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The Optics of LifeA Biologist's Guide to Light in Nature$
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Sönke Johnsen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691139906

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691139906.001.0001

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(p.31) Chapter Three Emission
The Optics of Life

Sönke Johnsen

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines light emission. There are only a few ways of making light, the main two categories being (1) thermal radiation, where light emission is related to the temperature of an object, and (2) luminescence, where light emission is related to specific changes in the energy levels of molecules. Other possibilities, such as light produced when matter meets anti-matter, are not likely to matter in biology. With few exceptions, light in the biological world ultimately comes from two sources, the sun and bioluminescence, which are exemplars of the two main mechanisms of light emission. The chapter also looks at mechanoluminescence and sonoluminescence.

Keywords:   light emission, thermal radiation, luminescence, sun, bioluminescence, mechanoluminescence, sonoluminescence

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