cover image Full Spectrum: How the Science of Color Made Us Modern

Full Spectrum: How the Science of Color Made Us Modern

Adam Rogers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-328-51890-3

Science writer Rogers (Proof) considers physics, art, neuroscience, and linguistics in this breezy, accessible survey of how humans use, understand, and perceive color. To prove that learning how to capture colors “has been nothing less than the millennia-long process of becoming a thinking species with multiple cultures,” Rogers visits a 100,000-year-old paint shop in South Africa’s Blomblos caves, explores Newton’s discovery of how the refraction of light produces colors, and describes the “Pointers gamut,” a map of all colors that can be seen by the human eye that was created in the 1970s. Those with a scientific bent will enjoy the author’s explanation of titanium dioxide, the “whitest pigment on Earth,” used in paints, paper, and ceramics, as well as the “blackest black,” called Vantablack, for which artist Anish Kapour has exclusive rights to use in paint-form. There’s also a lucid explanation of how the eyes and brain integrate information to perceive color. The author’s passion for his subject becomes quickly apparent as he offers a vivid tour of the complexities behind the everyday experience of seeing the colors that give “our universe shape.” With its vast range of perspectives, there’s something in this investigation for everyone. Agent: Eric Lupfer, Fletcher and Co. (May)