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Are colors a result of electrons or the atoms themselves?

  1. Aug 15, 2015 #1
    Hi Everyone.

    I am confused about the science of colors. I will use an example in my question. I know that the color blue is caused by atoms reflecting blue wavelengths of light and absorbing other wavelengths of light. What I don't understand, however, is which part of the atom actually absorbs the other wavelengths of light? Does the atom as a whole absorb the wavelengths other than blue, or do its electrons do that? If the atom as a whole absorbs these wavelengths of light, how does it do that? And if electrons are responsible for absorbing these wavelengths of light other than blue, why don't they emit these colors when they drop back down to a lower energy level?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2015 #2
    This is probably not the answer you are looking for because it has nothing to do with atoms, but color is perception and is not as straightforward as what wavelengths are entering your eye. You might want to look into Edwin Land's 'color constancy' theory:

  4. Aug 15, 2015 #3
    Here's a link to an article. I didn't realize that he was able to get color vision by illuminating with just two wavelengths of 579 and 599 nm. Pretty cool.


    Edit: forgot link!
  5. Aug 15, 2015 #4


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  6. Aug 15, 2015 #5
    I would think that the unreflected light is converted into heat, which could be re-radiated as infrared or conducted away into the surroundings.
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