Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 08/03/2002Beige is the new turquoise! Or is it magnolia?

Friday 08/03/2002

Beige is the new turquoise! Or is it magnolia? Infinite white, with just a hint of eternity? Whatever, it now transpires that the colour of the universe is a sort of off-white-ivory-pink pastel shade, rather than the rather striking greeny-blue publicised earlier. It's the sort of colour your great aunt would like her next bathroom suite in, which raises interesting questions about the aesthetics of any deity responsible for creating it all, but that's nothing compared to the colour of the cheeks of the scientists who got it wrong the first time around. Red giants all round.

They, of course, are blaming it on the computer. The data came from a huge survey of galaxies and the universal colour was an afterthought, a last minute hack of the information done just because it seemed cool. And of course, there was a mistake: the software thought that the colour called white was much redder than it really is, so made the output greener in compensation. And so the universe went from pearly to pea-green.

"This is science. We're not like politicians." said Dr Glazebrook of John Hopkins University, "If we make mistakes, we admit them." Well, yes -- not all scientists do this, but things normally get sorted out when the old lot die off. But paint the entire cosmos the wrong colour -- this is the sort of mistake that gets you into the history books. It might not be quite so pleasing as a Nobel, but well done, chaps. Inspired.

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