A globe-trotting quest to find blue in the natural world – and to understand our collective obsession with this bewitching colour
Blue is a rare colour – 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 colour 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 colour 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.
Kai Kupferschmidt studied molecular biomedicine and works as a science writer in Berlin. He contributes to the US journal Science as well as to German newspapers such as the Suddeutsche Zeitung, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and Die Zeit. Unless he takes some time off, which he then spends thinking about the colour blue. Kai Kupferschmidt has won numerous prizes, including the Media Prize of the German HIV/Aids Foundation.
"Using anecdotes, reportage fragments and research stories, Kupferschmidt succeeds in explaining the science of blue in an entertaining and vivid manner."
– Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung
"With such dedication and clarity that one is astonished to see what aesthetic pleasure natural science can bring. How does beauty come into the world? As a book."
– Sonntag Kultur
"Poets, painters, psychologists – what fascinates them about the color blue? This book shows it in word and design."
– Die Zeit
"A hymn to the color blue that makes you want to immerse yourself in the world of research, culture, and wonder. [...] Even if you are not a scientist, you get an uncanny desire to understand such connections."
– Deutschlandfunk Kultur
"The book is beautifully equipped, with the blue book cut and a beautiful blue in the cover."
– NDR Kultur, The Mixed Double
"Praise for perhaps the most beautiful color in the world in one of the most beautiful books in recent years."
– ZEIT Wissen
"Kupferschmidt succeeds in presenting facts concisely and with humor."
– Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"Everything you need to know about blue."
– BR Fernsehen