Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rainbow Simulation - Water Droplets

Researchers at UC San Diego have been working on creating simulations that accurately model the formation of rainbows. In their news releases and presentations they talk about the physics behind rainbow creation and in particular the new discoveries that have been made about rainbows as a result of their work. Here is a quote from a press release:

"Computer scientists at UC San Diego, who set out to simulate all rainbows found in nature, wound up answering  questions about the physics of rainbows as well. The scientists recreated a wide variety of rainbows – primary rainbows, secondary rainbows, redbows that form at sunset and cloudbows that form on foggy days – by using an improved method for simulating how light interacts with water drops of various shapes and sizes. Their new approach even yielded realistic simulations of difficult-to-replicate “twinned” rainbows that split their primary bow in two."


"Until now, most simulations of rainbows had assumed that water drops are spherical, which isn’t true for large rain drops, ... researchers have  adopted a completely different approach and developed a more realistic model to recreate rainbows...offer the prospect of a better understanding of real rainbows,”

Stemming from a study of rainbow formation, there is an almost infinite set of topics we can learn more about from looking closely at the  behavior of variously shaped water droplets. Here are a few ideas:

  • Weather modeling and forecasting
  • Animations in feature films
  • Atmospheric behavior on other planets that are found to contain water
  • Inspiration for new forms of studio art
  • Educational STEM software development
  • Frozen food storage behaviors over time

I could go further with my imagination but I'd like to know: What other ideas do you have?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts - you can comment here.

(UCSD Press release)

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