Shed some light on glow-in-the-dark


Why is it when I open the little paper package that Breathe Right strips come in they give off a bright fluorescent light? They are packaged similarly to the kind of adhesive bandage that I use, but when I open an adhesive bandage package, they don't fluoresce. Do they purposely do this so the strips are easier to put on n the dark, and since adhesive bandages are put on the light, they thought it was unnecessary?

-- Mel, the net

While the elves look under their beds for their scientist hats (purple velvet lavishly decorated with gold lightning bolts), I'll suggest that sometime you try this experiment, Mel. Open Breathe Rights in the daylight and bandages in the dark, as we had a chance to do recently when Pa Alice was snoring so loudly that Ma Alice couldn't hear Judge Judy, so she whacked him with the channel changer. You'll find that the sparks created in the Breathe Right are too weak to be seen in bright light.

People who get paid for knowing weird stuff call the phenomenon triboluminescence. When you rip the packages open, adhesive molecules are sent screaming and running. Electrons fly off and bash into nitrogen molecules in the air, and the nitrogen emits energy in the form of blue light. Then you go oooh, aaaah and write to Matthew Alice. The classic triboluminescence trick is to crush wintergreen-flavored hard candy in your mouth or other dark, spooky place. Same blue sparks. Same explanation.

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