Posted on September 11, 2008 by Steve

   The guy seemed to know what he was doing, and I was sitting there, hanging on his words, when he said, "And you also have to know about colors -- how to get different colors when you mix the paint. For example, what colors would you mix to get yellow?"
   I didn't know how to get yellow by mixing paints. If it's light, you mix green and red, but I knew he was talking about paints. So I said, "I don't know how you get yellow without using yellow."
   "Well," he said, "if you mix red and white, you'll get yellow."
   "Are you sure you don't mean pink?"
   "No," he said, "you'll get yellow" -- and I believed that he got yellow, because he was a professional painter, and I always admired guys like that. But I still wondered how he did it.
   I got an idea. "It must be some kind of chemical change. Were you using some special kind of pigments that make a chemical change?"
   "No," he said, "any old pigments will work. You go down to the five-and-ten and get some paint -- just a regular can of red paint and a regular can of white paint -- and I'll mix 'em, and I'll show how you get yellow."
   At this juncture I was thinking, "Something is crazy. I know enough about paints to know that you won't get yellow, but he must know that you do get yellow, and therefore something interesting happens. I've got to see what it is!"
   ... So I went to the five-and-ten and got the paint, and brought it back to the restaurant. The painter came down from upstairs, and the restaurant owner was there too. I put the cans of paint on an old chair, and the painter began to mix the paint. He put a little more red, he put a little more white -- it still looked pink to me -- and he mixed some more. Then he mumbled something like, "I used to have a little tube of yellow here, to sharpen it up a bit -- then this'll be yellow."

--Richard Feynman, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
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