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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Color Blindness



Being Color Blind
In an episode of The X-Files, special agents Scully and Mulder investigate a device that seems to alter television signals. The people, including agent Scully, who are exposed to these signals, seem to be exhibiting dangerous behavior. However, it seems that agent Mulder, who was also exposed to the signals, is not in the least bit affected. The agents later find out that the device is sending subliminal messages that appear and disappear so quickly that no one detects them. These messages are what make the exposed parties act the way they do. The reason agent Mulder is not affected is that the messages are in green and red, and Mulder is red-green color blind.
Color blindness is when a person cannot see certain colors the way they are supposed to be seen. People have special color-sensing nerves in their retina called cones. There are three types of cones: red-green, yellow-blue, and black-white. If a type of cone is defective, say the red-green cone, a person will either not be able to tell red from green, or will not see the two colors the way they should be seen.
About 7 percent of the United States’ male population is red-green color blind. This is the most common type of color blindness. However, it only affects .4 percent of the United States’ female population. This is because color blindness is carried on the X-chromosome. Females have two X-chromosomes, and usually a normal gene in one X-chromosome can make up for a defective gene in the other chromosome. Males only have one X-chromosome, so they have no such protection.  
Here is an example. the c stands for color blindness. On the top is the mother, XX, and on the side is the father, XY. The squares indicate the offspring.
 
 The most severe case of color blindness is achromatopsia. This is complete color blindness; when a person can only see things in shades of gray. When people think of color blindness, they generally think of achromatopsia. However, this case is very rare.
Although I am not color blind, I am nearsighted. I know how inconvenient that can be. I can only imagine how much worse it is for those who cannot even distinguish one color from the next. I don’t know how some people cope with it. I know an elderly lady who has achromatopsia. I can only wonder how she can stay happy with no bright colors to surround her. She loves to talk about flowers, and I catch myself wondering how she can love flowers if she can’e even tell what colors they are. I asked her once and she replied that she like the feel of them and she loves how they are shaped. She also mentioned that she had no idea what colors looked like, and if she didn’t know, how could she be sad without them? I guess sometimes what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

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