14
Mar
12

Optics, motherfucker: Do you speak it?

Aw jeez, not this shit again:

Okay, look: If you expect every single colour you see to be a pure spectral colour — that is, representable by a single wavelength of light — then you won’t be able to find pink.  You won’t be able to find white, either, or anything even remotely desaturated.  And unless you can find a perfect spectral reflector, which you can’t because they don’t exist, you won’t be able to find anything else.

Here’s how it works: Some light source emits a bunch of light, in a bunch of different wavelengths (all at once!  Oh my god you can add sine functions!) which go zooming around space.  Eventually they hit something, like a dust particle or a pink polo shirt with a popped collar, and bounce off in a different direction.  But!  Whatever they hit absorbs a certain amount of the energy in the light rays, and the reflected light has less energy and therefore different wavelengths.  This process continues until the light hits a photoreceptor in the back of your eyeball and gets turned into a “colour” sensation by your visual cortex.

None of the colours you see are utterly pure spectral phenomena unless you’re in a perfect vacuum and have photoreceptors outside your eyeballs, which you aren’t and don’t.  Get used to it.

“There’s no pink wavelength, so pink doesn’t exist” has now joined “You need to burn 3500 kcal to lose a pound of fat” and “Increasing aggregate demand will fix a recession” in the list of vast oversimplifications that mendacious idiots* parrot to gird themselves in the trappings of erudition.  Fucking stop.

——

* Hi Paul!

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8 Responses to “Optics, motherfucker: Do you speak it?”


  1. 1 kbiel
    March 14, 2012 at 15:34

    How do you roll up a continuum into a wheel? Where does UV and IR (and x-ray and gamma &al.) go on his brain damaged wheel? Ooh look I just made up an imaginary color!

  2. March 14, 2012 at 20:45

    Krugman should stick to things he actually understands, like economics.

    Oh, wait…..

  3. March 15, 2012 at 06:33

    The Eskimos have seventy words for pink.


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