I was listening to a podcast from Science Friday. There was an interesting discussion about color which led to an explanation about rainbows and how we see their colors. In order for a rainbow to form, light passes through a raindrop. The curvature of the drop refracts the light, bends it and breaks it down into its visible wavelengths.
Here is an excerpt from the transcript:
ANDREW PARKER: Well, when you see a rainbow– when the sun is behind and you’re looking into rain, what happens is each of those raindrops acts as a tiny prism. So the sunlight enters the raindrop, and it bounces off the far surface, and comes back out towards you. But the refractive index of water is slightly different to air, and it causes the white light to split slightly. So each color diverts slightly into a different angle, and that spreads it out into a spectrum, just like you see coming from a prism.
IRA FLATOW: So if I’m standing 20 feet away from a person, I’m seeing the light coming from different raindrops than that other person is. So am I, in effect, seeing a different rainbow?
ANDREW PARKER: Yes, that’s right. The rainbow is in a slightly different position.
IRA FLATOW: So we each have our own rainbow that we’re looking at?
ANDREW PARKER: Yeah, absolutely. Which means there no end to it, unfortunately.
IRA FLATOW: So if you see a rainbow from an airplane, which I have seen, it’s circular– it doesn’t end anywhere.
ANDREW PARKER: That’s true– absolutely. Because then you’re looking onto rain from all directions. So when we’re looking at rain against the horizon, we only see from the horizon upwards, so we only see half the circle.
I love that imagery that no two people truly see the same rainbow. It makes the magic of seeing a rainbow even more special: to realize that what I am seeing is only for me. Others may see a rainbow but the way the light is refracted and bent is for my eyes only. No one else will have the same position, the same angle or the same view.
It reminds me that while we have many similarities with one another, each one of us is unique. I am thankful that God cares for each one of us as if there were only one of us. He is big enough to create something that is exclusive to me and exclusive to you.
It should make us feel honored and humbled. I shouldn't think my needs are more important than yours any more than you should think yours override mine. It reminds me that we all have a place in this world.
About a year ago I wrote a blog about seeing the moon one morning and how others around the world were also seeing its beauty. Sometimes looking at the sky I am humbled to think that these are the same stars that those in the past saw and those in the present will see. I am humbled to know that I am one of the multitude who sees God's handiwork.
The rainbow with all its beautiful complexities is specific for each viewer. It reminds the viewer that he/she is unique but it also reminds the viewer that he/she is not the only viewer. We always need to think of others in our individuality.
No wonder that God used the rainbow as a symbol of promise and hope for Noah, humankind and each one of us.