MLA Citation: Bloomfield, Louis A. "Question 337"
How Everything Works 18 Jan 2018. 18 Jan 2018 <http://howeverythingworks.org/print1.php?QNum=337>.
337. How do oil spills/spots (i.e. in parking lots and streets) create rainbows?
A thin layer of oil on water creates interference effects, just like those seen in a thin soap film. Sunlight reflects from both the top and the bottom of the oil layer and these two reflections can interfere with one another. If the blue/green wavelengths of light interfere destructively on their way to your eye, you will see the oil layer as red. If the green/red wavelengths of light interfere destructively, you will see the oil layer as blue. How you see the oil layer depends on its thickness and the angles of the light.

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