Molecular ‘Rhythms’

Our focus on the body’s biophoton emission, inevitably draws attention to notions of communication and connectivity through light in biological systems. To better address the possibilities this holds for our ideas of interaction and data experience, it is worth including a brief introduction to key concepts and research which expand on notions of feedback and information transmission through the channel of light.


* The light in life
The first systematic research into the role of light in living processes was conducted by Russian biologist Alexander Gurwitsch, famous for his ‘onion experiment’ in the 1920s. Gurwitsch established that every living cell emits light at a weak level, which he termed ‘mitogenetic radiation’.

Alexander Gurwitsch's Onion Experiment
(Gurwitsch’s famous Onion experiment)
Positioning the roots of two onions perpendicularly, so that the tip of one root points to one side of the other root, Gurwitsch found that there was a significant increase in cell divisions on this side, compared to the opposite “unirradiated” side. The effect disappeared when a thin piece of window glass was placed between the two roots, and reappeared when the ordinary glass (opaque for UV light) was replaced with quartz glass (transparent for UV light).

The term ‘biophotons’ would later be used by biophysicist Fritz Albert Popp who, building on Gurwitsch’s ideas, claimed that: “every change in the biological or physiological state of the living system is reflected by a corresponding change of biophoton emission.” With his and Bernhard Ruth’s development of the Photomultiplier in the 1970′s, biophoton emission would be proven as a common property of all living cells, differing from bioluminescence, as it is universal to all organisms and not associated with specific organelles.

Biophotons consist of “light with a high degree of order, in other words, biological laser light”, emitted by the organism as a whole. DNA is now known to be one of the most essential sources of light, emitting a weak form of coherent light, depicting a communication system between cells and between even larger organisms:

“At least 75% of biophotonic activity originates from DNA. However, when isolated and purified, DNA is biophotonically inactive…DNA possesses an information density that is 1 x 10§9 higher than any technical solution known today…This exorbitant information density leads to a phenomena known in physics as Bose-Einstein-Condensate (BEC); that is, photons are trapped, much like a cryotrap, condensed and frozen “in time”. This stored light accounts for the stability of the DNA molecule. It is thereby assumed that 97.8% of inactive human DNA along with the ‘frozen’ energy has the essential role of organising the 2.02% of genetically expressed DNA. Hence, the BEC establishes a coherent cell-biological state in which photons of the same frequency and phase align to each other. Thereby, the range of interaction increases from the microscopic to include macroscopic entities to involve cells, organs and entire organisms even beyond.”


* Sentient organisms
Popp’s research showed how patterns of emission are disrupted in people suffering from various illnesses and diseases, constituting cooperation processes which are essential for life to occur in an orderly manner. These ideas position biophotons as the ‘conductors’ of life’s processes, performing different functions at different frequencies. As described by Marco Bischof:“It is a holographic field of standing waves which is able, through a broad spectrum of frequencies and polarisations and in close interplay with all material structures, to transmit signals with the speed of light to any place in the organism and to activate or to inhibit biochemical processes, to organise matter, and much more…”

The more complex an organism, the less photons are emitted, as too much “noise” would render the system ineffective. These information networks suggest a more holistic structure for communication and the functioning of life processes, relating to our previous explorations within Aqua Vita and TCM notions of health and disease. In this respect, coherence in biological systems means balance between chaos and order or, in this context, optimum communication. Tracing parallels between this biophotonic network and telematic networks, Roy Ascott cites Mae-Wan-Ho’s “new organicism”,  suggesting an interconnectivity within the organism, between organisms and with the environment:

“Freeing itself from the ‘laws’ of physics, from mechanical determinism and mechanistic control, the organism becomes a sentient, coherent being that is free, from moment to moment, to explore and create its possible futures. (…) The static, deterministic universe of absolute space and time is replaced by a multitude of contingent, observer-dependent space-time frames. Instead of mechanical objects with simply locations in space and time, one finds delocalised, mutually entangle quantum entities that carry their histories with them, like evolving organisms.”

As we move on in the project, we are drawn to these forgotten theories on living systems, abandoned by the advent of molecular biology. The sonification of photon emission means not only a transient experience, but proposes the ‘sensing’ of information. This relates with counterarguments to mechanical definitions for life processes, as proposed by Veljkovic and Cosic’s notions of dynamic electromagnetic field interactions, where molecules send out unique electromagnetic fields that can ‘sense’ the field of complementary molecules:

“Velijkovic and Cosic proposed that molecular interactions are electrical in nature, and they take place over distances that are large compared with the size of molecules. Cosic later introduced the idea of dynamic electromagnetic field interactions, that molecules recognise their particular targets and vice versa by electromagnetic resonance. In other words, the molecules send out specific frequencies of electromagnetic waves which not only enable them to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ each other, as both photon and phonon modes exist for electromagnetic waves, but also to influence each other at a distance and become ineluctably drawn to each other if vibrating out of phase (in a complementary way).”

This last point implies a perceptual shift in our understanding of information, from a visual culture to one based on sensing and connectivity. I will explore these notions further in my next blog post, linking the perceptual abstractness of the molecular scale to the creation of narratives, in ‘sensing’ data.