I want it painted … beige?

I was quite pleased when I saw that Pass Notes No 2,677 in Today’s Guardian was about “the universe”. Like the other pieces in this series, it looks at the subject matter from a deliberately bizarre angle, focussing on the fact that it appears to be coloured beige, or at least if you blend the light from all the stars we can see in the right proportions, that’s the colour you would get.

Actually the work discussed in this item was done quite along time ago; it was featured in a New Scientist article in 2002. One of the authors, Karl Glazebrook had previously claimed that the colour produced by all the stars in all the galaxies that could be seen was in fact something like turquoise. For some reason, this trivial bit of science fluff captured the (obviously limited) imagination of journalists around the world. However it turned out to be have been wrong and a grave announcement was made pointing out that the Universe was actually more like beige. This story gave a few people their 15 minutes of fame, but I think the episode made cosmologists as a whole look very silly.

I had hoped this would be forgotten but, the Guardian decided to revive memories of the affair today, with obviously humorous intent. They also called Glazebrook an “astrologist”, although that appears to have been a mistake rather than a joke as it has now been changed to “astrophysicist”.

Anyway, this important observation requires a theoretical explanation and I now want to step into the limelight beigelight to offer a radical insight into the vexed issue of cosmological chromaticity.
My hypothesis has its inspiration in TV shows like House Doctor in which homeowners wishing to impress prospective purchasers are always advised to paint everything beige or magnolia. Since the Divine Creator appears to have decorated the Universe according to the same prescription, the obvious inference is that the cosmos is about to be put on the market. He might have had the courtesy to tell the sitting tenants.

Come to think of it, Glazebrook missed a trick here. We astrophysicists are always being castigated for not doing anything that leads to wealth creation. What he should have done was to produce a paint with the same colour as the Universe. Glazebrook Beige has a nice ring to it.

5 Responses to “I want it painted … beige?”

  1. Steve Jones Says:

    This is fantastic!

  2. Nick Cross Says:

    Karl’s and Ivan Baldry’s offices were decked out in turquoise by some of their colleagues at Johns Hopkins after the initial result, but I can’t remember anyone doing the same with the beige. How does the colour change with redshift: do you paint your babies room a colour corresponding to the early universe, your children’s to lower and lower redshifts and your parents to the universe in the far future?

  3. telescoper Says:

    How do you paint something infrared?

  4. Nick Cross Says:

    I am sure there are paints that give nice infra-red colours: you just need the right detector. An IR camera to show it, or a little bit of genetic engineering if you want your children to see it with their own eyes.

  5. Nick Cross Says:

    Alternatively you just give the colours as we would see them. If all the radiation is given off in the IR, then a nice matt black would do.
    It will be quite a while before all the restframe radiation from starlight is in the infrared – no new stars forming and only L and T dwarfs left though.

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