The GE Global Research Center is a sprawling, high-tech, high-security campus where they develop jet engine technology, robotics, neural probes, and all sorts of futuristic technology, and… watch writers eat hot sauce, plus ice cream and donuts, for science.
I was put in the capable, slightly incredulous hands of the engineers of the non-destructive evaluations lab, Bryon Knight and Waseem Faidi. On the regular, they use thermal cameras to analyze jet engine parts for heat conduction, and then use this data to detect flaws in the part. So it was fair to say that they were more than qualified for this.
The NDE lab is filled with infrared cameras, ranging from high-end fixed cameras that cost roughly a hundred grand, to smartphone attachments that give a grainy thermal image. Calling these both “thermal cameras” is like saying the Hubble telescope works the same way as a disposable wedding camera, but all thermal cameras work off the same principle: anything hot produces infrared light. This light can’t be seen by humans (but can be seen by snakes, which is terrifying), but can be recorded on cameras to produce an image of where heat is coming from. For our purposes, we went with a FLIR 640 thermal camera (MSRP: $29,000...you know, mid-range).