A Christmas gift from Aging Life Care of California, a Cozee Rainbow aromatherapy pack: the rainbow is a cloth outer cover for the pack itself, which contains clay beads and lavender oil (and can be heated in a microwave or chilled in a freezer). ALCCA chose the Cozee (from the Pink Sky company) for its rainbow and my gayness, but as it happens the rainbow in question is not the Gay Pride rainbow (with 6 bands of color), but Isaac Newton’s rainbow (with 7: the ROY G BIV rainbow).

The cover:


And some ad copy:


But the rainbows.

(#3) My heart leaps up when I behold / A rainbow in the sky (Wordsworth)

A rainbow is a phenomenon of visible light, in a continuous spectrum. That we see rainbows in nature as composed of some small number of distinct bands is a phenomenon of human perception: it’s a consequence of the way human color vision works, in combination with the basic color categories of your particular culture.

Isaac Newton’s rainbow. Newton himself apparently originally followed the medieval account of the rainbow and “saw” 5 bands of color in it: red, yellow, green, blue, violet. But then, in the belief that the colors of the rainbow should correspond to the notes of the musical scale, he added two bands — orange and indigo — to get 7: ROY G BIV.  (Generations of school children were then taught the 7-band categorization as a fact of nature.)

The artist’s color wheel. Meanwhile, artists dealing with pigments and their relationships, rather than directly with visible light, have an account that treats colors by reference to a set of central reference categories (in particular, primary colors red, yellow, and blue; and secondary colors orange, green, and purple); and arrange these colors in a circle (the color wheel), rather than on a spectrum. Some discussion in my 11/12/16 posting “Something I missed on NCOD”.

The Gay Pride flag colors. I sketched the development of this flag in my 6/13/18 posting “The Calvin Klein pentachromatic neon rainbow”. The Gilbert Baker original had 8 stripes. This was simplified to 7 when hot pink faric was unavailable. Then:

The problematic hue distinctions and labeling choices largely vanish with the last revision of the Pride flag, to the hexachromatic version popular since 1979, in which the stripes labeled indigo and turquoise were replaced by a single (royal) blue stripe; the result is the six central colors of the color wheel — primary red, yellow, and blue; and secondary orange, green, and purple

That’s the 6-band Gay Pride rainbow, turned into a flag with the red stripe at the top and the purple/violet stripe at the bottom.

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