Fans of Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series -- now coming to a silver screen near you - love the fact that her vampires "sparkle" in sunlight rather than burn up, a la Dracula. It's an intriguing departure from classical vampire lore, and far be it from us to argue with artistic license. But you don't have to be a broody vampire to have a bit of a glow about you.
A team of Japanese researchers have now proven the existence of human bioluminescence by producing the very first photographs of our natural "glow." Bioluminescence is a common phenomenon in marine creatures (squid, exotic fish that live in the darkest depths of the ocean, fireflies, etc.), but all living things emit very weak light -- and not just in the form of heat (the basis for night vision goggles and thermal imaging). Scientists hypothesize we glow as a byproduct of certain biochemical reactions.
The Japanese scientists used very sensitive cameras that could detect single particles of light (photons), and placed five male test subjects in complete darkness for 20 minutes every three hours for three days. Not only did the subjects glow, but there seems to be a cycle: we emit very little in the early morning, hit a peak "glow period" around 4 PM, and then dim gradually from then on before the whole cycle starts again. This might be linked to our internal biological clocks. Also? Faces glowed more than the rest of the body.
From a science standpoint the technique might one day be used for medical imaging to help spot weak areas of emission -- possible evidence of disease. But we wouldn't be surprised if it also spawned a new trend in vampire lore: monsters that glow in the dark.