Is It Irresponsible Chasing Rainbows?

Visions, Illusions & Me.

Recently I came across something interesting in Queenstown which has occupied my thoughts off and on since. It was a faint rainbow stretching out across Lake Wakatipu. 

It isn’t the location of the rainbow itself that is of interest to me, nor the question of how rainbows are created, what drew my attention was pondering the curve of a rainbow. Or to be more precise, do they always have the same angle? I keep imagining Kermit sitting on a schist stone dipping his toes in the water of Lake Wakatipu, bango in hand, singing rainbow connection. As a rule of thumb, I would like to suggest that if like me, Kermit the frog springs to mind when you think about the science behind rainbows, you’re probably not an expert on them. 

In this moment the contemplating thoughts in my mind went in two directions. The first was what other naturally occurring scientific concepts do I not understand. The second direction was understanding the mathematics behind rainbows. I decided that trying to understand the concepts of nuclear fusion, string theory, starling murmurations and Auckland traffic was far beyond my mental capacity at this point, so I went with exploring the latter. Plus, since I now had Kermit loaded into my Spotify playlist I felt I was committed. 

My curiosity aroused, I felt there was only one place that would provide me with the facts I needed, the one place that keeps me reliably informed and up to date with the latest world developments. Google.

I feel I should point out at this juncture that I’ve become suspicious about Google and our relationship. It has soured somewhat. The long held trust and mutual respect we once held I fear has been lost. What brought our relationship to this point? Well, I suspect that Google has been lying to me. I must confess that this realisation hurts. My suspicions were aroused when a recent trip to Ireland resulted in zero Leprechaun sightings. 

As it turns out I’m not the first person to become fascinated by a rainbow outside the window, in fact I’m in very good company. Greek philosopher Aristotle devoted serious attention to the study of rainbows as did Roman theorist Lucius Annaeus Seneca (who probably peeked at Aristotle’s study notes). This cycle of building off others’ study notes before adding their own thoughts then continued for some time, right through to Rene Descartes who started playing with light passing through a sphere of water. Throughout this lineage of rainbows, one person who does seem to stand out in a very understated way is Roger Bacon. 

Not only does Roger Bacon have a fabulous last name that makes me hungry, he can also tell you how to make gunpowder! It transpires that Roger Bacon was the first European to describe in detail the process of making gunpowder. He also proposed flying machines, motorized ships and carriages some time in the 1200’s. Now anyone who is suggesting motorized machines and can tell you how to make gunpowder in the 1200’s must have been fascinating after a few beers! Along with describing how to blow things up, he also first measured the angle through which light is bent to our eye by a rainbow as being 42 degrees.  

Having discovered that the arc of a rainbow is 42 degrees, that the length of rainbow is dependent on where it is viewed from, that everyone sees a rainbow differently, that they form perfect circles (which is why you never reach the end or the bottom) and that there are 12 types of rainbow, I naively thought my pursuit of had come to an end. Until, Google threw me a curve ball. It brought me back to Leprechauns. Now, I must confess that my curious nature got the better of me and no matter how distrusting of Google I was, I went in search of pots of gold. 

I had it in mind that there would be a fairly bright and easy yellow brick road that would lead me to the end of the rainbow, however unlike Dorthey I wasn’t lucky enough to have a glowing yellow road to follow.  My own search was filled with many no exit streets, detours and wrong turns that seemed to add neither confusion or clarity to my quest until I came across the Vikings! If you want to make a story interesting, just throw in an ill tempered Viking or two to jazz up the plot. Fortunately for me, the pot of gold myth that I liked the best, had loads of Vikings in it.  

It seems that back in the days of the Vikings – who weren’t really very nice people but had amazing beards – they spent much of their time raiding, plundering and looting Irish villages for money and gold before burying it all over the countryside. Upon leaving Ireland, the Vikings proved that despite having fabulous beards they were incredibly absentminded and forgot to take their treasure with them, which was promptly found by the underground dwelling and human mistrustings Leprechauns. Knowing the origins of this treasure and claiming it for themselves, they reburied the gold. Nowadays, whenever a rainbow appears it’ll end where the gold is buried.  But then again, can you trust a Leprechaun or a Viking for that matter? No matter how fabulous his beard is! 

Until a few days ago I thought that a rainbow was simply light reflecting and bending off water droplets in the atmosphere resulting in a colour appearing. But, it transpires that they are as complicated as they are beautiful.

From all this we can draw four important conclusions. Firstly, Aristotle was a science guy as well as being a philosopher dude. Secondly, Roger Bacon would have been a wonderful drinking companion. Thirdly, the Vikings had fabulous beards but were incredibly forgetful. Fourthly that a little green frog was the most insightful of all when he observed that ‘rainbows are visions and illusions and probably contain a little touch of magic.’It seems that pursuing rainbows isn’t a bad thing after all. 

Rainbow over Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown.

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The Octagon Experience

Digesting New Information

It wasn’t until I got off the bus and started for Moray Place that it suddenly hit me. It could have been the Juicy rental car trying to do a u-turn in a very awkward way, it could have been the foot traffic seeming to be walking in the middle of the street or maybe the rather large, bright orange barriers blocking the street but something suddenly reminded me that the Octagon was closed for traffic. This information wasn’t altogether a surprise yet nor had it been at the forefront of my mind. To digest this not quite new information, I knew I would need alcohol, so I headed to the nearest bar. Once inside, I took up a seat where I could view the street from and began pondering what it all meant.

I couldn’t help but think that the Octagon closure might well be doomed before it began. After all, Dunedin doesn’t take to kindly to change. There’s a good list of ‘resistant to change’ examples hidden in Dunedin’s past. Going back to the 1850’s there were squabbles over matters between the Dunedin City Council and the Caversham Borough Council. In more modern times the new urban cycleways project has received much criticism over the last 5 years as did the newly created central bus hub. Not to forget the heated debate between Carisbrook and Forsyth Barr Stadium which seemed to deeply divide the city. 

Watching people happily walk up and down Stuart Street I decided that I needed to find out more about this ‘Octagon Experience’ so I pulled out my phone and headed straight to the Otago Chamber of Commerce website. I discovered ‘The Octagon Experience’ is the brainchild of the Dunedin City Council who want to create/transform the area into a public space within the streetscape of surrounding business by making it pedestrian-friendly and so drawing people together (so they’re closing roads I thought to myself!). Upon further investigation I discovered that the full closure is happening from January 27th till February 16th with partial closures from February 17 until March 23. Maybe it was the beer but it took awhile for the realisation of what this actually meant to sink in. 

Suddenly the impact of these closures hit me and I didn’t know what worried me more. Putting up with all the angry drivers that will inhabit Moray Place, forgetting the Octagon is closed and desperately try to find another route at the last minute, thus blocking traffic at one of the barn-dance intersections. Or, having to scroll past all the angry Facebook and Twitter posts about the chaos that will inevitably fill my streams. Either way, filled with dread and bracing myself, I finished my pint, opened Facebook and headed out the door.

Robbie – Order Print

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Woosung Street in Hong Kong.

Destination: Hong Kong

It’s not till I’m going somewhere that I realise how little I actually know about a place. It’s here, sitting in a departure lounge at Heathrow airport at 9:00am on a Monday morning with a boarding pass in hand, that I suddenly realise that I don’t know much about Hong Kong at all. My thoughts quickly scan back and forth between the notion of this being both a positive a negative, when I’m shaken from my day dream by a very disgruntled traveler who is very clearly not having a good morning. While he quickly makes his way to the boarding line, he pulls behind him one of those oversize suitcases that hasn’t the faintest of chances of fitting in the overhead compartment. As he pushes past me, it’s hard to tell if he is more annoyed by the fact he actually had to wait in line like the rest of us or by the two overly excited children standing directly in front of him. Either way, his complete annoyance is only matched by the children’s delight and the cynic in me now secretly hopes they are all seated together for the next 13 hours. 

Once joining the line myself, my thoughts again turn to my lack of Hong Kong general knowledge. As I scan my thoughts, I find myself brightened somewhat when I realise I know more than I thought I did. As the line inches forward and I’m greeted with a friendly good morning and welcome, I settle on knowing four definite facts about Hong Kong (even if they are somewhat fictitious). 

Firstly, I’m certain that I know parts of it are dangerous for tourists like myself. This comes from recent news coverage (which I no longer watch) and the endless supply of emails I’ve been getting from Safe Travel on my phone. These email warnings have had headings such as ‘Ongoing Protests’ or ‘Ongoing Demonstrations’ from flash mobs dressed in black. To me, it initially looked like a combined game of Tetris and Pac-Man but with a serious undercurrent. This game is played with molotov cocktails, rubber bullets and is driven by youths fighting for their right to freedom. Sounds like serious stuff. While the photographer in me can’t help but be interested, my good sense, what little I have, says it’s best to steer clear. 

The second thing I’m certain about is that Hong Kong was known as a place to get cheap electronic goods.  I can’t help but get a little excited at the prospect of picking up the latest canon lens for a dirt cheap price and getting years of shooting pleasure out of it. This will of course have the effect of catapulting my images into the next stratosphere. Unfortunately, the reality is bound to be nothing like this at all. I fear that prices will not be as cheap as I hope, the bargains will elude me and my best bet will be to keep my pennies in my pocket! 

Thirdly, I’m certain Hong Kong wasn’t, then was, but now isn’t a British territory. I seem to remember it being returned to China in 1997 as part of a one hundred year loan agreement. To me, this sounds very much like wanting the lawn mower back you lent to the neighbors. Which I can understand, particularly if it’s one of those fancy ride-on ones. 

Upon entering the plane and having to hide my disappointment in not being able to sit with the pilots and help push buttons, I discover I’m sitting at the back of the plane. I also suddenly remember that the Hong Kong 7’s we’re an important fixture in the rugby calendar. This iconic event still maintains its place as an event on the global stage but unfortunately due to the now endless supply of rugby coverage it’s lost a little if it’s uniqueness. 

As I relax into my seat and settle in for the next 13 hours, I glance down at my phone to check it’s switched into aeroplane mode. I notice a new email has just popped up from Safe Travel. Pausing for a second, I dismiss it like all the rest when my gaze is drawn to the annoyed gentlemen from the boarding line with the over sized suitcase. He’s trying to get comfortable. Yet, he has two overly excited children bouncing on the seat in front of him. 

Woosung Street, Hong Kong. Buy

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