THOUGHTS ON A SCIENCE OF LIFE|
Part V: Light into Life
by Arthur M. Young (1992)
In reviewing Eddington I recall my first reading of his discussion of how the photon, arriving at its target, is able to collect all the energy of the wave that has a radius of millions of miles back to a point. He describes two theories -- the collection box theory, and the sweepstakes theory (in Nature of the Physical World, p. 189). I wondered about the same problem when I first heard of quantum theory; but now it is thought that the photon is more like a particle -- or packet of energy that travels from point to point, rather than as a wave which dissipates as the square of the distance. Light particles retain their potency. What makes light intensity diminish as the square of the distance is the number of photons hitting a given area.
But even this interpretation becomes unconvincing for radio waves. Thus we must account for a radio wave 5 miles long as a small packet of energy, the amount of energy being infinitesimal -- 10-5 x 10-8, or 1 ten trillionth of the energy of a visible light photon.
The problem is even worse when we find that the atom responds to photons whose wavelength is some 7000 times the diameter of the atom, and still worse when we learn from the Mossbauer effect that the atom, in this case its nucleus, has a discretionary power that makes its response to incident photons sensitive to a change in frequency of one part in 10 billion. When we turn the dial on a radio to tune in a broadcast station, we receive the signal when the dial is, say, within 1% of the exact value. This makes what is called the band width, but the tuning of the nucleus to the frequency it receives is one one-hundred-millionth of this.
So I am groping for a different way to look at these problems of the photon and others such as the EPR enigma -- how do the two photons radiated from a single source remain in touch with one another? This is a recognized problem, whereas the ones I first mentioned I have not seen mentioned in what I read.
My effort so far is to say that for light and for electromagnetic radiation in general, space does not exist. This may strike the reader as not a valid solution, but I can defend it on other grounds, which briefly stated are that space and time are not there "in the first place," but come into existence as a second and third stage of cosmogenesis -- time at the second and space at the third.
While not intended as proof, I can offer a picture that may help.
1. We can think of the photon as analogous to a point whose sole constraint is direction (Bose statistics). We call this zero dimensionality.
2. Then time is the first dimension. While it adds something not present before, this can be thought of as an extension, but that designation may not be thought of as providing any measure. The extension involved is not objective; it extends from the self. It is "longing" rather than length, a verb rather than a noun. It has to be one-dimensional.
3. Next in our cosmogenesis is two-dimensionality -- not two dimensions so much as two-dimensionality -- not only the place, but the concept of measure, comparison, and definition. One of its attributes is finiteness, which in this context is objectivity.
4. The fourth stage is the combination of time and space -- or objects in time and space.
This declension -- point, line, plane, solid or volume -- can be enriched by judicious additional assignments. Thus we can list under "2" not only time but mass, force, scale, and value, principally because the measure of these is necessarily given by one number; i.e., we value something as more or less; scale is larger or smaller as are force, mass, and time. Under "3," or Level 3, come all concepts, definitions, configurations, ratios, etc., because these require two numbers or dimensions (as in a ratio).
We can further implement the levels by their correlation to Aristotle's four causes -- Final, Material, Formal, and Efficient, in that order -- or to Jungian functions -- Intuition, Feeling, Intellect, and Sensation.
But to return to the problem of light. We said it was zero dimensionality, without the constraint of time or space. But it must have some attribute; this, of course, would be its frequency, as seen in the Mossbauer effect and its well-known influence on all atoms, causing their electrons to change orbits and control molecular changes, as well as lesser-known control of cellular activity, including the programming of DNA. DNA supplies the blueprint, but it takes the photon to translate the stored information into the correctly timed process of growth.
But this does not solve the problem of how this photon causes the action at a distance. It used to be thought that it was like the transmission of sound. Sound causes a wave of pressure in the air which impinges on the eardrum, etc., and light was thought similar, causing waves in the ether.
Action per se was first recognized in the study of optics as action-at-a-distance -- a very mysterious phenomenon that just could not be explained. In fact in a sense it was a theoretical entity because only its formula was known -- ML²/T.
But in 1900 Max Planck, puzzled because neither of the two explanations then current of light radiation gave the right answer, found the explanation that did. This was that light was radiated in whole units. Light of course varies in frequency (blue light has double the frequency of red light). The units which he called quanta are such that the energy divided by the frequency is always the same. Frequency is inverse time -- that is to say, it is cycles per second, per meaning divided by. Sixty-cycle AC supplied by the electric company means it alternates 60 times per second -- the familiar low hum that electrical appliances sometimes emit.
Since the energy in a quantum is proportional to the frequency (=L/T), the quantum is Energy x Time. Energy is ML²/T², which when multiplied by Time = ML²/T. This is the formula for Action, and Planck named this unit h -- now known as Planck's constant. While Planck's discovery was slow to gain acceptance (no mention of it in my physics courses in the mid-twenties), it did explain important enigmas -- how could light from a distant star not lose any energy, as it would if it were a wave?
In 1905 Einstein explained the problem using Planck's theory. The quantum or packet of energy did not dissipate with distance, but arrived at its target intact. In 1926 Heisenberg found that the uncertainty inevitable in the observation of a small particle, a product of the uncertainty of its position and that of its momentum, or ML/T (momentum) times L (position), is equal to or greater than Planck's constant; and soon after, Bohr explained why the atom can only absorb or radiate energy in units of action and thus discontinuously.
While Planck's discovery created a revolution in physics, giving birth to a wholly new understanding, it is even more important for cosmology. This becomes evident when we realize the significance of the next great discovery -- the discovery by Anderson in 1932 that the photon creates particles. The full significance of this has not been appreciated, but to me it clearly indicates that light is the first stage of cosmogenesis, which is also what most of the creation myths assert.
But it is for theoretical reasons that the quantum of action is entitled to the role of first cause. Passing over its function, action at a distance, as indicated by the arrow associated with Cupid, the Father and most powerful of the Greek gods, let us look at what science, contrary to its expectations, has found about the quantum of act Because it contains Mass, Length, and Time it is on par with other measure formulae which contain these three measures -- Force (ML/T²), Momentum (ML/T), Force Control (ML/T³), Power (ML²/T³), Energy (ML²/T²). But Action (ML²/T) is the only one of these six which comes in wholes. Thus energy can have any value. While it "travels" as quanta of action, the energy in a quantum is always in the form of an oscillation and can have any value, whereas the quantum is always h, a constant. The quantum is the whole of which energy and time are parts.
I have realized the quantum of action's primary status since I first began on the theory in late 1957, but science has preferred to stick to the thesis that it is particles that are basic. When confronted with pair creation by light, they prefer to say that particles, in what is called pair annihilation, create light, rather than that light creates particles. There are several reasons this cannot be correct. In the first place, if pair annihilation were the source of photons there would be only two kinds of photons, those created by electron-positron annihilation and those created by proton-antiproton annihilation, whereas there are an infinite variety of photons.
In the second place, pair production requires a single photon (energy 1 BEV) whereas pair annihilation produces 2 half-BEV photons, which in turn could not produce particles, so the transformation can only go one way.
Another reason is that the quark thesis requires that there be one quark of much greater mass than the proton. If this were the case the photon required to create the proton would have to have much greater energy than it does have.
So let us look again at the photon. Its formula h = ET indicates that it can split into energy times T. Energy, ML²/T², can be split in many ways -- into Force x Distance (ML/T² x L), as we saw before; into Momentum x Velocity (ML/T x L/T); or into Moment of Inertia (ML²) divided by Time. This is interesting. When we divide by time we get a rate of change. Thus L or distance divided by time gives velocity, the rate of change of distance with time, miles per hour. So ML²/T is change of inertia, and helps appreciate what action is. Inertia is the tendency to remain in a state of rest or motion. Action is thus a change of state -- like getting out of bed, or voting, or mailing a letter; you can't do it 1½ times.
This is a most emphatic indication that science is not just measurement. Measurement implies that what is measured has a continuum of value -- temperature, length, time, mass. Each of the the measure formulae except action imply a continuum of values for what is measured; but action alone comes in wholes. This too helps -- even the kinds of activity in which we engage tend to occur in units -- one plays a set of tennis, or reads a book, or gives a speech, takes a walk, runs a race, etc. Our activity as well as our decisions tend to come in units.
This seems unscientific, mainly because we are not used to thinking of science as other than measure; the vehicle goes 60 miles per hour, but it does not deal in "trips." Games, contracts, decisions, are anthropomorphic "entities," not part of science. True, but is it not significant that science stumbled on this wild card in the pack? It's a bit like discovering that those fuzzy clouds called nebulae were actually whole universes of stars. Einstein did not approve of quantum physics -- as in his famous aphorism, "God does not play dice" -- but the quantum of action, alias uncertainty, is the very loophole that could remind science that there is something totally unexpected at the origin of things.
Put another way, I think the wholeness of the quantum of action is a concrete reminder to science that it cannot expect to find the bottom of the ocean in the bottom of the boat in which it is floating about.
Let us look again at this quantum. How is it possible that there could be something more basic, more encompassing than energy? Note again that action is Energy times Time. What does that mean? It means that action is a count of so many cycles per second, associated with energy (we can forget about the energy bcause if we know the frequency we can determine the energy). But when we say "know the frequency," we always know it as "so many cycles per second." We don't know fractions of a second. Like counting the turns of a corkscrew, we don't know which way the tip of the corkscrew will point. The difference between the count of turns and the fraction of a turn left over is the basis of the decimal system. The count in "units" of 10 (or 100 or 1000, etc.) is called modulo; what's left is the residue. Thus the number 37 is modulo 3, residue 7.
Thus the residue is the fraction of a whole cycle. Thus if the time is given as 4:24 p.m. it's 4 hours plus 24 minutes, or 24/60 of an hour. This approach permits us to correlate the quantum of action to timing, by which is meant a choice of the exact time to hit the ball or pull the trigger. A tennis player hits the ball in such a way as to direct it where the opponent can't return it, but he can only control its direction by the time he hits it. Assuming a right-handed player, if he hits it too soon it will go to the left; if he hits it too late it will go to the right. He must hit it at exactly the right time to get it where he wants it to go. Thus the choice of timing is equivalent to choice of direction, and since the Rosetta Stone enables us to reduce the ultimate dimension of action to t and since it is timing or choice of direction, we can conclude that action is directed energy. Thus the ultimate constituent of the cosmos is not energy, but directed energy.
It is not much of a step to translate directed energy as purpose, and thus see purpose as the basic constituent of the cosmos. In so saying, I am aware of Bacon's insistence that purpose must be eschewed by science, but that caution was attended by the limitation of science to secondary causation. Primary causation was, according to Bacon, the task of philosophy and of theology, and I agree. But neither theology nor philosophy have followed Bacon's mandate, and science, while it has avoided all reference to purpose, has not been content to limit itself to secondary causation. It wants to know the origin of the universe, which it currently assumes was the Big Bang; it seeks for fundamental particles, looks for invariants or for pulsars billions of light years away, and tries to fill the vacuum left by philosophy and religion, much as the wren, a small bird, fills the birdhouse made for large birds with space-filling straw.
But it is not bigness that will teach science cosmology. It is the smallness of the quantum of action that becomes its greatest asset. To see this, let us look again at pair creation. What sort of photon can do this? A 1 BEV, a billion-volt photon. What does that mean? Well, visible light, as from a hydrogen atom, is about 2 electron volts (electron volts are a measure of energy). So the 1 BEV photon is half a billion times more energy, and realize that the 2 electron volts of visible light corresponds to the temperature of white-hot iron, already a respectable temperature. So a billion-volt photon is super; it involves a very intense energy. But its time period is very, very short -- 10-22 seconds. So it begins its fall into matter by creating a proton (and antiproton). A much less energetic photon, one of 1/2 million electron volts, creates an electron and a positron. At yet a lower level of energy, from about .90 EV to fractions of an EV, we have the vocal range of atoms, and still lower that of molecules.
By vocal range I mean the range of frequencies exchanged, which for molecules used in the life process is around 1/40 of an electron volt. That happens to be the average energy of molecules at what is called room temperature -- less than 110° Fahrenheit, which would pasteurize (kill) life, and more than 30° Fahrenheit, which would freeze it -- and it must be that this temperature range is necessary to life. It does not explain life; something else is required in order to say necessary and sufficient (for life).
Let us see what this is. What I neglected to say about pair creation, which is known, and what I suspect about the further reductions of energy, is that when a proton or electron is created a small percent of the original action, or uncertainty, remains. Most of the energy is invested in mass, and this mass becomes certainty; it is irretrievable. This remaining free energy is known as the fine structure constant (FSC), also as the self energy of the electron.
This self energy is available in the electron's encounters with other particles. When two electrons approach one another a photon is exchanged. Where does this photon come from? The current view is that it is a virtual photon, one of a bank of virtual (non-observable) photons which attend the electron. I prefer to say that the photon exchanged is the electron's own self energy, a sort of free will which it exercises rather than collide with another electron.
Another application for this interpretation of the FSC is the question of why the electron doesn't fall into the nucleus. The Bohr answer is that it doesn't have any angular momentum and cannot radiate without it -- it has to keep its energy, so keeps oscillating, or exchanging potential energy for kinetic energy. I could still say: It doesn't fall "because it doesn't want to."
I suspect that a like fraction of the reduced energy of the photons associated with the building of atoms manifests in the atom's freedom to radiate and absorb energy. While physics has found that the probability of such behavior can be predicted with precision, but a precise probability is what one has when there is no law, it is like insurance tables, a law of averages.
Rather than debate this issue, let me pass on to organic molecules. Recall that the quantum of action is always a constant, a fixed amount of action, but its energy is now at the molecular level, a fraction of a billionth, less than one ten-billionth of what it was when it created a photon -- very much reduced in status, one would think. But wait -- its period is 10 billion times greater than it was. Since it was 10-24 seconds it's now 10 billion times this, or 1011 times 10-24 seconds, about 10-13 seconds. Light travels 3 x 1010 cm, so at room temperature we are immersed in a bath of free energy with a wave length of about 1/1000 cm.
Here I will have to stick my neck out and suggest what I think is going on. Molecules at this stage still have a quantum of action at their disposal, but while the energy is very much smaller than that of the atom, and even of most of the molecules, it is longer in period for some molecules than for others, and those with the longer period have what I would call an "attention span" long enough to encompass that of more energetic but shorter cycling molecules, and can use those with shorter spans to build the complex polymers, proteins, and DNA required for life. While I would expect that this speculation could ultimately be confirmed or found incorrect, I can only say at this point that it is theoretical, based on what we know but certainly not proved. My estimate is that each stage involves the 1836 stepdown in energy that is entailed from proton to electron, so that the middle of the 4th should be:
18365/2 = 1.4 x 108 1
1.4 x 108 x 10-13 (proton diameter) = 1.4 x 10-5
-- less than what I want.
A separate check from UC Berkeley list:
wavelength of 1ev = 1.24 x 10-4 cm, which is red light. Violet would be 6.2 x 10-5.
In other words, the rate of descent required is somewhat greater than the 1836 ratio of proton to electron when carried to the middle of the fourth stage to obtain the wave length or energy of visible light, and when carried to the beginning of the fifth to room-temperature energy. Thus the chlorophyll molecule is the molecule that collects photons in the visible light range, which are stored in starch, sugar, and cellulose for use in the growth of plants.
©1998 Anodos Foundation