Friday, June 6, 2008


I just read a beautiful piece of writing, so thought I'd share it with all you people.

"The first challenge in writing about colors is that they don't really exist. Or rather, they do exist, but only because our minds create them as an interpretation of vibrations that are happening around us. Everything in the universe - whether it is classified as 'solid' or 'liquid' or 'gas' or even 'vacuum' - is shimmering and vibrating and constantly changing. But our brains don't find that a very useful way of comprehending the world. So we translate what we experience into concepts like 'objects' and 'smells' and 'sounds' and, of course, 'colours', which are altogether easier for us to understand.

The universe is pulsating with an energy that we call electromagnetic waves. The frequencey range of electromagnetic waves is huge - from radio waves, which can sometimes have .... (Haha, I just realised it is so infinitely long, so i'll just highlight the interesting parts...)

When our eyes see the whole range of visible light together, they read it as 'white'. When some of the wavelengths are missing, they see it as 'coloured'.

So when we see 'red', what we are actually seeing is that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum with a wavelength of about 0.0007 mm in a situation where the other wavelengths are absent. It is our brains (and our language) which inform us it is 'red' ......

These chemical colors appear because they absorb some of the white light and reflect the rest. So the green glass on the book cover is simply absorbing the red and orange wavelengths from the white light around it, and is rejecting the green - so that is what we 'see'. but the big question is why? Why should some substances absorb red light and some absorb blue? And why should others - 'white' ones - not absorb very much light at all?

What is important to remember about 'chemical' colouring is that the light actually does affect the object. When light shines on an object, it actually causes it to rearrange its electrons, in a proces called 'transition'. ...

Imagine a soprano singing a high C and shattering a wineglass, because she catches its natural vibration. Something similar happens with the electrons, if a portion of the light happens to catch their natural vibration. It shoots them to another energy level and that relevant bit of light, that glass-shattering 'note', is used up and absorbed. The rest is reflected out, and our brains read it as 'colour'.

The atoms in a ripe tomato are busy shivering - or dancing or singing - in such a way that when white light light falls on them they absorb most of the blue and yellow light and reject the red.

~ Victoria Finlay

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