Three layers, seven colours

A while I ago I posted a rant about rainbows. It was triggered by a comment that science ruins rainbows by taking away the magic. My argument in that post was that science adds to their beauty and magic because it allows you to “see” so much more in them.
A couple of days ago I was walking across a carpark and it had just started raining. And there was a stunning rainbow on the ground:

Is it less beautiful to me because I know how the colours come to be there? Because I know the oil film is only a fraction of a micrometre thick? Because I can imagine the waves reflecting at the two interfaces, with an added pirouette at the top? Because I could write the equations and calculate the thickness of the film from the colour of the ribbon? Of course not. But is it less beautiful because I know why those ribbons are there? That the oil leaked onto the earth-covering tarmac from a petrol-gulping car? Is it less beautiful because I know the oil will flow off the carpark, and into a stormwater drain, and out to a river, and the sea? Well, it’s hard to see only beauty in a blood-red bushfire moon. It’s hard to see an iris blooming in early winter and not feel some fear. And it’s hard to see a rainbow on an oil-slick and not feel slightly sickened. But are the colours less beautiful because of that? I don’t know.

The rain has raised these
bright ribbons from the tarmac –
water, oil, air:
three layers, seven colours –
can I deny their beauty?


Filed under poem, rants

21 responses to “Three layers, seven colours

  1. pot of gold
    bold guarded
    prism and lights
    bent revealing true colours~

  2. writingwhatnots

    What’s that phrase? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thought provoking post Kate.

  3. It’s hard to appreciate the beauty born of tragedy. Nice write.

  4. Msdedeng

    I agree with your argument that science adds the fascination factor. It tells me exactly what’s happening in real time and in my case, no, it does not make the experience less beautiful but intensifies it. I think you just gave us a mini science lesson in how the rainbow came to be. You are awesome as always!

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