Dear reader,

there is a consideration that, as a former physicist and screen-printer, I often uttered for the amusement and disconcertment of my friends:

Black is not a colour, and white does not exists.

Some explanations are in order. Why is black not a colour? Because colour is perceived by our eyes when there is light with a defined frequency in the electromagnetic spectrum, while black is experienced when the light is absent (in other words, when no colour is transmitted). The most black object is the one that absorbs everything (or reflects nothing, as you prefer). You have three options to see an outstanding black:

  • The blackest material, although not available to the market is Vantablack
  • The alternative, affordably available for purchase, is Stuart Semple’s Black (buy it and paint something with it)
  • Eventually, and more cheaply: wait for nighttime, close your windows and shutters, turn off the light, close your eyes.

White is a more subtle matter: it does not correspond to a single frequency in the spectrum but is the sum of all colours. Thus it does neither fit the definition of colour (at least in physics), neither it is well defined: we speak of “warm” white, “cold” white, off-white, ivory white…

I have come to like black much more than white, to the point of studying the truly darkest objects in the known universe: black holes (spoiler: it is not advisable to experience that level o blackness! Spaghettification is as lethal as it has a funny name).

Regarding white, I am engaged in a more tense relationship, and here I’d like to share with you some anecdotes to explain my reluctance to participate in a more profound affair with the candid non-colour.

First, let consider white teeth.

Let me ask a question: do you think that healthy teeth should be white? The answer is no. Healthy teeth are covered by an exterior layer of translucent enamel and a second layer made of dentin. To quote Wikipedia: “Yellow in appearance, it greatly affects the color of a tooth due to the translucency of enamel“. Thus white teeth are due to usage of some whitening paste or are, paradoxically, less healthy than yellowish ones. Sorry, Julia Roberts, you may have the best smile in the world, but I’d rather keep my yellowish dentition (maybe paired with a brown tie!). Beauty is not always the truth.

Less flourishing from flour

Flour is often bleached or aged to enhance its whiteness, destroying some nutrients in the process and using agents that could be dangerous for our health (e.g. bleaching and maturing agents have been banned in the UK). I haven’t dug deep into this subject, but I am developing the opinion that flour is whitened for aesthetic reasons and that its content in nutrients has been consistently cut down in the last decades.

The sugar-coated truth

White sugar has become a problem. I invite you to read a few lines from this WHO report, or merely skimming through this paragraph from Wikipedia can give you some starting points. I can’t speak for you, but I cut out sugar from my diet (as briefly explained in this previous post) and I try to help my children avoid sugar over-consumption.

Fifty shades of non-white

In conclusion, my rant against white and whiteness was just an excuse to throw together funnily some facts that present only a weak correlation. I enjoy sharing what I learn, and I firmly believe that trying to build connections between seemingly unrelated subjects is an exercise that strengthens creativity, helps to foster new ideas and is at the basis of humour: often I hold two words in my mind, and I try to link them in some (hopefully) funny way by whatever means I can exploit (sound, written form, concepts, actions…). The results are not always enjoyable, but the mental process is rewarding in itself and keeps me in good mental shape. Also, acquiring the habit of going beyond the obvious connection is an invaluable skill when dealing with complex problems and complicated systems.

Until next time, if you want to go on ranting about white, there are some issues with something called white house…