How Blue is the Sky? Ask This Alien-Like Sculpture

Tuesday August 23, 2016 Written by Genevieve

The Cyanometer

In 1789, a Swiss physicist named Horace Bénédicte de Saussure decided to solve a riddle that had been bothering scientists, philosophers and four-year-olds since forever: why is the sky blue?

To help him in his quest, he created the cyanometer – a ring coloured with 53 graduating shades of blue that, when held in the air, makes it easier to identify the sky’s true colour. Using the ring, old mate was able to deduce, correctly, that a combination of both moisture and certain particles in the air causes the sky’s colour to change. (Don’t ask us for more details: we don’t understand them.)

Two hundred and twenty-seven years later, Slovenian artist Martin Bricelj Baraga has created a striking public homage to de Saussure’s cyanometer.

Like its technological ancestor, Baraga’s Cyanometer sculpture detects the blueness of the sky, but this time with a precision de Saussure could have only dreamt about.

The statue’s inbuilt computer gathers data about the colour of the sky, and then changes its colour to match it perfectly. But it doesn’t just mimick the sky – it also diagnoses it when it’s sick. Pollution measured by the Cyanometer is reflected across the work in real time, sending a sobering message to passers-by.

A jarring realisation to have about the air you are breathing as you gaze at the beautiful shades dispersed from the central colour ring, across the monolith. The ominous music in this awesome video on Design Boom doesn’t really help ease the tension, either.

The Cyanometer