Monthly Archives: June 2010

colour blind to traffic lights

Colour blindness afflicts about 1 in 12 men in the world. Women are far less affected because they have two X chromosomes. Men only have one X chromosome and therefore there is no backup if the gene for good colour vision is damaged or changed. Of course, colour blindness is a misnomer. Very few people indeed are really colour blind and the term colour defective is scientifically more correct. So-called colour blind people have trouble discriminating between colours that the rest of us see as different. Most commonly the difficult is in telling reds and greens apart which is where the term red-green colour blind derives from. Though people need to be able to pass colour-vision test before they can be employed in certain professions (such as being an aeroplane pilot) where colour decisions are critical, everyone is allowed to drive a car. Even though traffic lights are red and green!!

The argument for allowing colour blind people to drive has always been, I think, that drivers quickly learn the positions of lights. Red, is on top, amber in the middle and green on the bottom. However, is that red-amber-green order used everywhere in the world. It is used in the UK where I live. But elsewhere?

Whether to do with the order of the lights or not, several studies have shown that colour blindness is a risk factor in driving. Hence the development of the UniSignal (Universal Signal Light). Developed in South Korea the UniSignal uses different shapes for different colours so that drivers can recognise which light is on whatever the order in the particular city in which they find themselves.

Kandinsky would approve!

The Wizard of Oz

This week I had to mark about 50 essays that had been submitted for the Colour: Art and Science module I teach at the University of Leeds. One essay looks rather like another after the first 10 or so. So it was a delight to discover that one student had decided to focus on a movie – The Wizard of Oz – and demonstrate her understanding of colour by analysing this classic movie.

It reminded me of a story my mother told me. When she went to see the Wizard of Oz in the cinema (she would have been about 8 at the time) she had never seen a colour movie before. She was so much looking forward to this new-fangled and exciting technology. It’s hard to imagine how exciting that would have been – if every movie you had ever seen had been in black and white!!

Well, imagine her disappointment when the movie started and the movie was black and white after all. For those who don’t know, the movie starts off in black and white (in the Kansas scenes) and only turns coloured when Dorothy is whisked off by the tornado and dropped off in the land of Oz. It must have been a wonderful moment when the screen just turned full colour!!

chess app for iPhone

Though this is a blog about colour I can’t help but take this opportunity to announce that I recently had my first app for the iPhone accepted by Apple on the appstore – no mean feat I can assure you – and it is now available for download.

It’s a chess app called ChessTutor Lite. Most chess apps allow you to play the computer or even play your friends. Mine doesn’t allow either of those things. Booooooo! However, it does something equally exciting in my opinion – it allows you to step through a grandmaster game and predict the moves at each step. For each move you make you get a score (100% if you make the move made by the grandmaster – or as good as – right down to 0% if you make a game that results in a catastrophic defeat!!). You also get a natural language comment about why the move you made is good or bad. Huzzzzaahahah. So it allows you to assess how good your chess is and learn how to play better. It’s pretty unique I think. And it’s completely free.

Here’s a screen shot from the app so you can at least admire my use of complementary colour harmony in the design!!

You can find out further details about here – – or just put chesstutor into the search box an your iphone apps page.