Colors

by Jonah Goldberg

I just finished a drive from Charlottesville to D.C. I was down at UVA debating Peter Beinart about the role of government at an event hosted by the Edmund Burke Society. Like nearly all UVA students in my experience, they’re a bit too serious but also very impressive.

Anyway, over dinner last night some of the students and the professor who moderated the debate (I’ll spare you his name so that an appearance on NRO doesn’t hurt his tenure chances) recommended an episode of the radio program Radiolab, specifically the episode on color. I listened to the podcast (here ya go) driving home. If you’re looking for something really interesting to listen to that has nothing to do with politics (or almost nothing there’s one very brief, very stupid, discussion about the morality of using a certain kind of tree sap; I’ll spare you the details) I can’t recommend this highly enough. I found pretty much the whole thing fascinating. The third segment is the best. Did you know that Homer gets all of the color-descriptions “wrong” in the Odyssey and the Iliad? Did you know that nearly all ancient texts simply don’t mention the color blue?* The explanations offered for this were somewhat dissatisfying, but the whole subject is really interesting. 

* Note: Radiolab says “blue” doesn’t appear in the Hebrew Bible, which struck me as wrong when I heard it, and the commenter discussion at their site seems to confirm that.