Blue Eyes Are Not Actually Blue

March 7, 2011 at 2:00 am 20 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

The most common eye color is brown and the least common is green. Eye color is determined by a number of genes, the actual number of which is unknown. Using six known genes, scientists can predict eye color from brown to blue with 90% accuracy.

The darkness of brown eyes is determined by the amount of melanin (pigment) in them. Blue eyes have little or no melanin, making them translucent; they only appear blue because of an optical illusion known as the Tyndall effect.

The color we perceive something to be is usually due to their pigment, but somethings appear colored for other reasons. Structural colors are one classification of colors that occur not because of their pigment but because of the way light interacts with the matter.

Without getting too technical, different colors of light have different wavelengths. When those waves pass through matter, they can be filtered or scattered in different ways. The Tyndall effect occurs when a light scattering particulate is suspended in a light transmitting medium and the size of the individual particulate is slightly below or near that of the visible spectrum of light.

Some things that appear to be colored due to optical effects are: blue jay and peacock feathers, mother of pearl, butterfly wings, beetle shells, bubbles, oil slicks and one we see every day: the sky.

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Photo: Jennifer Durfey (cc)

Sources: Wikipedia (Eye Color, Tyndall Effect, Color)

Entry filed under: Demystified, Health and Beauty. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Monday Morning Links « Gerry Canavan  |  March 7, 2011 at 11:12 am

    […] * Demystifying everything: Blue eyes not actually blue. […]

    • 2. AnubArack  |  April 14, 2011 at 1:47 am

      Could be that the melanin that gives it the final color is not fully secreted so that layer is transparent at first, just like developed blue eyes.

  • 3. Charyl  |  March 8, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Wonder if this is why all babies seem to born with blue eyes?

    • 4. Diane Taylor  |  October 14, 2011 at 4:53 pm

      not all babies are born with blue eyes. Dark babies have dark eyes.

      • 5. asdfghjkl  |  July 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm

        not necessarily. there are “light” babies born with dark eyes and “dark” babies born with light eyes on rare occasions.

    • 6. bob  |  July 3, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      Thats cats.

  • 7. Monday Snax | Little Stories  |  March 14, 2011 at 9:11 am

    […] Blue Eyes Are Not Actually Blue. Well. I learned something new today. I can’t tell if I feel downcast because my irises are just an optical illusion or extra cool. (Broken Secrets) Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed A Brazilian Oil Carnival? […]

  • 8. Monday various « occasional fish  |  March 28, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    […] Blue eyes are not actually blue? A little weirded out by the idea what I actually have are transparent eyes. [via] […]

  • […] Did you know that there aren’t really any blue eyes?  Just like the sky isn’t blue?  It’s true!   […]

  • 10. Seth  |  November 3, 2012 at 7:49 am

    My eyes are half blue and half green. Explain that one.

  • 11. The Sun is Green | Broken Secrets  |  May 17, 2013 at 2:00 am

    […] I know, the sun doesn’t look green. But, keep in mind the sky looks blue and we know it’s not really blue. The sky appears blue for the same reason some people’s eyes look blue – an optical illusion known as the Tyndall effect. […]

  • 12. Cisco  |  July 6, 2013 at 2:53 am

    Again, this attempt at a reclassification, or explanation, understanding, etc., of the (dual) behavior of light–that is, a behavior that is currently understood to exhibit both wavelike properties and particulate properties–in terms of how a “false” color is perceived by the viewer, is (lol) a false finding in and of itself. For example, it’s like saying water is not only just a liquid, but also a solid and a gaseous substance too (without reminding us that varying temperatures–given a constant pressure–is the determining variable. In other words, it’s not only redundant, but also the passing off of (or giving a false pretense for), the nature of color and its perception.

  • 13. bootsy  |  July 9, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    violet eyes…

  • 14. TheNerdyRocker  |  July 10, 2013 at 1:24 am

    i thought blue eyes were blue because of light reflecting off the blue blood cells. Is this part of it?

  • 15. chriscp  |  September 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    My eyes are hazel. Nobody cares about us. *sniffle*

  • 16. Misty  |  November 4, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    I have one blue eye and one brown eye. People look at me like I am a freak. If blue eyes are not really blue, what color are they, really?

  • 17. savannah  |  April 4, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Thats Cool but shocking

  • 18. lauren  |  June 22, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    My eyes reflect in intense BLUE color and all my life this day, I am told I have beautiful blue eyes. I wonder why some “blue” eyes are so intensely blue verses some are light blue or corn flower blue like the late Princess Diana?

  • 19. Bill K.  |  December 6, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    All colors appear as such because of the wavelengths of light reflected from the objects that bear them, and the perception of those wavelengths by the light receptors in our eyes, and finally, the interpretation provided by our brains. Saying some colors are so because of pigments is only partly true. The pigments are still causing certain wavelengths of light to be reflected.

  • 20. Devin  |  May 30, 2021 at 7:22 am

    Hey genius. “THeyRe not acTuAlly blue, tHey juSt lOoK blue bEcauSe Of liGht.” Uh, yeah. That’s how color works.


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