All About Rainbows and Similar Phenomenons

Rainbow

Rainbows are always so beautiful… at least, in my opinion. When I see them, I feel that all my negative feelings are gone. I think many of you feel the same.

So, rainbow lovers, let’s get to know this beautiful phenomenon even more 😀

1. How can you see a rainbow?

In general, a rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon. It appears as a result of light reflection in water droplets in the atmosphere. Later, it creates a spectrum of light (usually ark-shaped) in the sky. Rainbows caused by sunlight are always in the opposite direction from the sun.

We can’t approach or touch them. We can only see them. If we decide to go to the direction we think is the location of the rainbow, then you won’t find it there. You will find out that the rainbow is still far away. Even if you see someone standing next to it, the person will tell you that he/she witnesses the rainbow far from there. In conclusion, a rainbow is not a physical object. People can’t see rainbows at any angle other than at the angle of 42 degrees from the opposite direction of the sun. You can get the best view when half of the sky is still dark with raining clouds, and when you are standing at an area with clear sky in the direction of the sun. In this situation, you can witness a luminous rainbow with darkened background.

2. Just how many colors are there?

In 1672, Sir Issac Newton mentioned five colors in a rainbow: red, yellow, green, blue (now is cyan), and violet. However, later, he added orange and indigo on the list. Thus, now we have seven colors in a rainbow.

But how is red seen at the top, while violet at the bottom part of the rainbow?  It’s because the spectrum of the light sent back to you from a drop at the top of the rainbow arrives in such that the red light (deviated by an angle of 42 degrees) strikes the eye while the violet light (deviated by 40 degrees) passes over your head. Thus, the top of the rainbow looks red. At the bottom of the bow, violet light arrives at your eye and red light is deviated toward the ground. Thus, the bottom part of the bow appears violet.

The spectrum color of a rainbow

The spectrum color of a rainbow

3. Variety of Rainbows

a. Classic Rainbow

It is the most common rainbow that people generally see. The ark-shaped rainbow extends from the ground to the other part of ground, or sometimes look vanishes in the sky.

A classic rainbow

A classic rainbow

b. Circular Rainbow

It’s actually jut a classic rainbow but it looks circular if we watch it from the air. Actually, the classic rainbows are all arcs of perfect circles, but it’s impossible for us to see it in complete circle as the ground is in the way. The center of a rainbow is where our shadows fall. If we are standing on the ground, our shadow is surely on the ground, so we just see a half of the arc. However, when we look at the rainbow from an airplane or a very high mountain, our shadows will fall above the ground level, so we may be able to watch the whole circle.

A circular rainbow

A circular rainbow

c. Secondary Rainbow / Twinned Rainbow

A primary rainbow which stands side by side with its twin is an extremely rare phenomenon. Up until now, scientists are still in debate how this happens, but there is a widely-known theory, which says that the rainbow appears due to a combination of various sizes of water drops and the air resistance. Because of air resistance, raindrops flatten as they fall. The heavier is the rain, the more likely is the flattening process. Due to different size of raindrops between two rain, a twinned rainbow may be produced.

Between the primary and secondary rainbow, there is an area which is darker than the surrounding sky. It’s called Alexander’s Band. The rainbow also has a unique characteristic. The secondary rainbow displays reversed order of colors.

A secondary rainbow

A secondary rainbow

d.  Red Rainbow

The rainbow appears during sunrise or sunset when the sky is dominated by red and orange lights. Raindrops then reflect and retract them. As a result, the red portion of the rainbow is greatly widened. According to an optics expert Les Cowley, the inside part of the rainbow is so much brighter red than the outside because “a rainbow is not just a set of colored rings, but rather a set of colored disks. They sky inside is bright because raindrops direct light there, too.” The rainbow is best seen when the sky above it is dark and cloudy.

A red rainbow

A red rainbow

e. Sundog/ Mock Sun/ Phantom Sun and Moondog

This phenomenon is actually not a rainbow, but it shares similar colors with a rainbow. It can be seen in a very cold area. If ice crystals are created as a result of the cold weather, diamond dust drifts in a low level of the atmosphere. The crystals act as prisms. They bend the sunlight, let it passes through them with minimum deflection of 22 degrees. If the crystals sink in the air and are vertically aligned, the sunlight is refracted horizontally. Thus, a sundog appears. The thicker the concentration of crystals in the atmosphere, the more it can be seen clearly and perfectly.

In general, a sundog has similar colors division with a rainbow. Red is on the inside and violet on the outside. Between them are the rest of spectrum. It’s mostly seen when the sun is low and in Antarctic, where freezing temperature and snow are common. When the sun rises higher, the rays passing through the crystals are skewed from the horizontal plane. The deviation angle is increased, so the sundog will move further from the sun, though it stays at the same level with the sun.

A similar phenomenon can also happen during night. Just change the word sun with moon, then you get a moondog.

A sundog

A sundog

A moondog

A moondog

f. Fogbow

A fogbow is rarely seen since it needs a very certain portion of substances to create it. Unlike the other rainbows, a fogbow isn’t made of raindrops. It’s created by certain portion of fog.

There is a certain condition needed to support the phenomenon. It needs 0.05 mm – 0.0020 inch of water droplets to cause a very thin fog. The sunlight must be able to pass through the fog, so people can see the phenomenon at the opposite direction of the sun.

Unlike regular rainbows, a fogbow’s color is paler. Sometimes, it’s just red in the outer edge and a bit bluish on the inner edge. In some cases, it just appears white. Its outer radius is a little bit lesser than that of regular rainbows. Because of its weak color, it’s also called as a white rainbow. It’s also sometimes called sea-dogs.

The phenomenon can appear in clouds, and can be seen especially through an airplane looking downwards. This kind of fogbow is known as a cloud bow. However, if it appears at night, it’s named a lunar fogbow.

A fogbow

A fogbow

A lunar fogbow

A lunar fogbow

g. Waterfall Rainbow

When a stream of mist is spread by a waterfall to the air in such degree so that it mixes continuously with the atmosphere, a waterfall rainbow can be formed. The appearance is not decided based on the weather or location.

There is a waterfall rainbow known as a spray bow. It especially appears during bright days. The saturation of wind and ocean waves can form mist and moisture, which supports a spray bow to show off.

A waterfall rainbow

A waterfall rainbow

A spray bow

A spray bow

h. Fire Rainbow / Circumhorizontal Arc

It looks like a reversed rainbow though it’s actually a halo. It needs certain condition to appear. The sun has to be very high in the sky, around the elevation of 58 up to 68 degrees. There should be cirrus clouds since they will act as prisms. They should be as high as 20,000 feet and contain plate-shaped ice crystals.

It can be witnessed quite often in United States though it’s quite seldom in northern part of Europe. The visibility depends on the location and the latitude of the observer. If you want to know how you can watch it, click here.

A circumhorizontal arc

A circumhorizontal arc

i. Unearthly Rainbow – Titan’s Rainbow

Is there any rainbow outside our planet? Yes, there is. Scientists found one in Titan, Saturn‘s largest moon. Titan is mostly dominated by methane liquids. In addition, its clouds are humid. There, methane is just like water in our planet. It has an ocean and lakes of methane and methane rain. In conclusion, the rainbow formed on this moon is a methane rainbow. “The ingredients you need for a rainbow are sunlight and raindrops. Titan has both,” says atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley.

The rainbows on Titan is a bit different from the general ones on Earth. The spectrum is dominated by orange, influenced by Titan’s orange sky, though the colors order is still the same with the one on our planet.

However, the rainbows on this planet will be difficult to be observed. Rainbows need direct sunshine, but the gigantic satellite’s sky is very hazy. “Visible rainbows on Titan might be rare,” says Cowley. However, it is still possible to be seen using infra-red “night vision” goggles. Atmospheric scientist Bob West of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains: “Titan’s atmosphere is mostly clear at infrared wavelengths. That’s why the Cassini spacecraft uses an infrared camera to photograph Titan.”

A titan's rainbow

A titan’s rainbow

Let’s Get to Know About the Hottest Chili on Earth

I don’t know how you feel about chili peppers, but for me, food is not complete without the spicy taste of chili peppers. The hotter the chili peppers, the more I feel enthusiastic to eat the food 😀

As a big fan of chili, this time I will write down about some of the hottest chili peppers on earth and a little bit about the other kinds of the spicy fruits.

1. History

A chili pepper was originated in America and has been consumed as a part of diet menu since at least 7,500 B.C. It’s been domesticated in southwestern Ecuador since 6,000 years ago. In Central and South America,  it’s become one of the first self-pollinating crops ever cultivated. Christoper Columbus was one of the first Europeans to taste the fruit when he was in Caribbean.

In Asia, a chili pepper was introduced by Portuguese traders for the first time in Lisbon. At the time, Spanish ships were often at anchor in Lisbon from or on the way to America. The traders then took their time to promote it to Asian traders. Later, the trade routes of the fruit in Asia was dominated by Portuguese and Arab traders.

2. Varieties

All the varieties of chili peppers

All the varieties of chili peppers

The genus of chili peppers is Capsicum. The five domesticated varieties of the fruit are:

  1. Capsicum annuum >> It’s the most typical chili that we eat everyday. It has a moderate level of hot. The likes of bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalapenos, and chiltepin belong to this group.

    Capsicum annuum

    Capsicum annuum

  2. Capsicum frutescens >> Some of the species have short lives and some of them are annual plants. It includes malagueta, tabasco, Thai peppers, piri piri, African birdseye chili, and Malawian Kambuzi.

    Capsicum Frutescens

    Capsicum Frutescens

  3. Capsicum pubescens >> It’s the only species of Capsicum which has hairy leaves and black seeds. This is also the rarest species of chili peppers. It’s famous for its ability to live in a cold temperature, colder than other areas which support the life of the other chili species, though it can’t stand frost weather. South American rocoto peppers are in this group.

    Capsicum pubescens

    Capsicum pubescens

  4. Capsicum baccatum >> It’s more widely consumed in South America like Peru, Bolivia, and Caribbean. It has a citrus and fruity flavor. The likes of Aji amarillo, peppadew, Bishop’s Crown, Brazilian Starfish, and Wild Baccatum.

    Capsicum baccatum

    Capsicum baccatum

  5. Capsicum chinense >> The “chinense” word came from the word “Chinese” as 18th-century taxonomists mistook China for its place of origin. So, the Latin name means “Chinese pepper” in English. Just name all the hottest chili peppers on earth, they will belong to this species. Don’t worry, I will introduce you to these hottest fruits soon 😀

    Capsicum chinense

    Capsicum chinense

3. The Hottest Chili Peppers on Earth

  1. Habanero
    It broke record once in 2,000 as the hottest chili on earth. The chili is extremely hot and is rated 100,000 – 350,000 SHU on the Scoville scale (the measurement of the pungency or spicy heat of chili peppers). The fruit can grow up to 2–6 centimetres (0.8–2.4 in) long. The Amazonas fruit belongs to Capsicum chinense. The oldest domestication was reported in 8,500 B.C. in Mexico. Aside from its use to give a strong taste for food, it’s also an important substance for some tequila or mezcal. The chili will be placed in the bottles for several days or weeks to make the drink more tasty and spicy.

    Habanero

    Habanero

  2. Naga Bhut Jolokia
    In 2007, the species was acknowledged by Guinness World Records as the hottest pepper in the world. It scales between 855,000 until 1,463,700 SHU on the Scoville scale , and is 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. However, it seems that global warming doesn’t exclude chili to experience the impact. In 2005, the spicy fruit which grew in Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh) in India was decreasing in the level of heat by over 50% as a result of global warming. Gwalior experienced drought at the time. In other areas in India, the heat was just rated in 329,100 SHU.
    Naga Bhut Jolokia is cultivated especially in India. It can also be found in Sri Lanka, in were it’s called “Nai Mirris” or” Cobra Chili” in English. The pepper is also known as Naga Jolokia, ghost pepper, ghost chile pepper, red naga chili, and ghost chile.

    Naga Bhut Jolokia

    Naga Bhut Jolokia

  3. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion
    Let me introduce the king of all chili peppers, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. The fruit is considered as the newest hottest chili pepper. It has hold the title since February 2012. According to Scoville scale, it sits on the top position of heat level, ranging between 1,500,000–2,000,000 SHU, and 240 times hotter than chilies belong to Clasicum annuum (general chili peppers). The people’s faces who eat this chili golf-ball-sized pepper from the central south coast of Trinidad may go red, sweaty, and felt a tremendous burning sensation in their mouths and throats.
    “You take a bite. It doesn’t seem so bad, and then it builds and it builds and it builds. So it is quite nasty,” Paul Bosland, director of the Chile Pepper Institute said about the fruit. According to him, a family could buy just two Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chili peppers to flavor their meals for a week.
    Jim Duffy, the person who was responsible to provide chili peppers’ seeds for the study, also admitted the extreme sensation people may feel if they consume the fruit, “People actually get a crack-like rush. I know the people who will eat the hottest stuff to get this rush, but they’ve got to go through the pain.”

    Trinidad Moruga Scorpiion

    Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

Feel hot yet? =p

See more what is on the list of Scoville scale by clicking here 🙂

Red Rain Phenomenon – What, How, and Why?

Red Rain

July 25, 2001 – Kottayam and Iduki districts, in Kerala, India –

A stunning phenomenon blew the society’s mind as red rain poured down from the sky after a very loud thunderclap and flash attracted their attentions. The mysterious rain didn’t last for no more than a few minutes. However, a series of red rain was reported within ten days since the noted day. At the same time, leaves in the surrounding of the area looked “burnt”. In September, the red rain stopped.

1. The History

Red rain or blood rain phenomenon has been debated for centuries. The first red rain ever reported is in the 8th century B.C., as written down on Homer’s Iliad. It was believed that the rain was actual blood and a bad omen until the 17th century A.D. By that time, people tried to find natural reasons to provide answers for the phenomenon. In the 19th century, some new theories were discussed. Some said that the red rain is caused by red dust dissolved in the water, or influenced by certain micro-organisms.

2. Theories for Kerala’s Red Rain

There were some theories provided to explain the phenomenon in Kerala at the beginning, such as:

  • Dust Rain from Arabian Dessert
    Days before the red rain fell, a cloud of dust was detected in the atmosphere near to Kerala. It rouse a speculation that the red rain was caused by the dust. This theory has been excluded once scientists didn’t find desert sand as one of the particles in the rain.
  • Dust as a Result of Mayon Volcano Eruption in Philippine
    K.K. Sasidharan Pillai, a senior scientific assistant in the Indian Meteorological Department stated that the red rain might be caused by dust and acidic materials of Mayon Volcano, Philippine, which erupted in June and July, 2001. It could explain why the leaves around the red rain area looked like being “burnt”. He thought the Eastern or Equatorial jet stream was the one to be responsible to transport the materials to Kerala. However, the theory was also eliminated soon after volcanic particles couldn’t be found in the rain.
  • Exploding Materials from a Meteor
    At first, Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) stated a possibility that the red particles in the rain was coming from a meteor which exploded and dispersed about one ton of materials. However, the theory was later doubted since they had no idea how the debris of the meteor kept on falling down to the same location for a long time, unaffected by the wind.

Later, CESS found out that the particles which caused the unusual color of rain were more like spores. The sample of the particles were later sent to Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI) for further investigation. The spores were apparently lichen-forming alga from the genus Trentepohlia. The spores could be found both from the rainwater and the trees at the area.  Thus, both CESS and TBGRI concluded that the explanation of the red rain could be found around the trees at the area.

The scientists decided to visit the location of the red rain on August 16, 2001. They found a stunning discovery. Almost all the plants and rocks were covered with Trentepohlia with a lot of quantity, which was possible to cause such a rain of spores. They reported that the heavy rains in Kerala weeks before the red rain could have caused the widespread growth of lichens. Later, the spores were upraised to the atmosphere by the evaporation process. The spores were then back to the ground as the rain came.

Trentepohlia (the spores, which caused the red rain) in trees

The scientists were not 100% sure about the theory, but they couldn’t find more satisfactory explanation about what could cause such phenomenon.

Other than the Kerala red rain, similar phenomenons were also ever reported in Europe many times, and the newest report was in November 15, 2012 to December 27, 2012, when the rain fell in Sri Lanka.

Were and Are Dragons Real?

This question actually has been in my mind since I was still a teenager. When I was still a child, I often read stories about dragons, most of them were evil. I can’t remember the titles of the stories I read, but some of them gave me insomnia for some nights. The dragons in my childhood killed and ate people, tricked them, and burnt cities.

When I was a teenager, I thought deeper… especially, when I heard about komodo, the biggest lizard, which is said to have a close relationship with dinosaurs. However, it’s also called nowadays dragon. I got interested in this animal. I started to imagine a flying komodo (komodo with wings 😀 ). Then another show on TV talked a bit about dragon and showed some reptiles such as crocodiles, snakes, lizards, and komodos. It raised one more question in my mind, “Is it possible that they are the descendants of dragons?”

Is komodo the descendant of dragons?

I did some researches in internet, and found an interesting explanation about dragons by Dr. Peter J. Hogarth, an expert, who has conducted investigations and researches about dragons for 20 until 25 years. In an interview cited by Animal Planet, he provided explanations about dragons folktales, myths through the science point of view.

Answering a question about whether he thought dragons did exist or not, he stressed that there have been no real evidences to support the existence of dragons in past or present, considering no remains of the legendary creature have been found so far. Experts did found big animals fossils such as dinosaurs and pterosaurs, and some people perceived that these animals could be dragons, but there have been no evidences to support the idea.

Pterosaurus

The expert who said that he would be panic and ran if he saw dragons also explained his another difficulty to think that such an animal could exist on earth. Legends say that dragons breathe fire and fly, yet he didn’t have any ideas how the huge animal could get airborne since they are said to have a very big size, bigger than any flying animals ever lived. The possibility of flying is surely influenced by the size of animals, the size of their wings, as well as the shape of the leading edge of the wings.

However, Dr. Hogarth came with an interesting theory about how dragons may breathe fire. “That’s why we brought in the hydrogen factor,” he uttered. Hydrogen is a gas which supported the breathing fire idea. However, the theory still had a hole. How to set fire to the hydrogen? According to him, dragons “didn’t have a pilot light to fire up the main blast”.

In the past, dragons were said to breathe fire.

However, if dragons never existed in the past, why do we have so many folktales and legends about dragons? We do have a basic picture about dragons, which somehow similar in separated areas around the world. Dragons emergence were reported in Europe, New Zealand, areas around North Pole, northern side of Canada, and many parts of Asia, as we looked at the famous Chinese dragons. Marco Polo even noted in his records of his trips to China that the royal family kept dragons for ceremonies. The likes of Japan, Greece, and India also have legends about the mythical creature.

Chinese Dragon

European Dragon

New Zealand Dragon

Japanese Dragon

Indian Dragon with an elephant

Catholic and Christian people also can find some lines in Bible, which mentioned 34 references to alleged dragons in 10 books of King James version of Bible. The lines could be found in the Old Testament. The original Hebrew word for dragons is “tannin”. The word was translated into “Behemoth” and “Leviathan”.

Isaiah 27:1 declares:  “In that day the Lord, with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan, the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent (or tortuous serpent) and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

Job 41 says:  “Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?  Or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?”

Leviathan

Meanwhile, “Behemoth” is described in the Old Testament as a powerful, grass-eating animal whose “bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron” (Job 40:18).

An illustration of Behemoth (left) vs Leviathan (right)

While all the past references are still not convincing enough, how about in the present time? We do have the legend of Loch Ness monster in a lake in England. Can we call them as marine dragons if they really hide underwater? Maybe… Also, we still have komodos, though they don’t have wings 😀

The illustration of Loch Ness monster

Presented with undeniably many reports of dragons sightings in the past and difficulties our experts face to find the real evidences and provides supports to the folktales with science logic, it seems that we still have more years to wonder whether they were and are real 🙂

A Mysterious Poland Crooked Forest

We all know that there is a basic shape for trees. They have their trunks standing straight from the end of the roots until the beginning of branches. At least, that’s what we draw when we are still children when our teachers asked us to draw a tree.

However, there are actually trees, which grow against the law of nature. They are 400 pine trees growing in northwest part of Poland. For a mysterious reason, the bottom part of the trunks (near to the roots) bend to the north. However, about some meters above the ground, the trunks grow normal just like other trees. The trees look like reversed question marks because of the weird shape.

A crooked forest in northwest part of Poland, where the bottom part of the trees bend to the north.

The curved pines were said to start growing in 1930. It was said that at the beginning, they grew normal like other trees, but about seven until ten years later, they were held down by human, possibly for furniture business or other reasons. It’s never clear who bent them and why. It’s because soon after the Second World War came, the people who were responsible for the trees abnormality abandoned the trees and whatever plans they had, leaving the forest a mystery.

Why do you think they are bent?

Climate Change Prediction

I want to share an article which I’ve just read. This article is about the prediction of climate change for the year of 2100. I read this article because I’m interested in recent news about massive flood in Jakarta, Indonesia, my country. Lucky for me, I don’t live in Jakarta, but still… the flood shocks us, Indonesian people, since we never expect this year’s flood would be the worst of the last few years. Maybe you have heard that the presidential palace was also flooded. I never heard such a news before.

The flood in front of Indonesian Presidential Palace

According to Epa, in 2100, the earth’s temperature will raise by 2°F to 11.5°F. The exact degree depends on the level of future greenhouse gas emissions and the outcomes from various climate models. It also says that by the year, our earth will be at least twice warmer in a period of 100 years.

It’s actually quite scary to see this picture:

Projected changes in global average temperatures under three emissions scenarios (rows) for three different time periods (columns). Changes in temperatures are relative to 1961-1990 averages. The scenarios come from the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios: B1 is a low emissions scenario, A1B is a medium-high emissions scenario, and A2 is a high emissions scenario. Source: NRC (2010)

I don’t know how it is in your part of area, but I heard about two days ago that Australia broke a record of heat wave. Sydney’s temperature in average was almost 46C. Even, the airport hit the number, also broke a record of heat wave. The previous record was 45.3C in 1939.

On Saturday, January 12, the South Australian town of Moomba even set its tempreature in the number of 49.6C, which was just a bit cooler than the 50.7C, the highest temperature ever in the surface of continent ever recorded. It was noted in Oodnadatta back in 1960.

Australian Heat Wave Map

So, what do you think? How’s in your area? Isn’t this phenomenon just coincidence or is it a sign of another global warming attack? What will happen to our climate in the next few years? What will happen to us?