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Monday, 20 May 2013

What is Light
Frozen Light
The Radiance of Being
by Todd F. Eklof (08-31-03)

    According to the western religious tradition, the story of Creation begins with the words, “Let there be light,” implying that light is the first principle of creation; that nothing else can come into being until light permeates the universe. According to the findings of modern science, this notion doesn’t seem entirely inaccurate. It tells us, for instance, the universe began with an enormous explosion of light, commonly referred to as the Big Bang. This term, however is a little misleading since sound requires atmosphere to occur. To be sure, the universe was born in silence during an explosion of light, not of sound. If this spectacular explosion could have been witnessed, it would have appeared more like the quiet unfolding of a brilliant flower than like a bomb going off. As Matthew Fox writes, “In today’s creation story from science we learn that the universe began with a fireball that grew from a compressed light smaller than a pinprick to an expanding fire over 750,000 years.”1 In fact, since physicists have recently discovered the universe is still expanding, we might even say we ourselves are part of its blossoming in the continuing process of luminous creation.

    But to say the universe needed light before anything else could come into existence may seem overstated, unless, like any of us, the Creator simply needed to turn on the lights before getting to work. But light does much more than merely illuminate matter. It does more than just shed a little light on the subject, it is the subject! This concept is difficult to understand because we tend to think of light as energy and experience matter as something much more tangible. Yet Einstein showed us, with his famous formula, E=mc2, that matter and energy are the same and can easily be converted into each other the way fire turns wood into heat. E=mc2 is simply shorthand for saying energy is equal to matter when matter is multiplied by the speed of light squared. Physicist David Bohm once went so far as to say all matter is really “frozen light.”2 Despite the weight these names carry, however, the idea that matter, including our own bodies, is slow moving light is difficult for us to truly appreciate because we know light moves nearly 300,000 kilometers per second, and wonder how it could possibly slow down enough to become solid.

    In response to this, the speed of light, as Einstein noted, does appear to be the only constant in the universe. However, it is only constant when traveling through a vacuum. When passing through certain translucent materials, the speed of light is often slowed down. According to a recent article in Scientific America, “Water, for instance, slows light to about 75 percent of its velocity in a vacuum.”3 The article was written by Dr. Lene Hau, a Harvard physics professor whose research team began successfully slowing down the speed of light in March of 1998. By July of the same year they had it down to airplane speed, and a month later the group dropped the speed of light to 60 kilometers per hour, slower than a bicyclist. As if this isn’t remarkable enough, late last year they were able to completely stop light in its tracks!

    The group, at the Rowland Institute for Science, accomplished this amazing feat by trapping light inside a cigar shaped cloud of sodium atoms cooled to within one-billionth of a degree of absolute zero. The cloud was held in place with a powerful electromagnet inside a vacuum chamber. Slowing and stopping light in this way has many potential applications. The most immediate is information storage. Light can carry enormous amounts of information. By suspending its movement, the information inside it becomes stored. This could lead to the development of quantum computers faster at making computations than anything we can currently imagine. This technology may also give scientists a way to reproduce the affects black holes have on light by mimicking them in the laboratory. Just as black holes prevent light from leaving their gravitational pull, scientists can now prevent light from going anywhere. Perhaps the most intriguing potential application, and certainly the most far-fetched at this point, is the possibility of using this technology for teleportation. 

Like something out of Star Trek, it may become possible to imprint the electromagnetic field of an object into the memory of frozen light, then send it at its normal speed of 300,000 kilometers per second to another location where the object is reconstructed. Imagine if it becomes possible to copy this sort of information and send it to several locations at once! It may even become possible for people to duplicate themselves and send carbon copies all over the galaxy.

    Right now, however, much of this still seems highly unlikely, if not down right impossible. But if we accept the premise that all matter is really slow moving light, then the possibility of slowing light down long enough for us to climb aboard and catch a ride may one day be as common as catching a subway or train is today. More important than traveling at the speed of light, however, is the realization that light can be slowed down, even stopped, and, as physics is saying, we ourselves might be made out of such slow moving light. Our very cells, after all, are comprised of molecules made of atoms comprised of electrons, neutrons and protons. We are energy! Some physicists are even suggesting the atoms we are made of are mostly empty space filled with light that sometimes acts as matter, the same way it sometimes acts as waves, and sometimes as particles. We also know, through biofeedback experiments, that the brain emits electrical pulses. In addition, DNA, the program of life, emits a constant low frequency photon emission. In other words, life emits light. Life radiates!

    Matthew Fox reminds us that there are a billion particles of light for every particle of matter in the universe, making us very unique forms of light. “...we are amazed to learn how special matter is,” he writes, “what a rare gift it is to be flesh or matter, that is, slow-moving light. This is not just true of human flesh, but of all flesh, the oranges we eat and the tea we drink, the grasses and the animals, the birds and the stars¾are all slow moving light. Matter is light. It is very special light.”4 Author David Talbot writes similarly, “every cubic centimeter of empty space contains more energy than the total energy of all matter in the known universe!”5 Perhaps the pervasiveness of light is the reason so many of the world’s spiritual traditions intuit its sacredness. The ancient Egyptians worshipped Ra, the Sun god. In Jewish mysticism we have the Zohar, a sacred text whose name means, “radiance.” They also speak of Shekinah, the glory of God, which shines like a light on those who experience it. Christianity calls Christ “the light of the world.” The Eastern traditions seek enlightenment. In philosophy, wisdom is seen as light. Even in our ordinary language we often speak of ideas as brilliant and illuminating. We see the light and have light bulbs going off in our heads.

    Perhaps this reverence we have for light is more than just metaphor. Perhaps, as beings of light, with bodies of light, we realize, on some level, that light is everywhere in the universe and is itself responsible for all the forms creation takes. We also know that light sustains life by providing chemical energy to plants through photosynthesis, which, in turn, provides energy to other creatures. By connecting to our own role and responsibilities as beings of light, we may also learn the importance of harnessing the energy of light, through solar power, in order to operate our machines and technologies in a green clean manner. Again, as Fox suggests, “This is the practical application of solar awareness. Only sun energies are renewable and sustainable¾the time when humans ran their enterprises on fossil fuels is rapidly coming to a close. We must rediscover light or perish.”6

    The difference between our spiritual traditions and quantum physics, however, is that the latter doesn’t ask us to pursue enlightenment, it simply reminds us we are already illuminated beings. We don’t need to do anything but recognize it. As the Tao Te Ching says, “Use your own light and return to the source of light. This is called practicing eternity.”7 This is reminiscent of David Bohm’s theory that “the brain is a hologram enfolded in a holographic universe.”8 Holograms, of course, are created with light. To say the whole universe is holographic is only slightly different than saying it is made of light. In addition, just as each piece of a holographic plate contains the entire image, it may be, as beings of light in a holographic universe, each one of us is the complete image of the entire universe¾the whole contained within the gram. Therefore, none of us really need to become illuminated because we are already luminous beings. We don’t need enlightenment because we are light itself. Perhaps all we really need is to learn to radiate!

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