Some people have a genetic condition that allows them to see nearly 100 million colors.
Source: Original photo by deimagine/ iStock
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Some people have a genetic condition that allows them to see nearly 100 million colors.

Researchers estimate that some 300 million people around the world are colorblind, most of them male. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those with an exceedingly rare genetic condition that allows them to see nearly 100 million colors — or 100 times as many as the rest of us. It’s called tetrachromacy, or “super vision,” and it’s the result of having four types of cone cells in the retina rather than the usual three. (Cones help our eyes detect light and are key to color vision.) Because of the way the condition is passed down via the X chromosome, the mutation occurs exclusively in women.

The color orange is named after the fruit.
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Incorrect.
It's a Fact
The pulpy citrus has had its English name since the 1300s, when we adapted the Old French word orenge, whereas the color was usually called “ġeolurēad” (“yellow-red”) in Old English. It wasn't until the 1500s that people began using the same word for both.

One tetrachromat describes her ability this way: “If you and I look at a leaf, I may see magenta running around the outside of the leaf or turquoise in certain parts where you would just see dark green. Where the light is making shadows on the walls, I’m seeing violets and lavenders and turquoise. You’re just seeing gray.” In short, tetrachromats see colors within colors, and even the tiniest change in the color balance of a particular hue will be apparent to them. It's estimated that 12% of women have a fourth retina cone, but only a fraction of them experience tetrachromacy. In total, only about 1% of humans have the condition. The rest of us will just have to close our eyes and imagine what it’s like

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Numbers Don’t Lie
Current number of Crayola colors
120
Americans who wear glasses
164 million
Percentage of women whose favorite color is purple
23
Different colors on the world’s national flags
63
The world’s most common favorite color, according to a global survey, is _______.
The world’s most common favorite color, according to a global survey, is blue.
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Think Twice
There are three types of heterochromia iridis, or different-colored eyes.

Complete heterochromia is when a person’s irises are each a different color — one blue and one green, for instance. Central heterochromia is when there’s an inner ring of color in the iris that’s different from the outer ring (usually in both eyes); the famous 1985 photo of “Afghan Girl” Sharbat Gula in National Geographic is likely an example. Segmental heterochromia is when a single iris has different colors in different parts, often as a patch or a triangle. Most of the time heterochromia is a mere genetic quirk that doesn’t affect a person’s vision in the slightest. Some people are born with it, while others develop it later in life.

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