Measured Against Reality

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Giving mice better color vision

It's finals week here, so I haven't had much time for blogging, but I will mention a really cool study that involved giving mice a human photoreceptor gene, then testing to see if they could actually see in all the colors as humans (mice normally only have two color receptors, humans have three). Scientific American's popular-level explanation is here, and the full paper from Science is here (subscription required). It's quite a cool experiment.

It got me thinking, birds have four color receptors, meaning that they can see in colors we can't even fathom (the article I read this in compared it to having a 3D color map instead of 2D like ours). Could we engineer humans to see color like birds? Or some insects see into the ultraviolet (and some other animals into the infrared), so could we potentially expand our vision into those fields? It's probably unethical, at least right now, but it's a cool possibility.

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  • Birds have four colour recptors? What does that enable them with? Can they see infra-red and ultra-violet spectrum? Is that what it means?

    By Anonymous Priya, at 1:42 AM, March 23, 2007  

  • I'm not exactly sure what it means, actually. To the best of my recollection, the Scientific American article I read on it said that it gave them a 3-D color spectrum rather than our 2-D one (similar to the way that the number of colors the mice could see jumped exponentially).

    If you're having a hard time imagining what that would be like, it's because it is genuinely hard. Our brains can't really comprehend it, at least until we see in that many colors too.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 10:09 AM, March 23, 2007  

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