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Rays, Waves, and ScatteringTopics in Classical Mathematical Physics$
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John A. Adam

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691148373

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691148373.001.0001

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Ray Optics: The Classical Rainbow

Ray Optics: The Classical Rainbow

(p.76) Chapter Four Ray Optics: The Classical Rainbow
Rays, Waves, and Scattering

John A. Adam

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on the ray optics of the rainbow. Some of the most powerful tools of mathematical physics were developed explicitly to address the problem of the rainbow and closely related problems. Indeed, the rainbow has served as a benchmark for testing theories of optics. The more successful of those theories now make it possible to describe the rainbow in mathematical terms—that is, to predict the distribution of light in the sky. The chapter first provides an overview of the physical features and historical details relating to the rainbow before discussing the ray theory of the rainbow from an elementary mathematics standpoint. In particular, it considers some relevant numerical values, polarization of the rainbow, and the divergence problem. It also explores related topics in meteorological optics, including the glory, coronas (simplified), and Rayleigh scattering.

Keywords:   ray optics, rainbow, ray theory, elementary mathematics, polarization, divergence problem, meteorological optics, glory, corona, Rayleigh scattering

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