Color Scope

An exploration of color with Dr. James Fox

watch episode 2 'Red'
Read on for more about red

Colorscope explores our perception of color and its use across cultures. Each month we examine a new color and release a new animation.

Colorscope is written and narrated by Dr. James Fox and produced by Sarah-Grace Mankarious. Episode 2 ‘Red’ was directed and animated by Abel Reverter.

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5 facts about red


Cochineal is a red pigment that comes from the dried bodies of insects.

Cochineal is dye made from drying and crushing tiny little female cochineal insects that live on the Prickly Pear cactus. They produce a pigment that was so highly valued in past that the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma demanded it as part of his tributes and prices of cochineal were regularly quoted on the London Commodity Exchange.

Source: Latin American Economic Development by J. A. Reyes, W. C. Sawyer.

Related article: Life's miracle substance


Cats can't see the color red.

Nor can dogs. In fact most mammals have only two types of color receptors - cone cells - which results in red-green color blindness. So cats and dogs can’t differentiate between reds and greens.


Many of our earliest artworks were made from red pigments.

The oldest known artworks have been found in caves from Piaui, Brazil to Altamira, Spain and date back to 35,000 years BC. Naturally the paintings are made from minerals that are found in the immediate area, minerals such as haematite and bauxite which are red.

Source: Royal Society of Chemistry


Many creation myths claim that the first humans were made from red earth.

Throughout time and across continents creation myths have claimed that man has been made from clay, dust, mud or earth. From the 'Sky Chief' of the Salishan Indian tradition to Efe the Congolese creator, they vary in their beginnings. One poignant myth is when the Sumerian gods were at a banquet and in their drunken states decided they needed beings to serve them, so each god made an attempt but it was only Enki who did so successfully, out of clay.

Source: Creation Myths of the World by David Adams Leeming


The color red has a powerful effect on our brains.

A series of experiments found that people - both male and female- were rated as more attractive and sexually desirable when viewed within a red picture border or in red clothing. Also people wearing red in competitions like Tae Kwon Do and boxing are more likely to win.

Source: Annual Review of Psychology

More from this series

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About our narrator

Dr. James Fox is an academic and BAFTA-nominated broadcaster. He is a Fellow of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, where he teaches History of Art. He has been obsessed with color since he was a boy, and is currently writing a book called The Meaning of Colour. Follow him on Twitter @doctorjamesfox.

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