Posted by: Jack Henry | August 9, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Scents of a Different Sort

Friday evening was late museum and food truck night at Balboa Park, so we went over there with some friends. What a fabulous thing to do on a summer night! After each of us picked our truck of choice (Thai, German, Japanese, and New York Deli), we went to the Natural History Museum. While we were there, we went up to the photo gallery and that’s where the word nerds went wild!

All of the photos were of natural scenes, from the Grand Canyon to a single leaf. One of the photos had a “glow” to it. “It’s luminescent…or is that iridescent?” “I’m not sure, maybe it is phosphorescent?” Out came the phones and people started looking up words. I, on the other hand, started taking dictation so I could look these up for Editor’s Corner and report back on these light-related words that end in –scent (the adjective) or –escence (the noun).

And here we are today! From our friends at Merriam-Webster:

· bioluminescence: the emission of light from living organisms (such as fireflies, dinoflagellates, and bacteria) as the result of internal, typically oxidative chemical reactions.

· fluorescence: the emission by a substance of electromagnetic radiation especially in the form of visible light as the immediate result of and only during the absorption of radiation from some other source; also : the property of emitting such radiation.

· incandescence: the quality or state of being white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat <incandescent carbon> b : strikingly bright, radiant, or clear.

· iridescence: play of structural colors producing rainbow effects that is exhibited in various bodies as a result of interference in a thin film (as of a soap bubble or mother-of-pearl) or of diffraction of light reflected from a closely ribbed or corrugated surface (as of the plumage of certain birds) and is readily distinguished from the inherent colors of substances by its variation with the angle of incidence of the illumination.

· luminescence: an emission of light that is not ascribable directly to incandescence and therefore occurs at low temperatures, that is produced by physiological processes (as in the firefly), by chemical action, by friction, by electrical action (as the glow of gases in vacuum tubes when subjected to electric oscillations of high frequency or as the glow of certain bodies when subjected to cathode rays), by certain bodies while crystallizing, by suddenly and moderately heating certain bodies previously exposed to light or to cathode rays, or by exposure to light, or that occurs in radioactivity.

· phosphorescence: luminescence that is perceptible with characteristic rate of decay after the exciting cause ceases to act.

And an unscented photo from my uncle:

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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