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Why is blue so rare in nature?


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Among living things, the color blue is oddly rare. Blue rocks, blue sky, blue water, sure. But blue animals? They are few and far between. And the ones that do make blue? They make it in some very strange and special ways compared to other colors. It’s Okay To Be Smart investigates.

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History’s deadliest colors

When radium was first discovered, its luminous green color inspired people to add it into beauty products and jewelry. It wasn’t until much later that we realized that radium’s harmful effects outweighed its visual benefits. Unfortunately, radium isn’t the only pigment that historically seemed harmless or useful but turned out to be deadly. J. V. Maranto details history’s deadliest colors.

The science of skin color
When ultraviolet sunlight hits our skin, it affects each of us differently. Depending on skin color, it’ll take only minutes of exposure to turn one person beetroot-pink, while another requires hours to experience the slightest change. What’s to account for that difference, and how did our skin come to take on so many different hues to begin with? Angela Koine Flynn describes the science of skin color.

Additional references

How animals hacked the rainbow and got stumped on blue - NPR
Until about 600 million years ago, seeing colors didn't matter so much to Earth's inhabitants — nobody had eyes. Then suddenly color served as a beacon, alerting predators to tasty food. Find out how animals adapted.

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