Two weeks thinking about rainbows

I am fascinated by the ebb and flow of insight, discovery, writing, progress in this project.  Like so much science itself, sometimes ideas need simply to develop quietly on their own, at other times they are ready for serious up-front work.  So the realisation of Hannah Smithson when at the Porto workshop that Grosseteste’s identification of his colour coordinates with the dimensions of rainbows and “different types of rainbows” might lead to  co-ordinate systems with spiral structure, hss led to two weeks (prior to the next JOSA deadline – deadlines help too!) of intense and fruitful work (by far mostly on Hannah’s part out cheered on by the rest of us).  This involved a lot of serious physical optics (sourced from world expert Philip Laven), mathematical perception theory (Hannah)and a totally trivial link to the rather bijou “log-polar” co-ordinate systems (me) – but for the first time the De Colore puzzle looks like having a satisfactory solution.  More anon with diagrams – very beautiful ones.


Published by tcbmcleish

I am a very badly behaved academic. I know that physics is my 'core discipline' - it's a good one and I love it - but I trespass into interdisciplinary territory all the time. Brief bio: first degree and PhD ('84) at Cambridge topped off with a short fellowship at Emmanuel College, then lectureship at Sheffield ('89-'92). I started working seriously across the chemistry-physics fence there through polymer science (and visiting the marvellous Biblical Studies group which sparked my love of ancient wisdom literature). As Professor of Physics in Leeds ('93-'08) including 5 years as an EPSRC Fellow, I began to work with biologists as well. Some theological training as part of an amglican lay reader's course in the Diocese of Ripon made me think more about how science and religion both encompass and draw on all of human culture. So it planted the seeds of the new book 'Faith and Wisdom in Science'

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