Thursday, January 12, 2012

Curiosities of the Color Wheel

Reading about Goethe's experimentations with the origins of light and color this week got me interested about other curiosities of the color wheel. In my journey though many an internet page led me to find a very interesting phenomenon about the color magenta. While this color may seem just as uninteresting as the rest of them, there are actually some very interesting aspects to magenta. To understand what is so interesting about magenta, one must first understand the basic properties of the visible light spectrum. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that the visible light spectrum is made up of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Now you may be thinking, "Wait Joey, how could there possibly be a color wheel? Wouldn't violet and red have to be connected somehow?" If these were your thoughts then you are indeed correct! It turns out that our brains have invented this color so that it can "bridge the gap" between red and violet on the light spectrum. When our brains interpret color, they detect the wavelength of light emitted or reflected from an object. When we detect light of multiple wavelengths our brains produce compounds of these colors (e.g. yellow light + red light = orange light.) Your brain does this by averaging the two wavelengths of light that the eye receives. The one case where your brain fails at this is with the case of adding red light to violet light. The average of these two wavelengths would be green (that seems wrong doesn't it?) Instead of producing green, your brain invents this new color magenta! Isn't that interesting? I'm sure that if you have read this you will never look at the color magenta the same way ever again!

-Joey Gurrentz

1 comment:

  1. Considering that I never liked the color magenta, I know find the color more interesting after reading your post. Thanks Joey! Just as we were speaking of the color pink not being a real color in our class last Friday, it is true that any shade of pink (i.e. such as magenta) is something our brain interprets as multiple wavelengths and not just a single one. The website you gave us said that pink is the only color that does not exist as a single wavelength. It would be interesting to do more experiments to test this, experiments such as those performed by Goethe.