Rhymes with Sewage, Part 4: Kirlian Conclusion
[In Part 3, I told you about my continuing adventures at the 2004 New Living Expo. Among other things, I had a past-life regression. But earlier in the day, I agreed to try a $50 aura-healing pendant, in exchange for getting a Kirlian photograph made.]
Toward the end of the day, it was time to go back to the snake-oil peddler, return the pendant, and get my Kirlian photograph out of hock.
I had been thinking about that photograph during the day. They pass an electrical current through your body and onto the photographic film. The corona that appears corresponds to the areas the current was able to escape through. Obviously, then, if you have a better electrical contact between the skin and photograph, you’ll get a better corona. If you have a worse electrical contact, the corona will be less distinct.
What could improve the contact? Maybe oil? Like fingerprint oil?
So what would happen if I washed my hands thoroughly right before making the next photograph?
So I did.
Then I went back to the booth and told him that I had been wearing the pendant all day, and I was eager to make the After photograph to find out how effective it was.
He had me stick my hand back into the tube and press down onto the Polaroid film. Then, once again, he put his hand on top of the tube and pressed down on my hand to make sure contact was solid.
He pressed hard. A lot harder than he had this morning. It’s almost as if he wanted to ensure a better photograph!
Now all I had to do was touch the exposed electrode, so we could—
Jesus F—ing Christ! That hurt! I don’t think I like making Kirlian photographs.
The vendor then pulled the Polaroid film out of the Kirlinator and waved it around for a bit to assist the developing. I waited in anticipation. Would I be right? Does the skin oil facilitate the effect? Would my hand-washing sabotage work? Would his extra-hard pressure counteract my sabotage? Hell, would the stupid pendant actually have an effect? (OK, that last one wasn’t really a contender.)
He pulled the backing off of the Polaroid…
Actually, it was almost nothing. You could see a couple of weak deci-circles from two of my fingertips. The others were completely M.I.A.
Yes! In your face, you fraud! I out-tricked the trickster! Science triumphs over psuedo-science! Explain that result, you defrauder of the gullible!
He looked at the Kirlian photograph. He picked up my Before picture and stared at the better (but still imperfect) coronas partially encircling every fingertip.
Every fingertip in the Before picture.
Only two in the After picture.
And he said to me:
“You have a healing crisis! Your aura is in much worse condition than we thought. You’ll need to wear the pendant for several weeks to completely heal your aura!”
You slick charlatan! You have a line for everything, don’t you? You’d make P.T. Barnum proud.
Anyway, I told him that I wasn’t convinced and I wanted to return the pendant. He took it back without complaint. He then handed me my credit card slip and both Kirlian photos and let me go on my way.
At least he was an honest charlatan.
When I got home, I looked at both Kirlian photographs again. Now that I had gone through the experience of making them, they didn’t seem mysterious at all. I always knew there was some sort of scientific principle behind the imaging, even if the interpretation of those images by the psychic crowd was ludicrous.
I was let down. Again. There is always so much less to this UFO/ESP stuff once you actually look into it. It’s usually desperate people searching for something to give their desperate lives a little meaning, or a little wonder, or a little excitement.
But why make this stuff up? Why create a cheap, shallow self-delusion?
We live in an amazing universe, filled with real wonders and truly marvelous things! Just open your eyes to the real world! It will blow you away!
So I looked at my cheesy Kirlian photographs. The true wonder here was the physics of electricity. The chemistry of photography. The marvel of our ability to study the world around us and figure out how it all works.
That was the wonder here. Not some ignorant misinterpretation of the resulting image.
I took one last look at the photographs, sighed with disappointment, and threw them in the garbage.