Experimental quantification of the mass of a rainbow

AI-generated image of fictional researchers using an instrument to measure the mass of a rainbow

New research makes a serious effort to quantify the mass of a rainbow. See the preprint here:


In this study, we present an innovative and rigorous experimental approach to quantifying the elusive mass of a rainbow, a natural phenomenon that has captivated human imagination for millennia. Rainbows are formed through the complex interplay of sunlight, water droplets, and atmospheric conditions, resulting in a vivid and ephemeral display of spectral colors. Despite the well-established understanding of the optical processes that generate rainbows, the question of whether they possess a measurable mass remains unexplored.

Our method involves the use of high-precision optical trapping techniques and a controlled environment to simulate the conditions that create a rainbow. By isolating individual water droplets and carefully measuring their properties before and after interacting with light, we were able to estimate the contribution of each droplet to the overall mass of the rainbow. The experiment was performed in a controlled laboratory setting, with attention given to eliminating potential sources of error and bias.

The results of our study shed light on the previously unexplored properties of rainbows, providing a quantitative estimation of their mass, and expanding our understanding of the physical nature of this fascinating phenomenon. Our findings may have implications for a wide range of fields, including atmospheric science, meteorology, and optics, and may pave the way for new interdisciplinary research at the intersection of these disciplines.


Dr. Iris Arcus and Dr. Lila Bifrost using their device to measure the mass of a rainbow.

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