Figure 5. This is a time exposure of a corona discharge.
then acts as the conductive mass. Note that, with
standard Kirlian photography, the corona is not actually
seen, only its effects on the film are recorded.
Kirlian followers believe that they are witnessing
some special "life aura" in these photographs. (They have
many colors and are certainly interesting and pretty.) It is
their belief that this aura is metaphysical or paranormal
and has little relation to actual physical conditions. Since
they believe rather than understand, no amount of logic
and reason can cause them to consider any alternative
explanation. (If it's an aura of life, why do ordinary metal
objects also show an aura?)
However, to an objective observer, the aspects of the
Figure 6. The corona discharge of the leaf is washed out by
burn-through. There is plenty of power to char the leaf,
even though no current is measured.
NUTS & VOLTS
Kirlian "force" are quite clear. Their apparatus generates
a large electrical charge. The charge orients the
molecules in the target — be it a leaf, a human being, or
a house key — and creates a corona discharge. The "aura"
they see is air ionization, also known as St. Elmo's Fire.
The peculiar measurement effects are due to polar
conduction rather than conventional electrical conduction. There is nothing paranormal about it.
If the target is in contact with photographic paper,
impressive colors are observed, but this is explained by
the fact that photographic emulsions are also sensitive to
electrical charge. The colors are simply the result of the
emulsions reacting electro-chemically. That is why the
same colors are not seen in non-contact photography.
The "phantom leaf" experiment is easily explained.
This is where an intact leaf is photographed first. Then,
part of the leaf is cut away and another photograph is
taken. Sometimes, the outline of the whole leaf is seen in
the second photograph. The Kirlian interpretation, as I
understand it, is that the leaf still feels that it is whole, so
the aura is complete. (This is somewhat similar to the real
"phantom limb" effect, where human amputees feel a
limb that is no longer there. However, this effect occurs
because humans have a complex central nervous system.
Plants do not have a central nervous system.)
Here's what I see happening. During the first
photograph of an intact leaf, Kirlian photographers
typically press the leaf under the glass. This pressure can
be up to several pounds or more. This physical contact
with the glass — along with the electrical ionization —
deposits moisture and/or small amounts of plant material. When part of the leaf is removed, this material
remains. (Take another look at Figure 7 to verify this.)
The high conductivity of water conducts the molecular orientation force even though it may be invisible.
(Note, engineers working with high voltage apparatus
know the problems of invisible films of moisture or other
contamination. I have personally witnessed sparks
skipping several feet over an old, wooden desk to an outlet ground with my apparatus.) I confidently predict that,
if the Kirlian apparatus is thoroughly cleaned after every
photograph, no "phantom leaf" effects will be seen. I also
predict that, if the only photograph is of the leaf after it
has been cut, no phantom effects will be seen, either.
The "kissing" effect is also easily explained as a
moisture film effect. In this experiment, two volunteers
each place one finger in very close proximity to the
other's finger. However, the fingers are far enough apart
that no Kirlian "force" is seen passing between the fingers.
Then, the volunteers kiss passionately. As they do, the
"force" is seen between their fingers (as a small spark).
It can, however, be seen that there is nothing
mysterious here. It is well known that there are many
physiological changes that occur during sexual stimulation. Some of the very obvious changes are the
generation of sweat, the increase in body temperature,