Purple – Part Three:

As I said in parts 1 & 2, please ignore this, it’s dumb.

Did you know?: There are different infinities? There are bigger ones and smaller ones, countable and uncountable ones and more!? If you think about your positive natural numbers1 you have 1, 2, 3, 4…etc. You can “count” every number to infinity, this is a Countable Infinity2. Think about all the decimals between 0 and 1: 0.1, 0.001, 0.0001…0.2, 0.002…etc. There is no “start” there is no “first decimal after zero,” there is always a smaller number, this is an Uncountable Infinity3.

A laser4 is a device that emits a single wavelength of light. So lasers can generate that “pure color” they can make a light that is 600nm pure-yellow and only 600nm pure-yellow. Theoretically we could create a rainbow using lasers comprised of all of the colors….Roy G. Biv…But what if we want more colors than just the base 7? I might want a little blue-green in my rainbow. We can try to make more lasers to fill in the gaps, but soon we see we are dealing with an uncountable infinity. Given any two colors, no matter how close they are, there is always a color that exists between the two of them.

Light is both a particle and a wave: You have heard that, right? There are multiple ways to understand this, and if you have made it this far, you now have one.

Particle: A piece of light (a photon) such as that a laser emits, or anything because we are talking about one particle, is a single color (and as you now understand, can never be purple) this is the light particle.

Wave: The wavelength of light can be any number in the uncountable infinity between 400nm and 665nm. It could be 400nm, 400.01nm, 400.0000001nm, 432.0001nm, 634.5445644nm, anything. This is the light wave.

When we see light (even when you look at a laser, ambient light and such) we are seeing the combination of the wave and the particle. A vast array of Individual particles that each have a specific color that is somewhere in our visible spectrum. Some are red, some are aquamarine, some are blue-green, some are #AAEEFF.

Do you think any two pieces of light are ever exactly the same? If you were to measure the wavelength of any and all of them out to an infinite amount of decimals, would some of them be the same, or if you keep looking do they all eventually differ?

Why are people so keen to call something purple but not blue-green? Purple is great, it gives me a good idea of what something looks like…But if you are going to give me purple, why not elevate all colors to the same level? Orange? Was it red-orange or yellow-orange. Do we just not have the language? Ok, roarnge and yorange, and you put the emphasis where the color puts it – “ROarnge” is a very redy-orange, “roarNGE” is a very orangy-red. I LOVE colors! Tell me about what you really see!


Part 1: http://www.mattevanoff.com/2024/06/purple-part-one/

Part 3: http://www.mattevanoff.com/2024/06/purple-part-three/

Purple – Part Two

As said before, this is a bunch of BS, please ignore me and move on.

Please Note: I am purposely making generalizations in my statements. I am aware of lasers, actual color output from monitors, and other things, but these inaccuracies do not invalidate my overall message. I assume you are adult enough to understand that absolutes don’t exist, absolutely, and that their existence does not invalidate my point. Understanding those details is left as an exercise for the reader.

Where do things stop being purple? Well, when does red stop being red? If we look back at the spectrum, orange is about 635nm, so everything with a bigger wavelength will be an orangy-red till it becomes a redy-orange. Does purple stop at that? Halfway to that? Right where it becomes more orangy than redy? Would you ever say that is a really orangy-purple? Or an orangy-blue? What about a yellowy-purple? What would that be? Is it always just brown?

I present to you here my brand new True Color Spectrum. (Figure 1) shows my True Color Spectrum, also known as The Purple Spectrum. This image contains two rainbows laid opposite superimposed over each other both with 50% opacity (that’s like “see throughy-ness”.) The top one is on a white background, the bottom on a black. As you can see it is ALL purple, except maybe kinda there near green…Just like I said last time. This is what we really see…sort of.

As you may remember from yer schoolins, your eyes have in them two sets or receptors, rods and cones. Rods are basically black and white, they show you how “bright” something is [lies!], while cones pick up colors. Though our cones let us see the full spectrum of colors, our perception of them is not linear; That is to say you see some colors better than others. Figure 2 shows the “color peaks” most people have, the colors they see the “best.”

As you can see from the graph humans generally have “color peaks” for blue, green, and red. Specifically, the three types have peak wavelengths near 564–580 nm, 534–545 nm, and 420–440 nm. So we actually see Those colors BETTER than other colors.

Figure 3 contains what I am calling the “Normalized Spectrum.” Unfortunately I never learned how to do computer grafix stuff, so it’s shitty, feel free to do a better job and send me it as I would love to see it. The top two bars are the two rainbows overlaid with black/white gradients with peaks around where our eyes do. The middle two are the same but a single rainbow. And the bottom image is just a normal rainbow at full color for comparison. I also left some of the background visible so you could see the gradients on it.

Colors are amazing. When we limit ourselves to seeing a forest as “green” or the sky as “blue” we are overlooking some of the amazing nuances there are to be enjoyed. Being in Asheville has allowed me to experience the seasons evolving the colors in my life in a deeper way. Seeing trees change from brown, to light green to dark to yellow, orange, red, and back to brown, and SO VERY MANY many in between, is magical. I hope you enjoy the colors you experience!

Part 1: http://www.mattevanoff.com/2024/06/purple-part-one/

Part 3: http://www.mattevanoff.com/2024/06/purple-part-three/

Purple: Part One

Don’t worry, this isn’t important. Please ignore me.


I have always found people’s lack of precision when referring to colors frustrating. When we see colors, they are not “pure” colors, they lean one way or the other. That’s not green, it’s blue-green or yellow-green. That’s not orange it’s a red-orange or a yellow-orange. Much of the time though people are happy to just say orange, and will even get annoyed if you imply there is more depth to the color.

What we perceive as color is (basically) EM waves that have a wavelength that is within our visible spectrum. Different wavelengths within that range produce different colors. This spectrum spans from violet at about 400nm through the rainbow to red at about 665nm. If you don’t remember your rainbow it goes: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet…Notice there was no purple? That’s because purple isn’t really single color, it’s both red and blue. “But isn’t green just yellow and blue?” I hear you saying. As it turns out, no, it’s not. Green exists at 550nm. Green exists as a color by itself. At 550nm, the color you see is green and green alone, it is not a yellowy green or a bluey green, it’s only green. Same for all of the rest of colors on the rainbow.

This does not exist for purple, there is no wavelength for purple. Purple is ALWAYS a combination of red and blue. Indigo and violet do not contain red (surprise!) The “perfect” purple would be 50% red and 50% blue, but of course, we all know perfection does not exist, so every purple you see will be at least slightly more blue or more red…Of course the same could be said for all colors.

Since all colors we experience (I know lasers blah blah blah) are at least skewed slightly one way or the other, and we have blue one end of the spectrum and red the other, they all lean to either more blue or more red. Basically around greenish, it splits, anything less than that is more bluey, anything more than that is more redy…And everything we see is going to be a combination of these, sure it’s a yellow bag, but under a microscope there will be specs of different colors throughout, right? It’s not a “perfect” material.

So, everything you see is a combination of colors some more red, some more blue. Everything you will ever see – is purple.

Part 2: http://www.mattevanoff.com/2024/06/purple-part-two/

Part 3: http://www.mattevanoff.com/2024/06/purple-part-three/