The-Visible-Spectrum: The Science of Colour

SURROUNDED BY WAVES

The electromagnetic spectrum

We draw/ represent the radiation that bathes our planet as ‘waves’.  And yes!  It often feels disturbing, knowing that we are continually being bombarded by what we often refer to as radiation. Yet these ‘waves’ are simply energy in different forms which humans have learned to harness in different ways!  If we look at this image of the Electromagnetic-spectrum we can see words, labels,  that will be familiar to you. But just for a while, let’s focus on the tiny part of the spectrum which our eyes and brain can interact with with which we create our beautiful world : THE-VISIBLE-SPECTRUM

The-electromagnetic-spectrum

THE VISIBLE-SPECTRUM

We are so very familiar with this beautiful pattern of colours in the-VISIBLE-SPECTRUM that so often appear in our lives that it’s sometimes hard to believe that these colours are just LIGHT ENERGY which is one form of radiation.

All LIGHT ENERGY IS CARRIED BY VIBRATING PARTICLES CALLED PHOTONS WHICH TRAVEL AS WAVES.  

Our eyes collect the energy from photons created by waves with different wavelengths.  The shorter wavelengths are at the VIOLET end. These are also the highest frequency waves. The longest wavelengths with the lowest frequencies, are at the RED ‘end’.  Mix all these waves together and what do we SEE?  BRIGHT WHITE LIGHT!   The-VISIBLE-SPECTRUM united!

SO how do we see COLOUR?   Rays of ‘white’ sunlight hits all objects in its path!  When it hits an object, the light energy can be ABSORBED or REFLECTED.  It is ONLY the reflected light that we see with our eyes.   

Prism defracting the-visible-spectrum
Reflection of light waves

WHY does the ball look yellow? 

It appears green because every other colour in the spectrum is absorbed by the grass’s cell which contain the pigment called Chlorophyll. But the GREEN wavelengths of light are not absorbed. They are reflected.   

Our eyes contain special cells called CONES which interact with different wavelengths of light.  Cones have three versions of the molecules that react to light energy. They can ONLY pick up RED, GREEN AND YELLOW light wavelengths. 

Like everything in our body, our ability to see colour is controlled by GENES. Each cell has two sets of genes, one set from our mother the other from our father. Sometimes genes don’t do their job and we have a problem seeing colour as most people do. This is called COLOUR BLINDNESS. This has a page all to itself is you are interest to check this out. 

HOW COME WE CAN SEE SO MANY COLOURS?

This is where the magic begins!  The cones send impulses along neurones to the visual centre in the brain. The brain cells receive billions of bits of information per second.  Simplifying the process, these cells take all the inputs from the cones and send it to our PERCEPTION CENTRE. It is from here we are able to translate the information in to our PERCEPTION of the colours we see. It is said that the human brain has the capacity to distinguish between over 7,000,000 different hues and shades of colours.  That is pure MAGIC!

Colour charts

BEYOND THE RAINBOW .... this is where the magic begins

How come colours actually affect our moods, our emotions, and the way our body’s work too? 

How come we feel some colours more deeply that others? 

How come some colours we love and others really trigger us? 

It all about how the LIGHT ENERGY interacts with our OWN energy at any moment in time.  It’s what allows us to USE colours to enhance our lives. Conscious of the colours we wear, the combinations of colours in our homes and work place too. 

How come we find being in nature calming?