[FOUNTAIN] Technology and Voyeurs

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[FOUNTAIN] Technology and Voyeurs

Who was the first recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics? Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923) of Germany. In 1895, he discovered X-rays and made an X-ray photograph of the bones of his wife's hand. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1901 for his paper entitled, "On a New Kind of Rays." Since then, X-rays have become a critical tool to explore not only the interior of the human body but also of molecular structures. Thanks to X-ray crystallography, U.S. biochemist James Watson and British molecular biologist Francis Crick cracked the double helix of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), laying the foundation of genetics.

The X-ray is the forbear of today's commotion over see-through cameras. When the X-ray was first discovered, people knew vaguely that the rays could reveal the interior of the human body. Soon after, rumors began to circulate throughout Britain that X-ray goggles that could see through clothes would be available for sale. It was an era in which a woman's chastity would be questioned had she been rumored to have a birthmark on a hidden part of her body. We can easily imagine how this news frightened British women. One person took advantage of this wave of fear. He began to advertise that he had invented underwear that prevented X-rays from penetrating. Women flocked to him, and the "inventor" raked in an enormous amount of money. But it soon turned out that he was same person who started the rumor about X-ray goggles.

A hundred years later, science has produced real see-through cameras. In 1998, Sony put Night Shot Video Camera on the market but had to recall it quickly amid outcries of indignation. This camera is based on the principle that some of infrared light emitted by a human body passes through clothing. Usually, this camera captures a hazy outline, but things become different when a person is in tight-fitting swimwear. As a measure to block infrared light, a swimsuit that blocks infrared emissions has emerged, manufactured by adding metal oxide compounds to the fabric. Now both the lance and the shield are in place.

Yet the hype of fraud continues. A case in point is a set of pictures of nude women presumably taken by infrared photography during a Miss Korea pageant. The pictures circulated widely on the Internet, but they are not the real things because they are in color. Infrared light allows for only a distinction between light and shadow, which results in black-and-white photos.

As long as people are interested in others' nudity, stirs from see-through claims will not stop. Voyeurism is not found among animals, but even normal human beings are said to have a certain degree of this psychological trait. Science and technology will discover more see-through methods because there is money to be made in this business.

by poemlove@joongang.co.kr

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