CLOSE
Original image

English Doesn’t Have a Word for This Color, but Japanese Does

Original image

In English, we might call the color above “sky blue,” or perhaps just “light blue.” But in Japanese, it’s not blue at all. It’s its own color: mizu. It's perceived as a unique hue, as GOOD reports, much like we think of red and purple being unique.

Japanese researchers in Tokyo and Kyoto, and Ohio State University researchers in Columbus asked 57 native Japanese speakers to look at color cards and name the colors they saw in order to get a better idea of how many distinct, base colors the Japanese language recognizes. As they write in the Journal of Vision, they found 16 distinct color categories.

The 11 main, base colors named by most participants were equivalent to colors found in the English language: black, white, gray, red, yellow, green, blue, pink, orange, brown, and purple. Others were unique to Japanese, seen as distinct colors in their own right: mizu (meaning “water,” a light blue), hada (meaning “skin tone,” a peach), kon (meaning “indigo,” a dark blue), matcha (a yellow-green named for green tea), enji (maroon), oudo (meaning “sand or mud,” a color we’d call mustard), yamabuki (gold, named after a flower), and cream.

The color terms gathered through the study. The taller the column, the more subjects described the color using that word. (All the colors were named by at least four participants.) Image Credit: Kuriki et. al, Journal of Vision (2017)

 
Mizu, in particular, stood out as a distinct color. While not everyone in the study identified dark blue as kon, mizu was almost universally recognized by the interview subjects. Because of this, the researchers suggest that it be recognized as its own 12th color category in the Japanese lexicon, added to the language's standard color categories of red, blue, green, etc. (the ones that English speakers would find familiar).

The existence of these colors doesn't necessarily mean Japanese is more sensitive to color differences overall compared to other languages—it doesn’t have names for some colors we can identify in English, such as magenta or lime.

“The study of color naming is fundamentally the study of how words come to be associated with things—all things that exist, from teacups to love,” Ohio State optometrist Angela Brown explains in a press release. “The visual system can discern millions of colors,” she says, “but people only describe a limited number of them, and that varies depending on their community and the variety of colors that enter into their daily lives.”

[h/t GOOD]

Original image
Thomas Quine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
arrow
Weird
Take a Peek Inside One of Berlin's Strangest Museums
Original image
Thomas Quine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Vlad Korneev is a man with an obsession. He's spent years collecting technical and industrial objects from the last century—think iron lungs, World War II gas masks, 1930s fans, and vintage medical prostheses. At his Designpanoptikum in Berlin, which bills itself (accurately) as a "surreal museum of industrial objects," Korneev arranges his collection in fascinating, if disturbing, assemblages. (Atlas Obscura warns that it's "half design museum, half horror house of imagination.") Recently, the Midnight Archive caught up with Vlad for a special tour and some insight into the question visitors inevitably ask—"but what is it, really?" You can watch the full video below.

Original image
Courtesy of Nikon
arrow
science
Microscopic Videos Provide a Rare Close-Up Glimpse of the Natural World
Original image
Courtesy of Nikon

Nature’s wonders aren’t always visible to the naked eye. To celebrate the miniature realm, Nikon’s Small World in Motion digital video competition awards prizes to the most stunning microscopic moving images, as filmed and submitted by photographers and scientists. The winners of the seventh annual competition were just announced on September 21—and you can check out the top submissions below.

FIRST PRIZE

Daniel von Wangenheim, a biologist at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, took first place with a time-lapse video of thale cress root growth. For the uninitiated, thale cress—known to scientists as Arabidopsis thalianais a small flowering plant, considered by many to be a weed. Plant and genetics researchers like thale cress because of its fast growth cycle, abundant seed production, ability to pollinate itself, and wild genes, which haven’t been subjected to breeding and artificial selection.

Von Wangenheim’s footage condenses 17 hours of root tip growth into just 10 seconds. Magnified with a confocal microscope, the root appears neon green and pink—but von Wangenheim’s work shouldn’t be appreciated only for its aesthetics, he explains in a Nikon news release.

"Once we have a better understanding of the behavior of plant roots and its underlying mechanisms, we can help them grow deeper into the soil to reach water, or defy gravity in upper areas of the soil to adjust their root branching angle to areas with richer nutrients," said von Wangenheim, who studies how plants perceive and respond to gravity. "One step further, this could finally help to successfully grow plants under microgravity conditions in outer space—to provide food for astronauts in long-lasting missions."

SECOND PRIZE

Second place went to Tsutomu Tomita and Shun Miyazaki, both seasoned micro-photographers. They used a stereomicroscope to create a time-lapse video of a sweating fingertip, resulting in footage that’s both mesmerizing and gross.

To prompt the scene, "Tomita created tension amongst the subjects by showing them a video of daredevils climbing to the top of a skyscraper," according to Nikon. "Sweating is a common part of daily life, but being able to see it at a microscopic level is equal parts enlightening and cringe-worthy."

THIRD PRIZE

Third prize was awarded to Satoshi Nishimura, a professor from Japan’s Jichi Medical University who’s also a photography hobbyist. He filmed leukocyte accumulations and platelet aggregations in injured mouse cells. The rainbow-hued video "provides a rare look at how the body reacts to a puncture wound and begins the healing process by creating a blood clot," Nikon said.

To view the complete list of winners, visit Nikon’s website.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios