No other color has been making news like magenta... First it was about T-Mobile's (Deutsche Telekom) ownership of the color, and now it's in the color news again for not even existing. So, does magenta exist?
Why it Doesn't Exist
The rumor started circulating when blogs picked up on an article entitled, "Magenta Ain't A Colour," written by Liz Elliott for the Neurostimulation Technology site biotele, which made claims that because the light spectrum is a straight line of single wavelength values (Red light the longest; violet the shortest) and magenta, or pink, is nowhere to be found, then it's not a real color.
A beam of white light is made up of all the colours in the spectrum. The range extends from red through to violet, with orange, yellow, green and blue in between. But there is one colour that is notable by its absence. Pink (or magenta, to use its official name) simply isn’t there.
She goes on to explain that even though magenta does not exist as a color in the spectrum, we can see it do to the summation of the wavelengths by our brain.
If the eye receives light of more than one wavelength, the colour generated in the brain is formed from the sum of the input responses on the retina. For example, if red light and green light enter the eye at the same time, the resulting colour produced in the brain is yellow, the colour halfway between red and green in the spectrum.
So what does the brain do when our eyes detect wavelengths from both ends of the light spectrum at once (i.e. red and violet light)? Generally speaking, it has two options for interpreting the input data:
a) Sum the input responses to produce a colour halfway between red and violet in the spectrum (which would in this case produce green – not a very representative colour of a red and violet mix)
b) Invent a new colour halfway between red and violet
Magenta is the evidence that the brain takes option b – it has apparently constructed a colour to bridge the gap between red and violet, because such a colour does not exist in the light spectrum. Magenta has no wavelength attributed to it, unlike all the other spectrum colours.
The light spectrum has a colour missing because it does not feel the need to ‘close the loop’ in the way that our brains do. We need colour to make sense of the world, but equally we need to make sense of colour; even if that means taking opposite ends of the spectrum and bringing them together.
Why it Does Exist
In a rebuttal from Chris Foresman in the article, "Yes, Virgina, There is a Magenta", for the site Ars Technica, Chris goes on to further explain the greater electromagnetic spectrum vs the visible spectrum and the 'pink-purple line' that is mapped on a common CIE chormacity diagram, which is based on human perception.
If you look at a standard CIE chromaticity diagram, which maps wavelengths of light according to human perception, you'll note that every point along the curve corresponds to a single wavelength of light. Magenta, as it were, lies along what's commonly called the "pink-purple line" that runs across the bottom. All colors along this line do not exist as single wavelengths. But, all points inside the "color bag" above that line do not exist as single wavelengths, either.
T-Mobile Owns It
As we all know by now, Deutsche Telekom (parent company of T-Mobile) has had the registered ownership of the color magenta in the telecom and internet service sector since 2000. Which some might ask, if magenta isn't real than how can someone own it?
Magenta is Real
The fact that we all know what magenta is and looks like is proof enough that the color is real. That is, real as anything else that is only a perception of our brain.
We love you magenta, we're glad you're here.