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Color Vision: Why Isn't Purple in the Rainbow

Wednesday Evening Color Salons

The Wednesday Evening Color Salons are a public speaker series presented as part of The New Color, a course taught by Luanne Stovall, artist and color theorist. Each salon will pair a guest speaker with a color-focused topic. On Feb. 13, the salon series welcomes Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist, Xaq Pitkow

Neuroscientist Xaq Pitkow will take you on an informal tour through our visual system, showing how our eyes change light into color. Out there in the world, what we know as color doesn’t exist. Instead, color is created by our eyes in two amazing steps. Xaq explains the neuroscience behind this magic in a way that is geared toward artists and other non-scientists, illustrating the concepts with lots of pictures, metaphors, and optical illusions. At the end of the talk, you’ll understand why primary colors come in threes, why some pairs of colors are complementary, and why rainbows don’t have purple.

Print out your own poster for the Wednesday Evening Color Salons, using our PDF.  


Xaq Pitkow is a theoretical neuroscientist who aims to understand the principles that account for what the brain computes and why it computes this way. He received a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University and completed postdoctoral research at the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at Columbia University and in the Department of Brain Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester. Currently, Pitkow is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in the Department of Neuroscience and at Rice University in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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