Monthly Archives: March 2012

chemical additives

A few weeks ago I posted about the safety of food colours. My argument was that the issue is not whether food additives are natural or man-made (let’s even say chemical because that really sounds nasty – even though water is a chemical and we are made of chemicals). Rather, the issue is whether any additives are safe or not, since plenty of natural products are highly dangerous (even fatal) and the vast majority of man-made additives are perfectly safe. My good friend, Mark Bishop (Professor at Goldsmiths) commented that maybe people feel safer with natural additives because they have been around for longer and so we are more certain about whether they are safe or not. He may have a point – today it was revealed that 4-methylimidazole (which is added to Pepsi and Coca-Cola) is carcinogenic. Presumably this chemical was once thought to be safe.

women like pink

I don’t know if it is related to my recent post that people, especially females buy bright colours in times of austerity, but I just came across a report that claims that women like pink gadgets and laptops.

Dr Gloria Moss, Reader in Human Resources at Bucks New University said:

“There’s a very strong tendency for men to prefer hard, rectangular and dark shapes. While women showed a preference towards more curved, and pink design. I don’t think it’s anything for women to be afraid of that women like different colours, because the roots of the colour preference take womens’ responsibility beyond hearth and home. The differences have their origins in the different activities carried out by men and women over the ages.”

Moss used a range of website designs created by men and women to test her hypothesis amongst a sample group of students at Oxford. Men preferred linear, rectangular designs, while women preferred colourful designs with large images.

I’m a man but I also like pink. So clearly the above does not apply to all women and all men.

For balance see my post on pink stinks.

people buy red when times are tough

According to a recent consumer report people in the UK are buying bright colours, particularly red, to cheer themselves up in these times of austerity. Apparently a third of all sales of women’s jeans are in colours other than blue.

According to Fiona Lambert, George Brand Director:

“In challenging times people purchase bright colours across both fashion and beauty to lift their spirits. Customers have told us they want to be bold and steer away from the “safe” option of black, and have been looking at affordable ways to lift their moods by buying coloured items.”

natural colours

The Guardian has reported that Nestlé has removed artificial ingredients from their entire confectionary range. However, I am not sure that this is worth making too much of a song and dance about. The public have a natural aversion to artificial colorants. Surely natural is better? Well, not necessarily.

The foliage and berries of the Deadly Nightshade plant are extremely toxic. Apple seeds can be fatal if eaten in large enough quantities (they contain a small amount of amygdalin). The kidney bean is poisonous if not correctly cooked. The puffafish – known in Japan as Fugu – can be lethally poisonous due to its tetrodotoxin; therefore, it must be carefully prepared to remove toxic parts and to avoid contaminating the meat. All of these things are natural.

Lots of natural products are not harmful. But there are many many artificial chemicals that are completely identical (chemically) to their naturally occurring and harmless equivalents. It’s strange that we are so keen to believe that natural is good and man-made is bad. Sometimes it is true, but sometimes it is not.

why I don’t like the colour wheel

There are many reasons why I don’t like colour wheels of the type shown below:

The first reason is because it perpetuates the myth that the subtractive primaries are red, yellow and blue whereas the fact is that red, yellow and blue produces a rather small gamut of colours. It is certainly not the best choice of subtractive primaries though it is taught as dogma in many art and design schools and throughout children’s education. The problem is that whenever two colours are mixed together there is saturation loss; that is, the resultant mixture ends up being more desaturated than the two components were. The saturation loss is greatest when mixing colours on the opposite side of the colour circle where the resultant mixture can be almost grey. However, for certain choices of primaries, the saturation loss is greater than for others. If red, yellow and blue are used as the primaries then of course it is possible to generate any other hue. However, there is significant saturation loss and the above colour wheel gives completely the wrong impression. It suggests that mixing blue and yellow together, for example, results in a really bright vivid green.

The reality of pigment mixing is much more like the triangular colour wheel shown below:

In the above diagram it can be seen that mixing together yellow and blue results in a really muddy dark green. The purple resulting from mixing blue and red is almost black!! Now it is possible to mix together a blue and a yellow to get a better green. For example, mixing a greenish blue with a yellow will give a much more vivid green. Mixing a bluish red with a greenish blue will result in a lovely purple. We have a name for a greenish blue and a blueish red – we call them cyan and magenta. A much better colour gamut is obtained if we start with the primaries, cyan, magenta and yellow.

Footnote: Some people may look at the triangular colour wheel and think that the reason the colours are dull is that the red, yellow, and blue primaries used are not ‘pure’ enough. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If it was possible to make really vivid and bright red and blue pigments then the resultant colour gamut would be even smaller. Fundamentally, red, yellow and blue just don’t make good subtractive primaries.