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10 Myths About Rainbows


The scenic Skogafoss falls in south Iceland are enhanced with a beautiful rainbow. Why do we love rainbows so much? Nora Carol Photography/Getty Images

Who doesn't like rainbows? Sure, some grouches might not care too much for them. But watch what happens when a rainbow suddenly, almost magically, appears on the horizon, a delicate burst of color gently washed across the sky. People stop what they're doing. Stare. Snap photos with their iPhones. And smile.

A rainbow's ability to bring joy to just about anyone is probably why they're painted on kids' cheeks at fairs. Why they're used to decorate birthday cakes, garden flags and bedding. Why they're mentioned in lyrics, poems and other writings. Why they're the stuff of folklore across many countries and peoples, often signifying a link to God or the heavens.

So what, exactly, is a rainbow? Strangely, it's just an optical illusion. We see rainbows when light strikes drops of water. The light is refracted, or changes directions, then is reflected by the back of the water drops. As this reflected light is leaving the water, it's refracted again at several angles [source: National Geographic].

You'd think we mortals would know everything about rainbows, as popular as they are. Yet there are actually quite a few myths out there about these multihued illusions. Think you're pretty rainbow-savvy? Here's betting you learn at least one new fact about them by the time you finish this article. Our first rainbow myth is probably the most famous.


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