Redshift vs. Blueshift: The red pill vs. the blue pill


Last night I was researching the relationship between spacetime, gravity and light speed when I came across a phenomenon called the Doppler effect. The Doppler effect indicates movement of waves. Redshift and Blueshift signify movements in electromagnetic, or light waves. In redshift, the wavelength increases but the frequency decreases, whereas in blueshift the wavelength decreases but the frequency increases. The ‘ambulance analogy’ helps to better explain the Doppler effect which deals with soundwaves. In turn, this analogy also helps to explain redshift and blueshift.


As the ambulance approaches the object, the sound wavelength becomes shorter and compressed (increasing in frequency). But as the ambulance moves away from the object, the wavelength stretches out and the frequency decreases. This is also the case with redshift and blueshift, but in regards to electromagnetic and light wavelengths.


Redshift is interesting because it can show us which objects are moving away from us, and therefore charts the expansion of space. When an object moves away from us, and is involved in the expansion of space, the light is shifted to the red end of the spectrum. Vice versa, if an object is moving closer to us the light is shifted to the blue end of the spectrum. What you see in the picture above is an image taken by the Hubble telescope, showing objects in red that are moving away from us, therefore showing an expansion of space.

I realised a connection between redshift and blueshift and a pivotal scene in the movie ‘The Matrix’. Specifically, when Neo is asked to choose the red pill or the blue pill. During this scene, Morpheus is quoted as saying “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”. Basically, the redpill represents awareness of the matrix, and the blue pill represents a life of ignorance.  Neo chooses the redpill.


I did some research into the red and blue pill but all results only discussed what the pills represented in terms of choice. Not one result mentioned why the colours red and blue were used for the pills. Could the red pill be an analogy of redshift – an expansion in one’s mindset. Being able to break away from the matrix, to see and understand the universe in its entirety. Could the blue pill be an analogy of blueshift – inward thinking. A bubbled mindset, rather than one that can see beyond life itself.


I’m not sure whether the Wachowski’s (the directors of the Matrix), had any reasoning behind their choice of using the colours of red and blue for the pills. In fact, I’m sure its just pure coincidence. Nevertheless, I thought the phenomenon of redshift and blueshift could potentially hold an interesting link to the pills, whether it was intentional or not.

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