You may think you know rainbows, but do you really know rainbows? HowStuffWorks.com is willing to bet you don't. We have more tidbits about refracted light than you've had hot meals, so step right up if you're feeling knowledgeable and prepare to get schooled in seven separate hues.
Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are indeed visions but only illusions, or at least so sayeth the lyrics to "The Rainbow Connection," made famous by Kermit the Frog in 1979's "The Muppet Movie." We really hope you got that one right, because the questions are only going to get more difficult.
In the Broadway musical "Finian's Rainbow," where does the title character (on the run from a leprechaun) hope to invest his ill-won pot of gold?
The musical's central fugitive plans to bury his treasure in the shadow of Fort Knox where he hopes it will grow into a golden harvest. Scientifically unfounded? Certainly, but the musical also features a scene in which a racist senator magically has his race changed, so it's probably best not to quibble about believability.
If most of the vehicles in your immediate vicinity have license plates with rainbows on them, which U.S. state would you be in?
You'd be in Hawaii, which is also the home of the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors men's basketball team -- to say nothing of the state's wealth of actual rainbows.
Rainbows frequently play a part in myth, folklore and religion. Leprechauns hide their gold near them. God uses them as a promise not to drown everything. Which of the following is not an actual rainbow belief?
Vishnu didn't need a rainbow sword. In Hinduism, it's said that his incarnation of Buddha was consumed by a giant sea creature known as the rainbow fish. Later, some fisherman caught the beast, freed Buddha and fed everyone for a year on the multicolored fish meat.
Who defined the seven-color sequence of hues (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) in the visible spectrum in rainbows?
In addition to being the title of songs by both Boards of Canada and They Might Be Giants, Roy G. Biv is a mnemonic device for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. While Aristotle also proposed a scale of seven basic colors, it was Newton who included indigo.
Fill in the blank: When white sunlight hits ____ at a fairly low angle, you can see the component colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet in the form of a rainbow.
While some earlier theories involved rain clouds in the rainbow creation process, the answer is in fact raindrops. No leprechauns are harmed.
So just how many colors does each raindrop produce when it refracts white sunlight?
While we see one color refracted in each drop, every drop of water separates white light into all of the colors of the spectrum.
Rainbows sometimes deviate from their most common form. You might find yourself looking down at one inside a crater at Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park, and you might even glimpse a double rainbow. But the rare upside-down rainbow is something different entirely. What causes these multicolored smiles in the clouds?
Rarely encountered at latitudes far from the Earth's poles, upside-down rainbows occur when sunlight shines through tiny ice crystals in high-altitude cirrus and cirrostratus clouds.
The water droplets required for a rainbow don't have to come from a cloud. They can come from a geyser, crashing surf or even a spider's web. But what about other light sources? Is there such thing as a moonbow?
Yes, water droplets can refract the faint white light of the moon into a dim lunar rainbow. It appears to the human eye as a white arc, however, as we lose our light sensitivity in the darkness.
Rainbows are a signature of Earth's atmospheric conditions, but astrophysicists theorize that one additional destination in our solar system might have rainbows of its own. Where might this be?
Saturn's moon Titan boasts both sunlight and water droplets, making rainbows a possible occurrence on the distant sphere.
About HowStuffWorks Play
How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!
Get smarter every day! Subscribe & get 1 quiz every week.
Playing quizzes is free! We send trivia questions and personality tests every week to your inbox. By
clicking "Sign Up" you are agreeing to our
years old or over.