Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Can You Paint With All the Colors of the Wind? Because I Can't!

All right, now that my bout with the intestinal plague is over, time to tackle a question. Hit it Movie Tavern Mug.

"What is the best color?"

Really? Well, I haven't exactly had a favorite color for many years, but...


What do you mean that's not what the question is? What else could it be? Unless...

Oh no. Oh Sweet Mother of Pookong no. Please tell me you aren't serious. Do you ACTUALLY want me to some how come up with a reason that one color is superior to all others? Do you KNOW how many angles this could be attacked from?

First off, different colors can have vastly different connotations in different cultures. Let's start with white, simply because I find this one funny. Western cultures, we associate white with brides, purity, good guys, yaaaaaaaaaay! White is awesome! EASTERN cultures, on the other hand, see white as cold, clinical, sterile, and a representation of death. Or take Green. We in the Western world think of growth, plants, and the Irish when we see Green. However, in China, give a man a green hat, and it means you slept with his wife when he wasn't looking. Red has a wide range of meanings all over the world, from a bridal symbol, to a symbol of warning, to an emblem of luck, to passion. In Japan, you may see yellow associated with courage while over hear, it is a symbol of cowardice. So, as you can see, whatever culture you're from has a large impact on how you see different colors, and thus impact how you value them.

We can tackle it from a mix of biology and anthropology. Turns out there's one pigment that's REALLY difficult and energetically expensive to produce in biological systems. As a result of this, anthropologists actually mark the ability of a society to produce an ink or dye of this color as a major cultural milestone. What color is that, you ask? Turns out blue is a bitch to create. Now I know what you're thinking: you probably see bluebirds and blue jays all the time. Well, it turns out they're cheaters. Take one of their feathers. Go on, grab one. I'll wait.

Got it? Okay, now grind it up into powder. It's not blue, is it? It turns out that the blue coloration in most bird feathers that you see is not based on some pigment they produce. Their feathers are actually structured in such a way that the light that hits them is refracted to blue. Think about how light bends when it passes through the atmosphere, and you've got the basic idea.

Of course, if you really want to talk biological systems, nourishment is one of your primary concerns. Most creatures, directly or indirectly, end up getting their nutrients from plants. And as most of us know, plants utilize solar energy to convert water and CO2 into glucose to store as energy. And most of us know that the little biological mechanism they use to absorb that light is chlorophyll. And chlorophyll is green. Ergo, green is the most important, right?

BZZZZT. Wrong. Actually, the fact that we see the chlorophyll as green means that green is the one section of the visible light spectrum that the plant is NOT using; it's simply bouncing off into the photoreceptors in our eyes. In other words, green is utterly useless to a plant. However, it turns out that one part of the visible light spectrum tends to get absorbed a little better than the others: if I'm remembering correctly, somewhere within the wavelengths that tend to be in the "purple" range, we get maximum absorption. So you could make a case for purple being the most important color for plant life.

We can look at mineralogy, but even then things get murky. For a long time there were five stones that were considered precious: Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, and Amethyst. Well, in the past couple decades, huge deposits of amethyst were discovered down in Brazil, so they're sort of out of that arbitrary classification. So that leaves us with Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald: Clear, Red, Blue, and Green, right?

Not so fast Jose. First of all, rubies and sapphires are actually composed of the same mineral (Corundum, so they're aluminum oxide crystals), just with some different elements along for the ride. It's classified as a ruby if the color is red (caused by chromium), and it's classified as a sapphire if the color is...NOT red! That's right, while we commonly think of Sapphires as blue, they can be yellow, pink, orange, purple, or green as well!

Well, at least Emeralds should be nice and simple, right? WRONG! Like rubies and sapphires, they are simply a subtype of a mineral, beryl, which can come in a wide range of colors. At least one of these types is as rare, if not rarer, than your standard green emerald. This version of it? Red beryl, which is only found in a few places in the Southwestern United States.

So what about the King of Precious stones, the Diamond? Well, while we most often think of them as colorless, they can potentially be pretty much any color in the spectrum, and are known for their refractive properties (translation: they make pretty rainbows!).

Hell, we can even go into ridiculously stupid territory. In Pokemon, as most of you are probably aware, the versions ain't exactly created equal: different versions get different monsters. Well, in the Red and Blue versions at least (and possibly by extension the remakes Fire Red and Leaf Green), I'm pretty sure that if you take the base and max statistics of the version exclusive monsters, it turns out that Red has higher stat values. In this case, you could make the statement that, in the battle of colors, Red wins over Blue and Green, at least until someone goes through, does the math, and finds out I'm mistaken (as I am just basing this off the top of my head). Or you can look at it from the angle of the gyms from the first game, since the cities were based on color names. Since Viridian is the final and highest level gym, that makes the best green. Wait. Crap.

You want dumber? We can go even dumber! So, you know about the DC Comics hero the Green Lantern, right? He has a ring, it makes stuff out of green energy, he flies through space, yada yada. And you might be familiar with how the Silver Age Green Lantern's arch enemy, a villain named Sinestro, had a yellow ring, since yellow was, at the time, arbitrarily picked by the writers to be GL's weakness (this is no longer the case). Well, in the most recent storyline, they decided that TWO colors just isn't enough, so we've now got Lanterns in several shades. And what's more, with a few notable exceptions, we're going to make their powers based on emotions! And hey, since there's an even number of colors on each side of Green (ROY G. BIV), let's make it so that each step away from that central green you get, the more your color based power takes control of you (rather than the other way around). And let's try to make them opposites! So, what have we got?

Green-Willpower, an absence of emotion almost

And as if that wasn't enough, we also get Black (as the absence of Light) Lanterns being embodiments of death, and the singular White Lantern (as ALL the colors put together) as the embodiment of life. Yep. I'm not making that up. So, that BIV end of the spectrum seems pretty nice, doesn't it? Well, not in the DC universe: the Violet Lanterns are better known as the Star Sapphires, based on a recurring Green Lantern villain. Yep, turns out you CAN get carried away with love and go just a bit axe crazy.

This is just a small smattering of ways we can tackle this question. Is any one color really any better than the others?

Screw it. Cerulean is best. So says me.

This is J. K. Lantern, signing off for now.

1 comment:

  1. I like that color that shows up when I close my eyes around a light source. blue yellow. Ish.

    Like tomato soup with a bunch of smurfs wearing yellow life preservers in it.