A friend of mine recently posted this to his Facebook wall, and asked me if it was photoshopped or not (like I know anything about photo editing…)
Just about everyone on their virtual high horse damned this person’s ignorance at the prospect that the photo was true – “Of course it’s shopped! Tornados can’t suck up light!” And these people are right: a tornado can suck up a great deal of incredible shite, but light is certainly not one of them.
Just because colour can’t be “sucked up” by the tornado, however, doesn’t mean the photo is entirely fabricated. The image could, literally, just be a trick of the light. We can see that the colours in the tornado roughly match up with their tangent counterparts in the rainbow itself – this tells us that the light source is the same for both objects (light sources can be clear giveaways that a photo has been edited) and is a definite point to team non-photoshop. The same way that you might hold a CD up to the sun, while standing next to a sprinkler, if the rainbows are going in the same(ish) direction, despite being different sizes, then their maker is the same. In terms of this photo, the different mediums could be refracting the same light in slightly different ways, causing it to look like Ms Rainbow is being manipulated by Master Tornado. In actual fact, it’s probably just two separate rainbows in the right place in spacetime (Woo! Space!).
But since Ellie Goulding has taught me that anything can happen, it could also be the exact moment of unicorn conception.
An amusing yet completely useless string of discussion on this photo can also be found on Reddit, here.
EDIT: Since posting this initially, a bit more research has gone into the physics of light refraction, and it looks like the above is nothing but a logical-but-not-quite-right theory. The original image is, in fact, Photoshopped! The “Tornado Versus Rainbow” image was created in November of 2012 by Corey Cowan. About the image, he says “Somebody … asked me for permission to use it on a book cover. I told them yes, as long I was given credit. It is a composite of three images—two rainbows and a tornado. The original tornado image is this, which I stretched a bit and masked.