Friday, October 30, 2009

Greener pastures

There has been much discussion that the United States risks losing its economic competitiveness because of a work force inadequately trained in science (in case you have not noticed, the Swiss Franc has reached parity with the US Dollar!). For us in research this assertion has always been somewhat puzzling, because the US still has the best universities for science and technology.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Color of Your Galaxy May Vary

From yesterday's Astonomy Picture of the Day comes a striking image from the Galaxy Zoo web site. The image is also of interest because it is only one image of many thousands of images viewed by many thousands of online volunteers. These volunteers among other things, classified the shape of the galaxies for subsequent analysis and research purposes.

Crowdsourcing comes to astronomy research via distributed classification of galactic images.

But note the color of the galaxy you are evaluating may vary.

CGIV'10 Submission Deadline

The Society for Imaging Science and Technology has sent out reminders that the deadline for submissions to the Fifth European Conference on Colour in Graphics, Imaging, and Vision is coming up November 19, 2009.

From the General Chairs Jussi Parkkinen and Timo Jääskeläinen and Program Chairs Theo Gevers and Alain Tremeau comes the call:

The program committee is currently soliciting high-quality submissions from researchers working in a broad range of colour related fields from industry, academia, and national and international standards communities. Conference topics—listed in detail inside this Call— include colour science, computational colour, colour in computer graphics, colour reproduction, colour vision/psychophysics, colour image quality, colour image processing, and multispectral colour science. CGIV2010 will include oral paper presentations, poster sessions, exciting workshops—a new feature (see inside)—and an industry exhibit. As in years past, submissions will be subject to a rigorous peer review. Technical Chairs for each specific area will lead a group of technical experts who will conduct the rigorous review.

The conference will take place June 14-18, 2010 in Joensuu, Finland. The conference will be held in conjunction with MCS’10, the 12th International Symposium on Multispectral Colour Science.

For the full call for papers see: here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dynamic Iridescence and other Colors Aquatic

From the September-backlog pile is an item about dynamic on-off iridescence in the squid loligo opalescens. Apparently the squid's reflectin proteins are modulated by acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. Which is quite remarkable, even without considering the applications to camouflage and perhaps communication.

And then one discovers there are over half a dozen octopus camouflage videos out there on the web.

And like potato chips you can't stop with just one.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Using Neural Measures of Economic Value to Solve the Public Goods Free-Rider Problem

The end of the year is the time for performance reviews in laboratories across the world. The question is always about the metrics. Managers could use measures like the number of ICC profiles created, the lines of code written, or the ∆E precision improvement in the color transformation algorithm.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Please Pass the Chartreuse

In a profoundly scientific discussion about naming colors at HP Labs, the other day, the color name chartreuse came up. Nathan declared he'd never heard of it until he saw it recently used as a response to his ongoing web-based color-naming experiment. I stated that I only knew of it because my mother used that word when referring to a new dress or curtains or something. I told you it was a profound discussion.

Chartreuse probably stuck with me because, from age 12, I became fascinated with organic chemistry in general and, azo dyes, in particular. So, I'm almost sure it went on my list of chemical terms along with malachite green and paranitraniline red.

The Color of Grasped Porcine Liver

From the medical imaging side of color comes the paper "CIELAB and sRGB color values of in vivo normal and grasped porcine liver" by Smita De and co-authors.

The above is actually the in vivo normal porcine liver color.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"The images always look better on the screen than on the page"

By way of follow-up to Neil's earlier post about Hockney's experimenting with inkjet printing is an NYRB article on Hockney's iPhone sketches.

Among other things he says: "the images always look better on the screen than on the page."

So I don't know but it might just be the difference between my screen and my print of his sketches but I'm not sure about always.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Objects Make Better Gifts

This weekend was Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco.

During a webcomics panel at least two of the panelists said one of the reasons they decided to try out publishing a webcomic was to be able to experiment with color in their comics.

Which is to say web color is still cheaper than printed color.

Lawsuits in Suits

In what many regard as a decade-long abuse of the legal system, SCO Group (remember Xenix and UnixWare?) has finally fired CEO Darl McBride. McBride was the man behind SCO lawsuits against multiple corporate Linux users for copyright infringement and demands for hefty licensing fees.

A picture can be worth more than 1000 words

We are all familiar with this phrase. From time to time, scientists come up with pictures that are worth more than myriad words. I recently came across one of these images.

We are all familiar with Minard's graph of Napoleon's ill-fated 1812–1813 Russia campaign:

Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l'Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813

Recently I came across a similarly powerful graphical representation of the ill-fated economic policies of the last half century.

I cannot stop wondering about the capability of the global financial industry. For example, since the beginning of this year, the US stock market index has increased by 50% while the gross domestic product has actually contracted into negative territory. This may be a fluke, but if we average over the larger data pool of the global economy in the past few years, the financial industry has still been able to achieve investment gains of 15% to 20% per annum while the real economy has grown only by 2% to 3%.

Does the financial industry have a perpetuum mobile? Can it defy the second law of thermodynamics? If so, we would be interested. We have a few problems we could cure with a little alchemy, like today's raster imaging processors (RIP) having the carbon footprint of a truck or cloud computing causing global warming even a nuclear winter cannot cool down.

Researchers working in risk management have a lot of data to analyze and explain the phenomenon. They can even predict what will happen in the short term future, but nobody is listening because the data is too dry.

Returning to the topic of pictures worth more than myriad words, I recently came across this graph by Prof. Didier Sornette, which is based on data compiled by Michel Husson. The caption is: The fork between consumption and salaries has continually opened and widened in the last 28 years. The plot shows the contribution of salaries and private consumption to the gross domestic product of USA, EU and Japan.

The fork between consumism and salaries has continually opened and widened in the last 28 years. The plot shows the contribution of salaries and private consumption to the gross domestic product of USA, EU and Japan

If you are interested in the raw data, you can download it from here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How to See Deep Sea Blue: Move a Molecule

Speaking of fish and their vision, research just published in the Oct 13th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports that the Scabbardfish has evolved from UV vision, like most fish that are surface feeders, to seeing blue in deeper water. What is remarkable about this finding is that the change did not occur gradually nor was it performed through a sequence of evolutionary steps. It occurred by the elision of a critical amino acid molecule from the fish's opsin. In other words, a single, simple change at the molecular level altered a phenotype. That's like deleting one byte of a program's code in memory and, rather than crashing, it exhibits a new functionality!

Journal of Vision Call for Papers: Perception of surface color and material properties

The Journal Vision has sent out a call for papers for a special issue on the perception of surface color and material properties. Guest editors David Brainard and Larry Maloney describe the intent of the issue as follows:

"Researchers have devoted much effort to understanding the perception of color and lightness for simple stimulus configurations, often consisting of flat matte surfaces rendered under diffuse illuminations, or simulations thereof. The objects we look at in daily viewing, on the other hand, are rarely flat, matte, or diffusely illuminated. There is now considerable interest in pushing our understanding into the realm of more complex, three-dimensional scenes, spurred in part by advances in computer graphics that allow physically accurate rendering of a variety of materials and thus permit exploration of interactions between object shape and orientation, object material, and illumination geometry. The Journal of Vision plans a Special Issue to bring together papers that describe recent advances in this area."

The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2010. For more details about this special issue see the call for papers: here.

MCSL Post-Doc in Image-Base 3D Modeling of Fine Art

The Munsell Color Science Laboratory of RIT has announced a two year post-doc in the area of image-based 3D modeling of fine art. The principle researchers are Dr Roy Berns and Dr Jim Ferwerda and the project will include extended residencies at MOMA in New York. I may be biased but this sounds like an oustanding research opportunity: 3D spectral capture in NYC with Roy and Jim! The full project description is:

"The Munsell Color Science Laboratory (MCSL) at RIT is seeking an outstanding researcher for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in the area of Image-Based 3D Modeling of Fine Art. The goal of the research is to develop advanced methods for creating rich digital representations of paintings and other cultural heritage objects that can serve as surrogates for archiving, analysis, restoration, reproduction, and scholarship. The fellowship is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of a project entitled “Improving Artwork Reproduction through 3D-Spectral Capture and Computer Graphics Rendering”. Research resources of the MCSL include a light measurement laboratory, a custom imaging goniospectrophotometer, a computer cluster, and calibrated spectral printing, display systems, and visual psychophysics laboratories. In addition to research at the MCSL in Rochester NY, the appointment will include extended residencies at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City."

For more information please refer to the opening announcement: here.

William Schreiber (1925-2009)

I received an email that MIT imaging professor William Schreiber has passed away. His full obituary is available here. I appreciate that it includes some of his Schreiber-isms:

"You get to do one big thing every 10 years in your career;" "HDTV is not about television; it's about jobs;" "MIT engineers should be building bridges;" and "There is no reason to be mean to a student."

Truely an innovator in the field of imaging and color.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Inkjet Printer As a Paint Brush

Modern artist David Hockney, renowned for his portraiture, has been working more recently with computer-based tools like Photoshop and a Wacom tablet to create Inkjet-printed computer drawings on paper.

To Bits and Back Again

When we last heard about complex color, it was to say farewell and bear witness as a pile of papers migrated from desktop to recycling bin.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the recycling bin - there was an excursion. Several excursions.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Leonardo Recognized by His Paw Print

The ghost-like fingerprint in the top left corner of an obscure portrait painting appears to have been confirmed as one of the most extraordinary art discoveries—the first da Vinci in 100 years. This TimesOnline article gives the background and includes a short video.

Listen as Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, explains more about how he imaged the portrait with a specially developed multispectral camera. (WMV audio portion starts @ 00:14:12)

This modern episode is reminiscent of the image recognition of another famous author, through the application of special Swiss optical devices.

Thanks for All the Colorful Fish

This is not goodbye, but hello and thanks to Giordano for the invitation to blog here. Oh! And all his colorful fish.

I'm not sure I'll have a lot to say because:
Don't know much about photography
Don't know much color dictionary
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know what it means to take a look

But I do know what is Planck times Nu
And I know that if you read me too
What a colorful blog this will be
So, with apologies to Sam Cooke, I'll give it the old collage try.

The Color of Fog at Night

I recently finished re-reading The Followship of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien out loud as a day's end story with C. and among other things I'm struck by the use of color in the book.

At one point Gandalf the Grey is recalling a debate with Sauruman of Many Colors:

'I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if they moved, they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.
'"I liked white better," I said.
'"White!" he sneered, "It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light broken."
'"In which case it is no longer white," said I. "And he that breaks a thing to find out what it has left has left the path of wisdom."

Which sounds a lot like partitive color mixing, with a possibility of iridescence and side of epistemology.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Unipolar vs. bipolar SD

Conferences are an opportunity to seek clarifications on facts and methods one does not understand well. For example, in my work I do not scale with semantic differentials, so I never looked into some of its subtleties, like the polarity of the scales.

In her proposal for the new AIC study group on the language of color, Lucia Ronchi wrote that the use of the semantic differential (SD) is necessary to compare the application of language and linguistics in the evaluation of the quality of color planned spaces and the prediction of color planning at the site of design.

In this statistical method for estimating people's reactions to stimulus words, one usually proceeds in three steps:

  1. Rank the factors relevant to an experience
  2. Rank the attributes for the most relevant factor(s)
  3. Combine the attributes with their antonyms to create semantic differential scales

The scales are then used to gather the data from the observers. A semantic differential scale typically looks like this:

This SD is called bipolar because the two extremes are antonyms and the scale is like a line. A unipolar SD is like a half-line or ray starting in this case from good:

where the number indicates the relative strength of the attribute.

I do not know the subtleties of unipolar vs. bipolar SD, but it seems obvious that they cannot be mixed in an experiment. Yet, in papers by Japanese authors, one can easily see them mixed. What is going on?

The AIC conference in Sydney was a good place to find out, because the over 320 delegates came from many different cultures, with the Japanese delegation 40 members strong.

In the Japanese culture, when feelings are be involved, you cannot use a negative attribute. Instead there has to be wiggling room for hesitation, uncertainty, and doubt:

More precisely, in the case of persons and feelings, the 1-dimensional line is not a good model at all. Instead, a Venn diagram is a better representation of socially acceptable discourse:

While there can be a well defined round judgment for a positive term, the antonym has to be broad and fuzzy, so one can hesitate, deflect, and nudge the discourse. The easiest way to accomplish that is to use a unipolar SD.

Hence, if you are estimating an abstract SD, your bipolar scale can extend from good (良い、いい、ii) to bad (悪い、わるい、warui). However, if the SD can pertain to feelings, like for example if you would want to rate this post, you have to use a unipolar scale from good (良い、いい、ii) to non-good (良いない、よくない、yokunai).

My conclusion is, that if you are doing a Western study, you can use bipolar SD, but if you are doing an Eastern study, then for consistency all your SD should be unipolar, so you do not have to worry about feelings.

The difficulty when publishing an Eastern study in a Western language is that to Westerners good and non-good are clear antonyms, while ii and yokunai are not, except they speak Japanese and know about the -nai form. Therefore, it is better to leave out romanizations from papers because they confuse the reader (or the author, as it has happened).

Galilean Nights

The 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescopic observations is rapidly approaching. Next week, on 22-24 October 2009, the International Year of Astronomy 2009 Cornerstone Project Galilean Nights is coordinating local public astonomical observing events to share the wonders of heaven with your community. For more information visit

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pink Ladies

In these difficult economic times, organizing a conference is hard. Most companies have sharply reduced travel and conduct even important business meetings online. Under the circumstances, the organizers of AIC Colour 2009 have done an excellent job. Although many habitués did not attend, the program had a good quality and the invited lectures were truly outstanding.

Monday, October 5, 2009

His "family attempted to throw his photographic collection away"

One of the things about skimming the wikimedia commons: licensing area is the stray photo of Leonard Nimoy.

That and the potential peril's of being a deceased photographer with a legacy awaiting curbside removal.

The Scanner is in the Frame

And why not?

A digital photo frame that scans your photo for immediate display.

The Exemode Yashica DVF828 is a digital picture frame with a built in scanner.

Simply take a picture with your digital camera. Next print the photo on a digital printer. Then scan the printed photograph in for immediate display. Otherwise find your shoebox full of photos and find a good one. Then scan the printed photograph in for immediate display.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Translucent Metallics

On one page is a fluorescent green vellum and on the other is a translucent metallic paper.

Not your typical course notes. But then this was an afternoon class at PINC on paper basics given by Sabine Lenz, founder of PaperSpecs.

Friday, October 2, 2009

AIC Judd Award

Since 1973, when Betty Judd proposed to establish an AIC award in memory of her husband, Deane Brewster Judd, to recognize outstanding work in the field of color science, the AIC has been carrying out the process of selection of the recipients for this award every two years. The selection is an arduous procedure that includes nominations by AIC members and analysis of antecedents of the nominees by a Committee composed of previous recipients of the award.

Arne Valberg receives Judd Medal from Jose Caivano

As chairman of the Judd Award Committee, AIC Vice President Berit Bergström informs that the winner of the AIC Deane B. Judd Award 2009 is Dr. Arne Valberg. She can report that they have received four single nominations and one jointly nomination. All nominees have made outstanding contributions to our understanding of colour. Berit Bergström really hopes that they all will continue working in the international colour community for many years to come. The members of the 2009 Judd Award Committee have been: Paula Alessi, Robert Hunt, John Hutchings, Mitsuo Ikeda, Daniel Lozano, Alan Robertson, Lars Sivik, Gunnar Tonnquist and Pieter Walraven. These nine previous winners of the award and past president gave very careful consideration to the nominations.

Arne Valberg receives Judd Medal from Jose Caivano

Arne Valberg was born on December 31st, 1938. Below is an excerpt from his bio sketch as published by the AIC.

Arne Valberg receives Judd Medal from Jose Caivano

Education and positions

  • Studies at the Univ. of Oslo and Univ. of Basle, CH 1961-1967
  • Graduated as Cand real in Physics, Univ. of Oslo 1967
  • Research associate, Univ. of Basle, CH 1968-1971
  • Dr. philos, Univ of Oslo 1976
  • Ranked 2 for a Professorship in Biophysics, Univ. of Trondheim 1976
  • Research Scientist, Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities, Univ. of Oslo, University of California, San Diego
  • Max Planck Inst., Göttingen and Univ. of Freiburg, BRD 1972-1990
  • Associate Professor, Univ. of Oslo 1990
  • Professor of Biophysics and Vision Science, Univ. of Oslo 1993
  • Professor of Biophysics and Vision Science, NTNU 1991 to present

Major grants and research projects

  • Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities
  • European Science Foundation
  • Max Planck Gesellschaft
  • Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
  • Schweizerische Nationalfonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftliche Forschung
  • Roche Science Foundadtion
  • IBM Norway
  • NSB Norway
  • NATO Grants for Collaborative Research
  • Thonning Owesen's Foundation
  • Blindeforbundet (Norw. Association for the Blind)
  • Thorstein Erbos Fund
  • European Union

From 1968 to 1994

  • Joint research projects in vision (psychophysics and electrophysiology) with groups from:
  • Univ. of Basle, Switzerland (1974).
  • Univ of Freiburg, BRD (1974-1980; B. Breitmeyer and L. Spillmann).
  • Max Planck Inst. for biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, BRD (1981-1990, O.Creutzfeldt and B. Lee).
  • Univ. of California, San Diego, USA (1973).
  • Univ. of Chicago, USA.

From 1994 to present

  • Joint research on Low vision with Tambartun Centre for Low Vision Rehabilitation (with P. Fosse) and Univ. of Oslo (J.H. Wold and T. Seim), Norway.

From 1998 to 2001

  • Interdisciplinary Program at NTNU, ”Information coding and functional organisation of populations of nerve cells” Together with professors E. Moser and H. Mustaparta.

From 2000 to 2004

  • Strategic University Program from Norwegian Research Council, ”Neural mechanisms of sensory functions and memory” (same collaborators as above). Includes one dr. student (I. Rudvin) and one master student (G. E. Nygård).


  • Joint project with Brain Research Unit, University of Freiburg on ”Lateral interactions in vision”. Includes one German dr. student.


  • EU Concerted Action together with research groups from universities of Tübingen, Manchester and Utrecht. Project title: ”Photoreceptor dynamics in age-related macular degeneration”.


  • From Pigment to Perception. Advances in Understanding Visual Processes. Plenum, 1991 (NATO ASI Series)
  • Die Farbe (editorial board)
  • Editor of Proceedings from 3 Scientific Conferences held in Norway
  • Lys Syn Farge, 280 pages (Tapir, 1998)
  • Light Vision Color, 460 pages (Wiley, & Sons, 2005)


  • About 100 full scientific papers
  • About 100 abstracts/short communications/scientific reports/conference contributions
  • 3 books
  • Several popular science articles

Clipboards, Solar Cells & Fluorescence

Colored solar panels have been covered elsewhere, but reading some of the details gives me a new appreciation for my fluorescent clipboard.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Networking in Sydney Harbour

During hard economic times and travel hampered by security concerns, it is tempting to try to keep abreast of one's field reading proceedings instead of attending the conferences themselves. However, you then miss two important opportunities.

The first is getting valuable feedback on your research. There is nothing more efficient than presenting your work in a daring and controversial way, because you incite the audience to challenge it. You might be sitting in your cave for years brooding on your problem, chasing down the solution on a wrong path, but at a conference after a 15 minute presentation you may get tips from those that worked on the problem before, and also invaluable feedback on fallacious thought patterns.

The second is serendipity: you may sit on a lawn in front of the conference venue and somebody might strike a conversation with you on a problem you are secretly starting to work on and give you a key lead.

Scientia Lawn

Serendipity may be a passive recreation as the sign suggests, but concomitantly it can also be very potent. I think this is what the sign's author had in mind.

On a Wednesday evening, when the AIC is in session, Sydney Harbour, or more precisely Darling Harbour, may be a good place to be.

View from Darling Harbour

Carefully camouflaged in a garden restaurant you may find John and Mary McCann, and they will get you up to speed on the latest research on colour appearance for high dynamic range (HDR) imaging.

John and Mary McCann

And while you join them sitting at their table, on the pier in front of you, you may spot Prof. Jinsook Lee, who heads the newly formed AIC Study Group on Colour Naming.

Prof. Jinsook Lee

Thinking of it, boarding that vessel for a tour of the harbour may be a good idea.

In fact, I end up sharing a table with Maud Hårleman, who had presented an interesting paper on Thinking of colour with and without colour words the previous Monday and Anders Nilsson of the Färginstitutet.

Maud Hårleman and Anders Nilsson

Turns out Anders just released two weeks ago a new Web tool called NCS Navigator that allows you to explore NCS with a concomitant 3-dimensional view and a 2-dimensional projection. We had an interesting discussion on the suitability of various programming languages for implementing colour tools.

On my side of the table were Paul Green-Armytage and Harald Arnkil.

Paul Green-Armytage and Harald Arnkil

With Paul I had a long discussion about research on colour naming. For his dissertation he embarked to solve the same colour naming problem Nathan Moroney had, but he took a top-down approach instead of Nathan's bottom-up approach. After years of research, it is invaluable to be able to compare the two research approaches.

With Harald I had a discussion on Nathan's paper research he blogged yesterday. Turns out a colleague of his has worked on it for years and he was able to give me invaluable pointers.

In all, it has been a very productive evening.