1. RHYTHMS IN HUMAN NATURE
The day/night rhythm has been conserved in almost every plant and animal species. Why? Because every day the energies that control food supply and reproductive possibilities are parsed out by dark and light. However, the light of the day in the day/night cycle also opens a window through which faster solar frequencies can act on living matter.
Guy Murchie in his interesting survey on physics and cosmology, The Music of the Spheres, pointed out that in Greek mythology the seven strings of Orpheus’ lyre were said to be tuned by the sun.
On the fast end of the solar spectrum UV light, visible color and infrared radiation penetrate the magnetosphere and reach the earth. These oscillate in the electromagnetic spectrum billions of times a second, with frequencies ranging from 3x1012 for deep infrared through 4.3x1014 to 7.5x1014 for visible light to 3x1017 for ultraviolet. At even higher frequencies, x-rays and gamma rays bombard us. The faster the oscillation the more energy it carries. UV radiation is a known mutagen. Over long periods, the fast solar spectrum must have influenced species evolution
These fast solar radiances arecarried in slower rhythms to the earth. The fusion furnace in the sun’s core rumbles and shakes, causing the surface of the sun to ring like a bell as its diameter expands and contracts rhythmically. Heliosesimologists observing the solar pulse from the South Pole put the fundamental period at 160 minutes, with a harmonic series moving by octaves to 80, 40, 20, 10 and 5 minute periods.
The frequencies generated by the periodic release of solar radiation show up prominently in the timed portions of the M phase of the mitotic cell cycle.
From the beginning of life, and particularly at the beginning, and probably as a condition of the beginning, particularly in the first, tentative, submicroscopic bondings of organic molecules, organisms had to adapt themselves to the rhythms in the solar radiance, especially those transmitted as thermal gradients in water on an ocean-girdled earth.
Protein folding in aqueous solution
Biochemical reaction rates change with heat, visible light, UV and other radiative energies that come from the sun. The biochemicals set going by solar radiation in some way must form to the beat of these rhythms, vibrating to the seven strings of Orpheus’ solar lyre.
Ilya Prigogine, the Nobel laureate whose work on dissipative systems helped create the field of chaos and complexity, identified the sun as the source of biological rhythmicity. With his collaborator Isabelle Stengers, he wrote, “… life seems to express in a specific way the very conditions in which our biosphere is embedded, incorporating the nonlinearities of chemical reactions and the far-from-equilibrium conditions imposed on the biosphere by solar radiations.” 22 Sunspot activity oscillates with an 11-year period and this affects the weather. A belt of increased rainfall in the northern hemisphere oscillates between 60-70N and 70-80N during the sunspot cycle. A similar pattern occurs in the southern hemisphere. Lightning strikes in England increase during sunspot maxima. The Little Ice Age in Europe (c1600-1750) correlated with the Maunder sunspot minima. Solar magnetic reversals follow a 22-year cycle. The equatorial regions of the sun rotate faster than the polar regions, causing electromagnetic patterns described as the fast solar tacholine oscillations. There are solar rhythms that come to earth at sound wave frequencies. The sun in its fusion furnace rings like a bell, its photosphere beating many times per second over a five-minute repeating period and these pulses reach the earth through the magnetosphere, permeable to visible light. Other solar frequencies cause electrical disturbances. These ionospheric discharges paint the aurora borealis on the sky.
The sun delivers this whole array of energies to earth in nested rhythms. The 11-year sunspot window, the 29-day solar rotation win-dow, the window of the day, and the 5-160 minute acoustic solar pulse play within each other’s waveforms. The energies that come to earth from the sun are deflected by the magnetosphere. What gets through to the surface of the planet varies with changes in the strength and shape of the magnetosphere itself. Together the faster solar influences that get through produce thermal agitations, random Brownian movements in water and many other kinds of radiative influences on small bits of matter. The molecules of the chloroplasts of photosynthetic plants and the rhodopsin molecule in the visual purple of the eye are exquisitely sensitive to trains of photons.
Since biochemical reaction rates change with heat, visible light, UV and other electrical field energies, the reactions streaming in through the solar window must have fundamentally shaped the chemistry of life.
The role of these influences can be investigated by studying the solar spectrum and correlating its frequencies to those we have identified in life.
Sun on Water
Song of Praise, pastel -- Laura Rose
The sun’s rays play on the great mirror of the world’s ocean surface. The H2O molecules and their hydration complexes are its first receivers. The thermal oscillations of H2O in water influence the delivery times and reaction rates of biochemicals in solution.
The action of sunlight on water is crucial to life. One can see it impressing its daily rhythms on the movements of plankton. It warms and cools them rhythmically, draws them up and down into darkness and light, induces them to float or sink, to photosynthesize or respire, to get active or rest, even to align themselves along the shining wave crests where the solar radiance is strongest (or away from it when it is too intense).
Surely the direct influences of sun on water must have acted on emergent life. These radiative and thermal rhythms set up agitations and movements that would have influenced molecular combinations in the microscopic realms where life originated in the sea.
Motility itself may have found its rhythmic pulses in the frequencies generated at the water/solar interface. The first living things that learned to swim by their own power must have had to adjust themselves to patterns of fluid motion through water. By evolutionary selection, the rhythms of water must have been carried into their swimming motions. The whipping tails, the screw-like turning of single celled organisms and the biochemical motors that drove them must all reflect the frequency spectra of sunlight on water. Daily warming and cooling, windowing the fast ultradian solar radiance rhythms running in the five to 160 minute range, as mediated by the fluid characteristics of water, must have gotten into the tissue of life early on. The smaller the proto-cells from which the first life emerged, the larger the influence of the radiation hitting it. The rhodopsin molecule in the visual purple of the eye can register the presence of single photons. So too with the influence of hydrogen bonding in water molecules on nucleotides and amino acids. If creatures swam in oil, they would have different motion frequencies.
On the reasonable assumption that life started in the waters, and biological organisms are made mostly of water, and seeing that cellular motility has adapted itself to aqueous rhythms, watery wave motions inside cells very likely play a part in intra-cellular processes. In the fluid medium of the cytosol, materials move in vesicles or as free molecules. They gather and combine or disperse around docking sites in the organelles of cells. Charged molecules with electromotive potentials move in wavelike patterns through the cytosol.
Protoplasmic streaming shows the movement of currents in the cyosol, often channeled along microtubules and microfilaments -- the tiny cytoskeletal and cytokinetic elements visible under the electron microscope that are themselves responsive to watery currents, temperature and radiation.
Further, the wave motion in the cytosol itself travels from cell to cell through gap junctions in their membranes. Typical diffraction patterns may form around each opening. Does the cell water in the cytosol serve as an information transfer medium?
Do the radiative energies of the sun, passing through these nearly transparent cells, slightly bent by the wave patterns in the cytosol, inscribe a holographic design on the apical face of the opposing membrane? We can conduct experiments to explore these possibilities by showing first that water itself can pick up and transmit frequencies capable of carrying detailed information. By applying pitched sounds to a water drop, we can show that water picks up auditory frequencies and dances to them in symmetrical standing wave designs. 23 If we add salts or other basic chemicals of life to the water, the wave traffic, though perhaps changed in frequency and amplitude, persists.
Microscopic examination of living cells will show that the cytosol does carry waves in a variety of frequencies and that these have AM and FM characteristics. Further, we know that these vibrations touch the anchoring points of microtubules.
We can conjecture, then, that the microtubule and microfilament networks, especially as they ramify along the inner surface of the cell membrane and as their single fibers stretch across the cell, may work as water harps, sensing the movements of the cytosol and transducing them at the cell or organelle membrane end of the strand. Further research might show that thermal influences generate rhythms in the cytosol. The microfilaments could pick up these rhythms in the wave motions hitting the cell harps and transmit them to organelles. It follows that the docking sites along the microtubule/microfilament mesh to which signaling substances attach would be occupied and vacated in ways reflecting the tempo of the waves pushing on them.
For hundreds of millions of years before life appeared amino acids and protein chains must have been organizing themselves in water under the influence of sunlight. Moving through seawater, developing hydrophilic and hydrophobic sites, these molecules took on specific chemical bonding characteristics that influenced their folding patterns.
Surely these rhythmic radiative and thermal sources must have created agitations and movements that influenced molecular combinations in the submicroscopic realms where life originated in the ambiance of these very small comings and goings. No wonder the most primitive organisms take on the oscillatory characteristics of water.
It further follows that with life temperatures limited to a tiny slice of the temperature spectrum the frequencies of the biochemistry of life could not proceed at all possible reaction rates. In addition, on this small scale, the mass of molecules and the frequency characteristics of light would have distributed the rhythms of life into discrete spectra. All the more so when you consider that water as a basic ingredient of life itself can take only certain thermal agitations at normal atmospheric pressures before being bound in an ice lattice or boiling away into steam.
In addition, while they were moving, joining, rejecting each other, evolving their autocatalytic properties, the solutes were swimming in water according to their own ionic attractions and repulsions and their stereochemical properties. Moreover, the wind, sun, the earth’s rotation and the moon’s pull drove them too, together imposing their frequencies, flow forms and agitations on the molecules of life.
The thermal agitation that starts chemical reactions going in living protoplasm may have randomness in it, but the responses of the cytosol to those agitations must be limited by the nature of water and by the chemical constituents dissolved in it.
Since the major biological energy transactions involve phosphorylation, the rhythmic characteristics of phosphorous in water probably helped shape the original frequencies of mitochondrial chemistry and they are still latent in it. In Investigations, Stuart Kauffman reasons that in this reaction a pyro-phosphate molecule carries the added energy. This PP molecule is cleaved to form P+P and the energy released pushes forward the auto-catalytic reactions permitting life. However, the energy dissipates quickly and Kauffman acknowledges that unless we “add energy to resynthesis PP from P+P” the reactions break down. “To do so,” he continues,
“I invoke an additional source of free energy in the form of an electron e, which absorbs a photon, hv [hv is the formula for Planck’s constant (h) times the frequency of the photon (v)]; is driven endergonically to an excited state e+, and falls back endergonically to its low energy state, e, in a reaction that is coupled to the synthesis of PP from P+P.” 24
Here is Kauffman’s problem: where do the photons come from? They must exist in nature. If they find their way into life through sunlight on water, as we have argued, they will drive the autocatalytic reactions not randomly at odd moments but in wave fronts or packets with specific frequency and amplitude characteristics. These then find their way into life by generating resonances in the oscillatory media of the molecules.
Water itself exists in various configurations in the presence of other elements, and bulk water takes on different characteristics according to the ions dissolved in it. Geometric shells of H2O form around solutes. This structured water remains distinguishable from the bulk water around it. So in principle we should be able to detect the rhythmic interplay between bulk water, the hydration structures it builds around other molecules in the water, the water mediated redox reactions and the molecular foldings flowing through it.
Cell membranes themselves are organized by their responsiveness to water; the cell membranes from protozoa to man are constructed of a lipid bilayer with its hydrophobic areas sandwiched between two hydrophilic surfaces punctuated by numerous membrane proteins forming valves and channels, through which all nourishment and information must enter and leave the cell, usually borne by water. You can find a good description of these processes in Christian De Duve‘s marvelous study, A Guided Tour of the Living Cell. 25
The hydrogen bonds in the water and the ions and charged particles of the matter dissolved in it in turn interact with photons from the sun—and these interactions when life was first forming on the surface of the waters must have influenced the folding of polypeptide chains. Proteins still show their watery influences. They form hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions and turn toward and away from water. They twist into helices that look like tiny whirlpools; they have chirality and turn clockwise or counterclockwise. Perhaps they reflect the Coriolis forces induced in them by the turning earth. The bonding characteristics of water shape its kinetics on small and large scales. Hydrogen bonds are continuously broken and reformed as water rolls and turns.
In the rates of these tiny spinning vortices, we may find the evolutionary sources for ultradian rhythms that shape biological processes. Arthur Winfree found these whirlpools everywhere in living nature.
“We found it… in tissues made of clocks—and then found the clocks themselves indispensable: in excitable tissue the singularity became the rotating pivot of a spiral wave. We saw it not only in excitable tissue but in nonliving chemical media as well, no longer an abstraction about timing relations but now a visible rotating source of waves. And there we saw the first singularity in its fullest development, as a tornado-like filament arching through three dimensional space to close in a ring.
“Each kind of organizing center is woven in its own distinctive way from fibers of phase singularity, as though from the funnels of chemical tornadoes, organizing centers are little chemical engines made of rotating parts…except that the rotating parts are only patterns of chemical activity, like ghosts in the material substrate. "26
Carl Woese, the microbial geneticist who helped develop the paradigmatic theories of horizontal gene transfers between primitive cells, recently wrote “It is becoming increasingly clear that to understand living systems in any deep sense, we must come to see them not as machines, but as stable, complex dynamic organizations.” Freeman Dyson explained in a recent talk “Woese likens organisms to eddies in a turbulent stream that reappear no matter how often they are disturbed.” He invokes the image of the whirlpool. Its rhythmicity is basic to life, carrying and sustaining the information for origin, development and behavior in its spin.27
Ivanitsky, Krinsky and Mornev, Russian scientists writing near the end of the Soviet era, showed how oscillating systems generate vortices in all living tissue. Speaking of slime molds they state, “Here again revolving reverberator vortices are the fastest of all local sources of autowaves, because autowave sources have identical properties in all active media, and all other sources are, therefore, suppressed… This is an example of how nature uses reverberators for building up a structure in extreme conditions.”28
Myths of Whirlpools
The spiral wave, the whirlpool, and the vortex are symbols deeply set in the human imagination. Their figures were incised on rocks and painted on pottery thousands of years ago. Northern European myths associate whirlpools with transformation, with communications between realities, between the living and the dead, with a rupture of levels, with the turbulence of the turning point moments in our own lives. When we confront major changes, we are sucked into a whirlpool, and perhaps jetted out the other end. A new myth with similar content appears in the science fiction of galactic black holes as in Stephen Baxter’s Ring.
Historian of science Giorgio de Santilliana with Hertha Von Dechend trace some of these myths back to prehistoric sources. They write,
“The engulfing whirlpool belongs to the stock-in- trade of ancient fable. It appears in the Odyssey as Charybdis in the straits of Messina – and again, in other cultures, in the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific. It is found there too, curiously enough, with the overhanging fig tree to whose boughs the hero can cling as the ship goes down… But the persistence of detail rules out free invention. Such stories have belonged to the cosmographical literature since antiquity. Medieval writers, and after them Athanasius Kirchner, located the gurges mirabilis, the wondrous eddy somewhere off the coast of Norway, or of Great Britain…. For the Norse the whirlpool came into being from the unhinging of the Grotte Mill [the Sampo]…No localization is indicated here, whereas the Finns point to directions which are less vague than they sound. Their statement that the Sampo has three roots – one in heaven, one in the earth, the third in the water eddy – has definite meaning, as will be shown.” 29
Triskele, the symbol of ancient Sicily, found in Neolithic Sicilian artifacts, shows three feet bent in apparent circular motion emerging from a sun center.
From early on the sun was an object of awe and worship as the energy source that enlivens the whole process of evolution on earth. The Triskele, I fancy, behaves like a whirlpool caused by the sun’s heat on the waters. The Triskele, in this imagery, would represent a whirlpool with both cosmic and oceanic elements. But why three legs? Three is a recurrent theme in vortex imagery.
Tides, currents, thermohaline oscillators, the great globe spanning subsurface streams, all of them periodic, animate the oceans of the world and generate eddies and whirlpools in water and air. A power spectral analysis of the kinetics of moving water at the surface of the sea might very well show traces of all the main frequency bands of life. We would find the circadian in the daily warming and cooling at the surface layers, the infradian in the monthly pull of the moon on the tides, and the ultradian rhythms in the fast components of the solar radiation interacting with water molecules and hydration structures, and the movement of wind waves with their swells pulsing like respirations.
Even the water in space, observable in water masers in the Milky Way, shows a spiral form, periodic rotsation and a related power spectral distribution. Studies of the rhythms in water masers would bring a cosmic dimension to the origins of life not yet explored.
But water waves and chemical vortices seem to be sluggish sources for the fastest oscillations in living tissues. Could the electrical pulses in nerve cells have an independent non-aqueous source in nature? Can we identify environmental pulsations moving in these frequency ranges?