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Friday, September 4, 2009

TEACHING RAINBOWS (Part 1)

Last night the Gourmet Philosophers gathered to save Planet Earth and Humanity. As might be expected, we did not get too far...and, in fact, can only mostly rave about the Diamond Head view, great wines and tasty Italian cuisine. We did, though, dabble in rescuing our educational system, and, appropriately enough, today I begin my serialization of Chapter 3 on education from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

Rainbow

CHAPTER 3: TEACHING RAINBOWS—THE 7 R’S

Rainbows

Iris, meaning rainbow in Latin, was a messenger of the Olympian gods and the goddess of this optical phenomenon. Chinese, Indian and Norse mythology also relates the rainbow to gods. Aristotle mentioned the moonbow. In The Bible, the rainbow is the covenant between God and Man. The Irish leprechaun found a perfect place to hide his pot of god because you can never get to the end of the rainbow. But, then, that in itself is a fatal flaw to the concept because they, too, could not get there, unless they were supernatural, which, I guess, they were, if they were real.

But getting to reality, Euclid’s Optica (300 BC) and Ptolemy’s Optica (140 AD) both tried to formulate a law of refraction (you might recall that science project where the prism separates sunlight into colors of the rainbow). However, rainbows first began to be seriously analyzed much later in the 13th Century by Persian and English scientists. The earliest theoretical explanation was reported by German Theodoric of Freiberg in 1307. In 1637, Descartes experimented with sunlight through a glass sphere.

It was Isaac Newton, though, who, between 1666 and 1672, used a prism to refract the transparent light of the Sun into the full visible spectrum: red, yellow, green, blue and violet. The mnemonic, Roy G. Biv—or red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet—is commonly used to remember Newton’s later addition—in 1704 from his Opticks—of orange and indigo (420 to 440 nm, see the Colors section in the Introduction) to equate with the seven notes of the musical scale. I’ve long been waiting for a computerized keyboard of the seven colors to finally learn how to play a piano. I think I can perform with logic through colors.

There is, of course, no definitive line of demarcation. The rainbow is a continuous spectrum from red to violet. There are more colors, but the human eye cannot see infrared, ultraviolet, X-rays or Gamma Rays, although our bodies can feel them.

Poet John Keats, nearly two centuries later talked about Newton unweaving the rainbow, destroying the beauty of nature by analyzing light with a prism and splitting it into colors. Two centuries again later, Richard Dawkins, in his Unweaving the Rainbow, chides Keats about being a very young man who (died at the age of 25) did not appreciate that mysteries don’t lose their poetry because they are solved. Here I disagree with Dawkins, for the mystery is what keeps religion, for example, functional. Once humanity determines there is no magic to miracles, religion will either become unnecessary or evolve into a more realistic culture, and maybe even spur the Golden Revolution, depicted in Chapter 5. The poetry, in some respects, will be gone, but like life in general, things do change. Notwithstanding, Richard Dawkins was singularly influential on my views in the chapter on religion.

Without getting into the real science, the rainbow is a virtual (unreal, cannot be captured, maybe like a ghost or God, but wait until Chapter 5) image caused by sunlight shining through water droplets, like rain, with you in the middle. Thus, you cannot see a rainbow while facing the sun (except for very rare fourth harmonics…but forget this). A direct line connects the Sun through the back of your head to the center (middle of the circle) of the arc. Red is always inside, but, conversely, outside in the double rainbow. If you are on the ground, and 90 degrees is straight up, morning and afternoon rainbows can only be seen when the sun is lower than 42 degrees (just below the halfway up and down points). I now and then saw a circular rainbow from our former apartment, and thought I saw a side by side rainbow while golfing earlier this year, but did not have a camera. Maybe I was dreaming, for this has to be impossible, as both were of the same size and intensity. Of course, you also see rainbows in sprays from sprinklers, falls and waves.

Over the Rainbow, music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Yip Harburg, sung by Judy Garland, won the Oscar as the song of the year in 1939 and was named the top American song of the 20th Century by the Recording Industry of America and National Endowment for the Arts. Hawaiian Israel Kamakawiwoole recorded this song in 1993, combined with What a Wonderful World and Rainbow was released by Jack Johnson, also of Hawaii, in the same year. Another Rainbow by George Hamilton IV was popular in 1961. The opening song of the 1979 Muppet Movie was The Rainbow Connection. Rainbow by Mariah Carey in 1999, with a Rainbow Interlude, and by Neil Diamond in 1973, without anything close to a song by that title, are two of many rainbow albums. Sammi Davis (nope, this one is a female) starred in Ken Russell’s The Rainbow in 1989. Then in 2008 there was Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” album.

Jesse Jackson had his Rainbow Coalition, Greenpeace’s ship is the Rainbow Warrior, hippies gather at Rainbow Gatherings, and the rainbow is the universal symbol of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The University of Hawaii, it is reported, switched from rainbows to warriors, perhaps for this reason, but, possibly more so, to better market black colored uniforms.

China had a rainbow bridge made of bamboo in the 12th Century, while Japan now has a suspension bridge crossing northern Tokyo Bay, which is white in the daytime, and sort of red, white and green in the evening, using lights powered by stored solar energy. Sort of, because from any distance it still looks white at night. I gave a talk to a high school group in Japan and tried to inspire them to work with Hilton—as this hotel chain at one time used the rainbow in its advertisements—to make the Rainbow Bridge truly rainbow colored, becoming yet another of my failed ideas. The cover of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth,http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/ Book 1, featured a rainbow bridge. For this chapter, that cover would be more appropriate.

The Discovery Channel sponsors the Rainbow Education Media and there are various rainbow education systems. I would like to propose the teaching of rainbows, not the virtual image, but the full spectrum of the seven R’s, to match Newton’s color music wheel. However, I will first describe my educational experience.
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The Dow Jones Industrials ended the week on a positive note, jumping 97 to 9441. Except for Japan, major world markets also all went up. Crude oil slipped under $68/barrel and gold rose $2/toz to $994.



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In the West Pacific, Tropical Cyclone Dujuan, at 40 MPH, should become a typhoon over the next couple of days, but before getting to Japan, make a north, then west, turn. In the Atlantic, Erica is now a remnant, but there is a new disturbance off the African coast. Tropical remnant, Jimena, must like the Baja, for she has, unexpectedly chosen to remain there, bringing considerable rainfall. There will be a slight southeast movement over the weekend until dissipation. There is a new disturbance south of Jimena, but this one should turn west.

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