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Desert Diary
Physics/Green Roses


We revel in our sense of color, exclaiming in awe at the hues of sunset and the ever shifting colors of the desert—yet, we're oblivious to the universe being colorless. Wait, you may cry. This is foolishness; anyone can see that there's color, and we even measure the light frequencies of colors.

Granted, it's true that there's color—but it's only in our minds, not "out there"! Those light frequencies that people are so prone to bring up are not color; they are what our minds code as the sensations that we call color. We tend to forget, not surprisingly, that we don't directly access the features of the universe. Instead, we transform facets of that universe to forms that allow us to make sense of them. What use to us would it be to directly be informed of the frequency of light or sound waves? None! Our minds necessarily code them in a way meaningful to us, not to some abstract standard. Were our codings different, red roses might be a disappointment when we were expecting beautiful green ones!
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

green rose

The desirable, beautiful green rose.