Paint Chemist Rainbow Flag

Did Goethe really believe that every object had a skin of whirling pyramids, the speed of which gave rise to different colours? By shaving off the tips of these, their energy is drained away and the colour drifts towards black. Hollow pyramids are throbbing with the possibility of night, Novalis told me in a letter that I had to burn.

Walking along the high road
I see the buildings trailing coloured beams
Reflected on designer watches, Ray-Ban shades
And splashed from last night’s rain
As cars go by, A Polish tourist glances up
Not knowing what the colours signify
But settled that the polyester nylon flag
Is something modern, trite and empty of ideas.

If Goethe wandered past today
He would be shocked to see the cars
And motorbikes in vivid red
The shade from which (or so he claimed to think)
Are all the other colours made. And then
Observing all the
many-coloured sheets
Would wonder how much scattered energy
Emerges from each rainbow trapped in silk.

He wouldn’t realise that the
Writhing chains of quinacridone and
Phthalocyanine take random turns to
Both soak up and bat away selected highlights from
The steady hail of helium’s despair. Nor
Would he know that pink is really
Minus Green, a floating concept that

Relies on the magic of the space between
Magenta’s bold twin peaks.

Since I don’t have access to DTP or ChemDraw, I haven’t been able to construct the type of exhibition poster I had in mind; something tall and imposing, with six bands of colour using a mixture of paint, feather boas, and sequins with ball-and-stick models turning gently in the breeze.
The point I wished to make was that colour chemistry is a serious branch of science, and if you don’t understand the significance of molecular structure you end up with slight problems – like 17,000 seats having to be replaced at Wembley Stadium (May 2007) because they weren’t light-fast…
Here’s my attempt at a whimsical poster showing some of the many, many options for pigment structures. And any good chemist will point out that the precursors to these pigments are also used in pharmaceutical and agrochemical manufacture, so there is always competition for raw materials.
Hopefully some dynamic youngster can run with this idea and produce a more glamorous wall-chart suitable for display at a conference – the 2019 LGBT STEMinar, for instance? 





One thought on “Paint Chemist Rainbow Flag

  1. And I so, so badly wanted to launch an urban myth claiming that Hamilton originally wrote this song about the five colours of herbicide (Agents Pink/Blue/Green/Orange and Purple) used by the US against Vietnam in the sixties. But it had already been around for ten years by then….As if the Arsonic Acid salts and chlorinated pyridine acids weren’t bad enough, the defoliants were contaminated with high levels of dioxin, which had appalling consequences for the victims of this chemical warfare – color-coded slaughter juice.

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