“Real Fact” #726 A polar bear cannot be seen by an infrared camera, due to its transparent fur.
Although it has been widely reported that polar bears are invisible to a thermal imaging system, this is simply not true. Despite the insulating properties of their fur coats, polar bears can be detected with a thermal imager and their fur is not transparent. In fact, scientists from the United States and Russia have successfully used thermal imaging for population counts of wild polar bears in arctic regions.
While thermal imaging may seem easy, proper interpretation of data relies upon a trained thermographer who understands infrared theory, heat transfer concepts, thermal imager operation, and the objects or systems being inspected. It is not a technology that can be learned exclusively from media sound bites, web posts, or the underside of bottle caps.
At present, there is a fair amount of misinformation regarding thermal imaging within mass media and on the world wide web. Thermographers who encounter someone who has been misinformed should seek to be good ambassadors of our technology by patiently helping that person to have a better and more accurate understanding of thermal imaging.