For millennia, humans around the world have been inspired and fascinated by rainbows. Today, even hard-core scientists are shouting with joy whenever they spy a rainbow in the sky. Instead of taking selfies, however, most of these scientists are breaking out their remote sensors to gain a deeper insight into these colorful arcs in the sky.
Not only do scientists believe that the study of rainbows can help us understand theoretical issues related to physics, many now believe that rainbow research may have many practical applications to offer human civilization. From meteorology to technology, many different branches of the sciences are slowly seeing the value of creating a larger pool of data on rainbows.
The specific applications scientists are now looking into in their rainbow research go across many disciplines. Just a few examples include studying how accurate rainbows are at gauging the amount of chemical pollutants in the atmosphere, a rainbow's ability to offer more refined knowledge of reinforced concrete, and even how much a rainbow can help with designing new combustion engines.
A great deal of this renewed interest in studying rainbows has to do with a recent publication by a man named Alexander Haußmann. Haußmann is a German scientist who works at the Institute of Applied Physics at the Technical University of Dresden, and he recently published his review on rainbow studies in the European Journal of Physics. Haußmann is a leading figure in the rainbow research community, and he has been interested in meteorology and tracking rainbows for over 20 years.
One interesting finding that Haußmann discusses in his work is how observing rainbows can help meteorologists give a more accurate forecast of total rainfall. Through his studies, Haußmann found that by observing rainbows in tandem with using radar data, scientists were better able to predict the size and shape of rainwater, as well as estimate the total amount of rainwater that would actually hit the ground. This finding, of course, has great implications for how meteorology might move forward, as well as how we can better understand how rainfall really works in our atmosphere.
Another important finding in Haußmann's work specifically for physicists has to do with the mathematical modeling of rainbows. Haußmann points out that raindrops actually flatten out as they pass through a rainbow, thereby making calculations using ordinary raindrop sizes inadequate for accurate designs.
At the end of his rigorous study, Haußmann offers some fun tips for ordinary people looking to take the perfect picture of a rainbow. Haußmann says he uses an SLR camera with a fisheye lens to take pictures of rainbows, but an average smartphone should do the trick. The really important thing with taking pictures of rainbows is to act fast. The absolute longest rainbow on record was only three hours long in Gwyneed, North Wales in 1979.