It's cool to be blue. According to Digital Trends, Instagram posts that contain majority blue objects or backgrounds get 24 percent more likes than any other color. Blue is a fascinating color that has played a role in science, religion, fashion, art, history, music, politics, culture, marketing, and even pants. Blue is seen as the color of comfort, harmony, and confidence. Blue is also seen as the color of sadness, masculinity, intelligence, concentration , mourning, and coldness. Blue is the world's favorite color (and mine), winning 23 to 33 percent of the vote. There's many reasons why blue is a miraculous color that's not the same as the others.
Color comes from the electromagnetic spectrum and from natural resources. Visible light, which contains the rainbow, is the only wavelength that humans can see. While the spectrum is how we see blue, pigments and dyes from flowers, rocks, and the roster of the periodic table is how we make it. Blue also gets free advertising from the sky and oceans. In reality, the sky is purple, but because of "Rayleigh scattering" and our brains, it appears blue to our eyes.
According to AC Lens, an estimated 8 percent of the world's population has blue eyes. Blue eyes are frequently found in people with northern European ancestry. Many scientists believe that blue eyes formed from a genetic mutation that affected the "OCA2" gene, which is involved in melanin production and eye, skin, and hair pigmentation. Blue eyes also aren't really blue - they appear blue because of the Tyndall effect, which is similar to Rayleigh scattering. The iris is the colored part of the eye, which is made up of two layers: the stroma and the epithelium. The epithelium contains black-brown pigment while the stroma is colorless collagen. People with blue eyes lack melanin in their stroma, which means that light is not absorbed in the iris. Instead, light is scattered, and like the sky, it's blue wavelengths that win. So there you have it, blue eyes aren't technically blue at all, who knew? "Atmospheric perspective" is another similar concept which explains why mountains in the distance appear blue.
Blue animals are rare. How many true blue animals can you name? There's blue jays, dart frogs, butterflies, crabs, peacocks, jellyfish, and Dory, but then it starts to get hard. According to Mother Nature Network, while plants can produce blue pigments due to anthocyanins, most animals cannot make blue pigment. Animals that do appear blue, such as the blue jay, is typically the result of structural effects such as reflection and iridescence (why bubbles appear multiple colors). The Bangor Daily News agrees: cardinals are red in the sense that their feathers really contain red pigment - carotenoids (which is also why carrots are orange). Yet blue jays are blue because of structures in their feathers that filters certain light, not because their feathers have blue pigment.
Blue pigment is also a hard color to find in food and coloring. Strawberries and cherries give off red. Peaches, bananas, lemons, and pineapples are yellow. Leafy greens, limes, and broccoli squeeze out green. Blueberries? While the berry may be blue, the juice is not. 23 years after introducing blue M&M's, Mars Foods is still trying to find a suitable natural blue dye for them. There is a search for one for Trix cereal too. In 2009, a grad student at Oregon State University accidentally discovered a new kind of blue pigment in the lab after mixing and heating chemicals, the first discovery in 200 years. Crayola has now introduced that new blue to their famous 24 pack, kicking out dandelion yellow.
One crazy thing that makes blue unique is that it is believed that it didn't "exist" to most people until modern times. As stated, blue is rarely found in nature, and even the sky isn't really "blue." And if you have no idea of what "blue" is, then is it really blue? Matter of fact, the mention of blue in language hasn't been found in texts older than 4,500 years old. In "The Odyssey", Homer describes the ocean (?) as "wine-dark." In 1858, William Gladstone analyzed "Odyssey" and found oddities such as honey being described as "green" and sheep as "violet." The color black was mentioned near 200 times and white 100 times. Red was mentioned fewer than 15 and yellow and green fewer than 10. Yet, no mention of blue. The word "blue" didn't really exist, which isn't that crazy considering how rare blue is in nature.
A philologist (studies languages) named Lazarus Geiger studied other cultural texts, such as Chinese, Arabic, Icelandic, and Jewish, and blue as we know it was not mentioned. Other than the Egyptians who had blue dye, blue was the last color to start to appear to be mentioned in cultures.
According to Business Insider, a study was done with the Himba tribe in Namibia who have no word for blue and don't distinguish between green and blue. They were show 12 squares: one blue and eleven green. None of the members of the tribe could immediately pick out the blue square, yet when shown 12 green squares, they could pick out the one that was subtly different than the rest. To put it another way, while we can differentiate between "true green" and "light green", the Himba tribe and many of our ancestors probably registered blue as just another shade of green instead of it's own color since they didn't know the concept of blue. Welsh, Japanese, and Chinese cultures also had words for the color "grue", but not blue itself. To everyone, it was just another shade of green.
Another study done by MIT in 2007 showed that native Russian speakers who don't have a word for blue, but yet do for "light blue" and "dark blue" can pick out shades of blue much faster than English speakers. So basically, even if your eyes can see millions of colors, the language you speak can determine how you recognize color.
Blue may be just another wave on the length, but it's a special one, and not just because I'm bias. Don't take blue for granted. Those "blue eyes" you use to see "blue jays" zooming across that "blue" sky right before the "blue" moon could just as easy be one of the other ugly, not-blue colors.
*AC Lens, Live Science, NPR, WBUR, Science Alert, Wikipedia, You Gov, Mother Nature Network, Bangor Daily News, Business Insider, IFL Science, New Scientist, The Conversation, New York Times, Digital Trends