Thursday, July 3, 2008

To Blue or Not to Blue

Bucko wrote, "Hmm, Kengineer is skeptical about the lack of blue in the feathers.  Looking at the cool one you framed, at various angles, I will admit the amount of blue depends on the refraction angle, but I believe there is a blue base.  I believe additional research is required :o)"
Ahh, the gauntlet has been thrown!
According to Mark Johns, on the staff of North Carolina Wesleyan College:
"Interestingly enough, the blue and iridescent colors in birds are never produced by pigments and are actually structural colors. The blues are produced by minute particles in the feather that are smaller in diameter than the wavelength of red light. These particles are able to influence only shorter wavelengths, which appear blue and scattered (reflected) in all directions. This blue color remains stable at all angles in reflected light, unless the bird gets between the light and observer."
On, an article about the apparently blue feathers states:
"Within the ability of our eyes and brains to interpret colors, most of these birds appear plainly blue. And that is okay, and true, inasmuch as our dependable eyes tend to send to our brains only the information that they receive. In the sense of spectral color coming from these bird’s feathers that information is blue color.
But wait, there is a best part…throughout the entire world, and the known galaxy, there isn’t a single blue feather being naturally sported by any bird! So, where does this blue color come from? Is it some sort of optical illusion? It is! But more than that, it is two optical illusions.

The physics of it is that objects can - in a simplistic fashion - absorb and reflect light. The absorbed color is negated. The reflected light is invisibly sent off into space. If, by chance, however, this reflected light is caught by an eye, and subsequently interpreted by a brain, then it becomes color. Like all feathers, blue ones can reflect light in a couple of ways. If the surface is smooth - microscopically smooth - it can allow the pigment inside of the feather to dominate the reflection. This takes place on the molecular level and involves a bit of a prismatic effect.

Prisms are neat. It seems like they can take any light and turn it into a rainbow. But some specifically deformed prisms can retain certain colors and only reflect others. Pretty sneaky, huh? So, even a black-pigmented feather can look blue! Most blue birds have smooth-surfaced feathers, and the absorption and reflection of light takes place inside the feather. The outcome can be quite spectacular. Just picture all the tones of blue on a blue jay. Now, there’s a prismatic work of art - especially given that the bird does not have a single blue feather on its body."

Kinda mind-boggling, isn't it? And what a complex and fascinating world, where blue birds are not truly blue...but we THINK they are. Whoa. That is some weird, wild stuff.

May you all be visited this weekend by the Faux Bluebird of Happiness! 



buckoclown said...

Hmm, might still need some more explanation.  I will add this to my potential entry list :o)

mereel2005 said...

So the Blue Bird of Happiness is really black....
interesting. I am working on a piece of tapesty that calls for the Faux. Good thing I foud out in time.
I'm just araid it's going to look like a crow or a raven.
Not good for a wedding gift.

carouselqueen70 said...

I have heard this before. I have seen it in crows with the blue tints they sometimes have in thier feathers. It is really cool how this happens. ..hugs, Christine

rdautumnsage said...

(2nd try to leave a comment)...I've dyed my hair black before and had it appear to be blue (now I have enough common sense to go with a soft black closer to my own color...before the gray)....I'm with Ken on this one. I have a couple of Blue Jay feathers around here somewhere and I could swear they were blue..or I could be seeing things.
Me <---slack jawed and drooling from having to think too much. I just need to wrap my brain around it (opens cranium and twist her brain in a formation of knowledge absorption)...So the blue bird of happiness is really me in diguise hidden amongst my black feathers? (winks)...(Hugs)Indigo

dbdacoba said...

I've come across similar explanations about sound.  The ear doesn't hear the sound that is produced but interprets it.  And on some musical instrument the musician can produce a tone much higher than the one he is playng.  It's a question of vibrations.

helmswondermom said...

Well I see a homeschool science unit in that information!  Thank you!  I'll enjoy studying this more with Eler Beth.  We can learn about prisms and light at the same time.

eml625 said...

Things that make you go Hmmm.....
I finally saw a little woodpecker at my feeder (I think it's a Downey?)
sooooo cute.
At work, we had a pair of them feeding each other.
Be well,

frankandmary said...

I think Blue when I see a Blue Jay.  I guess lack of knowledge was the root of the problem(as with many things). ~Mary

jmoqueen said...

It's amazing to think they are talking about birds.  If you hadn't told us I'm not sure I would've guessed lol ;)