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Kirlian photography is a method of creating images by placing an object on a photographic plate and passing high-voltage, high-frequency electrical current through it, thus producing images of coronal discharge around the object's image on the plate. It's named after Semyon Kirlian (1898-1978), a Russian electrician with a scientific bent, who (re-)discovered the effect in 1939.
Kirlian photography has little merit besides being a nice way to illustrate coronal discharge and making pretty cool pictures. Of course, that doesn't stop people trying to find un-scientific merit. Kirlian himself suggested that the images can be compared to an aura, and many New Agers seem to have run with this suggestion very literally.
Kirlian photography has been used as evidence of the existence of a "biofield". Kirlian himself had noted several changes in what he was photographing depending on conditions around him, and came up with various ideas such as bio-plasma that would link the results of his photographic technique with mood, emotions and physical state. David Bowie also noted changes, specifically before and after taking cocaine. Since, it has been associated with energy flows, meridians and alternative medicine treatments, usually as a way of measuring stress, or evaluating people who claim various paranormal properties (Therapeutic touch, etc.). Changes in skin moisture and contact pressure are in fact the variables responsible for changes in the coronas, and Kirlian photography is therefore not a reliable measurement of health.
- Kirlian photography at The Skeptic's Dictionary
- Kirlian Photography and Auric Fields
- Fullspectrum.org (professional Kirlian photographers, apparently of the mostly non-bullshit kind) — About Kirlian
- David Bowie's Kirlian Photo, Before and After Using Cocaine
- Questionable Methods of Cancer Management: Electronic Devices by The American Cancer Society, CA Cancer J. Clin. 1994: 44, 115-127.