All about Magenta

Due to technical difficulties at Life in Color last weeks blog post was lost. But we are back with a great post this week! Thanks for standing by.
Via sodaro,k on Flickr
Everyone has seen magenta, that delightfully pink purple hue, but did you know it’s hiding a juicy scientific secret?  Magenta is what is known as a non-spectral or extra-spectral color. Unlike most colors for example red and blue  that can produced with a prism and are made up of one wavelength of light; magenta requires two wavelengths. As you can see below when you overlap two rainbows magenta appears!
Via Biotele
Here is Liz Elliot of Biotele.com explaining how it works:
[W]hat does the brain do when our eyes detect wavelengths from both ends of the light spectrum at once (i.e. red and violet light)? Generally speaking, it has two options for interpreting the input data:

a) Sum the input responses to produce a colour halfway between red and violet in the spectrum (which would in this case produce green – not a very representative colour of a red and violet mix)
b) Invent a new colour halfway between red and violet
Magenta is the evidence that the brain takes option b – it has apparently constructed a colour to bridge the gap between red and violet, because such a colour does not exist in the light spectrum. Magenta has no wavelength attributed to it, unlike all the other spectrum colours.

 But it turns out that magenta isn’t the only color we see from mixed wavelengths. Chris Foresman  at Ars Technica’s Nobel Intent blog, explains.

If you look at a standard CIE chromaticity diagram, which maps wavelengths of light according to human perception, you’ll note that every point along the curve corresponds to a single wavelength of light. Magenta, as it were, lies along what’s commonly called the “pink-purple line” that runs across the bottom. All colors along this line do not exist as single wavelengths. But, all points inside the “color bag” above that line do not exist as single wavelengths, either.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Magenta’s special status may even have medical applications.  On the Color Matters site  the  New Frontiers of Science section mentions “Color scientist, John J. Stapleton, Pte., … is unweaving the rainbow and presenting new theories about the “how and why” of color and color vision. Furthermore, he has applied these theories to machines that may save lives: a medical x-ray machine to detect breast cancer.”

With such interesting physics hiding just under the surface of everyday colors the new frontiers of color science are indeed luminous.

– Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
– Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Outlook Enhanced by Science

Colour Studio works on projects approaching color in a scientific manner. Check out this infographic we put together to demonstrate our belief that “the right color choice always has a reason behind it.”

Designed by Naomi Kuhmann