Ultraviolet Sunflowers

Legendary painter Vincent van Gogh arrived in the south of France in 1888, in search of warm weather and artistic inspiration. Over six months, he painted seven still lifes of sunflowers, his favorite plant, infused with yellows of ecstatic beauty that captured the sun and warmed his troubled heart. While he saw the sunflowers in a special way, in one respect he did not see them at all. This is because humans see in the visible light element of the electromagnetic spectrum, the cones in our eyes perceiving radiation in wavelengths from 380 to 700 nanometers. Sunflowers, however, are meant to be seen in ultraviolet light of 10 to 400 nanometers—invisible to our eyes.

Bees see in color, and like humans, ...

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