Reub's journey

11 June 2011

Seeing blue

“If all the green of springtime was blue, and it is…”  
–  from Connoisseur of Chaos by Wallace Stevens

Yaquina Bay hillside, Newport, OR
In the frescoes that survive at Pompeii rarely used is the color  blue.  The ancient Greeks repeatedly described the ocean as black, hence Homer’s “wine-dark sea.”   Farther back in time, the  Egyptians called the sky green.   Our ability to perceive blue rests on a highly developed retina with its large supply of cones, a recent event as evolution goes.   (from Jane Librizzi's The Blue Lantern)

Window detail, Florence, Italy
When I read that we haven't always been able to perceive the color blue, I was shocked.  How recent is "recent' in terms of evolution?  Pompeii and Egypt don't sound all that long ago.

1954 Oldsmobile 
So I did some reading, and sure enough, there was a spell  when mammals couldn't detect blues and greens very well. It was back when dinosaurs ruled the day and mammals became nocturnal, losing the ability to see certain colors and instead relying on the ability to sense pheromones and smells.

Sky and trees near Odell Lake, Oregon
When the dinosaurs died out, we regained our day-vision, but pretty much lost our sense of smell and pheromone detection.

Reub's favorite toys. Dogs can detect blue, so he sees them very well.
So it was a trade-off. Hmmmmm...what would I rather be able to do? 

Sense pheromones and smell the world around me more distinctly?
Or see the color blue?

Middle school track meet: the high jump
Apparently we can't have both.

Talamone, Italy
I'm pretty curious about this trade-off, but glad after all that we regained the ability to see blue.

Nesting murres, Oregon coast
Last weekend we watched nesting sea birds, and if you click on this photo you will see a few exposed eggs ( I found three, two on the right and one on the left). They are blue! Birds see all colors very well, so these eggs were easily spotted by hungry crows and aggressive seagulls. Blue seems like an unfortunate choice for birds' eggs, evolutionarily-speaking, but there must be some reason for it.

Just Easter eggs, not murre eggs

Well, besides the obvious reason, which is... they're beautiful.


  1. I had trouble commenting just now.


    "Dogs are good with smells (and being smelly) with can't see colours, or so I'm told.

  2. i'll take seeing blue over super smell talent any day. :)

  3. Blogger commenting has been messed up lately, Friko. Thanks for persisting!

    Hey you know what? I have the best of both worlds; I can indeed see blue PLUS my sense of smell is 10,000 times better than you people.

    Listen to this:

    "They (dogs) cannot distinguish between red, orange, yellow or green. They can see various shades of blue and can differentiate between closely related shades of gray that are not distinguishable to people.

    When comparing dog and human vision, people are better at depth perception, color perception and seeing minute details of an object. Dogs are better at seeing in dim light, responding to an image rapidly and detecting the slightest motion. They also have better peripheral vision." (by Dr. Dawn relation...:-D)

  4. I can't imagine not seeing the color blue. the ocean as black? No wonder they thought it was full of monsters.

  5. The favourite colour of men is blue and women like men who wear blue because they see it as reliable and dependable! However, i guess that duck-egg-blue isn't the blue men favour the most. However, out of all the blues you showed, it was the eggs that my vision found most pleasing. What does that say about me?!!!

    Some wonderful shades complimenting a wonderful piece that leads to the wonder that is contemplation!

    Thank you once again Ed and Reub

  6. Great post! I definitely appreciate being able to see blue, but without having experienced what I am missing it would be a tough choice.

  7. I like your blues, Kerry, whatever else may be going on in world of color and pheromone detection.

    Your "Window detail, Florence, Italy" looks familiar. Guess I should look at the old pictures.

    My favorite color for clothing is blue on men and red for women.

    Happy MidWeek Blues. I liked your collection of pictures very much.

  8. All over blue :) - In some of our China photos, I think it´s China #3 Tai Chi there is also no sky only grey because of polution in the city of Beijing. LG Tina

  9. this post is so interesting and I learned something
    and your photos are a feast for the eyes

  10. very interesting post! so glad we can see blue.:p gorgeous photos.


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