This is a fascinating film made in 1993 by Henrik Boëtius on Goethe’s very influential book A Theory of Colours, which was originally published in 1810. Although its main influence was on artists, it has also been written about by a number of scientists.
In the book Goethe opposed the Newtonian Theory of Colours, and managed to show that there are, in fact, more colours in the spectrum than Newton had recognised, which he illustrated in his famous colour wheel.
Goethe’s theory is that colour arises through the interplay between light and darkness, which can in fact be easily shown, by flooding with light or withdrawing it altogether: the result is the same, nothing can be seen.
In pursuing his expermiments on this theme Goethe came up with some surprising results: colour can be shown to emerge where darkness and light meet, as at the sunrise or sunset, and also that the more intense the light and darkness are the more intense the colours are.
Another surprising thing we find out in this film is that light is invisible: it only becomes visible when it strikes an object. In a vacuum (like outer space) it is not seen. When it hits an object, like a planet, or interplanetary dust, it becomes visible.
Many other surprising and intriguing things are presented in the film, which will make you stop and look again at a phenomena that we so much take for granted.
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