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Computer Screens and Your Eyes

By Shane Staret on 2018-06-14

If you’re anything like me, then you have probably spent about ¼ of your life just sitting in front of some kind of screen. Whether it be a TV, a computer, or a tablet staring at a screen for too long can strain your eyes. And if you continuously are doing it over and over again everyday, then you will be continuously straining your eyes.


But, apparently there are no long term effects on the eyes if you stare at a screen constantly, which is pretty good to know considering I’d probably go blind by 30 if that were the case. But, the effects that screens have on the eyes is not what I want to talk about today. Rather, I want to talk about the illusion of color on computer screens. If you don’t know, each pixel on a computer monitor is actually composed of three smaller components. Each pixel has a light that lights up red, one that lights up green, and one that lights up blue. Since the pixels on a computer screen are so small, it is virtually impossible to actually see these colored lights using the naked eye. You can always use a magnifying glass though. So, now you are probably wondering how you can see a color like white on a computer even though there are only these little red, green, and blue lights.

The reason why we can see any range of colors on computer monitors has to do with the fact that humans’ eyes have three cones in our eyes that can be used to determine the color of an object. These three cones primarily take in red, green, or blue light, so it shouldn’t be a coincidence that we use red, green, and blue lights to compose each pixel. Interestingly, this is why a majority of people with color blindness have issues with reds, greens, and blues.

Our brain loves to play tricks on us and one of the best ways it can do this is through color. We all know that when a red and a blue substance are “mixed” together, then purple is formed. So, when our brain sees a red light extremely close to a blue one, even though they are completely separate, our brain views the color as purple since the lights are so close to each other. This is how other colors can be simulated on a computer screen, as mixing the brightness of the red, green, and blue lights tricks the brain into seeing different colors than what are really there.

This is just one of the many ways that the brain can make us think things that are not completely true. There are a plethora of auditory illusions that people hear and some become very popular, the most recent being the “yanny vs laurel” debate. This is very interesting and a subject called qualia goes into things like this heavily. Through research, we have discovered that some people experience the exact same thing in different ways, as though they aren’t even experiencing the exact same thing, and the concept of qualia tries to explain why this happens and the philosophical consequences of things like this.

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