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Oct 08, 2010 at 04:42 PM

String Theory:

“Is it not strange that sheeps’ guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies?”

[Much Ado About Nothing, Act II, Sc III]

 

images/stories/stelle_n_160.jpgFabric of Light ...

In 1609, the same year that Galileo was making the 20-power telescope that would change the history of astronomy, Johannes Kepler proposed something that probably sent people into peals of laughter. He introduced the thought of sailing from the earth to the moon, not on any kind of ship, not even on a Da Vinci-esque frigate outfitted with vanes -- which would have been outlandish enough -- but on light itself

Albert Einstein's lifelong fascination with light has remained prophetic. Anomalies in the behavior of the radiant stuff that so inspired him turned out to be the end of a string attached to the future; and light, in its most physical and paradoxical "quantum" aspects, has become an industry. In the process, though few have noticed, Kepler has been redeemed: we can indeed use the radiant force of light for propulsion; we can transport things by means of light (optical fiber data, for example); on the quantum level, we can find buoyancy on photon seas -- as long as our ships are very tiny and our cargo is very small. That is because the forces that provide the support of this transport are quantized: small, seemingly weak -- and very real. There is of course a difference between use of solar radiation as propulsion, like in "solar sail" craft on the one hand, and antigravity phenomena on the quantum level, pure photon forces, on the other. NASA's model of a solar sail is a half kilometer across and the payload of the spindly vehicle attached to it is very small. 

Today, Kepler would be better received. Whether we can pilot a vessel through the solar system on light can now get into semantics and technical details -- but no one is laughing, at least not anyone familiar with scientific innovation of the last 30 years, and certainly not the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. In May 2010 Japanese scientists launched IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun), the first successful solar-radiation assisted spacecraft for intra-planetary system travel. On the quantized level of photonics, however, the experiments are even wilder. The study of photon quanta as a propulsion-capableimages/stories/blanco2.jpg "film," or as an "advective" stream (the effect where things can be carried along the current, like bubbles or foam on a river), is a subject of interest. [image: Blanco River, crystalline, shallow light-like water in an olive colored striated basin, just south of Wimberley, TX.] 

Nano-optics found in nature are providing impetus as well. Butterflies float on air, but they also fly using light -- the optical nanostructures on the wings of Morpho butterflies are cognitive systems that create light-interference patterns as a coded message of what is being perceived; they detect vapors and form a part of the butterfly's navigation. Scientists at the GE nanolab are working on replicating these nanodesigns for defense, security, electronics, artificial cognition, and currently have a U.S. government grant to keep going. More importantly, or more to our topic, light science is deeply involved with superconductivity, antigravity phenomena and vortices. images/stories/morphobutterfly.jpg

The field of nano-photonics, where a lot of the investment is going, is also providing new revelations involving optical vortices (or "vortexes"). Light in laboratories has been woven into knots and braids; by means of lasers that create frequency intensities, it can be coaxed into funnels (HOT technology -- Holographic Optical Tweezer) that concentrate and spin the flow, producing vortices which are rotational photon engines -- at least in potential, unharnessed as they may be at present. "Brownian probability vortices" and stochastic heat engines, as they are called, playing on pure random energies, are being studied (e.g., work of Dr. David Grier at NYU), and though the phrases sounds abstract, the implications are enormous -- truly the stuff of the world to come. So-called Abrikosov Vortices and Josephson Vortices are involved with superconductivity and gravity defying behavior, and there are serious attempts at creating new computers -- potential quantum computers taking us beyond binaries -- based on encoding the inherent electron spin instead of magnetism of the particle: voilà, vortex computing. Clearly, "vortexes" have taken on a radically new, science-fiction kind of air. 

images/stories/dreamtimesisters22detailn.jpgAnd on the Big Screen Near You ...

Hollywood's role is to integrate the new science into familiar narratives that reorient us to a new view of the universe, almost without noticing. Traditional myths, it can be argued -- and Joseph Campbell would agree -- are a translated accounting of cosmic genesis, concealed in in parables that, from the surface, are mere quaint folk tales rich in odd details without rhyme or reason. But Campbell and others have argued that myths can contain scientifically valid information, disguised in multiple ways, or just garbled through cultural tropes so that the story is trivial if listened to naively. 

Hollywood, especially since George Lucas and Star Wars, is incorporating science and generating new mythological environments -- in effect arguing for a magical cosmology while dazzling us with special effects. James Cameron's Avatar movie updated our pop-culture version of nature which, since Star Wars and via The Matrix, in successive releases, has been about relating mind and matter. And in this too, vortexes play a role. In Avatar, the Giant Hometree, which is part of a neural network of mind and transference of consciousness among the Na'vi, the bioluminescent alien species, is vivified by a "flux vortex" -- a concept left sufficiently undefined to capture the creative imagination of fans, but the reference is to a biological flux "engine," a quantum energy generator. 

By implication, Avatar in effect asserts that biology is the next computing platform, and that in turn implies that "mind" is distributed, not entirely personal or contained "in our heads." Thus the natural universe is aware, it thinks, creates, perceives, feels, and is intelligent beyond our capabilities to imagine. All this challenging conceptual content is disciplined by the action narrative, to which it is simply a context. But context is reality. The Na'vi forest is a bioscape incorporating a mind of vast capability. [image: a detail from Dreamtime Sisters, by Aboriginal artist Colleen Wallace Nungari -- on one level, this image looks like a field of stars or a fabric of light, which no discernible figures in it at all; and that is the point of it.  Mind creates out of the cosmic soup by differentiation -- thus consciousness is a co-creator of the universe.]


Levitation and Sailing in Place

From a more aesthetic viewpoint, aided by its 3-D aspect, Avatar calls attention to an ambient light-stuff that fills and images/stories/nungarireddetail2.jpgrenders the world. Now we are not so far from the yogis and seers who have borne witness to a transpersonal consciousness that radiates within the molecular body of each tree and leaf, relating the wave and the particle, the probable and the real, in electromagnetic "flesh" (as French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty referred to it) of the natural world -- stuff that, like our own flesh, is both felt and feeling, object AND subject. The "unobtainium" of Pandora, which the humans seek, is described as a superconducting, gravity defying substance, and of course, scientifically, quantum vortices and superconductors are very related. As presented in the film this is not detailed science, but it holds up a mirror, reflecting a new cultural paradigm. 

Jake (V.O.)

Yeah, so what does hold them up? Grace explained it to me -- some kind of maglev effect because unobtanium is a superconductor, or something. At least somebody understands it. Just not me.

[Jake, the protagonist, commenting on the levitating rocks and hills of planet Pandora. Text from the Avatar screenplay, 2009, copyright James Cameron and 20th Century Fox Studios.]


Ancient Lightships and the Aboriginal Universe

René Descartes, who, as Fontenelle said, raised vortices to the attention of the world once again, was not a consultant on Avatar, but he might have been. Space itself, the very stuff constrained to be plotted by Cartesian Coordinates, was conceived by Descartes as light, images/stories/fontenellelescieux.jpgand that light was a liquid (which is the original scientific illustration of a vortex medium), in which whorls of vortices dynamically interact, rendering an oriental carpet of patterns -- a luminous cosmic fabric. It's not unlike the lush and startlingly patterned forests of the Na'vi, and although Descartes did not allude to "walking on light," the fictional Na'vi bear many similarities to the aboriginal Australian peoples, whose magical universe allowed star travel. The myth of the Torres Straights people of Australia tell the story of "island hopping" by magical means -- rainbow-riding -- that is, by means which are based on an intimate, physical, substantive view of light-energy as stuff (ref. the work of contemporary aboriginal printmaker Dennis Nona). These concepts are still ahead of Avatar, perhaps, but once mind is associated biology and not technology as a paradigm, we are on our way: pop culture is good at concretizing spiritual abstractions. Movies such as Avatar work by externalizing remarkable spiritual and intellectual concepts about our world. The Na'vi represent our consciousness of the need for a renewed relationship with sacred nature. 

Descartes' graphing of vortices, which is a sort of cinematography, a telling of a story, also turns out to be prescient in a way no one could have imagined at the time, in a way that contributes a scientific view of energy self-generation by a vortex, and also fills out our understanding of how light- and time-travel can be possible. The model of a vortex by the 17th C. philosopher and mathematician is essentially identical to the model of an atom by Danish physicist Niels Bohr, one of the progenitors of quantum theory. Thus the mystery of how vortices provide energy and force supporting the visible world, has a proposed solution in Descartes, and that solution is consistent with the foundations of quantum physics! It is no accident that the extremely small is the substrate of the extremely large -- the warp, weft, knots and seams of the fabric of which everything is composed.

 

Flying in the Light Body

Australian aboriginal cultures aside, the vision connects with other ancient traditions as well. Indeed, for vedic yogi Patanjali, and the world of the Upanishads and Tibetan Yoga, neither the concept of a "light body," nor the notion of it as a space vehicle, were unthinkable, odd, or unnatural. [image: Jacopo Tintoretto, Birth of the Milky Way, detail.] Nor were images/stories/tintoret_arm.jpgthe Australian native Aborigines strangers to the idea, although in their narratives, these light-walker aspects are often concealed by layers of what scholars would call "anthropomorphizing" -- cosmology made into folk narrative, a tribal history of powers, healing arts and magic. But yoga is predicated on the existence of a light body and its companion, the vital body. It is just now that Milarepa and company are beginning to look more like ... astronauts.

Naturally, there are many questions of intense interest here: 1) how is it possible (what is the science permitting such a feat)? 2) are there "Light Body Pilots" today, and what are their methods? 3) what does this potential mean to us here and now? -- and 4) what are the implications for our future?

"How can this be?"* Can someone really fly on light? Is it a metaphor? What happens to the physical body? 

Partly, the answer is that the physical body is not, in fact, physical; let's it is also physical, when, in effect, the quantum probability of its physical facet is actualized. It is not to deny the reality of the images/stories/lauragamsmall.jpgbody in all its tactile presence, but rather to explore what this means as a phenomenon. The physical world is not unreal, teach the sages, it is a facet of the lightbody. (As mentioned above, nanostructures in the wing of the Morpho Sulkowsky butterfly, being studied by GE scientists, have already proven an astonishing relationship between the optical and the olfactory -- i.e., nanostructures mediate sensory distribution and may be the secret behind synaesthesia and related phenomena.) Light renders the physical in perfect clarity, utter coherence -- just before it dissolves the physical entirely, as a potential of the quantum "superposition." Perhaps we are not the body, as such, but we become committed to it: we fall into the body from the body of light, its luminance symbolized, in the legend of the Shendo, by a lake -- as they descended into the image of the body they were indeed "Daughters of the Stars."

It is thus probably foolhardy to say, like some who encounter oriental mystical teachings do, that the world is an illusion or the human body is unreal. It is all real, it is just not limited to being what we think - the rest is semantical quibbling. "We want to represent the phenomena by an image in our mind," said H.A. Lorentz in his opening remarks at the famous 5th Solvay Conference, attended by images/stories/419px-Johannes_Vermeer_(1632-1675)_-_The_Girl_With_The_Pearl_Earring_(1665).jpgthe leading physicists of the day.* Quantum mechanics teaches exactly that one possibility does not have to be denied or destroyed or derealized, in order for other to exist: the quantum particle occupies all its possible states simultaenously. The crossover between mindstuff and the mathematically abstracted but real stuff underlying light and matter, are finally blended. Hence meditation, spiritual disciplines, and social activities and aspects of our selves which arouse these capabilities, including the proverbial power of love, may all be part of our heritage not as global citizens, but as cosmic ones. "Social," because we remain interested where we love, and we remain coherent where we love -- it is the conserving energy counterbalance to the centrifugal pull of abstraction, and our affection is transferred into the world through loving. Technically, light transport can work because photons, though massless, carry momentum. Leaving aside the mystery of how a massless thing can have momentum, or how there can be a thing without mass to begin with, photon momentum can be transferred. Also:

"Optical tweezers work because transparent particles with a higher index of refraction than their surrounding medium are attracted towards the region of maximum laser intensity. By moving the focus of the beam around, it is therefore possible to transport the particle." - Nanotechweb.org, Oct 16, 2002. (our underline)

 Of course, the mind-aspect of quantum energy is a far deeper study ... 


How Descartes Anticipated Bohr, and Both Learned from Patanjali

The notion that these principles are being discovered in the realm of the very, very small, is also significant, and should not be underestimated. "The unleashed power of the atom," as Einstein called it when he contemplated man's genius and folly, has challenged our capacities, and it would be an error to believe that because images/stories/500pxBohratomPAR.pngthe quantum forces of photon streams (light particles) are not initially stronger than compound matter in the human perceptual spectrum, that this is the end of the story. The atom is weak too -- until we wish to split it apart. There is also the question of whether "the small" is indeed small -- there is a mysterious dimensional shift, it seems, and the quantum, the tiniest of all things, defies the very notion of size which appears first of all to define the quantum dimension: the Higgs Boson, a tiny particle, could be massive, if not the size of the universe, some scientists imply. If so, it is not a "thing." Philosopher Eckhart Tolle said of stillness, when he observed it is the only thing in this world without form, that "it is not really a thing, and then, it is not of this world" -- and the same seems to be true of matter's foundational particles. We access them via our world, but they defy simple attributes such as location, being somewhere, so they are in many ways outside of spacetime -- at least of what we understand spacetime to be. 

Cartesian vortices have also proved futuristic -- they may be the very body of prescience. Even while Descartes modeled celestial bodies and astronomical space, macro-reality, the same models have turned out to be valid and applicable on the micro-level. How so? Though not mathematically expressed, Descartes' model of the vortex -- which we will describe in detail, later -- is geometrically and conceptually very close to the Bohr model of the atom (center/nucleus, orbits, from subtle to coarse in tiers or orbits). And most strikingly, there is a similarity to how, in Bohr's quantum model, visible light is produced ("emitted") by an electron hopping inward, a ring closer to the vortex "throat" or center (i.e., nucleus). Visibility, this suggests, is the effect of an unperceived event on a higher vibrational frequency. There is an exchange of energies: a particle changing orbits, opting for a shorter wavelength -- a phenomenon which, we would argue, yogis know as an effect of inner focus. 

[image: Niels Bohr's model of the hydrogen atom, showing electron orbits (n=), and that an electron increasing its frequency by moving from orbit n=3 to n=2, closer to the nucleus, releases visible light in the 656 nanometer wavelength, a.k.a., red, "as the model predicts." Wikimedia Commons under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.2]

 

Notes:

* The prospects of photon propulsion -- traveling on space, or on a layer of space, not through space -- are among the many reasons the eyes of world scientists are turned to Cern, and the Large Hadron Collider. If and when the Higgs Boson, the mass-conferring particle, is found, and there is a quantum theory of gravity, we may learn more about the powers that can be unfolded from within massless electromagnetic radiation. (Einstein thought of, and rejected, the idea of "catching up to light," of light as a standing wave. Relativity denies the possibility... *)

*Is time the second "aether"? is it enough to believe in time, because we can and do organize reality into before and after, and because we can move back and forth, using this organization to orient ourselves? Or is time as fictional as the aether of Huygens & Maxwell, the rejection of which opened the path for Einstein to understand relativity?

*"And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!" -- The closing lines, spoken by Alia, the sister of Paul (Kyle MacLachlan), in the screenplay to Dune. The character played by MacLachlan is the predecessor to Keanu Reeves' Neo in The Matrix

* H.A. Lorentz: quoted from Einstein, Physics and Reality, by Jagdish Mehra, p. 60.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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