Does the Color Pink Exist? Scientists Aren’t Sure

First Pluto, now this? Science takes all the fun stuff away.

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In a blog post, Robert Krulwich of the public radio show Radiolab noted that there is no pink in the colors of the rainbow. Pink is actually a combination of red and violet, two colors, which, if you look at a rainbow, are on the opposite sides of the arc. Remember the old colors of the rainbow mnemonic ROYGBIV? The R (red) is as far as it can get from V (violet). That’s where the trouble lies. Pink can’t exist in nature without a little rainbow-bending help, which would allow the shades of red and violet to commingle. This is leading scientists to believe, as Krulwich puts it, that “pink is a made-up color.” Krulwich explains:

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.

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So there you have it. Pink, the color, is just the wishful thinking of our brain blending the red and violet wavelengths together to create the color of many little girls’ birthday parties. But as compelling as Krulwich’s argument is, there are plenty of scientists (and probably My Little Pony fanatics) who disagree with him. In a blog post aptly named Stop This Absurd War on the Color Pink, Scientific American blogger Michael Moyer points to research that indicates that all color, whether in the rainbow or not, is a fabrication of our brains. He quotes biologist Timothy H. Goldsmith as noting that, “Color is not actually a property of light or of objects that reflect light. It is a sensation that arises within the brain.” He concludes by stating that, “Pink is real—or it is not—but it is just as real or not-real as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.”

We will leave the debate over the color pink to the experts, because we know one Pink who definitely still exists. (Although she has been going by her given name of Alecia Moore a lot lately. Perhaps she knows something we don’t.)

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11 comments
JordanWilliams
JordanWilliams

Actually, the color pink as we know it is the same as the color violet, there is just so much ignorance surrounding the last two colors of the rainbow that they are commonly interchanged. Violet is hot pink, and indigo is dark purple. Get your facts straight.

ChristopherFagundo
ChristopherFagundo

This article is grossly incorrect. Just a few few items:


1.) the color described in this article is magenta, not pink

2.) if magenta is not a color, then by the same principals explained, neither are cyan, brown, and actual pink.


3.) our brains process color like an RGB printer-- in fact, our eyes are equipped with cones that ONLY see the color green, red, and blue. The colors and variations we see are created through ratios in which these cones fire at the same time. when all cones fire at once, we  perceive the color white, for example.


4.) theres an article on gizmodo that explains it better than i do. 

knowledge is power. fight the stupid. please.


briand1995
briand1995

That's why its called a color wheel not color line.... The ends connect back

SavarioFerrara
SavarioFerrara

um what about rainbows on a sphere, ie soap bubble.... doesn't it make sense that on a sphere red and violet would be close enough to overlap... I'll even wager that most refracted light is done on a sphere in nature... nature doesn't create in linear lines...

thetitaniumdragon
thetitaniumdragon

Really the fundamental difference between blended colors like pink and "pure" colors (the ones we get straight out of the UV spectrum, rather than a combination thereof) is that, if we were to take creatures with different means of measuring light, different peak absorbances, the UV spectrum would "look" similar (they may not see the colors exactly the same way we do, but we would expect the spectrum to be at least recognizable - we are experiencing the same things, albeit in somewhat different ways) but the blended colors may end up being perceived wildly differently based on how their eyes interpret them because of different weights on blending and different peak absorbances.


So when the aliens find our broadcasts of MLP, they will be horrified by the gaudy monstrosity that is Pinkie Pie.

RedSidedGarter
RedSidedGarter

Pink is just a combination of wavelengths. Just like magenta. The reason we don't see these colors when light is diffracted is simply because diffracted light will separate colors as pure colors. (in the rainbow). Pink and magenta are unsaturated colors. Just because it is not found in the spectrum, doesn't make it a nonexistent color. It carries multiple wavelengths since its not a pure color.

legion_bunny
legion_bunny

or it could just be the light waves intermingling from two separate sources that are creating a new wavelength  so while pink may not exist in actuality, it is not a fabrication of our minds, but a color created as a wavelength, but never existing as a whole.

Aaron
Aaron

I will have to disagree, because if pink doesn't exist and isn't out there, then how come their are pink roses. Or pink diamonds? or even sapphires? Pink is a rarity, but it still exists. There are other ways to make pink other than red and purple. In fact the most common one is mixing pink with white. So really all you have to do is make red lighter, which technically, is in the light spectrum. 

KyleLamb
KyleLamb

@briand1995  not in the electromagnetic spectrum...

jtrdfw
jtrdfw

@SavarioFerrara Well what's going on here is that there is no wavelength that can be called "pink". For every other color, if you could simply create a wavelength, would "exist". Red and blue really make green, which is a wavelength. So when on your soap bubble they overlap it will appear green to our brain. 

However when both red and blue wavelengths are simply present at the same time our brain creates a color that doesn't have any wavelength. As in, if you could produce a light wavelength, pink is not a color you could create that we would perceive. You would have to produce both red and blue wavelengths at the same time. 

The fact that colors are just how we perceive wavelengths basically means pink exists just as much as other colors. However from light's perspective, that's not what's going on.


kl3mta3
kl3mta3

@Aaron the flaw in your statement is that in the spectrum of light which is what they are referring to there is no white light. White light is the whole spectrum blended together. That said you can not mix the whole light spectrum with a band of the red wavelength of light and expect to get pink. Things in nature that appear that way, do so because they are actually illuminated by a wave spectrum you actually cant perceive and your brain substitutes pink in its place.