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Monday, February 28, 2005

Colors: Brown

Brown doesn't appear in the rainbow. Nevertheless, we can see brown. What's going on here?

Here's the Wikipedia entry on brown. The article says that brown is a mixture of two colors (more than one such pair exists, according to this reference.) If that is true, then brown can't be in the rainbow, because the colors mixed are not adjacent to each other.

Here's another reference on the same question, which comes to the same conclusion.

The King James Bible has just four references to brown, all of them in Genesis 30, and all referring to the color of a domestic animal. I confess that I've always had trouble with this passage. The Bible describes Jacob gaining livestock property from his father-in-law by, Genesis says, exposing animals, in the act of mating, to certain visual stimuli. From this I conclude (as if I needed this passage to prove it) there are things I don't understand about the Bible. (I think I understand as much as I need to.) My take on what happened is that Jacob thought doing this would work. God knew it wouldn't, but intervened on Jacob's behalf, anyway.

It seems strange that there are no references to brown earth, brown rocks, brown wood, or brown bread in the Bible. I suppose that, like us, people living back then took these things for granted, and didn't describe them much.

There is a National Football Team, the Cleveland Browns. (To me, their color is orange, not brown!)

One of Tolkien's wizards was Radagast the Brown. Tolkien didn't write a lot about him.

I suppose any article on brown should refer to Charlie Brown, the main character of Peanuts.

There are star-like objects, called brown dwarfs. The Wikipedia article on them says that they are probably the most common objects at or near the size of stars in our galaxy.

I hesitate to say this, having mentioned the appropriate bodily function in a recent post, but excrement is usually brown. The reason is that bile, one of the important products of the liver, by way of the gall bladder, is brown. As this page from the MadSci network says, it could be worse.

Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark Supreme Court decision.

Brown, like Green, is a relatively common last name in North America, going back to England and Germany, (as Braun) and perhaps other countries. Brownian motion, named for an English scientist, Robert Brown, who discovered it in the 19th century, is a jiggly motion of microscopic particles, caused by random collisions with even smaller particles. Einstein published a paper explaining this phenomenon. His paper changed the views of scientists--molecules were finally understood as being real objects. Most of them hadn't accepted this before. Robert Brown also described and named the nucleus of the living cell, although he didn't discover it.

I sometimes think of myself as brown, dull, common. Common, nothing special about me. That's true. It also isn't true. I'm not special, but God knows me as unique and of infinite worth.


Jeremy Pierce said...

I think it does appear in the rainbow. It's just not one of the major colors that we organize colors according to, so we don't notice it except as a passing color.

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Martin LaBar said...

I believe I responded to Jeremy Pierce in another way, but I should have done so here.

Sorry, Jeremy. physicists tell us that it's not in the rainbow at all. Thanks for your comment.