Krulwich Wonders...
3:00 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

They Did It To Pluto, But Not To Pink! Please Not Pink!

Originally published on Fri March 2, 2012 6:15 am

Pluto isn't a planet anymore. It's been demoted. Now it's pink's turn. I'm talking about the color pink. It turns out (and this is not a new development, it's just something I didn't know), there is no pink in a rainbow. It isn't there.

Red is there. Violet is there. Green is there. Blue, too. They are bands of light that scientists can measure. So they are out there. They exist.

Curiously, however, when you look at a rainbow, you will notice that red is on one side, violet on the opposite side.

This is a problem. Because pink happens when the red and violet sides get together, but they don't get together — which makes pink an act of wishful thinking, or, to put it bluntly — pink is a made up color.

I am shocked.

This minute-long animation has the details.

I know, of course, that all colors are just waves of light, so every color we "see," we see with our brains. But what this video says is that there is no such thing as a band of wavelengths that mix red and violet, and therefore, pink is not a real wavelength of light. That's why pink is an invention. It's not a name we give to something out there. Pink isn't out there.

So when we look at puffy clouds at sunset, at a carnation, this color we talk about when we say pink slip, pink collar, pretty in pink, tickled pink, in the pink, Pinky Lee, Pink Panther, Pink Floyd — this color doesn't exist, except in our brains.

I had no idea.


"There is no Pink Light" is one of a series of animations called Minute Physics', drawn and written by Henry Reich. There's a whole YouTube channel of them. They ask, "What is Gravity?" "What is Dark Matter?" If you care, they are wonderful introductions. If you don't care, they end quickly.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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