespeare's time to have been much of a police state. To start with they had a very independent judiciary that was free to overturn laws proclaimed by the crown. Take a look at the life of Edward Coke, who did so repeatedly, seriously hindering the grant of royal monopolies. They were certainly not what we would now call free, but it's easy to find examples of more repressive government, even in Shakespeare's own time.


Color vision depends entirely on the peak wavelength of each type of photoreceptor (red, green, and blue). So if our photoreceptor genes differ a little bit from the "norm," then we see different color ratios than "most" people. Occasionally, a woman can see four colors because on her X chromosomes she has two variants of one photoreceptor (from her mother and father).


If that was the same program I watched, I could distinguish the odd tile among the greens with only a little care (IIRC, the odd tile was a smidgeon warmer than the others). What made it more difficult was that the sequence was editted from two different tests, with the odd square shifting when the camera angle cut from one position to the other and back again.

I wonder now if I can pick out the odd green tiles because my training as a graphic designer means that not only am I used to a lot of different names for colours, but my frequent Photoshop use has led to me specifying colours in terms of their HSL co-ordinates and hence to thinking about colours in those terms. An interesting idea, but I can't quite bring myself to embrace it fully.

As they say on Broop Kidron XIII, "The other Shaltanac's joopleberry shrub is always a more mauve-y shade of pinky russet".


It felt like kicking kittens when I had to point out that his lovingly-created graphics were incomprehensible to me, and likely another 10% of the population...

At least you stopped it. What's with all those other designers putting together things that many of us can't see or read. Red/black combinations were the rage for a while and thankfully seem to be dying out.

I feel strongly that designers self select into their field and many of the them have no idea that much of their "hip" work can't be seen by many of us.


I have seen the sensitivity curves for the photoreceptors in the human eye.

The curves overlap a great deal and are more than somewhat lumpy. The peaks are distinct, but they are not simple.

The same applies to the dyes in photographic emulsions (and panchromatic film depends on dyes: without the film would have no sensitivity to red light).

Modern digital cameras use an array of photodetectors, with their own particular frequency response, overlaid with a grid of filters, usually a pattern of red, two green, and blue.

Those filters depend on dyes. It is not accident that the world leaders in the digital sensors for cameras were Kodak, until they sold off that side of the business, and then rapidly went bust. Kodak supplied imaging sensors for Leica rangefinders.

(In a rangefinder camera, the rear element of a wide-angle lens can be quite close to the film, and since each element of the sensor is effectively a small tube, such a lens casts shadows on the photodetectors near the edge, reducing the image brightness. Kodak and Leica figured out a solution.)

It's partly because of detail differences between dyes that different colour emulsions can give different results. Of the big three reversal films (you have a chance to adjust things when you make a print) Ektachrome gave slightly "cool" results (we think of blue as cold), Agfachrome was preferable for landscapes, giving a more pleasing rendition of greens, and Kodachrome was preferred for "glamour" photography--the pink bits looked better. But all that was in daylight. When your studio was lit by specialist tungsten bulbs, the light was much redder. You eye would correct for the difference in colour temperature, the film did not.

Even today, it may be necessary to adjust a computer monitor to take into account the lighting where it is used, both the brightness and contrast, to allow you to see the full brightness range of an image, and the colour temperature.

So let's think about the chain.

Our light source might be a thermal emission, such as the sun or a set of tungsten lights, which is a black-body emission save for some spectral lines, and the colour of the light shifts with temperature. Or it might be electronic flash, fluorescent lighting, or even white LEDs, which look white but have rather spikey emission curves.

This light is then recorded by processes involving dyes with their own lumpy response curves. These dyes may be used to block some colours (even in film there were dye layers that did this) as well as being part of a photochemical reaction to detect others.

What we see may be light reflected by dye-based pigments, light not absorbed by other dyes, or light emitted by phosphorescent materials. And then there are LEDs, generating light of very tightly restricted frequency/colour, and possibly pumping their own phosphors.

And results enter out eyes, triggering photochemical reactions involving yet more dyes, generating signals which are interpreted by a processing system which "corrects" the colours.

It's a wonder that we can agree that anything is the same colour.


You know, there are some who apply similar justifications to the late and unlamented Soviet Union. Or the PR China. Or Cuba.

Generally, when the much maligned Ottoman Empire is a viable destination of refugees from Europe, it says something about Europe...


'We view Shakespeare's England as a period of creativity and renaissance because'

we can read Shakespeare and his contemporaries and compare their work against that of writers, poets and dramatists of earlier and later periods and make our own judgement? I mean, Gower, seriously? No amount of propaganda will turn lead into gold. Also listen to Byrd and Dowland, view Elizabethan art and architecture, make up your own mind?


Thanks. I tried digging a bit deeper to see if the segment is available elsewhere, and it looks like there are at least two versions. The one I saw (from BBC) was taken down from YouTube. There's another, more detailed segment that's posted at It also talks about what supposedly happens to infants' color perception as they acquire language.

The tribe in question are the Himba people from northern Namibia. If you go to the Wikipedia article on the Himba people, there are a couple of pdf articles on the subject linked in the references.


David L @ 56 I have seen horrible colours on some displays, including green text on red background (!?) What is it with totally CRAP graphic design? You'd expect it to get rarer, what with the web & all?

Zhochaka @ 57 Please don't mention the Great Yellow Jelly! Many years ago, I worked for the - talk about not losing the plot, mopre like throwing it away with both hands ...

Trottelreiner @ 58 Bollocks. Try comparing like with like at that same time-period. I THINK you'll find you get a different answer, at that point? Try being a protestant or a jew in Spain, or the Low countries, especially if Alva was about. Or any sort of reasonable person in Geneva - hence someone's comment about the closure of all theatres under the "commonwealth", because that was the "reason" for that set of actions.

Incidentally HERE is one of several on-line Ishihara tests ....


It's complicated ..but then you already knew that didn't you Joan? Consider a fairly old Homespun Knowledge type " Old Wives Tale " type thing ..and this taken from the Good Old, British, Beeb Beeb C ....

" Does chocolate give you spots? "

OF COURSE IT DOES !! Persons of The Female Persuasion MUST Give up CHOCOLATE aT ONCE!! Or Else!! SPOTS!!

Entire Comercial Cosmetics Empires are based upon the Female Persons Fear of SPOTS tm,look I don't see how MY Evil Empire tm can't tm " Spots tm "

But actually? ..

Its not just genetically determined perspectives that shpe your word view .." Nature" ? .. but also the shape of the world that you are exposed to as you grow .. " Nurture " ? .. and that can be governed by the News Media that you are exposed to, and even the Entertainment that is considered Apropriate abouts in the U.K. FOOTBALL .. US of Americans call it Soccer .. hum ... " Soccer " " About 707,000,000 results (0.19 seconds) " Hereabouts in the North East of England Football/Soccer is a Religion - as it is in most other parts of the UK that don't Worship Rugby.

Now let's see, where did I ..ah, yes there it is on Warfare and military history shelves ..I just couldn't decide whether or not it deserved to be in .. well the Dewey Decimal library classification system has it's limits

" BLOOD AND GUTS: Violence in Sports By Don Atyeo "

" ... he covers such ""brawl games"" as soccer, baseball, and even cricket--whose current breaches of protocol make it just another ugly manifestation of a Clockwork Orange era. The pressure to win at any cost, Atyeo notes, is more intense at higher (college and professional) levels of competition, and he quotes George Orwell: ""Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play."" Beyond implying vestigial relationships between modern sport and such bygone diversions as hunting for food, gladiatorial contests, and public hangings, Atyeo offers few conclusions as to why people take to savage entertainments like football matches, prize fights, rodeos--and pig stickings, ""a curiously English sport begun by planters who speared sloth boar on the grasslands [of India] around 1800."" But he does reject the Lorenz theory of sport as a safety valve on the reasonable grounds that aggression of any kind is unselective and anti-social. Further, Atyeo cites the intense interest of entrepreneurs in franchising Rollerball, a ""gory motorized ball game of the future"" described by science-fiction author William Harrison. This is just one of the many vignettes that he uses to demonstrate--from inside the arena--that the violence inherent in sport engenders ""passion bordering on dementia. Pub Date: April 17th, 1979 Publisher: Paddington--dist. by Grosset "

It does occur to me that a great many Team Games do depend upon Guarding Your Own Territory against the Vile Ale-ien Invadors who WILL ... well,I put it to you .. how can You ... " sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids."

Gen. Jack D. Ripper

And - though he didn't mention it I feel that someone should - Subvert our Beer!

Unless you are ONE OF THEM of course!

It all depends on Your Map of course, and you CAN Depend upon This MAp ..come Now ..Would I Lie To You?


Never forget Thomas Tallis, who " stayed an "unreformed Roman Catholic." ...

" ..Tallis's next post was at Canterbury Cathedral. He was next sent to Court as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1543 (which later became a Protestant establishment[6]), where he composed and performed for Henry VIII,[7] Edward VI (1547–1553), Queen Mary (1553–1558), and Queen Elizabeth I (1558 until Tallis died in 1585).[8] Throughout his service to successive monarchs as organist and composer, Tallis avoided the religious controversies that raged around him, though, like William Byrd, he stayed an "unreformed Roman Catholic."[9] Tallis was capable of switching the style of his compositions to suit the different monarchs' vastly different demands.[10] Among other important composers of the time, including Christopher Tye and Robert White, Tallis stood out. Walker observes, "He had more versatility of style than either, and his general handling of his material was more consistently easy and certain."[11] Tallis was also a teacher, not only of William Byrd, but also of Elway Bevin, an organist of Bristol Cathedral and gentleman of the Chapel Royal.[12] "


I just knew that I'd forgotten to add some thing or other to the Thomas Tallis post ...

" Will it be sublime, will it be ridiculus ? " ..

" The People's Chorus Spem in Alium "

" On 10th June 2006 more than 700 people came to Manchester to sing Tallis' Spem in Alium, almost certainly the largest number of people to ever perform this 400 year old 40 part motet. Conducted by David Lawrence. "



Greg. Tingey @51 & ARNOLD @63: I'd see your Byrd and Tallis, and raise you John Dowland, but I don't have much relevant, other than he was another catholic (converted to it) musician of the era, but one who did not get an English court appointment. And a favorite composer of mine.


It's true that we can never really know what's going on in the universe. It's also true that we can't reserve judgement indefinitely. At some point, we have to use our best available model of the world as the basis for action.

On an evolutionary basis, action precedes understanding. Our simplest ancestors had no idea what they were doing, but their doing it is a necessary precondition for us being here. We developed from organisms that might just happen to find food, through organisms that made increasingly conscious efforts to find food and avoid danger, to our present state where we occasionally supplement our animal behavior patterns with intelligence.


" Flow my Tears " the Policeman said?

See you- if I have the term aright? - and raise you Dowland by ... " Sting & Edin Karamazov " ..

And also, Stings " Songs From The Labyrinth " is worth a try if you haven't come upon it. I'd post the Amazon link to the album - which gives playable clips - but in the interest of avoiding Kindly But Harsh Moderation I'll just sugest that all who might be interested should do a web search for the album title on Amazon.

Try comparing like with like at that same time-period.

Well, for Elizabethan England, we could try the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, predominantly Roman-Catholic with the Polish szlachta (yeah, sorry for bringing that one up again):

As for Spain, when enumerating the groups persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition , don't forget the Muslims, which were quite numerous, while there were few Protestants there.

Seems like the Habsburgs really liked being more popish than the Pope...

And for the Jews, well, there was no wide-scale persecution of the Jews in England, which might have to do with them being evicted about 250 years ago and the Edict of Expulsion still in force. There were some marrano refugees in England, though some of their stories don't speak that much of tolerance and justice:

As for the persecution of Protestants in the Low Countries, in Catholic countries, the Protestants were also persecuted because in the logic of the Catholic Habsburgs, if you didn't obey the Pope, chances were you would also not obey or even try to overthrow the Catholic King. Just as in Protestant Countries, Catholics were persecuted because if you obeyed the Pope, as you already noticed, there was this bit about Papal excommunication of Protestant rulers, so chances were you would also not obey or even try to overthrow the Protestant Prince.

Religious (and political) movements are always big on liberty when they are in the minority, when in the majority, that changes somewhat. And sorry to say, Protestantism was no exception to the general rule seen with the rest of Christianity, Islam, Judaism or even Buddhism[1].

Thing is, I'm about as fed up with the guys talking about the progressive nature of Protestantism and especially one Martin Luther as I'm with the guys who talk about the moral superiority of Early Christianity to Hellenism, or about the moral superiority of Hellenism to Early Christianity, who defend left-wing dictatorships because they opposed capitalism, of right-wing dictatorships because they opposed communism etc.

If anything, the reformation era more or less lead to religious liberty because all parties involved became somewhat fed up with the constant barbecue.

Oh, and even though I'm an agnostic, it's when looking at periods of history like these I really miss hell[2].

And when comparing Elizabethan England with the Soviet Union, the PRC or Cuba, if you go with the early 80s, there were plenty of places worse than the USSR...

Enough said?

[1] E.g. the role of Buddhism in the politically motivated persecution of Christians in Japan:

And than there was one early Buddhist council which AFAIR ended with something like "cut out the tongues of those who disagree". I guess it was during the reign of Kanishka, though I might be mistaken with the whole episode.

[2] My favourite implementation for religious bigots? Having them lectured about there being no life after death or final judgement. And explaining they have all eternity to be upset about this. I guess they won't notice the irony.


Oh, and while we're at it...

Everytime there is a Renaissance fair near, I feel the urge to go there and protest they allow the musicians to mingle with the "ehrhafte" people. As with people born out of wedlock (no Catholic wedding?). Guess a hermit's clothes would be suitable.

Come to think about it, last time I was in Milan, there was a woman dressed as a monk in front of the cathedral. My Italian is not that sufficient for colloquial speech, especially with some hints of psychosis, but AFAIR it was something with the end of the world and sin and so on. Guess you can take reenactment too far...


Fortuitously, fish are seldom spawned out of water, so all start life in an environment they are adapted to. We have the map we need for our situation. If all you do is sit around and watch TV, you have a warped view of the world, but it is perfectly good for what you do. What's really hard and rewarding is becoming able to go to different environments, to adapt. The best tool for that is an objectively true picture.


Trottelreiner You have noticed, I take it that the problem is religion, as such? And that, (repeating myself) that Liz I specifically excluded examining people, just because they were catholic - they had to have done or be suspected of doing something else, as well. Note I have no brief for the opposite extremists, the Calvinists - "it was as if all the walls of the houses [ in Geneva ] were turned into glass" - a very telling phrase for Calvins mini-police state.

Anyway, as an Atheist Huguenot Viking, I have no sympathy with the RC church, with blood dripping off its lying hands - for instance, has anyone seen the new pimple's pope's take on the well-known fake, the "Turin Shroud" - Gah!


The pressure to win at any cost, Atyeo notes, is more intense at higher (college and professional) levels of competition, and he quotes George Orwell: ""Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play.""

That should be qualified; "for professional sport, where money is involved". In my sport of target rifle, I've seen impeccable behaviour at World Cup / Commonwealth level; there's the (fairly) famous case at the 1988? Olympics where a BBC assistant knocked over and broke the rifle of the (reigning champion) Malcolm Cooper, just before the match. The rifle was glued and pinned by the Soviet team armourer, and Malcolm Cooper went on to win his second Gold using it...


Speaking only from my own experience, I don't think colour-blindness was ever mentioned during my Print and Design courses, and it's never seemed to have come up during my subsequent career. I don't even know — and our corespondents here seem unsure about — the proportion of colour-blindness in the general population, let alone how my design choices affect them. I have a lot of love for minimalism and typography myself, so perhaps I've avoided that pitfall by chance.

But it's as difficult for me to imagine a bichromatic world as a tetrachromatic one, and I have only a vague intellectual idea how to avoid confusing bichromatic viewers. If the client doesn't spell it out in the brief, I generally won't think about it, I'm afraid, any more than I think about Urdu typography.


Greg, there's an unsettled question about Elizabeth I. One of the things that made her an unpopular, even repulsive figure in the eyes of the Victorians. Of what religion was the Queen?

The suspcion is that answer is: none. Or rather 'of the religion of me being Queen'

You can't imagine Elizabeth coming out with 'No bishop, no king'. You can imagine, 'Okay, no bishops, if you feel that strongly about it, hang yourselves upside down and paint your arses blue if you want, but I'm still Queen, right?'


Go-Captian: Yes, a distinct possibility. Also, having seen the about-faces from when her younger brother was Edward VI, followed by her ghastly sister, and the horrible deaths of people she knew personally, such as Cranmer & others, she would have been very dubious. Of course, when she came to the throne, it was obvious that a "Protestent" monarchy was the only way to go in England, but how vigorously protestent? She definitely kept the extreme Calvinists [ ask Charlie about John Knox ] in check, as did James I & VI (for all his other faults) as they were merely the mirror-image of the catholics, & just as murderous & bigoted. People like my ancestor, who trimmed very carefully, to the preceding regime, & then became Liz's chancellor were very thin on the ground - not that it did him any good in catholic eyes, as they still regard him, rather than Walsingham, as the devil incarnate. It is to be remembered, that like al-Quaeda, the agents of Pius V & succesive popes only had to succeed once. Thanks to Walsingham, they never did.

You have noticed, I take it that the problem is religion, as such?

Well, there were some indications, err. ;)

And that, (repeating myself) that Liz I specifically excluded examining people, just because they were catholic - they had to have done or be suspected of doing something else, as well.

Well, I agree there, Elizabeth I. was quite a moderate ruler, especially compared to her predecessors, especially one 'Bloody' (or better Charring?) Mary I.

If we go for persecution of Catholics, she was also a moderating influence on much more extreme factions, e.g. in parliament.

Still, I would keep in mind that there were quite a few dark sides to her reign; it's the same impetus that lets me invite anybody bragging how nice it was in the Roman Empire to become a sex slave and take it in the ass, err. Hope you understand. Sorry for getting loud.

That being said, I understand your stance and can sympathize. And for the record, Agnostic Catholic (with some hints of Socianianism) Pole (without a polearm) here, quite proud on the smashing the Crusader part actually. ;)

As for Francis I. on the Turin Shroud, at least, he still called it an icon and not a relic. But then, the guy is still something of a wildcard for me, while he seems to be one of the Conservatives, which is, mind you, still different from the Traditionalists - though the Cs seem to use the Ts as some kind of boogieman or "bad cop" to their "good cop" - well, I was somewhat surprised to see him get the approval of Boof, where some on the Right are not that happy (attention, link to right-wing Catholic website):

Last but not least, it's not that some of the "liberal" Catholics are any better. Where was it, oh, there is the quip by one Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, err:

Personally, I stick to my idea that we are watching the birth, more than the death, of a World. The scandal for you, is that England and France should have come to this tragedy because they have sincerely tried the road of peace. But did they not precisely make a mistake on the true meaning of "peace"? Peace cannot mean anything but a HIGHER PROCESS OF CONQUEST. … The world is bound to belong to its most active elements. … Just now, the Germans deserve to win because, however bad or mixed is their spirit, they have more spirit than the rest of the world. It is easy to criticize and despise the fifth column. But no spiritual aims or energy will ever succeed, or even deserve to succeed, unless it is able to spread and keep spreading a fifth column. - Letter from Peking (Summer 1940)

I hope I'm pardoned for this making me somewhat roar for the Holy Inqui, err "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", I guess.


trottelreiner P T de Chardin REALLY? - involved in the Piltdown hoax, author of the most-famously-trashed book (by Medawar) written on human development & "spirituality". Hip-deep tosh at the very least!


Well, and one of the saints of Transhumanism.

And, as can be seen, prone to some, err, strange views on then current politics in particular and ethics in general.

(Oh, and incidentally, in a more respectable phase, also one of the descriptors of the Homo erectus pekinensis.)

BTW, one of his books are in my library, unread, I confess. It is next to Monod's "Chance and Necessity". If you're quite at night, you can hear the discharges, I swear.

In some way his stance on military conquest makes sense from a theistic evolutionary POV, in the same way as, evangelical proponents of a loving god make sense when they say evolution is incompatible with a loving god and thus embrace creationism[1].

More "orthodox" Christians (and/or fans of Pratchett/Gaiman) might point to divine ineffability, but the divine in this better have some damn good answers. Or some milligrams of Lysergic acid diethylamide, I guess.

BTW, it's not an isolated stance, AFAIR[2] Teilhard was one of the guys who remembered WWI mainly for the catecholamine surge.

Which makes one wonder; you know, Zhoukoudian is known for its cave system, though Beijing is somewhat to the north of China, but then, Leng is not necessarily Tibet. Maybe add in some Lawful Evil Knight Templar from the "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office", and we could have some fun with the immanentization of the eschaton, err, rapture of the cultivated gentlemen.

If you excuse me, I guess I'll have to read up some Chesterton[3].

[1] To quote our chief practicing atheist agnostic biologist in the good ol' days on usenet when speaking about his personal meetings with some German crationists[1a], they are wrong, but one can understand their problems.

[1a] Well, it seems like the guys from "Wort und Wissen" are somewhat different from the USian variant. Sadly, most of the info I can find on the net is only in German. That doesn't mean I find it a good idea when Minister-presidents invite them to talks...

[2] It's been some time, and to elaborate, I first heard of the guy when I was staying in some hotel in Switzerland that AFAIR doubled as a spritual retreat/retirement home close to the RCC with my family when the appartment we had last year was alread rent. And, well, I spent some time in the TV room, trying to keep the old guys from watching Derrick and Baywatch[2a] all day by sneaking in on Star Trek or MacGuyver. Oh sweet misspent youth... Whatever, the little text junkie in me[2b] noticed some 60s era book about what was wrong with the world, written, in retrospect, most likely from a Jesuit perspective. Not that this always leads to results so disastrous; in a similar situation (other retirement home, similar leanings, hell, wait, that one was Focolare[2c], not Jesuits) I found quite a nice SF novella:

Guess somebody didn't read carefully or made a practical joke.

[2a] No, that's no joke.

[2b] Name the degradation, I've been there.

[2c] Err, I'm sitting here somewhat north of Dortmund, in what is known as one of the "Black Corners of Germany". They once tried Protestantism. It, err, didn't work out:ünster_Rebellion

And it has its somewhat sympathetic moments; when one place was named after one Paul von Hindenburg,

it seems like some of the conservative Catholics still called it by its old name "Neuplatz", since they didn't like Protestant Hindenburg.

[3] G.K Chesterton, that is, not his cousin A.K.:


To pile onto the historical aspect: The oldest instance of the exact phrase "the map is not the territory" known to Wikipedia is by Korzybski in 1931. But I also Googled a picture I thought to be called "This is not a Pipe" (actually it's "The Treachery of Images"), which expresses the same sentiment in a slightly more mischievous way. It's been painted 1928-29 by René Magritte. It's possible the idea goes back even further, but it seems like it's time finally came in last century's late 20s to early 30s... ;-)


Patricia Finney has a really good espionge trilogy set in this era ..I keep hoping that it might be expanded into a second trilogy ..anyone who likes our Hosts Laundry Files Stories will - in My 'umble Opinion - like these ..

" Review ... Intelligent thriller with likeable heroes, nail-biter plot... Intelligent thriller first, historical novel second, this underrated novel concerns a Day of the Jackal-style assassination plot on the life of Queen Elizabeth I. Our heroes, clever Simon Ames and bear-like ex-mercenary Becket, try to read the clues that will lead to a dangerous assassin consistently one step ahead of them. Patricia Finney's grasp of historical detail is sufficiently good for London to never quite seem the same again after reading about its dank alleyways and filthy taverns four centuries ago. But Finney's real strength is her set-pieces - a swordfight on Bankside interrupted by a performing bear; Simon Ames hanging onto London Bridge for dear life as a pikeman swipes at him, the river rushing below; and best of all the climactic final scene and denouement.

Comparisons have been made with Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose but Firedrake's Eye is more of a straight-up, classy detective novel - Ian Rankin with doublets, perhaps? -- Richard Goff from London About the Author Patricia Finney has been writing since she was seven. Her first novel, A SHADOW OF GULLS, was published when she was eighteen and won the David Higham Award. She has had a variety of jobs which have included editing a medical journal and newspaper journalism. "

Finney also writes a ..well it could be described a a police proceedural ..series set in the border wars of the same Eliabethen period and written under the name P.F. Chisolm. I particularly like " A Surfeit Of Guns "..

"Sir Robert Carey took up his northern post as Warden of the West March in order to escape the complications of creditors and court life. However the dashing Carey, possibly a cousin of the Queen, merely trades one set of troubles for another.

One black night in 1592, Carey is on night patrol along the unsettled border anchored by the garrison in Carlisle. It’s a disaster. First, there’s the fugitive he has to hand over to the warring Scots. Next come Wee Colin Elliot’s sheep stealers. And then a gun explodes and takes off the hand of one of Carey’s men. Back in Carlisle, Carey soon learns more faulty guns lie in the armoury in place of the sound weapons shipped in from Newcastle only last week. When these explosive deathtraps are stolen, he sets off in pursuit of both batches of guns—and the thieves.

The search ends in Dumfries where King James VI of Scotland—potentially King James I of England when his cousin Elizabeth dies—and his raucous court have assembled. James is as dissolute as ever, lovely Lady Elizabeth Widdrington, Carey’s true love, is still shackled to her husband, and seductive Signora Bonnetti takes a serious interest in Carey and in the missing guns. Will the frustrated courtier be gallant enough to flirt with the Signora—and with treason?…" About the Author Writing under her real name, Patricia Finney began her career when only 17, with A Shadow of Gulls, an historical novel set in Ireland during Roman times. After ten years' break she returned triumphantly with Firedrake's Eye, a highly praised literary novel set in Elizabethan England. "

Speaking only from my own experience, I don't think colour-blindness was ever mentioned during my Print and Design courses, and it's never seemed to have come up during my subsequent career.

I'd be interested in when you did your design courses. I know folk who sat design degrees in the 80's when it was mentioned. To be honest I'd be shocked if any modern design course didn't cover it. At the very least in Information Design and Wayfinding.

These days - if you're doing any kind of design work for people to actually use (signage, computer apps, etc.) it's a legal issue to make things accessible to people with disabilities such as colour blindness. Not doing so can potentially land you in court (In the UK the Equality Act since 2010, and before that the DDA. In the US Section 508.)

I don't even know — and our corespondents here seem unsure about — the proportion of colour-blindness in the general population, let alone how my design choices affect them. I have a lot of love for minimalism and typography myself, so perhaps I've avoided that pitfall by chance.

Good clear minimal design will probably get you 99% of the way there ;-)

As to numbers for colour blindness it's about 10% of males, and about 0.5% of women. Those percentages are made up of several different kinds of colour blindness with various different kinds of changes to perception of colour.

The most common is deuteranomaly which affects about 6% of men and 0.4% of women.

(the X chromosome carries a bunch of the colour related genes, so it affects many more men than women).

These are all to do with the physical structure of the eye itself. There are also a few cases of colour perception problems due to brain itself - but the percentages there are very low.

If you're interested in the topic have a google around "accessibility" and "inclusive design". You'll find a bunch of stuff that you should find of interest.

There are several books around the topic. A new one that's coming out soon that I'm looking forward to is "A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences" by Whitney Quesenbery & Sarah Horton since it covers these issues as constraints to the design process as a whole rather than as a "make this accessible" step at the end of design.

(It also covers a lot more than just colour blindness - which is probably one of the easiest issues to design around.)

But it's as difficult for me to imagine a bichromatic world as a tetrachromatic one, and I have only a vague intellectual idea how to avoid confusing bichromatic viewers.

There are a bunch of tools you can get to make this easier. For example and give a rough approximation of how folk with various different kinds of colour perception problem see.

And to further complicate the matter, one's acculturation strongly affects how one processes--filters--information, and what patterns one finds there.

For folk interested in the more cultural side of it I'd recommend reading a bit about the research of the anthropologist Joe Henrich - who has done some rather neat work demonstrating some of the cultural bias in the research that has been supposedly demonstrating universal human behaviors.

There was a nice write up of his work in the Pacific Standard a couple of months back


Arnold @ 80 Sir Robert Carey was, of course a real person. Glimpses of his known exploits can be seen in the excellent history of the Anglo-Scottish border lands in the Tudor period by Geo Macdonald Fraser (yes, he of "Flashman" fame) called "The Steel Bonnets". Concluding with the epic postscript of Carey's Ride. London to Edinburgh in less than 72 hours on horesback ( In 1603! )


I don't even know — and our corespondents here seem unsure about — the proportion of colour-blindness in the general population, let alone how my design choices affect them.

As I mentioned briefly above, I think a lot of it is due to self selection. Someone with vision issues like mine would likely never get into a design educational program or if they did would quickly drop or flunk out. So the people in the field have no experience with the issue as a rule.

As to the proportions, the most common stat I've seen is 10% to 15% of the males with northern European heritage have color vision "issues". Nails it down doesn't it. :)


These are all to do with the physical structure of the eye itself. There are also a few cases of colour perception problems due to brain itself - but the percentages there are very low.

I keep wondering about how all of this is related. I have a lot of trouble with the find the pattern in the dots tests. Plus I can't "see" faces in a crowd. To find someone in a group of 20 or more people all looking at me I have to basically look at each face to be abel to "see" someone. Try finding someone at an airport or stadium event with this kind of vision issue. (Made my wife really upset for a few years till she became convince I just wasn't being obtuse.)

As I mentioned briefly above, I think a lot of it is due to self selection. Someone with vision issues like mine would likely never get into a design educational program or if they did would quickly drop or flunk out. So the people in the field have no experience with the issue as a rule.

Actually there are quite a lot of designers who are colour blind in one way or another. Including some very successful ones (e.g. Jon Hicks

Interestingly many people "colour blind" are actually better at other kinds of visual perception (e.g. folks with some types of colour blindness are better at seeing through camoflage So what you lose on the swings you may gain on the roundabouts.

Plus I can't "see" faces in a crowd.

I'm not colour blind, but I do I have this problem - in fact a general problem with recognising people in different contexts.

This may (emphasis on the may) be related to prosopagnosia (face blindness). Which, as more research is being done, is beginning to look like it might be more of a spectrum disorder like autism or synesthesia rather than a have-it / don't-have-it issue.

See if you want to have a poke around the subject, which includes some online tests ( ). I score in the high-thirties / low-forties on the Famous Faces test where most "normal" people like my partner score in the 80's.

Cognitive Science is Fun!


With a little tweaking, that could also be a great test for nominative amnesia. ("How come I can remember the phrase 'nominative amnesia' but I can't remember people's names?") This morning I seem to have lost my list of American comedians (and the male half of Brangelina), but it looks like the self-marking system is designed to get around that.


Actually, if your verbal map of colours affects your ability to distinguish colours, then shouldn't my mild nominative amnesia affect my ability to distinguish people? Or for that matter shouldn't prosopagnosiacs have trouble keeping people's roles separate in their minds?


I have just seen the latest version of some software I use. There was some extensive reworking of the user interface, but it is stucj with the same dreary, hard-to-read, colour scheme of grey on grey, Back in the v1 days, there was a choice of colour schemes, but that vanished with v2, and it's now at v3.5.

Text, such as the menu across the top of the screen, is leght grey on a darker grey. Highlight a tab, and the colour is "teal", which is a sort of grey-green to my eyes.

It ignores all the Windows settings for such things as text sizes, it doesn't even take into account the OS setting that reflects the physical pixel size. Since it is available for multiple operating systems, this is maybe unsurprising. It will likely be unusable on a "retinal" display.

The company is not one of those well-known for good visual design.



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This page contains a single entry by Elizabeth Bear published on March 28, 2013 2:52 PM.

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