Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Animals with the Midas Touch

A golden bat recently discovered in Bolivia has joined the ranks of nature’s richly gilded creatures.
The newly described Myotis midastactus is named after Midas, the king of Greek legend who turned everything he touched to gold.

A photo of a golden bat.
The newfound bat, Myotis midastactus. Photograph by Dr. Marco Tschapka

The discovery was made after comparing specimens from museum collections in a study led by Ricardo Moratelli, a wildlife biologist at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fundação Oswaldo Cruz) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Thought to be confined to central Bolivia’s tropical savanna region, M. midastactus’s “peculiar and distinctive fur color” is a puzzle, Moratelli admitted.
“Apparently it is not related to camouflage, because two other species of Myotis that occur in the same area are consistently darker and use similar [daytime] roosts,” he said. 
Another, unrelated South American bat, Noctilio albiventris, does share the newfound bat’s coloration. Since both species eat colorful insects, their diet may influence their striking appearance, Moratelli added.
Here are more animals that dazzle us with their golden splendor:
Golden Lion Tamarin
Destruction of its coastal rain forest habitat in eastern Brazil has made the golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) a familiar zoo refugee. Efforts to reintroduce the animal—listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—into the wild have been successful.

A photo of a golden lion tamarin
A golden lion tamarin, Leontopithecus rosalia rosalia. Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Creative

Named for a lustrous, lion-like mane that frames its dark, impish face, the golden lion tamarin may get its color from exposure to tropical sunlight and a liking for foods rich in carotenoid, a pigment responsible for yellow colors in nature.
Golden Poison Dart Frog
Another South American resident, the golden poison dart frog (Phyllobates terribilis) gleams luridly as a warning to predators. The amphibian’s skin contains potent alkaloid toxins that target nerve cells, causing heart and respiratory failure.

A photo of a golden poison dart frog
A golden poison dart frog in Cauca, Colombia. Photograph by Thomas Marent, Minden Pictures/Corbis

Fatal even to large animals, including humans, the frog’s toxin was famously used by indigenous hunters in Colombia to poison their blowpipe darts. 
Where the frog collects the ingredients for its lethal toxin is unknown, though scientists suspect that a diet based on prey beetles from the Melyridae family may be responsible.
Article posted by James Owen in Weird & Wild.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Grey vs. Gray

Russian Blue loving a turtle , twin of our late Genie 
A reader asks,
Would you please explain the variation in spelling of the word gray vs. grey?
Short answer: gray is standard American spelling and grey is British spelling for the same color.
The spellings have bounced back and forth.
The Old English stem was spelled grǣg.
According to the OED, ”The variation between spellings in eiey, etc., and in aiay, etc., in later Middle English results from the general Middle English merger of the ei and ai diphthongs.” Examples of spellings that evolved from the merger are claygraygrey, and whey.
In Dr. Johnson’s 1755 dictionary, the entry for the adjective is spelled gray: “white with a mixture of black.”

A Russian Blue relaxing on writer's desk

A note in the OED describes an informal inquiry made in 1893 that found differences among the usage of British publishers:
the printers of The Times stated that they always used the form gray; Messrs. Spottiswoode and Messrs. Clowes always usedgrey; other eminent printing firms had no fixed rule. Many correspondents said that they used the two forms with a difference of meaning or application: the distinction most generally recognized being that grey denotes a more delicate or a lighter tint than gray. Others considered the difference to be that gray is a ‘warmer’ colour, or that it has a mixture of red or brown.’
Various attempts have been made at different times to establish different colors for gray and grey. Here’s one from 1867:
G. W. Samson Elem. Art Crit. v. i. 483. Professional, if not primitive English usage has made a distinction between gray andgrey. The spelling gray may with propriety be employed to designate admixtures in which simple black and white are employed. The form grey may indicate those admixtures which have the same general hue, but into which blue and its compounds more or less slightly enter.
Individuals may prefer one spelling to the other, but the rule is, American spelling gray; British spelling grey.


Note: The grey in greyhound has nothing to do with the animal’s color. The OED tells us that this grey is “apparently a first element cognate with Old Icelandic grey, “bitch.” The Old Icelandic word for a female dog is greyhundr. In English the word came to mean a particular kind of dog:
A breed of fast-running, keen-sighted dog having a long slender body and head and long legs, long used in hunting and coursing, and now used in racing; a dog of this breed.

Color note: Grey/gray in decor is a very depressing color according to color psychologists. Imagine  living in overcast, rainy skies perpetually; to me, not a happy thought. BBL

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Building a Wardrobe Inspired by A Painting

Vincent van Gogh was a master colorist. One of my favorite fashion sites is titled The Vivienne Files. The blogista, Janice Riggs, is a genius at choosing clothing capsules which make terrific ensembles, but her post from December 2012 is still a classic, mainly because she uses one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings as the starting point. What a smart way to put together a good looking, classic outfit. See more of her "Start with Art" capsules at She has been inspired by many paintings.

 Vincent Van Gogh's Les Bateaux brings together

sand, sky, and deep water - the perfect juxtaposition of 
cool and warm colors...

C'est bonne, n'est pas? BBL

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Color Views of Cultures-Chinese Tradition

Chinese Tradition

As far as tradition in China is concerned, there is no such thing as a color system as a Western dictionary would define it. In the Western world, Aristotle, for example, had attempted to find a harmony of colors. The Chinese strove toward similar interpretations, and between the 4th and 2nd century oriented themselves on the same pentatonic scale that dominated their music. Accordingly, they accepted that in its entirety color harmony comprised five basic colors: the four cardinal points are defined by red in the south, standing for summer and fowls and poultry; green lies to the east and represents spring, wood and the dragon; black is to the north and stands for winter, water and the tortoise; white is placed in the west and represents autumn and the tiger. Yellow, on the other hand, is allocated a special place and is therefore discussed in more detail. (Detailed text)

Chinese tradition regards mankind, society and the world equally, as the objects of a global knowledge — a knowledge which incorporates the macrocosm and the separate microcosms it contains.
In the illustration, the five basic colors of the Chinese tradition are arranged according to their equivalents:
Red: fire, reaching upwards, corresponds to the south as dictated by the traditional Chinese cardinal points, and coincides with the warm season of summer.
Black: water, delving into the depths, is in the north. Its season, winter, is marked by the absence of water, which at this time gathers in the northern shallows of the world».
Green: wood, is in the east and relates to spring. Green, the color of spring, is also the color of the world of plants.
White: metal, is in the west, with its season autumn with white as its color — a white with a blue tint. Incidentally, contrary to Western color-systems, black and white are part of the same circle in Chinese color-systems.
Yellow: earth. In the code of the five elements, the earth has a carrying, supporting function, and thus also assumes the function of primary source and nutrition: the plants sprout from the earth, from where fire, too, breaks out; metals are extracted from its mines, and water flows from its wells. The earth is the center — the color yellow; its taste is sweet, and its aroma is that of perfume. Mankind as the yellow race, the inhabitants of this world, stems from this equivalent.
The armored animals like the tortoise, which correspond to the north, water and the colour black, procreate the scaled animals like the dragon, which are always green, since these belong to wood and are located in the east. The scaled animals in turn create the fowls and poultry, to which the south and the colour red are ascribed. The feathered birds in turn create the fur-covered animals, such as the tiger or the horse, which are associated with the west, the metals and the colour white.
Water brings forth wood, and wood nourishes the fire. Fire (ash) fertilizes the earth, and the earth brings forth metals. Metal creates water.

Date: Uncertain
Bibliography: J. Needham, «Science and Civilisation in China», Cambridge University Press; Collin A. Ronan, «The shorter Science and Civilisation in China», Cambridge University Press, from 1978; Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften der Chinesischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, «Wissenschaft und Technik im alten China», Birkhäuser, Basel 1989.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Evolution and Eye Sensitivity to Color

Advances in scientific research fascinates me. How eyes evolved to recognize color is especially interesting and pertinent to my fascination with the amazing phenomenon of color research.

A fish eye from a primitive time when Earth was but one single continent has yielded evidence of color vision dating back at least 300 million years, researchers said.

Analyzing the fossilized remains of a fish from the “spiny shark” family that lived long before the dinosaurs, scientists discovered light-sensing “rod” and “cone” eye cells-the oldest ever found.
“This is the first discovery of vertebrate retinal fossils,” said Gengo Tanaka from Japan’s Kumamoto University, who coauthored the study in the journal Nature Communications.

It is rare for paleontologists to find eye remains, as the soft tissue generally decays within 64 days, the authors of the study said.

However, the Hamilton Quarry in Kansas is a treasure trove of unusually well-preserved fossils ― an entire ecosystem having been rapidly buried under sediment.

They included the extinct fish Acanthodes bridgei ― among the oldest known vertebrates with jaws.

It had a long, streamlined body and fins with spines, is believed to have lived in shallow, brackish water, and died out at the end of the Permian period about 250 million years ago when nearly 90 percent of species disappeared in the largest extinction in Earth’s history.

An A. bridgei specimen found at the quarry retained elements of the original eye color and shape, and a light-absorbing pigment in the retina.

The remains had been preserved under a thin coating of phosphate, Tanaka told AFP.

Analysis of the tissue “provides the first record of mineralized rods and cones in a fossil,” said the study.

These, combined with light-absorbing melanin pigments, suggested the fish was “probably” able to see in low light using highly sensitive rod cells, and by day using cone cells.

In modern animals, cone cells respond individually to light at specific wavelengths, thus allowing observation of different colors. (AFP)

Rods and cones help us distinguish colors; females have more of one, males the opposite. BBL

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Changeable Charlie Eye Colors

The actor Tom Hiddleston has what the ancients called The Eyes of Athena. According to legend, her eye color changes were governed by her emotions. If she wore white, that theory holds up. 
So Hiddleston’s eyes probably aren’t electric blue, but they might not be green either. So what color are they? Most likely Hiddleston’s changing eye color is a result of what he’s wearing. Dr. Ivan Schwab spoke about the occurrence with the Wall Street Journal and said that when you look at someone’s eyes, the color you see is influenced by the colors around it. ”If I wear a shirt that is complementary, my eyes may appear to be a different color, but the wavelength is the same,” Schwab said.
Essentially that means when Hiddleston wears blue, his eyes appear more blue and when he wears green they take on more of that color. But really, when trying to find a solution to his eye color mystery, you can’t turn to Tumblr GIFs and assume they haven’t been enhanced. You can’t even 100 percent trust his agency and the notation that they’re green. There’s one person whose opinion means more than all the others, and that’s Tom Hiddleston himself. So what color eyes does Hiddles think he has? Blue. 
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly last year, he confirmed what many had always thought (emphasis author's). ”In making [Loki] with raven black hair and blanching my face of all color, it changed my features. Suddenly my blue eyes look a lot bluer, which lends a severity to my face.” 
So there you have it. Hiddleston's eyes may change depending on what he’s wearing, but at the heart of it all he has blue eyes, and he said so himself. But even if you’re not convinced, there’s one thing no Hiddlestoner can deny: Hiddleston’s eyes are gorgeous no matter what color they are. (So true; and he is a fine Shakespearean actor as well. BBL)
Images: tomhiddles (3), becausehiddles/Tumblr; Walt Disney Studios; Getty Images

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Green's Properties

Green’s Properties  

            “Green is the color of primeval wealth---sappy green fields, the green of a woodland glen---everyone can revel in it. It is this thin layer of green plant cells that keeps us breathing, keeps us fed, keeps us alive. No wonder we adore it and long for it when without it. The changing seasons add the melody to the green of a planting. Spring shoots are often tinged with chartreuse, turn blue-green in their fullness, and fade to biscuit yellow in the autumn before they fall. The eye translates the fresh green of spring to excitement, change and newness. Surely green is the lush, sympathetic color.
            Colors are rarely seen in isolation, so it is important to be aware of the optical effect adjacent colors have on each other. Both Goethe in his theories of color harmony and Chevreul in his 700 page monograph of 1839 about the Gobelin's dyers (formed by a family of tapestry weavers in France who became wealthy from their fabulous works for French kings)pointed out the phenomenon of successive contrast, the way in which the eye, staring first at a color and then at a piece of white paper, will see on the paper an afterimage in a complementary or opposite color. If the eye is fixed on green, the successive contrast will be red; if fixed on yellow, violet; if fixed on blue, orange and so forth.  Each shadow is in perfect contrast, and Seurat and Monet made use of this effect in creating the depths of their canvases. It results in a dazzling shimmer between pure red flowers and green leaves.

(An excerpt from Nori and Sandra Pope’s gorgeous book Color in the Garden) 

I hope you will try this experiment with Successive Contrast. My art students were amazed that after staring at a pure color, then looking at a white sheet of paper, the opposite color presented itself on the paper. It only lasts a few seconds, but it is fun to see it. This phenomenon was used by Pop artists to produce "vibrating" color contrasts. 

Chlorophyll is present in all green plants. Chlorophyll has anticancer, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties. Green fruits and vegetables are high in lutein and indols which have antioxidant and disease-preventing properties. Green leaves are abundant in carotenoids, bioflavonoids, vitamins and organic mineral complexes. Have a minimum of two or three servings of green leafy vegetables every day.
Artichokes, asparagus, green snap beans, Italian green beans, lima beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, fennel, turnip greens, collards, kale, dandelion greens, mustard greens, lettuce (the darker, the better), leeks, okra, green bell peppers, spinach, chives, zucchini, green apples, avocados, green grapes, kiwi, limes, pears, mung beans, or wheat grass.

(from the website

In next week's blog, I will present more information on Goethe's Color Harmony discoveries as well as Chevreul's work with the Goebelin's tapestry dyers.