[This post is part of Uni Watch’s 2023 Purple Amnesty Day content. For additional background and details, look here.]
I have excellent news for the world: Purple does not actually exist.
The exciting information comes from the website Interesting Facts, which recently published the following explainer:
Our eyes perceive color in the visible spectrum due to particular wavelengths: Red is the longest wavelength, at 700 nanometers, whereas violet is the shortest, at 380 nanometers. This is why the invisible wavelengths just below this threshold are known as ultraviolet, or UV rays (and why wavelengths directly above 700 nanometers are known as “infrared”).
The color purple, however, is what physicists call a “nonspectral color,” meaning it isn’t represented by a particular wavelength of light, but is instead a mixture of them as perceived by our brain. While some people use violet and purple interchangeably, the two colors are distinct; violet (which is part of the visible spectrum) has a more bluish hue, whereas purple is more red. The cones in our eyes receive inputs, and our brain uses ratios of these inputs to represent subtleties of color. Purple is therefore a complete construction of our brain, as no wavelength represents the color naturally.
A similar explanation comes from this video:
In other words, while purple is an extremely scary figment of your internal whatsis, there’s nothing to worry about because it isn’t actually real, sort of like the monster under your bed or the thought of the Cowboys ever winning another Super Bowl. There — don’t you feel better already?
Want to learn more fun facts about this terrifying color that doesn’t actually exist? Look here.
(My thanks to Jason Hillyer and Mic Foley for pointing me toward the Interesting Facts article.)