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Bow-shaped Caustics from Conical Prisms: a 13th Century Account of Rainbow Formation from Robert Grosseteste’s De iride

Harvey, Joshua; Smithson, Hannah; Siviour, Clive; Gasper, Giles E.M.; Sonnesyn, Sigbjorn O.; Tanner, Brian K.; McLeish, Tom

Bow-shaped Caustics from Conical Prisms: a 13th Century Account of Rainbow Formation from Robert Grosseteste’s De iride Thumbnail


Authors

Joshua Harvey

Hannah Smithson

Clive Siviour

Sigbjorn O. Sonnesyn

Brian K. Tanner

Tom McLeish



Abstract

The rainbow has been the subject of discussion across a variety of historical periods and cultures, and numerous optical explanations have been suggested. Here, we further explore the scientific treatise De iride [On the Rainbow] written by Robert Grosseteste in the 13th century. Attempting to account for the shape of the rainbow, Grosseteste bases his explanation on the optical properties of transparent cones, which he claims can give rise to arc-shaped projections through refraction. By stating that atmospheric phenomena are reducible to the geometric optics of a conical prism, the De iride lays out a coherent and testable hypothesis. Through both physical experiment and physics-based simulation, we present a novel characterization of cone–light interactions, demonstrating that transparent cones do indeed give rise to bow-shaped caustics—a nonintuitive phenomenon that suggests Grosseteste’s theory of the rainbow is likely to have been grounded in observation.

Citation

Harvey, J., Smithson, H., Siviour, C., Gasper, G. E., Sonnesyn, S. O., Tanner, B. K., & McLeish, T. (2017). Bow-shaped Caustics from Conical Prisms: a 13th Century Account of Rainbow Formation from Robert Grosseteste’s De iride. Applied Optics, 56(19), G197-G204. https://doi.org/10.1364/ao.56.00g197

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 19, 2017
Online Publication Date Jun 30, 2017
Publication Date Jan 1, 2017
Deposit Date Apr 25, 2017
Publicly Available Date Aug 8, 2017
Journal Applied Optics
Print ISSN 1559-128X
Electronic ISSN 2155-3165
Publisher Optica
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 56
Issue 19
Pages G197-G204
DOI https://doi.org/10.1364/ao.56.00g197
Related Public URLs https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:0d45941b-684c-4b17-94e0-68c3477e8b0d

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Publisher Licence URL
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Copyright Statement
Published by The Optical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Further distribution of this work<br /> must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article’s title, journal citation, and DOI.







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