We can't emit 100000 photons by meditating.
Humans can't emit 100,000 photons a second by meditating, experts told AAP FactCheck. Image by AP

Science shines light on claims meditation makes body brighter

Nik Dirga March 31, 2022
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

A scientifically controlled university study reveals humans can emit 100,000 photons of light per second by meditating.

OUR VERDICT

False. The university cited has distanced itself from the ‘study’ and experts say it is impossible to emit 100,000 photons per second.

A Facebook meme claims researchers at a Germany university have proved humans can emit 100,000 photons of light a second from their chest by meditating.

A journal article linked to the meme additionally states the photon production is so great that the light can be seen coming from the chest.

The claim is false. The stated university has distanced itself from the purported study and experts told AAP FactCheck it is impossible for a person to produce that number of photons.

The claim is being shared on Facebook by meditation advocates – see here and here. The post’s graphic states: “A scientifically controlled study conducted by German researchers at the University of Kassel has shown that while the chest area of an average person emits only 20 photons of light per second, someone who meditates on their heart center … emits an amazing 100,000 photons per second.”

The post’s caption then links to a journal article with the words “the research that backs this is here” pointing to a claimed scientifically controlled study carried out by researchers at the University of Kassel in Germany.

The article, “Visible Light Radiated From The Heart With Heart Rhythm Meditation” comes from a 2005 issue of a now-defunct journal called Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine, which claims to bridge science and spirit.

The article is attributed to Puran Bair, a meditation expert and author whose education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and an incomplete master’s degree in computer science, according to his LinkedIn biography.

The paper describes research conducted at the University of Kassel in 1997 and makes reference to PhD candidate Winfried Fuchshofen as setting up and assisting the study with Bair as the “meditator.”

The paper details how Bair sat in a sealed dark chamber while meditating with a photomultiplier tube to measure light readings. Having failed to produce the expected level of photons, Bair describes how he went back to Fuchshofen’s home and had an “intense insight” that he needed to picture his host’s sick son when meditating.

The paper claims Bair was then able to emit 100,000 photons per second for a half an hour after focusing on the unwell four-year-old because the child “needed light for his healing.”

In an email to AAP FactCheck, a spokesman for the University of Kassel distanced the institution from the study.

“As far as we can see from today’s perspective, this text was written with the participation of a former doctoral student at the University of Kassel. However, his dissertation is on a completely different topic.”

The spokesman also noted the study does not give any contact details for the University of Kassel.

A photon, as mentioned in the study, is a subatomic particle representing a quantum of light or other electromagnetic radiation. There are differences between visible light and light that’s not generally visible to the human eye, such as infrared light.

Humans do emit a slight natural bioluminescence, a 2009 Japanese study found, but it’s a thousand times dimmer than the human eye can actually perceive.

Andrew White, director of the Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems and a professor of physics at the University of Queensland, told AAP FactCheck the body naturally emits some photons in the infrared spectrum.

But humans are unable to emit visible light, adding “rather we reflect what light is falling onto us”, he said.

Prof White explained the increase in photons emitted was a function of temperature and to get to a rate of 100,000 photons per second is impossible.

“For visible light, there is no evidence whatsoever that this occurs,” he said.

For deep infrared light, Prof White said: “If there were an increase by a factor of 5000 in emission (which is 100,000/20) then that would correspond to a temperature increase of a factor of 8.41. Given that human body temperature is typically 36.5-37C, this suggests that meditation would increase that temperature to 307-311C, at which stage the person meditating would be dead, cooked, and depending on their clothing, possibly in flames.”

Martijn de Sterke, a professor of physics at the University of Sydney who has done extensive work on photonics, described the claim as nonsense.

Prof de Sterke said a human at room temperature emits roughly 55 visible photons per minute.

“The only way to increase the number of photons is by increasing the temperature,” he said. “Supposing an intense meditation section increases the skin temperature by one degree, the number of photons would increase it to at most is 65 per minute.”

There has been research into whether humans can regulate their own temperature but a 2013 study on Tibetan monks examining whether humans can increase their body heat through meditation techniques noted some temperature rise but concluded, “there is currently no evidence … that temperatures are elevated beyond the normal range”.

The Verdict

The German university linked to the study distanced itself from the contents and told AAP FactCheck the former PhD student cited instead completed his dissertation on a different topic.

Experts told AAP FactCheck while humans do emit a small amount of light invisible to the naked eye, there is no way the body could reach the temperatures required to emit 100,000 photons per second without the person combusting.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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