Light & Colour
the electromagnetic spectrum
Copyright… Kathie Strmota, LoveLight Co-Creative HealthCare
What is Color?
Colour, as we see it, is the expression of a particular frequency and wavelength of visible light.
When light is shone through a prism, its speed is altered and it is refracted, or split, into individual colours. This occurs because each frequency, or wavelength band, bends through the prism at a different angle, so each colour comes out in a different position. When we see a rainbow appearing with the sun, it is because the raindrops are acting like prisms and refracting the sun’s light.
Similarly, when objects appear to be a particular colour, it is because the external pigment (paint, plastic, fabric dye, ink, melanin in skin, chlorophyll in leaves, etc) has a structure which absorbs some frequencies while reflecting others. What reaches our eye are the reflected light waves, which we perceive as a particular colour.
All electromagnetic energy originates from the sun and the full electromagnetic spectrum (as we know it so far) ranges from energy with very long wavelengths and very low frequencies (as radio waves) to energy with very short wavelengths and extremely high frequencies (as cosmic rays). The colours that we see, the visible light spectrum, form a very small proportion of the full electromagnetic spectrum.
In the same way that we are affected by radio waves, microwaves or x-rays, we are also affected by the visible light spectrum, by waves of colour, and can make the most of this fact by consciously using colour to enhance our lives and improve our wellbieng.
Light : The Electromagnetic Spectrum
Within the universe, positive and negative charges are constantly vibrating and producing electromagnetic waves travelling at an incredibly high speed. The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second.
Within this spectrum of light, there are many different kinds of rays and, although they are all travelling at the same speed, they each have different wavelengths and frequencies which determine their individual ‘personality’ and qualities.
Imagine waves at the beach, peaks in the surface of the water, rolling into shore. The distance between one peak and the next is called the wavelength. So, waves that are 2 feet apart have a wavelength of 2 feet.
The frequency (or vibration) of the waves is determined by the number of complete waves (or peaks) that pass a given point each second, as the wave moves across the water. The faster the waves travel, the higher the frequency.
This also applies to light waves. The colour red has a wavelength of about 700 nanometres (or 7 millionths of a metre), with a frequency of around 430 trillion vibrations per second, whereas violet has a much shorter wave and a higher frequency. Each violet wave would pass a given point much more quickly than a red wave.
The amount of energy in a given light wave is proportionally related to its frequency, thus a high frequency / shorter light wave has more energy than that of a low frequency / longer light wave.
Generally, the more energy a light wave has, the more penetrating it can be. For example, x-rays are far more penetrating, and thus more dangerous to our health, than radio waves.
Radio waves are the longest known waves, and are used for broadcasting and communicating systems, including radio, television and radar. In industry they’re also used to raise the temperature of metals for hardening purposes. The shorter radio-wave bands are used for distance broadcasting and also for diathermy, where electric currents are applied to produce heat in the deeper tissues of the body for the relief of conditions like rheumatism, arthritis and neuralgia.
Microwave radiation, used in microwave ovens, rapidly changes the alignment of water molecules to heat food. Infra-red waves are produced by anything that is hot. They include photographic and radiant heat waves, and have the power to travel great distances and penetrate heavy atmospheres. Photographic plates are sensitive to them, so they can be used to take pictures of objects difficult for the human eye to see. Radiant heat waves are used in electric heaters and infrared lamps.
Visible light is what we commonly call ‘white light’.
It is that familiar rainbow spectrum of colours we can see, ranging from red through to orange and yellow, green, blue and violet, as well as all the transitional variations in between. These colours can be seen because our eyes contain structures, called rods and cones, which are sensitive to that particular range of frequencies. Visible light makes up a very tiny proportion of the solar energy that reaches us.
Ultra-violet waves have much shorter waves than visible light.
Under UV light certain substances can become luminous depending on their capacity to reflect it so, although we cannot see the light itself, we can see its effect on other colour frequencies. For example, white clothes and teeth become extremely luminous, butter glows yellow, margarine glows blue, and cancer tissue glows a vivid yellow.
The longest ultra-violet rays (closest to the visible light spectrum) produce fluorescent light which, though widely used, has been shown to be detrimental to health. The shorter UV rays are responsible for producing a suntan and are used in the synthetic production of vitamin D.
X-rays have a very high frequency and range from ‘soft’ x-rays to ‘hard’ x-rays.
Hard x-rays can destroy body cells and are used to treat malignant tumours. They are used medically for deep-seated afflictions and, by industry, to detect metal flaws.
Soft x-rays, which do minimal damage, are used to image the physical body and are invaluable to the medical profession for diagnostic purposes. However, overdoses of x-rays can cause physical illness and foetal deformities.
Gamma (Radium) rays are highly dangerous, if not carefully monitored. They are especially penetrating, emitted by a radioactive substance such as radium, and are used mainly in the treatment of cancerous tumours.
Cosmic rays, with the shortest wavelengths, have the highest energy radiation. They contain tiny particles of atomic nuclei, as well as some electrons and gamma rays. Cosmic radiation bombards the earth's atmosphere from remote regions of space.
Use Colour Consciously
All the varying wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum have been shown to influence the human system (both energetic and physical).
Although the health effects of the visible light spectrum (colours) haven’t been greatly explored by science, it makes no sense to suggest visible light has no influence on us while all other frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum do.
Everyone has experienced the change in mood that occurs when the clouds move away on a grey day and the sun appears, brightening the landscape. The clouds have been preventing the warmer parts of the spectrum (the reds, oranges and yellows) to come through, and when they do, we experience, and are influenced by, their vibrancy.
For a long time, psychiatric hospitals have recognised that using soft pink colours on the walls of seclusion rooms has a pacifying effect on violent or agitated patients.
What about the tradition of pale pink or pale blue baby colours? Or simply the use of softer, pastel colours in general? It is all intended to reduce the amount of stimulant energy and help keep baby calm.
Colours have a very real effect on us and we can consciously use this fact to influence our health, our moods, and our experiences.
Read the article Healing with the Rainbow to learn more about using colour in your life.