Sunday, November 24, 2013

In Living Color

Color will catch most everyone's eye from time to time.  It can't be helped as our eyes are designed to perceive the spectral wonders of the natural world.  It is one of those phenomenon that is so common most of us hardly give it any thought --

-- unless, of course, you are an artist, gardener or chromatographer.

The sun emits an amazing  range of energy in the form of particles or waves (wave/particle duality will have to wait for an upcoming blog).  The colors we see in nature are a tiny part of that energy called visible light; science refers to the whole affair as the em (electromagnetic) spectrum.

One em wave can span galaxies or be so short that a million times a million waves could fit in a spoon. To us humans, color is a ridiculously tiny part of that range with wavelengths from 390 (violet) to 700 millionth of a meter (red).   That range just so happens to be the frequencies of light most emitted from our sun.  (Can you guess what color shines most from the sun?  Hint, think of photosynthesis and the amazing adaptive powers of nature.)

What would the world look like if our eyes could see beyond that limited range?  To have an idea check out false color images from satellites or put on a pair of infrared goggles.

We see colors because it serves us to do so.  We are hunters and gatherers by trade, been doing it for millions of years. The retinas in our eyes are filled with cone cells sensors, and adaption that has allowed us to thrive as a species.   Our physiology only partially explains the way we perceive colors, however.  We find a sunrise beautiful and, from an evolutionary perspective, its hard to explain why that is so.

Aside from picking the right color berries to survive in the wild and the aesthetic considerations of our artistic selves, colors extend into our lives in so many other ways.  They are a part of our consciousness and our very nature as we ourselves are nothing more than living color.  The notion that we are beings of light may sound like a New Age mantra, but it is substantiated by science (for more on that look for an upcoming post on  It is simply a matter of perspective.

In the meanwhile take the time to enjoy the wonders of color. See more images on my pinterest or look out your window.