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Iridescence: What creates nature’s shifting rainbows?

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“Why do we see rainbows in soap bubbles? What makes an oil slick so oddly beautiful? Iridescent colors, which transform depending on the angle you look at them, are all over nature. How does physics make these shifting rainbows?”

Take a closer look at The Beautiful Science of Iridescence, with the help of some stunning bird feathers, beetle wings, fossils, and gemstones. In this Be Smart video, Joe Hanson learns more about the benefits of iridescence and some of the different materials that create it, including structures of melanin, keratin, chitin, nacre, and silicon.

metallic green beetles

“All of these iridescent colors are the result of physical structures that bend light, not pigments or fluorescence or any of the other ways that color is created in nature. Just the strange and beautiful result of light waves interfering with each other.”

Entomologist Floyd Shockley, biologist Sarah Luttrell, and mineralogist Jeremy Post, all from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, provide their expertise.

Watch these iridescence videos next:
The iridescent Chrysochroa fulgidissima jewel beetle
Macro Video of Iridescent Soap Bubbles
Why Is Blue So Rare In Nature?
Jellies that diffract rainbow light like iridescent spaceships

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