Scientists have warned that our visual world will almost certainly revert to monochrome, or black-and-white, within the next five to ten years.
Those who have viewed photographs, films or television recordings made during the early or mid 20th century, will have seen the achromatic world in which people then lived. Those alive at the time will recall the gradual emergence of colour, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, that finally led to the rainbow hued spectrum with which we are now familiar.
'Scientists were initially baffled by the colour phenomenon,' recalled Dr Ivor Tan of the Cambridge Solar Research Institute in a recent interview with the BBC. 'Solar researchers then discovered that the sun has a "chromatic cycle", and that the type of light emitted by the sun changes at different phases of that cycle.'
Dr Tan explained that the apparent colour of objects on Earth is significantly influenced by colours in the sunlight that falls upon them. 'Currently, sunlight reaching Earth includes the whole colour spectrum,' he confirmed. 'During the 19th and much of the 20th centuries, however, the sun was mostly emitting light in the monochromatic, or black-and-white spectrum. There is some photographic evidence,' he continued, 'that sepia light was reaching the Earth for periods. However, for the most part, the population viewed the world in black, white and shades or grey.'
In the late 20th century, the advent of colour led scientists to explore the historical effect on the Earth of the Solar Chromatic Cycle, or SCC. 'It's clear that Leonardo da Vinci painted in colour,' confirmed an expert from London's National Gallery, 'so the sun must have been in a chromatic phase in the 15th and 16th centuries. It's difficult to be certain about more historic art, however,' he admitted, 'as we know that many earlier black-and-white paintings were coloured-in during the Renaissance.'
Evidence for much older SCCs comes from evolutionary biology. Richard Dawkins in his latest book, I Told You There Isn't A God. How Many Bloody Times Do I Have To Repeat Myself?, points out that creatures would not have evolved colour if it had no survival value. He concludes that brightly coloured animals such as birds of paradise must have evolved during a chromatic phase of the SCC when their colours would have been visible. He also argues that colourless animals, such as zebras, grey seals and polar bears, must, conversely, have evolved during an achromatic phase.
Governments have attempted to reassure people that, although a new achromatic phase of the SCC is imminent, this should be no cause for alarm. Studies have been quoted that show many alternative cues in most situations where colour is currently employed. 'Everyone would know that the top grey beam of a traffic light would mean stop whilst the lower grey beam would mean go,' commented the UK Minister for Transport. He confirmed that zebra crossings were expected to be unaffected.
Despite reassurances, financial markets have been nervous. Shares have plummeted in Kodak, Sony and other leaders in colour imaging technology. Paint manufacturers have also been badly affected by lack of investor confidence.
The advice to the public is to prepare for the chromatic transition by reducing dependency on the rainbow colour spectrum and by embracing monochromism. 'People should to do some "grey sky thinking,"' suggested a UK government spokesperson, 'and view this as an opportunity to see the world in a new light.'