If you live on America’s West Coast, you’ve probably bookmarked the air quality monitoring website PurpleAir by now. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where drifting smoke from historic wildfires has turned the sky orange, shuttered national parks and other outdoor spaces, and intermittently made our air quality the worst in the world.
Wildfire smoke isn’t just a nuisance, either — it’s a killer. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, smoke from 2020’s wildfires has likely already killed 1,200 to 3,000 people. That’s orders of magnitude more than have died in the fires themselves. The World Health Organization…
If you live on the West Coast and woke up yesterday morning to our aggressively orange, smoke-tinged, apocalypse sky, you may have thought “Wow, this needs to be on Instagram.”
But when you stepped outside with your phone to capture some pics to scare your East Coast friends, you were probably disappointed. A sky that appeared horrifically Martian in reality looked washed out and white-ish on your phone.
Why is that? The reason comes down to how your phone captures images. But even deeper than that, it comes down to something physical and fundamental: the color of white light.