Everyday weirdness: Candy sparkles. Scotch tape can shoot X-rays.

There’s something nobody understands very well: Certain types of crystals like sugar will shoot light when they’re crushed or stressed. They call it “triboluminescence,” but just giving it a name doesn’t give a real explanation.

Every time you crunch on WintOGreen Lifesavers, (or just sugar cubes) they’re giving off little sparks inside your mouth. You can see it best if you let your eyes adjust to darkness and crush the candy with pliers. I did this with my nephew once.

The Ute Indians (who Utah might be named after–nobody’s sure) have an ancient tradition of doing ceremonies that use the triboluminescence of quartz crystals encased in translucent buffalo hide.

Certain kinds of tape also glow when you peel off a strip. You never notice in ordinary light, but do it in the dark and you’ll see something a little like lightning. If Scotch tape is peeled off inside a vacuum, instead of blue light it generates X-rays–enough to show the bones of your hand.

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One thought on “Everyday weirdness: Candy sparkles. Scotch tape can shoot X-rays.

  1. […] I mentioned before, Wint-O-Green Lifesavers can spark in your mouth. So can just plain sugar. To get the best look at […]

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