As the theme song for the old TV show “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” goes, “The world is a carousel of color . . . wonderful, wonderful color!”
It sure is — and you can learn more about it at the American Museum of Natural History, where “The Nature of Color” exhibit opens on Monday. It’s a mix of physics and fun, with family-friendly quizzes, live critters, giant models and lots of hands-on displays. (BYOHS: Bring your own hand sanitizer.) If there are any little ones in your life who want to know why glaciers look blue or how a soap bubble can contain a rainbow, this is the show for them.
“Color is all about light, and how it’s perceived by us,” says museum curator Rob DeSalle. As he speaks, a yellow light comes on in the exhibition’s entrance, turning walls, ceiling and floor a dreary shade of gray.
“Looking at people in this light is really cool,” DeSalle says as a man enters, his face drained of color. “See how he looks jaundiced?” The light changes to white, the patterns in the room burst into color, and the man no longer looks like he needs dialysis.
Red, green, yellow and blue galleries explore the physical, biological, emotional and cultural aspects of color. The liveliest is the green room, which is devoted to nature and camouflage. Along with a much-magnified model of a house mouse and an orchid mantis — an insect that mimics a flower to fool its prey — is a glass case full of live, brilliantly colored poison dart frogs. “If you lick the back of one of these,” DeSalle notes, “you’ll get high.”
More benign, but much harder to see, are the leaf-tailed geckos from Madagascar. Still as statues, they blend in with the tree bark in their case, just as they do in the forest to escape their predators.
Interactive stations let you produce colors of your own, whether you’re waving paddles that change from red to blue and violet, or re-creating Isaac Newton’s experiment with prisms. An animated blob moderates a quiz in which three people at a time can bang their buzzers to answer such questions as: “What do they call a little white lie in Turkey?” (Spoiler alert: Pink!)
But the show’s crowning glory is the final gallery, covered in more than 100 portraits by Brazilian photographer Angélica Dass of people from all around the world, their skin tones matched with the Pantone palette.
“I’ve written three books on race and skin color,” DeSalle tells The Post, “and when I saw this, I was blown away. Forget the books. Just see this.”
“The Nature of Color” opens Monday at the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street. The special exhibition, including general museum admission, is $28 for adults, $16.50 for kids ages 2-12; AMNH.org.
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