« PreviousContinue »
Tutor. It is; and therefore people who are very short-sighted while young, will probably see well when they grow old.
James. That is an advantage denied to common eyes.
Tutor. But people blessed with common sight, should be thankful for the benefit they derived while young
Charles. And I am sure we cannot too highly estimate the science of optics, that has afforded such assistance to defective eyes, which, in many circumstances of life, would be useless without them.
Of the Rainbow.
TUTOR. You have frequently seen a rainbow ?
Charles. Oh, yes, and very often there are two at the same time, one above the other; the lower one is by far the most brilliant.
Tutor. This is, perhaps, the most beautiful meteor in nature; it never makes its appearance but when a spectator is situated between the sun and the shower. It is thus described by Thomson :
-Reflected from yon eastern cloud,
James. Is a rainbow occasioned by the falling drops of rain ?
Tutor. Yes, it depends on the reflection and refraction of the rays of the sun by the falling drops.
Charles. I know now how the rays of the sun are refracted by water, but are they reflected by it also ?
Tutor. Yes; water, like glass, reflects some rays, while it transmits or refracts others, You know the beauty of the rainbow consists in its colours.
James. Yes, “ the colours of the rain. bow" is a very common expression; I have been told there are seven of them, but it is seldom that so many can be clearly distinguished.
Tutor. Perhaps that is owing to your want of patience ; I will show you the colours first by means of the prism. If a ray of light s (Plate v. Fig. 31.) be admitted into a darkened room, through a small hole in the shutter xy, its natural course is along the line to d; but if a glass prism ac be introduced, the whole ray will be bent upwards, and if it be taken on any white surface as Mn, it will form an oblong image P T, the breadth of which is equal to the diameter of the hole in the shutter.
Charles. This oblong is of different colours in different parts.
Tutor. These are the colours of the rainbow, which are described by Dr. Darwin as untwisted:
Next with illumin'd hands through prisms bright,
Or, bent in pencils by the lens, convey
James. But how is the light which is admitted by a circular hole in the window spread out into an oblong?
Tutor. If the ray were of one substance, it would be equally bent upwards, and make only a small circular image. Since, therefore, the image or picture is oblong, it is inferred that it is formed of rays differently refrangible, some of which are turned more out of the way, or more upwards than others; those which go to the upper part of the spectrum being most refrangible, those which go to the lowest part are the least refrangible, the intermediate ones possess more or less refrangibility, according as they are painted on the spectrum. Do you see the seven colours?
Charles. Yes, here is the violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.
Tutor. These colours will be still more beautiful if a convex lens be interposed, at