Beyond the Rainbow
Infrared and magenta exist beyond the visible rainbow of colors. In this article, a scientist explains how they might be the key to a new generation of x-rays and much more.
First, some introductory information about Infrared and non-spectral colors. (Non-spectral colors are the colors that are not in the visible rainbow)
Everyone has felt the heat from an oven - or even the heat of another human body. Is someone feeling sick? Put your hand on their forehead to see if they're really heating up and running a temperature. That heat is a measurable form of radiation known as infrared. You may also be familiar with infrared photography that creates a picture based on the heat emitted by a tree or any object.
Infra-red is a non-visible "color" that exists outside of the visible colors of the electro-magnetic spectrum. We can feel it , but most of us can't see it. (See infrared on the chart at Color Matters.)
In WWII certain men with extended red-infrared vision were able to discern living green, vegetation from camouflage because photosynthesis is emissive in near infrared.
Furthermore, there is reason to believe cave men had better night vision than we now use and could "see" multi-color infrared as viper snakes do (perhaps because our forehead and tongue have the same sensitivity as pit viper snakes.)
A good example of a non-spectral color is magenta. Look at a rainbow. Do you see it?
Note: Be sure to see ElecroMagnetic Color at this web site. It explains the basic theory behind the science of color.
New Frontiers for Color: Non-spectral Colors
We are six billion people immersed in a color soaked world. One of these people is a color scientist, John J. Stapleton, Pte., who is unweaving the rainbow and presenting new theories about the "how and why" of color and color vision. Furthermore, he has applied these theories to machines that may save lives: a medical x-ray machine to detect breast cancer and a baggage x-ray system that can detect explosives and other harmful substances.
As a departure point, turn the clock back to the 1600's when Sir Isaac Newton passed a thin beam of sunlight through a glass prism. On the opposite wall were the colors red, yellow, green, blue, violet. Newton also investigated the nature of colors. He theorized that colors were "visual vibrations" like notes of music.
In recent years, Dr. Jeremy Nathans of Johns Hopkins has added new information to Newton's sound vibration theory of color and Professor Stapleton has continued to develop these theories. The scientific formula that underlies his work is:
The new dimension, is the depth of hue.
Here's how this theory can be applied today.
- The detection of breast cancer
- The detection of explosives
- Thermal vision for the detection of foes
- Thermal vision for the blind
1. Detection of breast cancer
Our hospitals and doctors still use the primitive (19th century) x-ray machine for the detection of breast cancer. Unfortunately, this method has a high percentage of false misses and false alarms. To understand this - and how it compares to Professor Stapleton's x-ray machine - here's how today's machines work:
An x-ray machine is essentially a camera. It uses x-rays, a high powered form of energy, as its basis. X-rays penetrate many materials to varying degrees. When the x-rays hit the film, they expose it just as light would. Since bone, fat, muscle, tumors and other masses all absorb x-rays at different levels, the image on the film lets you see different (distinct) structures inside the body because of the different levels of exposure on the film.
By comparison. Professor Stapleton's machine can be described as a "multi-color" x-ray machine. Its official name is "Omnispectravision" and it is based on the theory of light pressure =energy densities within depth of hue.
Here's how it works
- The machine sends out multi-spectral lasers. In other words, it emits"non-spectral" colored light such as infrared that is invisible to the human eye. These light waves target an area in the patient's body (such as the breast)
- The interaction with the different energy densities can be seen. Specifically, the energy density of cancerous cells generates different pressures of light that are sent back to the screen. What the doctor or x-ray technician sees is a picture of different colors, and specifically the colors (energy densities=pressures) of cancerous cells as compared to non-cancerous cells. These are the "true" physical colors representing the different energy density generated by the cells - not pseudo colors arbitrarily assigned to the areas, such as the color coding used in traditional x-ray machines today.
Consequently, this multi-colored laser process can reveal more information and more detailed information than the antiquated x-ray machines.
2. Baggage screening and the detection of explosives
Professor Stapleton is applying the same basic principles of multi-colored x-rays to baggage x-ray machines, known as "XHIS" (X-ray Hyperspectral Imaging Spectroscopy).
He explains that baggage x-ray systems have not improved significantly since we designed the image process 30 years ago. Since multi-colored x-rays can reveal more reliable information, we could vastly improve security and save lots of lives if we can enhance existing machines.
3. Thermal Vision -The detection of foes
Professor Stapleton points out that our forehead and tongue have a sensitivity similar to that of pit viper snakes. Pause for a moment and think about the last time you were really sick. Did you check your forehead to see if you were running a temperature? That "fever-heat" is a measurable form of radiation known as infrared.
Professor Stapleton raises the possibility that we might be able "see" the intent of a person around the forehead -"the outpost of the brain." Didn't Russians wear hats to cover their foreheads? Mind reader? Perhaps. It may very well be possible to detect an evil mind using thermal vision of active or passive imagers.
4. Color Vision Thermalization for the Blind
Professor Stapleton also points out another new color frontier- thermal color vision for the blind - may be in the future. As mentioned in the preceding "Thermal Vision" section, our tongues have the same sensitivity as pit viper snakes. "Color tastes" may very well be used for color vision thermalization for the blind or severely vision- impaired.
Recent studies report that by the sense of touch, Braille symbols cross over into visual pathways in the brain. Likewise video signals put on the tongue have recently been traced through the visual cortex. This may provide the key to vision thermalization of color for the vision deprived. In other words, it may be possible for thermal color information on the tongue to work in a similar way.
Professor Stapleon raises another question:
"Could genes be manipulated someday to provide more color perception in UV and IR?" He points out that The Washington Post, NY Times, and NJ Star Ledger reported gene therapy (viruses for vision) gave sight to blind dogs with a form of retinitis piementosa. The cooperation and collaboration evidently was widespread (UPENN, UFlorida, National Eye Institute, Foundation Fighting Blindness et al.) and effective to correct a specific genetic mutation in the "retinal pigment epithelial" gene that affects 150,000 Americans.
In summary, color science is serious business. It may very well be one of the greatest tools we have to detect harmful substances (and evil minds) as well as to create a new world of vision.