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What Is Kirlian Photography, and Why Is It Used by Pseudoscientists?

April 16, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 189

The art of photography includes many different forms, methods, and schools of thought. But what everyone can certainly agree on, photoshop and claims of ghost photographs aside, is that photographs show images of real life.

Enter Kirlian photography! On its own it isn't that weird- it's a form of photography (surprise) that uses electricity. It's actually a type of photogram, also known as a contact print, which is a photo taken without a camera by placing objects directly on light-sensitive paper and exposing them to light. In this case the surface on which the object is placed is exposed to electricity. The process was accidentally discovered by Russian inventor Semyon Davidovich Kirlian, thus the title.

The typical process of Kirlian photography involves a metal plate with a sheet of film on top, and the object to be photographed placed on top of that. High voltage is momentarily applied to the plate, onto which the corona discharge is then copied. A corona discharge occurs when a current flows from one electrode to another through a neutral fluid, like air, by ionizing that fluid. The ionization creates a region of plasma around the electrodes. The plasma goes around whatever object is placed on the plate, thus following its shape. The resulting picture shows a simple outline of the shape, surrounded by a beautiful glowing ring, usually blue or purple in color. The ring often looks somewhat fuzzy, as if thousands of bright filaments are jutting from the perimeter of the object.

Pretty cool! But it's just a captured image of a naturally occurring electrical phenomena- the same phenomena that sometimes appears on airplanes and ships in the form of St. Elmo's Fire. But that explanation isn't mystical enough! Doesn't that spooky glowing light look sort of like... an aura?

A lot of people apparently think so. Kirlian photography has been seized by New Age pseudoscientists of every caliber around the globe to reinforce their ideas about mind-body energy, chakras, and auras. Kirlian photography is used by quacks of all kinds to identify (for a fee, of course) individuals and objects with supernatural powers, to study the before and after effects of whatever special healing method they're using, etc.

According to Quackwatch, the quality and appearance of the light captured in a Kirlian photograph can be influenced by up to 22 different physical, chemical, and photochemical characteristics, thus creating a field day for pseudoscientists who want to claim that changes to the photographed "aura" are occurring because of xyz.

Electricity is such an incredible force to be reckoned with (and harnessed!) that it really is no wonder that so many products claim to use electricity to tap into some mystical alternate dimension or reality. But rest assured that everything about Kirlian photography, at the very least, can be scientifically and rationally explained.

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Source: EzineArticles
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