Adding new colors to the rainbow


Recently, some movie theaters have installed digital projection systems that produce clearer pictures and richer hues.  But, Daedalus is poised to revolutionize movie watching once again.  His next-generation movie projectors will produce colors so vibrant that they have never before been seen by human eyes (except perhaps in dreams or hallucinations).

Daedalus recalls that color vision is based on the response of three different types of cone cells in the retina, each of which respond optimally to a different part of the visible spectrum (red, green, and blue).  The frequency ranges of the cones overlap significantly, so that, for instance, a green laser at the peak response frequency of the green cones will also excite the red and blue cones.  In fact, the response of the red cones at this frequency is only 10% less than their maximum response!  Daedalus proposes that if you could excite the green cones by themselves, you would see a stunning green with unprecedented richness.  Deadalus has even coined a word for these dazzling hi-tech colors: Supra-neon®.

How can we excite only a single cone type?  Daedalus has read about commercially available devices that use low-power lasers to directly project an image onto the retina.  Such a setup allows a surgeon or fighter pilot to see crucial information without turning away from her field of vision.  DREADCO scientists are modifying these devices to excite individual cone types separately.  They are designing a mask to place in front of the lasers that will direct their light to only the appropriate cone type, just as the mask inside a color television ensures that each of the three electron beams only reaches the correct color phosphor.

Modern television screens, color printers, color film -- none of these can faithfully reproduce the entire spectrum of colors.  DREADCO's new technology, which can display the full visible spectrum (and more!), will rapidly take over all digital image and movie applications.  Sci-fi and artsy movies will incorporate eerie effects using Supra-neon® colors that are literally out-of-this-world.  High tech glasses will extend our senses by using the expanded color palette to display information on radiation outside the visible range.

F. Edward Boas
(The Daedalus character is borrowed from David Jones' weekly Nature column)

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