LANL study proves current understanding of color perception is wrong

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — A study from Los Alamos National Lab corrects a historic error in the 3D mathematical space used by scientists for more than a century.

New models indicate the distance between widely separated colors don’t add up correctly using previously accepted geometry.

That model was developed by Bernhard Riemann, Hermann von Helmholtz and Nobel Prize-winning Erwin Schrödinger to describe how your eye distinguishes one color from another.

“We’re overturning a paradigm that is 100 years old. Not just this, but it’s a paradigm that has been established by the likes those incredibly smart and incredibly famous,” said Roxana Bujack, a computer scientist who creates scientific visualizations at Los Alamos.

Bujack and her colleagues discovered that using the conventional branch of geometry, it overestimates the perception of large color differences. That’s because people perceive a big difference in color to be less than the sum you would get if you added up small differences in color that lie between two widely separated shades.

The research has the potential to maximize how we see color in computer graphics, TVs and other visual mediums.