Photo courtesy of onegreenplanet.org
You might have heard an explanation for blue’s universal appeal—it is present in our natural world, in our expansive skies and deep oceans. Yet, let’s take a moment to think about how often we actually see blue in nature. How many blue plants can you think of? How many blue animals?
Blue delphinium photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Now for the fact that will likely surprise you: there is virtually no blue pigment that naturally occurs on earth. The rare animals we do see as blue have usually gotten that way by some trick of light. For example, the blue morpho butterfly gets its color because of the shape of its wing scales. They are ridged, bending light so that the wavelength that makes it to our eyes is that which we perceive as blue. Blue birds appear blue by a similar process; each feather is comprised of tiny, light-diffusing beads, arranged in such a way as to cancel every wavelength of light out except blue. If the butterfly’s scales and blue birds’ feathers were organized differently, we would not see blue at all.
Blue Morpho Butterfly photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Male Eastern Bluebird photo courtesy of flickr.com/dbarronoss
The only exception to the rule is the obrina olivewing butterfly, the only known animal in nature to produce blue pigment.
There’s no question that blue is
the most unanimously-liked color, and perhaps it’s the hue’s scarcity itself
that contributes to our fascination with it. We have created so many different
shades of the color, from baby blue, to midnight blue, to frost blue. The
representation blue lacks in nature, humans are making up for in the beautiful
hues we engineer.
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