We live in a day and age of interesting contrasts. We are surrounded by incredibly high technology, yet most do not comprehend how it functions. You are reading this on a screen that accurately reproduces light and color in a way that can be nearly photorealistic, so clearly we as a civilization understand the principles of light and color, right? Well, "we" absolutely do have a working knowledge and faith in our measurements, but how clear is our foundational understanding? What process is at the very heart of our perception of color?
Still to this day, theories and debates regarding the base nature of light and color abound. It is a tale as old as time. Color theories existed in all cultures as it is a prime metaphysical and scientific question at the heart of the human experience. Many luminaries have provided inspiring explanations that would guide all thoughts on the subject to follow. Isaac Newton had his, Goethe had his, Walter Russell had his... (somehow James Clerk Maxwell is often overlooked for his brilliant color theory) the list goes on. Who was right? Has anyone provided a physically consistent, logically sound, scientifically correspondent answer to the question “what is light?” “What is the base cause of its colors?”
In approaching this question, I will look for validation on several different levels. First off, how does light behave with a prism and through all manner of optics? What are the measured values of the various colors within the electromagnetic spectrum? How does color and the process of refraction correspond to the axioms of harmonic ratio and music theory? How does light and refraction correspond to the principles of magnetism and the energy fields?
Lights Optical Behavior with the Prism:
Prism- a piece of polished transparent glass with an angle between at least two surfaces.
Refraction- the fact or phenomenon of light, radio waves, etc., being deflected in passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another, or through a medium of varying density.
Spectrum- an array of entities, as light waves or particles, ordered in accordance with the magnitudes of a common physical property, as wavelength or mass: often the band of colors produced when sunlight is passed through a prism, comprising red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
Emission- the production and discharge of something, especially gas or radiation.
Absorption- the removal of energy from a beam by the medium through which the beam propagates.
It was the refraction of light through a prism which first led Newton to realize white light was seemingly composed of 7 discernible colors. Much has been written about this so I will spare the full details of his theories regarding this process. Newton contributed much, but missed out on identifying many operational characteristics (he more or less figured light was a linear process.) Over 100 years later, Goethe remedied some of Newton’s oversights with the keen observations that disparate rays blended with each other to create further orders of color, and that color behaved differently when refracted light was being emitted as opposed to when refracted light was being absorbed. It is not a linear process, it is compression and rarefication, as dependent upon darkness as light itself, and in a way, full circle. This is what is typically described as additive and subtractive color.
White light fans out in a linear fashion due to increasing
refraction angle as wavelength decreases.
Goethe observed distinguishable ray bands and their interplay
with light and darkness and the results of their blending with one another.
The Newtonian and Goetheian models seem as if to be incompatible and at odds with one another (Goethe actually vehemently decried Newton's explanation throughout his life) but in my view both understandings have important and relevant interpretations and ingenious observations regarding the nature of electromagnetic refraction. Neither however is totally accurate, both have myriad inconsistencies. Both are leaving out key factors, understandings and measurable observations. As much as I would love to devote more time to these other individuals and their famous intellectual rivalry, a full critique of their work would be a book unto itself. I would prefer to move well beyond critiques. Here of course is where I should provide you with some resources to study Newton and Goethe further. Ok, here you are: www.google.com ;)
So what is really happening?
When you shine emitted white light through a prism of optical glass, the electromagnetic radiation we perceive as light deflects from its original incoming angle. This is the result of the electromagnetic wavelengths passing through a medium more dense than the air and striking at least two different angles on its way in and out. This process is known as refraction. Visible light is a range of electromagnetic wavelengths rather than any single one wavelength and the process of refraction is more extreme for smaller wavelengths than the longer wavelengths. This wavelength dependency of refraction results in the dispersion of what we perceive as the white light into the wavelengths that compose it, which we perceive as separate individual colors.
In the process of white light being emitted through a prism, 3 primary wavelengths of color result. These are red, green and blue. When all three of these primary color rays are blended into the same space we perceive white light. When two of these primaries are blended into different combinations, they form the secondary colors of yellow, magenta and cyan. (Note, magenta is not typically visible from the output of a prism because the blue and red rays are not able to mix due to the green ray naturally presiding between them. Magenta is however able to be seen by looking through a prism at shadows, more on this below. It is also capable of being generated by manually mixing the corresponding wavelengths, as can be demonstrated by a television set, or a special prism arrangement.) The process of color mixture blends further in different ratios from there into the total spectrum of all possible configurations of color.
Above are actual images of mine of white light refracting through a prism. Be sure to browse the gallery. Notice how the color green is not visible in the spectrum until the white light ceases. This is due to the red and blue ray bands which are refracting in opposite directions from the same original surface having finally separated from the central green ray. Up until this point, all 3 primary colors are blending, resulting in white light.
(At distances far enough away from the refracting source, or through a special prism arrangement, only the 3 primary colors will be visible once the rays are no longer in close enough proximity to blend with one another, resulting in secondary colors no longer being visible. This Xcube prism of mine separates the 3 primary rays at 90 degrees from one another. Green is always parallel to the incoming white light. Watch video here )
A photograph of white lines and text refracting. When looking through the prism with your eyes, the lines are fine enough that the image appears as 3 independent images of a red, green and blue hue hovering apart. Where they barely overlap is where the camera picks up yellow and cyan.
When you stare at a shadow surrounded by light while looking through a prism however, the color relationship is exactly reversed. Here the primary colors appear to be Yellow, Magenta and Cyan which seemingly combine to form secondary subtractive colors of Red, green and Blue- the color mixture goes on from there. This is subtractive color. What is happening in subtractive color is the subtraction from white light. For instance, cyan is the subtraction of red from white. Yellow is the subtraction of blue from white and magenta is the subtraction of green from white. The "secondary colors" in the subtractive color process are thus the subtraction/ absorption/ negation of 2 primary colors from white. Red would be the subtraction of green and blue. Blue would result from the subtraction of red and green. Green would result from the subtraction of blue and red from white.
So just as projected light entering and exiting a prism is refracted into 3 primary rays, the same seems to go for shadows. Of course a shadow is simply the absence of light, and you cannot bend something that is not there, so it is actually the present light which defines this shadow, which is refracting in the image.
(An example of subtractive/ absorbed light in my photograph of a setting sun as seen through a prism. Note the tree which is a shadow absorbing the light of the setting sun which surrounds it. The shadow of absorption also refracts into three primary directions resulting in the cyan, yellow and magenta bands of color. See more in my gallery below.)
Here, dark lines and text refract upon a white background. 3 independant colored images appear, this time cyan, magenta and yellow. Note magenta is in the middle.
Another example of subtractive/ absorbed light is the result of the process you are perceiving when you look at a colored object. A red ball for instance appears red because the blue and green color wavelengths are being absorbed by the magnetic geometry of the atomic structure composing the object while the red wavelengths are free to reflect.
The relationship between these two sets of 3 primary colors is well understood in this day and age. All emitted colors and saturations possible exist as different ratios of blends between the 3 primary colors of emission (look closely at your screen you are reading this on and you will see its image is composed of nothing but red, green and blue lights.) All absorbed colors (colors that reflect off of surfaces or filter through the atomic matrices of matter which we then perceive to have color, such as a red apple or colored glass) exist as different ratios and blends of the subtractive primaries, which are a result of the negation of a primary color from white. While we differentiate the two as separate processes, additive and subtractive color is truly one and the same. Ultimately you perceive the colors that are present for your perception, and that depends entirely upon which combinations of primary colors are available to resonate with your eyes.
A Quick Note on Violet:
You may notice that both Goethe and Newton describe violet as a final color emitted from the prism. In some of his plates, it even appears that Goethe comprehended violet essentially as a primary color, giving it its own ray. This is an error, and it is one that has caused much confusion throughout time. Indeed if you look at colored light emitted from a prism, violet does often appear at the tail end beyond blue. I have made many careful observations of this phenomenon. When one observes the sun through a prism, the sphere of the sun is last visible at blue. Beyond this it is outside of view. Place your eye in what is the violet light and observe the prism. You will see the sun itself as pure blue even in this light. The light which is making its way through the prism to emerge as violet is actually from the illuminated aura of the environment surrounding the sun, or whatever the light source. This light of the aura is indirect primary sunlight refracted off of matter in the atmosphere elsewhere and then striking the prism at different angles than the primary source. It appears that the prism is taking this already refracted light and refracting it even further, or allowing a portion of the aura's redshift to blend with the blueshift of the primary light, due to arriving to the prism from different angles of incidence. We can prove violet is not a primary color by creating the color in the mixture of the lights of the primaries. One may not create emitted blue, red or green light by mixing other emitted colors.
Overview of Color Mixing:
(This chart is a final overview of color logic, down to the secondary colors.
Black is the absence of all 3 primaries, white is the presence of all 3 primaries.
With the black background (absence of RGB,) the presence of any one emitted primary will result in that primary alone. So red upon black is simply red. Red plus green is thus yellow. This is additive color.
From a white background (presence of RGB,) the primaries are subtracted (absorbed) towards the black shadow. Notice in the top right of the chart, blue = (white (RGB) minus red,) minus (white (RGB) minus green.) Thus subtracting green and red from white (RGB) leaves you with blue. This is subtractive color.
Ultimately the color you perceive exists solely upon the ratios of the primary colors which are present. This is color logic, but not an answer to what color or light is in truth. Next we must ask what these primary colors truly are in terms of energy fields.)
Many special prisms went into this ongoing research project of mine. Here a prism displays the correspondence of the middle colors of additive and subtractive light. Green being the negation of red and blue retaining green, magenta being the negation of green, retaining red and blue. When these two rays are combined, we have red, green and blue present and white light is retained. Here are some video demonstrations of this prism of mine:
Magenta and green combinations - RGB
The key observations here to note is that the light is being refracted into 3 primary rays in each instance. The 3 primary colors we perceive as red, green and blue are the base components of all color possibilities, whether additive or subtractive. Another key observation is that the center color for emitted light is green and the center color of absorbed light is magenta (the negation of middle green.) The big question for all should be WHY 3? Also, what are these 3 core components of light (and thus electromagnetic radiation) really? What is it exactly that these 3 primary colors represent, which controls and manages all forms of energy?
Why are there 3 Primary Colors/ Angles of Refraction in electromagnetic radiation?
Well... that question has been one for the mystics since time immemorial ;) Every person must answer this for themselves ultimately. I will say that entire religions have been anthropomorphized upon this subject matter in an attempt to answer this for you, since time immemorial, over and over again!
There are some important key characteristics and observations I will discuss from here though, all of which center upon the most important work of Jon DePew regarding magnetism. >>