Blue is the Color of…

Last week I planned to write a sort of different type of post for Endangered Thursday. It sort of had to do with nature in a sense but I thought it was really cool and since I’m thinking of changing Endangered Thursdays to Endangered Mondays, we’ll see how this works out.

If you listen to NPR regularly, Saturdays they usually play podcasts; TED Talks and Radio Lab. They’re quite educational and cover a wide variety of topics. My husband is Next Day Air UPS driver on Saturdays and he happened to tune in to the RadioLab podcast that day and came home quite excited to tell me about it.

The premise of this show was a researcher who was obsessed with Homer and his works. He’d read these books back to back to back and one day had a bit of an epiphany. When describing things in nature such as dirt and trees and the like, naturally one would use adjectives of course but main descriptors such as color. What he realized is that the color blue was never named in any of the works. For example, the sea was described as “wine red”. He took his research even further to see if it was in other ancient texts. In the original Hebrew translation of the Bible, blue was never named. Then he looked in Hindu texts, Chinese texts even, and no blue. It wasn’t until he came across some Egpytian texts that the color blue was actually named.

You listen to this and you have to ask yourself, how did these ancients not know the color blue? All you had to do was look at the sky or the ocean and, boom blue right? Well scientists saw this as anamoly and assumed ancient peoples were color blind. But that wouldn’t make sense either because they were able to see reds, browns, yellows and even greens. Digging a littler deeper, scientists began to realize that blue very, super rarely occurs naturally in nature. What these ancient peoples’ were essentially doing was basing colors off tangible things. For example, the dirt was red or oxen were brown, tree leaves are green, etc. And if you were to grind these things up, that is the color it would be. Blue was not something that could be touched. Granted you can touch the water but when you scoop it up in your hands its not blue, its clear and you can’t touch the sky.

I was so intrigued by this that I went on a Googling spree because I feel like I’ve seen plenty of blue things in nature. Well there’s a video of a professor who talks about the blue morpho butterfly and even blue jays. To the human eye, these animals are naturally blue.. except they’re not a true blue pigment. If you flip a blue jay feather over, its brown underneathe. And even with the blue morpho butterfly wings, he did an experiment where he poured alcohol on the wings and the wings turned a greyish brown color. He even tested to see if he could get a blue pigment powder by crushing the wings but the powder came out brown. I even thought about how you crush blueberries which are clearly blue to me but they end up having a purplish black tinge when crushed, not blue.

It all came down to the molecular structure of these things. I don’t have an expert way of explaining this but basically the cellular structure of things that are blue are able to reflect the smaller wavelength of blue waves in comparison to other color wavelengths that get absorbed. Even people with blue eyes don’t have naturally blue eyes. It’s been about reflection this whole time!

How cool is that right? Just blows the mind.

I hope you all enjoyed this different type of educational segment. Please let me know in the comments below if you would like to see more posts like this included with the endangered posts.

19 thoughts on “Blue is the Color of…

  1. Really great post- this comes up quite a bit in classical art as a subject, because if you look at a lot of Roman paintings for instance (such as in Pompeii), they’re mostly red and yellow. People mistook those for “the colours of Rome”, but of course there are some paintings in blue- it’s just that those are the wealthier people, thanks to the rarity of blue in nature. I love how you explained how butterflies and blue jays are not really blue! Very educational!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I never even thought of looking at the paintings but that’s so true! And yeah, I think a lot of the blue pigment in Rome somehow came over from the Egyptians because they were able to crush and create the color that was so rare before. I’m glad you enjoyed this post! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As I read this I kept trying to think of something blue in nature and it came to me. Lapis lazuli! It’s one of my favorite gemstones and blue as blue can be. theorangutanlibrarian was no doubt talking about lapis when referring to the rarity of blue pigment in the art world. Keep these kinds of posts coming when you trip across something like this. Thanks to Zel for relaying the info for you to research!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is true! Lapis Lazuli is a beautiful stone! I’m sure only the rich could afford the lapis lazuli. I remember seeing a museum in Florence completely dedicated to the stone. It was amazing. I’m glad you enjoyed this post and I will keep them coming with such an overwhelming response from you and others! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

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