“Did You Know…” (Three Crazy Facts About Light)

Bioluminscent deep-sea creature

It’s always fun to learn new facts about everyday phenomenons. Today’s post brings you three little-known truths about light. Enjoy!

Ever heard of bioluminescence? It’s the process by which deep-sea creatures emit light. In the deepest part of the ocean, the sun cannot penetrate through the water, and there’s no detectable light source. Between 80 and 90 percent of deep-sea creatures are bioluminescent. If that isn’t cool enough, consider this: Humans are bioluminescent, too. It’s not visible to the human eye, of course, but the human body does emit light from within. It was captured on camera by Japanese researchers in 2009, and the report stated that “the human body literally glimmers.” Follow that link for photos.

This is more related to color than light, but it’s all about the visual spectrum. There may be “impossible,” or “imaginary” colors that don’t exist in the physical world, but that you can potentially trick your brain into seeing. Sounds far-fetched? The basic concept is that your eyes use “opponent channels” to process light – red vs. green, blue vs. yellow, and black vs. white. When you stare at a red object, your light receptor for green is inhibited while the one for red is excited.

Therefore, it’s impossible to see an object that is equal parts red and green at the same time – unless you conduct a special experiment. In 1983, scientists did just that, and the test subjects (one of which was an artist) said they viewed a new, reddish-green color they had never seen before. More info on that (and a similar test you can try at home!) here.

Ever been exposed to a sudden bright light and sneezed? What felt like a reflex was not your imagination. Between 18 and 35% of humans have a heritable condition called “photic sneeze reflex.” Essentially, light makes them sneeze. The reason is unknown, but the most popular theory points to the fact that the optic nerve is in close proximity to the cranial nerve responsible for facial sensation and motor control. So, perhaps the eye mistakenly tells the brain there’s a foreign object in the nose?

Any crazy facts about light you’d like to share?

Emily Widle

Emily graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism. She enjoys scouring the news to report on the latest in the lighting industry as well as bringing valuable remodeling tips and exemplar home projects to light.