Science Facts

Why Is The Milk White? – Color Explanation

White Milk

White milk gives all the calcium, protein, potassium, vitamin D, and many other essential vitamins and minerals that we need to grow. It’s not just humans either all mammals drink milk produced by their moms. Research shows that when it comes to drinking formula milk or going the all-natural route. It’s much better to go with mother nature on this one. Some studies show that babies who forego the formula will be better educated and make more money when they grow up. But the thing to be able to digest the sugar lactose which is found in milk properly.

According to a US Department of Agriculture study, the average person ingests about 18 gallons of milk per year. That may seem like a lot, but this number is down from years past. Humans developed a genetic mutation that allowed them to process lactose well into adulthood and since milk is a great healthy source of protein and vitamins. A lot of these now lactose tolerant people were able to live longer, healthier lives. In comparison, others who retained the intolerance would succumb to starvation due to a lack of healthy food options. So those who were able to pass on their genes to their offspring kept passing on this mutated gene.

Why is the milk white?

The color white contains all the colors of the rainbow. Color occurs when an object or substance absorbs light. If something is red, the specific wave of light being absorbed is in the red area of the light spectrum. In fact, something black is absorbing all the light that is hitting it. It brings us to why something is white. This happens because none of the light is being absorbed. It is all reflected in the eyes, and then we see the color white. So what about milk?

  • Milk consists of about 87% water, 5% lactose, about 8% vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins. One protein, in particular, is called casein. This protein reflects the light that it comes in contact with. There are a few other fats in milk that also reflect light. That’s what gives milk its white color.

Scientific explanation: The word “light” applies to anything on the EM spectrum. The Sun emits all the colors in the visible spectrum. The reason leaf looks green is because that’s the color the leaf reflects. Objects do not have color, but the light has color. Objects absorb some colors and reflect others. If something looks white, it reflects all the colors, but that can also happen with transparent things. Eventually, most of the light gets reflected instead of passing through.

The inside back of the eye is covered in photoreceptor cells, which means “light receiver.” It’s kind of nice when a scientific name makes sense. Those photoreceptor cells come in two types: rods and cones, literally a description of their shape. The rods only detect the intensity of light. So they do not help with color vision. The cones are where the magic happens, like colors. At the top of each cone is a stack of membranous containing tiny collections of a protein called iodopsin. It stimulates another protein called transducin. This enzyme degrades a secondary messenger chemical in the cone’s cytoplasm.

Light hits the cones, and a chemical process sends a signal to the brain. That signal contains information about the color because there are three different cones: red, green, and blue. They’re not that color. Most things in the human body are roughly the same pinkish-brown color. These cones are called red, green, and blue cones because that’s the type of light they each respond to.

The same is true for every other color on the visible spectrum. There are signal combinations the brain can receive that aren’t created by any single wavelength of light. What if the blue and red cones activate intensely at the same time? None of the colors on the visible spectrum are going to do that. If your brain gets that signal, it’s got to make sense of it somehow.

The brain literally makes up a color for a hypothetical signal combination, and that’s not the only color it made up! What if all three types of cones activate intensely at the same time? Well, that’s what your brain calls white. That’s why the milk appears white.


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