What inspired this book?
I have been fascinated by the idea of seeing in the dark since I was a child. An episode of the cartoon Scooby Doo involved a crime committed in darkness by a criminal wearing special goggles that allowed him to see infrared light. A flashlight is found at the crime scene that appears to be broken, since no visible light is emitted from it. It turns out to be a source of invisible light to aid the criminal's movements. The Six Million Dollar Man could see in low light with his bionic eye.
In 1981 I built my first infrared imaging device. The heart of the device was an RCA 6032 image tube. The 6032 tube converts near-IR light into visible light, enabling a person to see in the absence of visible light. My system used a neon-sign transformer and a voltage tripler used in a television to make about 27 kV. This high a voltage in an evacuated tube probably led to the production of soft x-rays by the tube, which I did not shield against! Active illumination was provided by a flashlight with a filter that passed IR light only.
The idea of a book called Alien Vision was conceived in January 1998 during a conversation with my stepfather, William Youngren. I wanted to present the spectrum of light in the same style as the book Powers of Ten, as a systematic progression of images taken throughout the spectrum, with each image referenced back to the familiar region of the spectrum that we call visible light. The images would be of scenes or objects that look one way to the eye, and a very different way to invisible-light imaging system. For example, water in a clear plastic cup appears as black as coffee in the near-infrared band. Thus a transparent object appears opaque, because the wavelength of light used to image the object was shifted out of the visible region of the spectrum, and the optical properties of water are quite different in the infrared band compared to the visible band.
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