Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon album cover is very mathematical

From the unique vinyl to t-shirts and merchandise, it’s exhausting to think about a extra iconic picture within the music trade. But surprisingly, there may be numerous arithmetic behind the easy geometric design and rainbow patterned art work.

As reported by Chalkdust Magazine, the album cowl exhibits a beam of white mild hitting a triangular prism splitting into “constituent components” (which kind the rainbow).

It’s an instance of an “optical phenomena” referred to as refraction and dispersion. This explains why the rainbow and incoming beam are usually not parallel and the way the sunshine splits because it passes by the prism. 

Sean Jamshidi, a PhD scholar at College Faculty London, broke down three important mathematical parts of the album cowl. 


The refraction throughout the album cowl is all to do with the pace at which a beam of sunshine travels (relying on the medium) which could possibly be glass, air or water.

Given the medium, arithmetic can compute refractive index:

N =c / v

In brief, c is the pace of sunshine in a vacuum, and v is the pace of sunshine by the medium.

n is near 1, whereas for glass it’s about 1.5 ‑ due to this fact mild travels slower by glass than by air.

Gentle usually takes the quickest path and the distinction in pace between air and glass signifies that the shortest path by way of distance is probably not the quickest one.

Transferring onto angles, θ1 and θ2 are measured from the traditional to the fabric interface.

Since glass has the next refractive index than air (n2>n1n2>n1), a lightweight beam passing from air into glass will bend in direction of the traditional (θ1>θ2θ1>θ2).

When the beam leaves the opposite aspect of the prism, the reverse occurs and the angle will increase once more.


When it comes to the change in angle on the prism, it may be computed by a quadrilateral (made up of the prism and the beam of sunshine.)

It’s an instance of “Snell’s regulation” which in maths is described as “a method used to explain the connection between the angles of incidence and refraction”.

Sean stated: “Given an entry angle θ1, Snell’s regulation permits us to calculate θ2. We are able to then sum up the angles within the crimson quadrilateral, which provides θ3.

“When it comes to θ1 and the refractive indices n1 and n2, we apply Snell’s regulation once more on the level the place the sunshine exits to offer us θ4.”


The multi-coloured beam is the one glimpse of color we get on this album cowl, and though the rainbow is minimal, it’s contrasting to the black background.

Sean defined: “The place λ is the wavelength of the sunshine, A and b are constants that depend upon the fabric.

“In air, the worth of b could be very small (about 10−18) and so the refractive index will be set to a relentless, which signifies that our mild beam arrives on the prism with all the colors hitting on the similar place and time.”

Designer Hipgnosis knew a factor or two about maths when designing the album cowl. By combining the concepts of refraction and dispersion we are able to calculate the precise journey that the sunshine beam takes.

Subsequent time you take heed to Pink Floyd, check out the album cowl and put together to have your thoughts blown from the maths in entrance of you.

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