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Considering how much we depend on it, the human sense of sight is shockingly limited -- you can thwart it with nothing more than darkness, fog, or a handful of thrown sand. Thanks to technology, though, we're now able to enhance our vision to see atoms, faraway planets, and even people's thoughts. But that stuff's only the beginning. There are all sorts of previously unseen worlds which science is now opening up to us for the first time, and some of them are weird as hell.

5
New Software Reveals A Hidden Realm Of Bizarre Details

New York Times/MIT CSAIL

Fun fact: Every time your heart beats, your skin flushes red with fresh blood just a tiny bit. Go ahead, take a look. If you're reading this on a bus, stare intently at the person next to you and see if you can spot the subtle, rhythmic blush. If you don't get immediately sprayed with Mace, then chances are you won't ever see a thing, because the color change is so small that it's pretty much invisible. But now, optics researchers at MIT have released an open-source program called Eulerian Video Magnification, which takes ordinary videos and magnifies those microscopic changes to show you what you're missing. The results range from merely odd to downright terrifying.

New York Times/MIT CSAIL

New York Times/MIT CSAIL
For example, there's the fact that people are walking raves.

But EVM works on more than colors; it picks up on subtle movements, too. As you can see in this video, even when you're sitting still, the pumping action of your heart is enough to make your head jiggle like you're sitting on an enormous speaker with the bass turned up:

MIT CSAIL
If you're trying to remain perfectly still right now to prove us wrong, don't bother. It won't work.

And it's not just your face. When you look closely, the entire world around you is alive with imperceptible movements, from the hellish air vortexes created by candle flames ...

New York Times/MIT CSAIL

... to how sound turns an ordinary wine glass into rubber.

Reuters

And behold the miracle of life, as a pregnant woman's belly becomes the gateway through which nameless horrors slither into our universe from foreign dimensions:

Reuters
And like that, "Abstinence Only" suddenly makes a lot of sense.

If you want to see more, the folks at MIT have set up a website where you can upload and magnify your own videos, in case you've ever wanted to experience Alice In Wonderland-style hallucinations without French-frying your brain cells with pharmaceuticals.

4
Infrared Reflectography Sees The Ghosts Of Lost Paintings


This is Pablo Picasso's The Blue Room:


Or as it would have been titled today, Nude Blonde Teen Amateur Hot Sexy Shower Wet Boobs Naked.

Experts long suspected that The Blue Room was painted over an earlier piece, but stripping off layers of paint to see what was underneath was obviously out of the question, since it's rather hard to get the paint back on there exactly the way it was. So instead, in 2008, scientists peeled back the layers virtually through infrared reflectography. By using a light that reflects off of paint layers below the surface, they found that buried inside Blue Room's azure walls is a dejected man, aptly looking like the sort of guy who would spy on girls showering.


We don't need the audio-reconstructing algorithm to hear him breathing heavily.

Why did Picasso do this? Because he had no money to buy a new canvas, so it was either painting over one of his old works or eating them. The world was going to lose a Picasso either way, until technology kind of saved it.

But sometimes, experts uncover secrets we were never meant to see, like in Georges Seurat's Young Woman Powdering Herself -- or as it was originally known before the author came to his senses, Self-Portrait Of Georges Seurat Spying On A Woman Like A Creep.


"Nipples ... so close ... hnnnngggghhh."

Of course, looking under the surface of a well-preserved painting is child's play compared to, say, reading an ancient Roman scroll that was torched by a freaking volcano. Which is exactly what one Dr. Vito Mocella did. By using a 3D X-ray technique typically used for breast exams, Dr. Mocella was able to digitally "unroll" the carbonized papyrus and scan it for the telltale bumps where traces of ink lay on the surface. The effort didn't yield much more than a handful of letters, but holy shit, we read stuff from a petrified volcano turd.

BBC
Knowing ancient Romans, it probably says "Whoever reads this is gay lol."

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3
Compressed Ultrafast Photography Allows Us To See Light Moving Through Space

Steve Griffin/Hemera/Getty Images

Light is the fastest thing in the known universe. It's so fast that by the time we fumble with our camera and get it set up, light has already fucked off to a place millions of miles away. Not to say that it's impossible to capture the movement of light on film. But it requires a cutting-edge imaging technique called "compressed ultrafast photography" (CUP).

Liang Gao, Jinyang Liang, Chiye Li & Lihong V. Wang
One beam, one cup.

As its name implies, compressed ultrafast photography is, like, really really fast. We're talking 100 billion frames per second fast. For reference, a movie plays at 24 frames per second, so the difference between this and a movie is the difference between a regular movie and a movie that pauses for 15 months in between frames, and which would take more than 200,000 years to watch in its entirety.

The secret is in the way the video is encoded. Basically, mirrors and sensors are used to gather the absolute least amount of information necessary from incoming photons, because less data makes the recording process much, much faster. In fact, it works so quickly that it can capture particle effects that are apparently happening faster than the speed of light.

Liang Gao, Jinyang Liang, Chiye Li & Lihong V. Wang
This is where the demons dance.

An earlier imaging system claimed even faster speeds to catch light in action -- up to a trillion frames per second. But despite being technically faster, the older method required you to repeat the same light flashes over and over for hours and then edit together a supercut of all the recordings. It kinda sounds like cheating, and it's no good for studying light phenomena that only happen once, but damned if their videos aren't super neat to watch:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Yeah, that's a pulse of light traveling through a plastic Coke bottle.

2
Camera Software Lets You "See" Sound

Abe Davis

Sound, as you know, is a series of vibrations inside your ear, triggered by ripples through the air. So that means that if you had some kind of amazing Superman vision, in theory, you wouldn't need super hearing at all -- you could see the sound. And of course, when we say "in theory," we mean that somebody has invented a gadget that can do precisely that. It allows you to "hear" what's going on in places where there are no ears to hear it -- like if you're videoing something through a window, or from far away using a telescopic lens.

Abe Davis
Just your typical stalker things.

Researchers from Microsoft, Adobe, and MIT came up with the method, and it works like this: When sound waves strike an object, they cause the object to quiver on a microscopic level only visible to high-speed cameras. They constructed an algorithm that can detect those tiny quivers on random objects in the room, and then translate them to sound like grooves on a vinyl record.

In one test, the researchers placed a person and a bag of potato chips behind a wall of soundproof glass, then had their test subject read nursery rhymes out loud. That person's voice then caused the bag to vibrate -- ever so slightly -- and the bag's vibration was recorded from behind the glass, which was then translated by the algorithm into an impressively clear rendition of the recited song ... despite the camera's mic never picking up a single note.

Now, sci-fi stuff like this would normally require a camera capable of capturing 2,000-6,000 frames per second, but after the research team played around with their algorithm, they managed to reconstruct the background noise from a video taken with a regular camera.

Abe Davis

Although the result did sound like something out of a haunted circus.

The researchers say they can do the same thing with a piece of foil or even a potted plant, which has far-reaching implications in the field of, well, spying on people. And probably other things.

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1
Quantum Imaging Gives Us A Way To Gaze Into The Insanity Of Quantum Mechanics

Gabriela Barreto Lemos

Vision works by detecting light bouncing off of an object. Photography works the same way. So when we say that a researcher set out to take a picture using light that never, ever touched the object they were photographing, we're talking about what should be a form of black magic. That brings us to Dr. Gabriela Barreto Lemos, who's harnessed the power of quantum mechanics to take the most impossible picture ever.

Gabriela Barreto Lemos
Yes, because the Internet has never seen a picture of a cat before!

As a quick reminder: Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics that somehow makes less sense the more you learn about it. It's the home of Schrodinger's famous cat -- you know, the one that's both alive and dead at the same time as long as you never open the box it's in, making it simultaneously the worst and best Christmas present ever.

Now, for Dr. Lemos' experiment, her team decided to take a picture of a cardboard cutout of a cat using light that had never actually touched the object. How? With quantum-entangled photons. Simply put, quantum entanglement is the process of splitting photons into twins, which maintain a mysterious bond with one another even when separated. If you affect one twin, it instantly affects the other, sort of like with Tomax and Xamot from G.I. Joe.

So to take a picture using entanglement, Lemos's team used lasers and crystals to create some entangled photons. Out of each entangled pair, one twin was sent toward the cardboard cat and then discarded. But the remaining twin carried information about the first, and analyzing those lonely photons (which, we can't stress enough, never ever came into contact with the cat) revealed the hauntingly perfect cat apparitions originally captured by their dead twin:

Gabriela Barreto Lemos
Yes, because the Internet has never seen a picture of a cat before!

We're not scientists, and we don't want to speak outside of our limited expertise here. But we're 99 percent sure that right there is a photograph of a ghost cat from another dimension, which has also traveled back in time.

Mr. Yee is invisible to the naked eye, and naked to the invisible eye. He may also be seen wearing one of these awesome T-shirts or making fun of the news via Facebook.

Cancel all your plans on Feb. 3 because we're doing another LIVE podcast at the UCB Sunset Theatre at 7:00 PM. Join Stanley Wong (The Big Short), Liana Maeby (South On Highland), Jack O'Brien, Dan O'Brien, and Alex Schmidt as they discuss the problems with the Academy Awards and what can be done to make everything right again. Get your tickets here!

Sometimes though, technology reveals things we wish we never saw. See what we mean in 7 Normal Things That Become Horror Movies Under A Microscope and 11 Everyday Things That Are Terrifying Under a Microscope.

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