How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 791

What would things look like if I could see wavelengths of the spectrum other than just visible light (e.g., X-rays, radio waves, ultraviolet, infrared, gamma rays, etc.)? — SH, Hurricane, UT
As you looked around, you would see a general glow of radio waves, microwaves, and infrared light coming from every surface. That's because objects near room temperature emit thermal energy as these long-wavelength forms of light. While we don't normally see such thermal radiation unless an object is hot enough for some of it to be in the visible range, your new vision would allow you to see everything glow. The warmer an object is, the brighter its emission and the shorter the wavelengths of that emission. People would glow particularly brightly because of their warm skin.

You would also see special sources of radio waves, microwaves, and infrared light. Radio antennas, cellular telephones, and microwave communication dishes would be dazzlingly bright and infrared remote controls would light up when you pressed their buttons.

You would see ultraviolet light in sunlight and from the black lights in dance halls. But there wouldn't be much other ultraviolet light around to see, particularly indoors. X-rays and gamma rays would be rare and you might only see them if you walked into a hospital or a dentist's office. Gamma rays would be even rarer, visible mostly in hospitals.


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