# If something was so black that it absorbed 100% of all light waves, would we even be able to see it?

Asked by Dutchess_III (38193) December 13th, 2017

This substance, Vantablack (which I learned about here a few years ago) absorbes 99.965% of all light waves. It’s the blackest thing known to us.
If something absorbed 100% of light waves, what would we see?

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We would see blackness. Black is the response from the optic system when there is no or very little light.

Would we perceive a shape?

Dutchess_III (38193)

Something very black would stand out against a light background but you wouldn’t see any detail in the object, only its shape. The blackest thing possible would be a black hole which can’t be seen except by its gravitational effects.

flutherother (28670)

It would look 99.965% like Vantablack. i.e. darkness

Zaku (21447)

@Dutchess_III , That is a good question about whether we would see the object’s shape. We would definitely see some shape. It is just a matter of whether it would appear 2 dimensional or 3 dimensional. I think we would see it as 3 d, in the same way that we can speak about the shape of the hole in a doughnut. The shape of the object would be detectable by what surrounds it.

@Zaku Vantablack is the reason I asked the question. If something could absorb all light 100% would it make a difference?

We’d detect it by what we can’t see, right @LostInParadise? That’s one way they detect black holes.

Dutchess_III (38193)

You would see only the absence of light reflection. A black hole is seen by what moves towards it, and the lack of light reflection/penetration in and somewhat (the immediate vicinity) around it.
A hole, like in a doughnut, has only 2 dimensions. The inside and the outside.

kritiper (15473)

@Dutchess_III I know, that’s what I was trying to explain. It would be practically identical to Vantablack, just slightly more absolute, the difference pretty much only detectable by a machine.

Of course, something so black actually has a striking appearance unless it is already in dear complete darkness, because most normal objects reflect a fair amount of light.

Zaku (21447)

Sometimes quantum physicists dig themselves a very deep black hole which is singularly silly.

Pinguidchance (2051)

I would love to have some Vantablack.

I’d carry it around and show it off on the train. People would feel like they were in a Twilight Zone or Doctor Who episode. Or I could be like the roadrunner and drop a hole for Wiley E. Coyote to fall into.

Call_Me_Jay (9636)

How much more black could it be?

Rarebear (25144)

That’s what I was asking @Rarebear. If it was blacker by 0.135 % would something freaky happen? Like when thing approach the speed of sound freaky things happen.

@Call_Me_Jay When I was 3 or 4 I asked my Mom to make me a black hole to jump into, like Bugs Bunny did. She was a seamstress so she had black material on hand. She made my black hole for me, then walked away, oblivious to the drama and the terror that was brewing in my little world…..

Dutchess_III (38193)

@Dutchess_III You have to be very careful with these black holes

flutherother (28670)

@flutherother – While black holes are completely black, something that is completely black need not be a black hole. We are just talking about absorbing light, not gravitational effects.

I am still having trouble with whether we would see these objects in 3 d. If it was spherical, would we just see it as a circle? I can’t think of what visual clues we would get to indicate otherwise. If we walked around it, would it look as if the circle of blackness turns with us?

^ I think it would appear as a flat black circle, yes.

You’d be able to see its shape not because it’s reflecting any photons back at you, but because it’s blocking the stuff behind it.

Mariah (25624)

Here’s a description of what it looks like. Also here

flutherother (28670)

That second one wasn’t Vantablack…it was a new product like a paint. They painted it over the bronze mask. Normally we could see the features from the front, but after they coated it….nothing. When it moves to the side you can see the outline of the features, but from the front…nothing. Awesome!

Dutchess_III (38193)

@Dutchess_III You’re obviously not a Spinal Tap fan.

Rarebear (25144)

The closest I’ve come to a spinal tap was having an epidural in the middle of a contraction and no, I was not a fan. It didn’t work either.

Dutchess_III (38193)

Uh @Rarebear is talking about the BAND, not the procedure…

kritiper (15473)

There is a correct response.

Rarebear (25144)

I figured he was. I was just joking.

Dutchess_III (38193)

We can see Trump….... He’s kind of orange…...

MrGrimm888 (13390)