At large: How beige it is

At large: How beige it is

Turquoise, or more properly, pierre turquoise, is a precious gem found in central Asia - the name means "Turkish stone" and is attributed to Marco Polo. It is sky-blue to apple-green in colour, almost translucent. Less romantically, it is made up of hydrous phosphate of aluminium.

A few weeks ago scientists from the Anglo-Australian Observatory (AAO) said that the average colour of our bit of the universe is turquoise. This was based on the light travelling from local stars. Some are reddish, some bluish, some yellowish. Munge it all up and our galactic neighbourhood ends up looking like it's the same colour as the Turkish stone so prized for generations.

It was a nice feeling, living in a place of such interesting colour. Like the psychedelic poster art of the 1960s, it seemed to offer a glimpse of exciting sky-blue to apple-green possibilities.

Then, in last weekend's paper, someone from the AAO said that the turquoise thing was a "computer glitch", a simple error, and in fact our galactic turf is "off-white, more like beige". The seventies hit in an instant. Our view of the future went from tie-dyed Woodstock to Graham Kennedy's Blankety Blanks and leisure suits.

Under false colours

I would have been happier, I think, if I had not been told that my universe was the colour of cold porridge. I suspect I may even have survived if I had not been told it was turquoise in the first place.

Glancing about my work area, I see no turquoise. There is blue, there is green, but the electrifying aluminium phosphate hybrid of the two is strangely absent.

I note that my printer is beige. As is my old computer, now not often turned on. As a computer purchaser, I have moved on from beige. For this industry, the age of beige is over.

I suspect the computers at the AAO may be up to something.

I don't know what colour the computers at the AAO are. But what if - and you'll have to follow me on a bit of a leap here - what if they're beige? What if the computers at the AAO have tried to preserve themselves the only way they could?

They got our hopes up by promising a world of exciting colour and translucence, then forced us to resign ourselves to a beige universe. By demoralising their human masters, they extend their own tenure.

If I'm right, we must fight back. Next time you receive a palette-load of beige boxes, you must send them back. Say: "These will not do, these demoralising institutional prisms of computational uniformity. Bring me some of the red ones." Or the turquoise.

Matthew JC. Powell is not a conspiracy theorist. Attempt contact on

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