Humans Glow in the Dark: Too Bad We Can’t See It

New research from Kobayashi and colleagues http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0006256 shows that humans not only emit light, but it pulsates to a rhythmic beat depending on our fluctuating metabolism and body temperature. It seems that the same forces that generate body heat also emit light; unfortunately, it’s 1000 times too weak to see with the naked eye- BUT it’s been successfully captured on a special kind of camera called a CCD system.

Subjects were taken into a completely dark room and stripped from the waist up while the camera captured them for 23 and a half hours. It turns out that the glow wasn’t uniform either, people’s faces tended to glow the brightest, especially the lips and cheeks. It also varied in brightness over the course of the day, being kind of dim in the early morning, brightening up throughout the day to peek in the afternoon, and then dimming off again. This is about the same way that the body temperature works too, so the photon emission that produces the light is super similar to the heat emission.

Isn’t it interesting to speculate that out there, in the world, exist species finely tuned to see those types of things? That there are insects that go through life constantly fleeing glowing giants? How terrifying we must be!

Thank you to my good friend Lee Lovett for sharing this story with me.

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