Adam Rogers: Full Spectrum—How the Science of Color Made Us Modern

Full Spectrum

Full Spectrum


Adam Rogers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 18, 2021, $28.00
ISBN-10: 1328518906; ISBN-13: 9781328518903

Rogers reports:

A couple of decades ago I learned about a pigment, a mineral used to give things color, called titanium dioxide. It’s ubiquitous in the human-made environment, because it’s bright white, very opaque, and has a higher refractive index than just about any other white pigment—so it’s a brightener and opacifier in not just white things but in paints, coatings, plastics, paper, drugs, foods, dyes, and on and on.

That got me hooked on trying to figure out how this stuff, which wasn’t invented until the beginning of the 20th century, fit into the millennia-long history of human beings making and trying to understand the physics, chemistry, neuroscience, and engineering of color.

Adam Rogers. Photo by Jenna Garrett.

Adam Rogers. Photo by Jenna Garrett.

I collected string on the idea for all those years, squirreling away journal articles, books, possible sources, and the occasional interview, like we all do. I dove into the research as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow. And then I sat on it until 2015, when the internet went crazy for a day about The Dress—a picture of a dress that looked blue and black to some people, and brown and white to others.

I wrote an article about it, and finally realized there was a book in there. The story would start even before the appearance of human beings, or even eyeballs, and end with AI-controlled 3D printers forging paintings, and Pixar animators using lasers to make an audience see colors that aren't really there.

The same agent who worked on my first book, Eric Lupfer, agreed that we had another one. I found him thanks to recommendations from a lot of science-journalist friends.

If I had to advise aspiring book writers, I’d say to prepare for a lot of work—more reporting and rewriting than you would ever think possible. It’s not just a matter of 20-timesing a feature story. A book is supposed to be something of general interest, and yet also utterly idiosyncratic, something only you could make. So you want it to be good.

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May. 19, 2021

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit to submit your report.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

Hybrid 2022 AAAS Annual Meeting