Brain & Mind

On Deepawali: We are the children of light

Deepawali is a celebration of light. We have culturally ritualised light to be a symbol of energy, positivity and thus divinity; but if I look at light through the eye of science, I notice that light is far more than what we celebrate, because it has bestowed upon us the greatest gift that we are not aware of.

Life-forms can interact with reality through various mediums. A bacterium can taste reality, a shark can smell reality, a bat can hear reality, while we are prone to see reality. The spectrum of connection between reality and its beholder ranges from chemical sensing that is direct to wave sensing that is reflected. Each method has its special qualities that shapes its user. Taste and smell require evolving of chemical sensors. As all molecules come with fixed shapes, a lock-and-key like shape-fitting receptor is a simple tool that life evolved quickly. This kind of reality perception needs no interpretation.

Hearing and seeing are wave-dependent methods of sensing reality and thus require waves to reflect upon objects and arrive into the sensors. Users of sound waves have an advantage as they can emit their own sound (akin to having a inbuilt torch) so they are not dependent on external source of waves that light users are, but light users have a transforming advantage that makes it a game changer.

Light is the fastest wave in business that travels 3,00,000 KM per second compared to meagre 300 meters per second of sound. To get a perspective of this, if moon was emitting sound, it would have taken a sound-sensing creature to perceive it with a delay of about 27 hours, while we see it with only a second of delay.

Light is even more special because, in our universe, nothing can go faster than light. This means that information riding on light can travel furthest and fastest both in space and time. Light is, thus, the last word in information transfer in this universe.

When we consider this from the perspective of technology of building receptors, and in turn processors, it becomes clear that by opting for light-based perception, a self-designing neural network ventures into a highly demanding situation. And when we look inside our brain, it becomes clear that light has been the driving force for evolution of human intelligence.

Though we have all five senses, image processing is given the highest priority in terms of space and processing power allocation in human brain. This brain design has played such huge evolutionary dividends that, in human brain, it has snowballed into an excess processing capability that breached the barrier of perception and acquired interpretational skills which ultimately cascaded into cause-and-effect relationship recognition and thus intelligence as we know it today.

The beauty of this process is that through light, we have taped into the greatest river of information that flows through the universe. This means that our intelligence is going to be tested with more and more information and will have an opportunity to evolve further.

Thus, a journey that started when life acquired the ability to sense a small part of electromagnetic wave spectrum has led it to evolve intelligence that we enjoy today. And this journey has not ended, because it has opened up a vast universe in front of us, that has a lot more for us to see and get wiser with.

The guiding light of our universe has invited us to commence a journey towards enlightenment. Let this Deepawali be a celebration of this journey that humanity must continue.

Happy Deepawali!

DNA: 30/10/16

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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