We break things apart to put them together



When light hits a prism, the sum of its parts becomes visible. If humans were prisms, would we reveal little more than our morning caffeine rituals?
In the 1660s, English polymath Isaac Newton embarked on an enlightening journey. His studies showcased that white light, when passed through a prism, paraded in seven distinct colors, creating the unforgettable ensemble of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet – our timeless ROYGBIV. He documented this discovery in his book, Opticks, or, A treatise of the reflections, refractions, inflections and colours of light. Each color, he proposed, had a unique wavelength, as unyielding as the bonds of old friends or your favorite boy band.
That Flow Though (Public Domain)
Fast forward to the early 1800s and enter German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Inspired by canvases of vibrant shades, Goethe began to question Newton’s findings, which were on their way to becoming canon. In his work,  Zur Farbenlehre, or Theory of Colors, Goethe postulated that Newton had merely scratched the surface of color’s grand tapestry. He viewed color as an interplay of nature, perception, and reality.
Goethe as a Young Man
Less Flow But A Jheri Vibe (Public Domain)
But as years turned to decades and decades into centuries, who won this tug-of-color?
In academia’s dimly lit corridors, where coffee is almost a sacrament, this debate lightly brews.  While my tale barely scratches the surface of this conversation, the scientific consensus mostly tips its hat to Newton.
In an 1853 critique, German physicist and physician Hermann von Helmholtz suggested people treat Goethe’s observations as poetic reflections rather than scientific deductions.
Centuries later, popular science writer and puzzle master, Martin Gardner opined in Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (1957):
“Even the great Goethe produced a two-volume work on color, containing violent polemics against Newton’s theories of light. Since Goethe had no understanding of experimental methods, and even less of mathematics, his attack proved one of the most irrelevant in the history of physics.”
Newton and Goethe: Two colossal minds. Were they playing in the same sandbox? Perhaps, but their castles were worlds apart. Whereas Newton sought to develop a mathematical model for the behavior of light, Goethe focused on exploring how color is perceived in a wide array of conditions. The answers may converge but at the end of the day they may be different questions all together. But hey, sand is sand.
Consider the social media cosmos, a space full of claims both audacious and unverified. Yet, in a world of few absolutes and numerous theories, we should cherish the pursuit of knowledge, the dismantling of flawed notions, and the relentless quest for truth. We should match the respect of building expertise with the freedom of play and awe.
Who decided the roles in the times of tribes? Did they ever switch off for a day? We’ve progressed from generalists to specialists. Today’s tribes, fueled by shared passions, thrive in Discord chats, Zoom calls, and misadventures in the Nevada mud.
Navigating our identities becomes a dance of false simplicity.
I am a doctor. Im a football player. I am a farmer. I am…Gumby?
Think of the scientist who moonlights as a painter or the lawyer who crafts crime novels.
Meeting Leonardo da Vinci, would we dare label him merely as an artist or inventor?
Should Newton or Goethe pull up to our soirée, would our first question really be, “So, what do you do?”
Art and science, forever intertwined. Were they to share a meal, it’s anyone’s guess who’d cover the bill.
This age of hyper-specialization brings its own conundrums. Insights, no matter how profound, risk obscurity if they remain exclusive to select circles.
I’m intrigued by the interplay between disciplines, the bridges we can build to find insights about life. These links are what connect us to the world outside our immediate sphere and allow us to create new ones. Not just in the sciences, but as fellow humans navigating the ROYGBIV of life.
For in simplicity, often lies the most profound complexity.
We break things apart to put them together.
Even light, with all its colors, eventually needs a break.
The information contained in More Chaotic is for informational and entertainment purposes only. This newsletter is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something discussed on this platform.


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