SPEAKER: Moving on from angle and brightness to the next component that all light has is color. All light has color. Just as I like to think of brightness as volume and angle as tone or the notes, I like to think of color as the tambour of the light.
We generally see light as white light. But yet, as we walk outside, the light is a different color white than when we walk in our houses. It has a different feel to it. Just as a violin has a different feel from a cello or a stringed instrument, a different feel from a woodwind.
We've all seen the picture of the prism in our high school physics textbook or if you're old like me, in the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon, where white light is broken into its component colors. That's all color is, is different wavelengths of light.
So when a red light hits a surface, it turns red. That's all we're seeing is that red light.
Light can only do three. Things it can transmit through a medium, through a window or a curtain. When the light goes through the curtain, we see it coming through the other side, that's what light does all the time, it travels through the air or through a vacuum in space.
Light can also be absorbed. If it hits a surface, it can be absorbed by that surface and turn into heat. Why do we wear dark clothes during the winter? Because the dark clothes are absorbing more of the wavelength of light and turning that into heat. If you ever had a dark upholstered car and got in it in the middle of the summer, it's hot.
The third thing light can do is reflect. Any time we see a surface, that's what we're seeing is the light that's reflected off the surface.
So how have all this involved color? That's how we understand color. That's how we understand the surface of any color. If we have a blue surface and we put red light on it, what will we see? Black. Why? Well, because the blue surface will only reflect blue wavelength. All the other wavelengths will be absorbed.
Yet, if we put a red light on it, what's being transmitted? Only red light. So red light is being transmitted. Red light is being absorbed. What's left? Nothing. And we see the surface is black.
Look at this piece of fabric under different colors of light and tell me what the pattern is. First, we're going to show it under a red light. Now as we change to a blue light, it's a whole different pattern. It looks nothing like it looked before. Now as we look under white light, we see what the fabric really looks like. Pretty mind-boggling, huh?
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Often we only pay attention to light in extreme cases--it's too dark or too bright. But the middle part of that continuum is where it gets interesting. The quality, color, and amount of light shape our understanding and are used for aesthetic purposes in visual media and in living spaces. Join E.D. Intemann in an exploration of the fascinating use of light.
This video is part 9 of 12 in the Poetry of Light series.