A Red That's Redder Than Red
by, 03-29-2012 at 10:45 PM (2706 Views)
Before I begin this quicky entry (which is mostly borrowed off my current FB status message), let's read an excerpt from "The Gods of Mars", a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, part of his John Carter series of novels (yes, in case you only knew about the name John Carter from the recent movie, the John Carter character has been around for ages--well, specifically since 1912, which in fact tells us that this fictitious character is already 100 years old), the adventures of John Carter in Barsoom (Mars).
"The stone worn by the thern who confronted us was of about the same size as that which I had seen before; an inch in diameter I should say. It scintillated nine different and distinct rays; the seven primary colors of our earthly prism and the two rays which are unknown upon Earth, but whose wonderous beauty is indescribable."
Before we continue, I would like to add that I think what Burroughs meant by the term "seven primary colors" are in fact, the seven colors of the rainbow, which we were taught as kids with the funny-sounding yet handy acronym of "ROYGBIV", which stands for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.
Now, the eminent astronomer Carl Sagan mentions to us, in his book BROCA'S BRAIN, that when he read the John Carter novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs as a kid, try as hard as he might, he couldn't picture these two additional primary colors, and since he believed the full electromagnetic spectrum to be "permanent" and unchanging, that this is another "bending of known physics" that Burroughs did, to satisfy his description of something unearthly, something truly fantastic and beyond the scope of whatever ordinary things we experience here on earth--artistic license or allowance, if you will--when he wrote the novels.
But I can't help but think, especially noting the manner by which Sagan mentioned this fact in the book, that he believed that Burroughs wasn't "trained enough" in the sciences to actually know better. Or was Sagan judging Burroughs too early?
Well, I think in a way, Edgar Rice Burroughs musings wasn't that far from the truth, for just very recently, a team of physicists from the University of California at Santa Barbara just announced that they have been able to (as a form of "side effect") create 11 new colors of the rainbow using lasers and ion cascades, a report from the Science Daily says, a link to which is here:
Now, try it yourself--can you actually picture 11 new hues of the rainbow? While they may not have an actual photo yet of these new colors, primary or not, I think that Burroughs may have had more insight into the matter than previously thought--or was it just a wild guess? You decide.
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