Full Spectrum by Adam Rogers
Yesterday my review of Adam Rogers’ fabulous book, Full Spectrum: How the Science of Color Made Us Modern, was one sentence from completion. I had shared the span of history, biology, geology, commerce, physics, light, and more that he wove together in his exploration of color. I had written about the other books about color on my shelf: Catherine McKinley’s Indigo in which she traces this marvelous color from the dye pots of ancient Africa to the runways of 21st century Fashion Week and Simon Garfield’s delightful Mauve, the accidental invention of which by 18-year-old chemist William Perkins in 1856 gave way to mass-production of color by marrying chemistry and chroma.
I’d written about Rogers’ clarity in explaining complex theories and even more complex science and how he managed to edge in humor as well. He called the brain “think-meat” and offered up sentences such as, “The oscillation between seeing and learning is a steady hum in the background of human history.” There was also this sentence which I offer you the next time you are at a coktail party (remember those?) and want to impress: “A material’s refractive index is the ratio of speed of light in a vaccuum to speed of light as it moves through that material.” I wrote how Full Spectrum arrived full of mystery. A deliver from Amazon with no note from the sender.
You know where this is going, don’t you? One sentence from completion my review fell victin to that sickening sleight of hand we all know too well. My review disappeared. Into the ether, over the rainbow, off the canvas for evermore. So instead, I give you what Rogers says of Full Spectrum: “This book will roughtly folloiw the back-and-forth of color beetween — to be reductionistbout it — physics and mind.” It is not a fast read, but it is a fascinating one.
PS Turns out my son saw a review of the book and thought I’d enjoy it. He was spot on.
PSS Also turns out that back in June I had tucked away in my “To Read” file a WSJ review of Full Spectrum. I love it that my son and I remain on the same wavelength.