In Search of Nature's Rarest Color

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Pub Date 20 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 03 Aug 2021

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A globe-trotting quest to find blue in the natural world—and to understand our collective obsession with this bewitching color

Blue is a rare color—natural blue, that is. From morpho butterflies in the rain forest to the blue jay flitting past your window, vanishingly few living things are blue—and most that appear so are doing sleight of hand with physics or complex chemistry. Flowers modify the red pigment anthocyanin to achieve their blue hue. Even the blue sky above us is a trick of the light.

Yet this hard-to-spot accent color in our surroundings looms large in our affections. Science journalist Kai Kupferschmidt has been fascinated by blue since childhood. His quest to find and understand his favorite color and its hallowed place in our culture takes him to a gene-splicing laboratory in Japan, a volcanic lake in Oregon, and to Brandenburg, Germany—home of the last Spix’s macaws. From deep underground where blue minerals grow into crystals to miles away in space where satellites gaze down at our “blue marble” planet, wherever we do find blue, it always has a story to tell.

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ISBN 9781615197521
PRICE $24.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 23 members

Featured Reviews

Firstly thank you to Netgalley and The Experiment publishers for the ARC ebook of this book.

This book is beautiful. Kupferschmidt has travelled the world in search of answers as to why the colour blue is so rare and special in nature. The answer - science.

The book takes the reader through the history of the colour blue, starting with it's original sources from rocks through to manufacture of blue dyes, the science behind how we see the colour blue, why and how plants and animals are certain colours.

Whilst main focus of the book is the colour blue, there is a lot of background on how light interacts with molecules to allow us to see certain colours as well as an overview of how our eyes work.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it extremely informative, but many readers may find this too textbook like. It certainly helps having a scientific background.

This is definitely a book that is aimed more towards a specialist audience than the everyday reader.

I did also find that some of the topics jumped around a little too erratically at some points, making it difficult to follow at points.

Overall, a great introduction to the science of colours and perfect in print or ebook format so that the wonderful pictures can be enjoyed.

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A cerulean dream

This book covers the history of the colour blue, its cultural and emotional significance, how we and other species perceive the colour, its occurrence in the world around us, the science of blue, and artificial pigments.

Told as a quest in pursuit of blue, Kupferschmidt’s globetrotting doesn’t add a huge deal to what is otherwise a thought-provoking and thorough examination of nature’s rarest colour. The writing style lacks warmth, mostly resembling academic texts.

The accompanying photography is stunning.

A beautiful book to look at, rather dry to read, but the raw facts are fascinating.

My thanks to NetGalley and The Experiment for the ARC.

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I found this book to be fascinating, enchanting and very informative. Can anyone recall all of the blue animal, plants, etc in nature? Are there some we do not know that exist and are unseen. Anything blue sticks right out. This book delves in to all these questions and more, and I was pleasantly surprised just how well it was written and organized. The did their homework and laid out all their findings and insights well and left the reader with a factual and insightful gem. A quick read.

I highly recommend this for anyone interested in the color blue as well as for people who enjoy nature or a good nonfiction book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thanks to Netgalley, Kair Kuperferschmidt and The Experiment for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Available: 6/8/21

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Outstanding science writing

Kai Kupferschmidt created a wonderful, well-written book. I loved it. I would not have thought that a book on a single color could be so interesting and fun to read. He puts his journey into the story, which I love. He explains science clearly and thoroughly, but the book contains so much more. There is a lot of history and some beautiful art. The book was originally published in German but the translation is outstanding. Indeed, I did not know it was a translation until I searched for some background on Kupferschmidt. This is the type of science writing that will have broad appeal and that there should be more of. Thank you to NetGalley and The Experiment for the advance reader copy.

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Blue is such an exquisite colour, relaxing and cool yet arresting. As a young child my parents taught me it is rare in nature so have always mindful of it to this day when at the sea or anywhere in nature. As the author points out, blue is chemistry, biology and physics and all are detailed in this book with many examples. The helpful information about pigments, electrical signals, light and molecular vibrations which contribute to the colour is interesting. You will find excellent explanations of cones in our eyes (as humans we have three types).

The stunning shades of blue depicted in this book's photographs are breathtaking. When contemplating natural blue I think of flowers (including my blue gardens), birds and the clear Adriatic Sea. But this author takes it well beyond that into the hows of blue. We learn about the blues "produced" by the Egyptians, those in the Middle Ages (indigo), Renaissance artists (in particular Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel) and German Meissen as well as recent discoveries. Also included is a table of blues and where they occur in animal, vegetable and mineral. One of my favourite new discoveries in the book is the gorgeous blue-ringed octopus!

You needn't be science inclined to enjoy this book (though it helps). All you need is an inquisitive mind and longing to learn.

My sincere thank you to The Experiment and NetGalley for allowing me the privilege of reading this lovely and informative ARC!

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The stunning peacock picture on the front cover of this book drew me in to find out more about the mysteries of the colour blue. The reader is taken on a factual and scientific tour of blue things found in nature. The author explains the rarity of blue amongst other more predominant colours. The illustrations are stunning and the information fascinating. I enjoyed reading this in small bites rather than in one go. Thank you to Kai Kupferschmidt, Net Galley and The Experiment for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Scattered through this book are images of the examples of blue described, which makes it one of the most beautiful books I have read for a long time.

Because we see vast expanses of blue in the sky and sea we may take it for granted, but as the author explains, ″Blue occurs less frequently in nature than other colours do.″ There are examples of blue in nature amongst flowers, birds and minerals, but compared to colours such as red, yellow and the ubiquitous green, they are comparatively rare. And when we turn from nature to human ingenuity it has been difficult to produce a colour blue artificially.

The book looks at blue from many angles: science, history and art, and looks at how these interconnect. The science is explained in a way which I think is accessible to the average reader, and anecdotes are interpolated throughout the technical descriptions to make them more manageable. And it ends on a personal anecdote which emphasises what a gift blue is within the everyday world.

I had a copy of this book early through Netgalley

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Blue is my favorite color so I was pretty excited about this book! It was an interesting experience as I have not read books in this genre before. A lot of informative things about the chemistry and biology of the color and where it is found. Very pretty pictures too!

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Blue is filled with beautiful visuals and intriguing anecdotes. Kupferschmidt is adept at moving among the levels of the physical world's hierarchy--atoms, molecules, cels, etc.--and into levels of culture and society. An impressive achievement.

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Oh my! A stunning tribute to the color blue. I did not realize how rare the color blue really is. I love the science and history behind the author’s motivation. I particularly enjoyed the explanations in the rocks and animals section, but my favorite was the plants section. This book is written as an easy to follow and enjoyable textbook and guide. A great resource for all lovers of science.
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are solely my own, freely given.

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Kai Kupferschmidt's book, Blue, talks about the rarity of this color and why it stands out when we see it in nature. This book truly will help you appreciate the details in life and the world around you, and I found it to be quite impactful because I now see the world a bit differently. Learning about the function of color in society was interesting, too, because rarely is blue used in marketing or advertising, yet it's a color that many people say is their favorite. This is a quick read and true gem of nonfiction writing!

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The color blue, so fascinating and beautiful to most of us and yet, how much thought do we give to the scientific, historical, and cultural significance of blue? This book really surprised me! It's not the type of genre I normally read but I found myself thoroughly engaged in learning about the history, cultural significance, and scientific facts surrounding the color blue. A delightful read with stunning photos and examples throughout.

Thanks to NetGalley, Kai Kupferschmidt, and The Experiment Publishing for an advanced eBook in exchange for my honest review.

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Blue is rare. A look at the sky contradicts this, but if you take a closer look around, we quickly see that we rarely come across blue in the animal and plant world. Since time immemorial, people have been looking for unique blue stones and dyes that transform textiles, porcelain or paintings. Because blue has always had a magical fascination for us. Be it the romantics' search for the blue flower or the wondrous blue colouring of bird feathers. Kai Kupferschmidt succumbed to this fascination as a child and it has been with him all his life.

To find out the secret of this colour, he embarked on a journey from Japan to a volcanic lake in Oregon and the last specimens of the Spix's Macaw in Brandenburg. Stones, plants, animals or the remote view from space on our blue planet are evidence of immeasurable beauty, which is then reflected in our speaking and writing. But everything begins with light and our vision. A fascinating, vivid and interesting romp through the history of the colour blue and its scarcity throughout the natural world. Highly recommended.

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I was intrigued by Blue from the gorgeous cover and the concept of a book about a specific color was fascinating.The author brings the color alive in the world and the air around us.A book perfect for discussion a color with so many levels .#netgalley #theexperiment

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My thanks to The Experiment for a temporary digital review copy via NetGalley of ‘Blue: In Search of Nature's Rarest Color’ by Kai Kupferschmidt in exchange for an honest review. It was originally published in Germany and was translated from the German by Mike Mitchell.

Blue is my favourite colour and this vibrant celebration of the colour blue was a delight from start to finish. It has a beautiful cover and also contains a number of striking photographs throughout.

Kai Kupferschmidt is a science journalist who has been fascinated by the colour blue since childhood. This book is a record of his globe-trotting quest to find his favorite color in the natural world and to understand its place both in nature and world culture. He explores examples of blue including in minerals, plants, insects, reptiles, birds and other creatures. He also examines the linguistics of colour and practical applications such as pigments for use in art and dye in the creation of fabrics.

I found this an enriching experience. His account was very science-based though I felt that Kai Kupferschmidt explained the more technical aspects in an accessible fashion. His style was colloquial and anecdotal. (The image of scientists applying make-up to the feet of male blue-footed booby birds to ascertain if this made them more or less desirable as mates amused me greatly.)

He completed the book with ‘Here Was Blue’, a personal and powerful account of his encounter with ‘Blue’, the 1993 film art installation by Derek Jarman at the Tate Modern. I was very moved by it. Following the main text he provides suggestions for further reading and his sources.

I find that the colour blue is very calming and so just reading this book and looking at its photographs and even the solid blue pages that mark its chapter divisions was almost like a colour meditation.

Overall, I felt that reading ‘Blue’ increased my knowledge not only about blue but about colours in general.

I enjoyed this very much and wanted to add it to my library, so bought its hardback edition. It is beautifully presented with dark blue-sprayed edges.

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