Posts tagged ‘pigment’

Blue Eyes Are Not Actually Blue

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)

March 7, 2011 at 2:00 am 19 comments


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