Rainbow Science! … AND Why Headphones Get So Tangled.
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Rainbow Science! … AND Why Headphones Get So Tangled.


Hey, Vsauce Michael here, and I’m celebrating the holidays in my mom’s basement. But a few days ago, MadmegzOfEpic @tweetsauce this question. Now, at first I was like, the end of a rainbow? Of course you can’t get there, everybody knows that. But then I said, why? I mean, what would happen if I saw a rainbow and I fired a camera bullet at the rainbow? What would the footage look like? Well, I found that in this impossible journey to a rainbow, you can learn a lot. For instance, the rainbow that you see is unique to you. That’s right, anybody nearby will also see a rainbow, but their rainbow will be slightly different. There’s a different rainbow for everybody, and that’s because rainbows are apparent phenomenon. Where you are dictates where
the rainbow will appear to you. Rainbows happen because sunlight behind your body enters into raindrops in front of you that then reflect it back into your eyeballs, and there’s a rainbow because
raindrops not only reflect light, they also refract it. Refraction occurs whenever any type of wave enters a new medium where its speed is changed. In order to change speed, that
wave must change direction. So when white light from the sun enters a raindrop, it is refracted. It changes direction. And different wavelengths of white, which means different colors, are refracted differently. So they get separated into what we know as ROY G BIV. The geometry of a spherical raindrop means that this spectrum of colors will only be visible to you from a very specific angle relative to where you are, and that angle is about 40 to 42 degrees from the angle of your head to your head’s shadow. Here is a way to think about it. The spectrum of a rainbow is firing out of raindrops between the angle of 40 and 42 degrees. So if you move forward, you’ll just see that rainbow coming from different drops, except light that reflects more
than one time inside the raindrop. Now, in order for this light to get to your eyes, it has to reflect at a very specific angle. So it’s only visible about 50 to 53 degrees from your perspective, and this my
friends, is the double rainbow. Now again, because of spherical geometry, these raindrops are not going to be
able to reflect light to your eyeballs between 42 to 50 degrees, which means the area between a primary and secondary rainbow is darker than the rest of the sky. This area is known as Alexander’s Dark Band. Oh, and there’s way more than
we could ever cover here. For instance, if the sun is already set, but the moon
is behind you producing enough light, you can get a moon bow. Also cool, reflection rainbows. If one of these occurs with a normal rainbow, you’ll have two rainbows that
don’t line up, that aren’t parallel. The reason is that one of these rainbows is not coming from sunlight behind the viewer, but instead from sunlight reflected from the lake below. Because you can only see a rainbow from a certain angle, if you move your body, you will continue to see that rainbow from the same angle, which means the rainbow will move with you. It will appear to be following you. This is particularly apparent when you’re flying in an airplane, high above the ground, moving quickly. Now, because you’re so far off the ground, the rainbow, which is centered around your shadow, is actually 100 percent completely visible, which means none of it is hiding below the horizon, which means you see a circular rainbow. And as you can see, as the plan flies through the clouds, the rainbow continues to be in
the same apparent position. So if I fired a bullet camera right at a rainbow, the rainbow would not get closer; instead, it would appear to recede just as fast as the camera approached it. Rainbow is a classic compound word, a word that is made up of two or more words
that can stand on their own. So let’s unpack these a bit beginning with bow. A decorative knot. Here are some brand new headphones. They’re perfectly together, everything’s fine, and they’re perfectly straight. But quickly, after being in my pocket or in a backpack, headphones inevitably tie themselves up into weird knots. The same goes for Christmas
tree lights and electrical wires. Why does that happen? I mean, are there some kind of like weird evil elf sneaking around when we’re not looking tying wires into knots? Maybe, but probably not. The answer lies in mathematics. Mathematicians have jiggled strings around inside boxes to determine not only what types of knots will randomly occur, but how often they will. And of course, what they found is that it’s much more likely for a
string to fall into a knotted position that a relatively rare unknotted one. Furthermore, once a string is knotted, it resists being untied, which is
pretty much the definition of a knot. So it will remain knotted and twisted up until a person comes along and unties it. But what about rain? Well, we know that rain is part of what’s responsible for the visual experience of a rainbow, but what about the ole factory sensation of rain— the smell of rain. There’s actually a name for the way rain smells. It’s called petrichor. Naturalists have given the smell of rain a name because they have found a specific cause for the smell of rain. During dry times, plants exude in oil, and the point of this oil is to slow down seed germination and plant growth so they can wait until there’s more water. But once the rain comes, this oil is washed into the air and we smell it, creating petrichor—the smell of rain. So the next time you smell rain, think about this word Petrichorand where it comes from. You’re not just smelling nature or certain plant oils, you are smelling by definition the blood of stone, the blood of the earth, of the ground. And as always, thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “Rainbow Science! … AND Why Headphones Get So Tangled.

  1. What if you shot a camera at a rainbow at the speed of light ?

    ( Lets imagine that that camera can capture a video at the speed of light )

  2. This has got to be my least favourite Vsauce video I've seen yet: I'm glad his platform has improved since this posting.

  3. Nothing amazing to tell about rainbows except for a true experience of mine I’ve always remembered from years ago. It was sometime in September 1985 and I was 18-years-old and one afternoon I was exploring by myself in the foothills of Moreno Valley, CA long before it was built up with subdivisions. I think my stepdads house was one of four or five houses up on the mountain at that time. I remember seeing a (bright?) rainbow very nearby in front of me and walked toward it but when I stopped close to the spot where I guessed the end of the rainbow should have been touching the ground it had completely disappeared. I was pretty sure I was close to being “inside” the rainbow. Of course there was no pot of gold (I did kind of looked around lol) but I remember being surprised that I really couldn’t see rainbow the closer I got to it (I did not know why that was back then) and it really wasn’t that far from me. I think I did try to walk back to where I initially saw it but it was gone. It was the only time in my life I just so happened to be that close to a rainbow.

  4. 4:31 i lost hope of understanding how my headphone ties so quickly when he said "the answer lies is MATHEMATICS!!!!"

  5. Michael, I'm sure you'll be able to answer this question: if you orbit say, the Earth, eight times… does that make it an orbyte? c".)

  6. Once I was garage sale-ing like 5 years ago in the summer and it had just rained that morning, so when I looked up I saw a rainbow circling the sun in a 360°, it was awesome

  7. The theory of relativity states that the speed of light is same for every observer. Why then , light , on entering a new medium changes it's speed to cause diffraction? Isn't it a violation of theory of relativity??

  8. I have seen a full circle rainbow, as a back seat passenger of a (very bouncy) Cessna flying over the Missouri R. in SoDak when I was a little kid. Was so awesome it pretty much took my mind off the turbulence.

  9. my ex-girlfriend can smell the rain before its starts to rain. i just can't. i cannot imagine what's that smell's like XD

  10. Petrichor seemed like a very familiar word to me. Turns out, one of the words it consists of (ichor) happens to be the name of one of my favorite songs.

  11. Vsuace should do one on why certain smells tempt us. Like I love the smell of soil when it rains and that one of old books and papers.

  12. (2:40) A, "moonbow", because when it's the sun, it's called a "sunbow"?
    It's still a rainbow even if it's the moon reflecting the light, because it's a visual effect reflected by the rain.

  13. #mrmichel if we withdraw charge from a body then the mass of body remain same the question is here what is charge,,,,,how it exist without mass.

  14. You said that the rainbow is centred where the shadow of my head hits the ground. But while in an airplane that certainly isn't true, because if that were the case then I wouldn't had seen the complete circle; surely its centre is somewhere in mid air. So what is happening? Suppose if I were in a rocket and flew straight up gradually looking at a rainbow, at what point does the centre of the rainbow leave the ground?

  15. There is one video where vsauce shows you how to prevent headphones from getting tangled, does anyone know the title to that video????

  16. "Rainbows follow us around when we move."
    "Are there elves that tie our wires? Maybe, but probably not."
    "When you smell rain, you're actually smelling the Earth's blood."

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