# How would society be different if people could see the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum? [closed]

Say that you have a species whose eyes can see anything from radio waves to gamma waves. Let's assume that it's adapted well enough that it can differentiate between these types of waves, and that seeing that much doesn't completely overwhelm it. Besides for the above modification, it's exactly like us in terms of anatomy and physiology. How would society be different with such a species instead of us, if at all?

• "How would society be different" for about any question is an extremely wide scope topic. One could write pages on even a few topics (economics, art, and engineering, for example). Try drastically narrowing this down to one slice of the society pie. Commented May 3, 2017 at 13:41
• Worth noting: the EM spectrum is actually unbounded. Frequencies can go as low as you please. Whether they can go as high as you please depends on your theory. They can go at least 1000000000000000 times higher frequency than the cutoff for gamma rays, and if string theory is correct they are actually unbounded, permitting as high of frequencies as you please. Commented May 3, 2017 at 15:37
• @CortAmmon Technically there are limits, no? How can a wave be infinitely long, or infinitesimally short? Commented May 3, 2017 at 15:50
• @DonielF What limits are you thinking of? If you can imagine a wave that's 1m long, you can imagine one that is 10m can you not? 100m? 1000m? Where would the limit be? Even if you start looking at waves the size of the universe, you can still have wavelengths larger than that if your boundary conditions are right. On the small side, there's some who believe that issues arise when the wavelength approaches Plank Length, but there's not universal agreement about whether it's a limit or not. Commented May 3, 2017 at 18:01
• There's no point in seeing farther down than the near infrared. The eyes are too small to focus the waves and thermal noise will wipe it out anyway. Commented May 4, 2017 at 2:52

Let's ignore for a moment how anatomically impossible this is.

Their life would be full of noise. From cosmic radiation to infrared emission every object would glow. There would not be a real night, so society would not form around day or night cycles. They may even be able to see better when the sun is not out spewing noise.

The noise would even be worse as eyelids, even made of lead would not be enough. There would be no darkness. In fact you could see things coming from behind you just as well as in front. They would have to evolve to be able to block as much noise out as possible, but it would not be enough as society evolves.

Technology may also get a huge head start as everyone can see radio waves. We may see primitive radio in the middle ages. Radiation would be discovered by cavemen. They would find rocks glowing in a color they have never seen before, brighter than anything else in the world and spreading in glow to things they touch.

In the end though technology may be stifled. Without a discreet way to send signals life becomes very tough. Who would let a radio station be built, if it was a giant glowing light that you could not stop seeing no matter where you turn? Eventually all society may prize nothing more than to avoid technology and live in cold caves where they can finally get some darkness.

• Actually let's not ignore whether or not this is impossible. We know plenty of animals that see less colours than we do so why couldn't creature see more of them? Example Also, just because the communication medium can be detected by both the technology and the user doesn't mean they get messed up. Look at Li-Fi. Finally, the night we have now isn't as dark as it seems. Think about moon/starlight and our personal light pollution. Commented May 4, 2017 at 10:19
• @DerkJanHulsinga Between all colors seen by all animals, it's still just a drop in the ocean that is the full electromagnetic spectrum. You can't clearly detect waves larger than the receptor. It is also hard to detect rays with too much energy to be absorbed. Also all our light pollution can be blocked by walls, shades, and our eyelids. Blocking radio waves is very difficult, and once you do it you lose the ability to use them Commented May 4, 2017 at 14:22

People would stop tanning, cause they know how bad UV rays are for them.

In all seriousness, though, I'd say they'd just appear as far more colors. What makes visible light give color? The fact that we perceive it. If you can perceive the entire spectrum, it's likely they'd all be classified as colors. So you'd have a massive range of colors, some of which would be considered "harmful colors" (uv and shorter). Colors already are used to set a tone, influence a mood, draw attention, give definition, etc. With billions of more shades of colors, they'd be that much more integral to setting tones and moods in society. There would likely be a greater emphasis on color, and visuals would be highly important to everyone (not just guys).

It's a bit tough for me to speculate what colors they would appear to be, but as the visible colors "blend" from red on one side to blue on the other, it's likely radio would be a much more "extreme red", if you will, and gamma rays a more "extreme violet".

• That might be how they perceive it, but how would it change society? Would they react differently to it than we do to our vision? Commented May 3, 2017 at 13:34
• Well, I would assume visuals would simply be emphasized more. Advertisements and such would be far more colorful, so you might have a Star Wars prequals Coruscant type if setting, with lots of color ads everywhere. Though, radio waves would no longer be invisible, so people could "see" a present wifi signal, "see" when the microwave is working, etc. Society would likely have to try to make any technology using light "aesthetically appealing". Radio waves might not look pretty being sent efficiently, so they'd have to change how they send things.
– Iter
Commented May 3, 2017 at 13:39
• The reason I focused on perception is because it makes it a bit easier to think about. How would society be if everything were grayscale? Colors wouldn't be very important, only shade would be. Appearance and such wouldn't be a big deal. So you have a neon green shirt with neon orange pants. No one notices. But with the addition of color, things have to "match", or go well together. This would be that much more important with far more colors. You could utilize far more colors, but you'd also have to make them work well together. Comparing grayscale to color is like color to the spectrum.
– Iter
Commented May 3, 2017 at 13:43
• To achieve ' 1 MeV gamma color' on an advertisment they would still need 1 MeV gamma rays, which are still harmfull. Commented May 3, 2017 at 19:18

People would probably use radio in different ways. When you broadcast a radio program you are using an antenna that emits electromagnetic waves. Such a society wouldn't probably agree to stare at an antenna, the same way you probably don't like to stare at a lighthouse.

X-rays are electromagentic signals too. So, those people would be able to see through some object and through people. So, I think that their medicine would be much more advanced compared to ours, because they would have been able to see through a body since the moment they were able to invent a source of x-rays.

They would have a different kind of art. Think about it. Human artists use all the colors they are able to actually see in pictures. Those people of yours would like to paint in x-rays color, ultraviolet colors, infrared color and so on.

There would probably be many more phrases about colors. Not only "Tonight I'm feeling blue". But instead: "Tonight I'm feeling infrared".

You would be able to know when a person is using his phone, because it would light up, since it sends radio signals. So, at the theaters they would force you to switch off your mobile phone, not just turn down the volume.

The night wouldn't be dark. They would be able to see all the spectrum, so probably we wouldn't have any stories about romantic nights. The only places that are like a "dark room" for your people would be under a mountain.

• The x-ray angle is neat, but I doubt it'd be that significant. X-rays are still quite harmful, so it's better to emit them for just a millisecond and snap a pic than to continually bombard someone with them to look at their insides with eyes. Imo, colors from UV and shorter wouldn't be used too often for being harmful. Seeing them would be like smelling sulfur: you want to get away from it.
– Iter
Commented May 3, 2017 at 23:56
• Yes @Iter, I feel I tend to agree. Commented May 5, 2017 at 9:36