Over at Pure Pedantry, Kara has a nice post on Goethe and game theory.
No one can see what Newton said he saw, since the colors of the rainbow blur into each other.Newton said he was able to distinguish seven primary colors, although his only reason for choosing seven seems to be that a musical octave had seven tones.(Newton wanted nature to be simple.) But by privileging his hypothesis over his data, Newton willfully ignored a fascinating truth about the mind: it corrupts.Newton believed that color could only be understood by understanding the “least parts” of light.He imagined light as “corpuscular,” composed, like glowing dust, of invisibly small particles “emitted from shining substances.” By making light a material thing, Newton was able to subsume even the photon – the most ethereal of God’s elements – into the laws of his physics.
Light, like a planet, was subject to the newly invented force of gravity. Truth must be seen to emerge from carefully negotiated experiments.
And so, in his Optiks, Newton adroitly described his “proof” of light’s substance, narrating his method in one of the most famous scientific experiments of all time.
Wielding only a prism (or so the story goes), Newton described how he created a perfect rainbow out of white light, the rainbow composed of neat and distinct shades.
This made perfect sense to Newton, since every color we perceive was itself a separate wavelength, a unique property bestowed upon the universe by a mathematical God.
Using a second prism, Newton showed how these spectral colors could be recombined into the original white light.
On closer inspection however, Newton’s data in his experiment cruces seems a little precise.