by Fred Shockey
October 11, 2010
Can you see all the colors of the rainbow? Yes, is the answer to this simple question. You can see all of the colors of the rainbow, when the circumstances are right. What are those circumstances, and how does this affect the use of plastic color compounds?
Light contains all of the colors of the rainbow whether we see them or not. Light, when it is unbroken or undivided, appears white. When light is divided by a prism, or even raindrops, it then shows its full spectrum of colors.
Spectrum is a word commonly used when discussing color but is also a word that refers to a wide range of anything. Phrases like, "The full spectrum of ideas," or "We need to see the full spectrum to get a complete understanding," demonstrate common applications of this word that has found its most common application in color.
So, in order to divide white natural light into its full spectrum, a prism is required. A glass prism, plastic prism or liquid prism can do the trick. White light enters and all the colors of the rainbow exit in their full splendor. These colors are very appealing and have deep meaning to many people covering a wide range of subjects.
Theories about why light divides and the true nature of light are still in debate and development. There are many theories that discuss the speed of light, its effects and measurements. Light is a subject of supreme interests to the field of physics and color.
So, when formulators use pigments to make plastic color concentrates, they are using substances that reflect certain parts of the light spectrum. This sounds a little bit like the old, "If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?" argument. Well, that depends if anyone is there to hear it. Color is the same. Turn the lights out and there is not color. Turn the lights on and there is the color. In the dark, all the pigments look the same. Seems funny, but it is true and makes an important point.
The light in which we view the color is essential to the colors we see. If we are outside in the full spectrum of white light of the sun we see color reflecting that light. If we are inside and have fluorescent lighting, we see that light reflected. If we are in a disco lounge we see that crazy spinning glass ball and we should go back out into the sunlight, personal opinion of course.
All of this points to the natural wonder that is color. You can now understand how challenging it can be to add this miraculous ingredient to the things we use in our everyday lives. Behind great beauty is often great science, and that is indeed the case with color compounds.
So, appreciate the colors you see and enjoy the power of color!