I had the most enjoyable discussion with a medical doctor the other day. He was talking about how one of his patients insisted he could associate specific colors with musical notes and this led into a fun exchange on the physics of color: does color have a frequency like sound? are the designation of primary colors red, yellow blue arbitrary and designated by us for convenience? While talking and listening I searched way back in my mind to my college physics classes — I especially loved the sessions on optics and light and was almost certain that color does have frequency. (Doesn’t light have frequency and isn’t color part of light?) But I couldn’t remember all these years later.
So I dig out my physics books, take a look at some science on Wikipedia and YES! color does have a frequency. Short wavelength/high frequency colors are found at the purple end of the spectrum and longer wavelengths/lower frequency colors at the red end of the spectrum. I also read that Sir Issac Newton divided up the color spectrum into seven colors to correspond to the western music scale. TaDa!
But then I’m thinking: haven’t we’ve been marketed to believe that blue is the color of calm, tranquility, lower energy? red the hot, spicy, high energy color? It’s true that the perception of and reaction to color is both cultural and psychological, even physical (frequency!), but I’m quite intrigued to learn, relearn, more about the science of color. And I’m using this subject as an excuse to procrastinate doing my bookkeeping. So I’m on a journey to explore and I’ll share findings with you as I go along. Have a happy, colorful weekend.
- This little light of mine: Changing the color of single photons emitted by quantum dots (eurekalert.org)
- Scientists find a photon ‘translator’ that could revolutionize fiber optics [Madscience] (io9.com)
- Color Blindness Myths and Misunderstandings (joedolson.com)