Color by numbers

“Bottles of vibrantly colored chemicals line dimly lit shelves. On a bench below, a Bunsen burner flickers beneath a flask of deep red liquid, illuminating the face of a scientist perched on a stool nearby. The scientist swirls a glowing, neon blue liquid, scrawling observations in a notebook.

The movie ends. You return to reality. In our nonfiction world, the substances that decorate many laboratories—and the chemicals of everyday life—are most often colorless. The rare colorful materials are the paints on nature’s palette. Plants contain thousands of different chemicals, but it only takes a single substance—chlorophyll—to make a leaf green.”

Click to keep reading my latest feature for the Berkeley Science Review, Color by numbers, which explores the nanoscale phenomena that make our visual experience so vibrant. By delving into the fundamental science behind color — from quantum physics to evolutionary biology — as well as applications inspired by this science, such as solar cells and futuristic displays, I invite readers to take a new perspective on our colorful world.

Research by UC Berkeley Professor Nipam Patel (left) and graduate students Ryan Null (middle) and Rachel Thayer (right) is highlighted in the article. Photo credit: Michael Wan, BSR design team.
Research on butterflies by UC Berkeley Professor Nipam Patel (left) and graduate students Ryan Null (middle) and Rachel Thayer (right) is highlighted in the article. Photo credit: Michael Wan, Berkeley Science Review design team.

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