Riding the Wave

Have we mastered one of nature’s most mind-boggling forces yet?

Written by Ranjit Lal | New Delhi | Published: October 13, 2013 12:48:20 am

Have we mastered one of nature’s most mind-boggling forces yet?

Nature is full of waves. And waves are enigmatic,weird even,one of nature’s mind-boggling forces — they transport energy (sometimes city-razing amounts of it) from one place to another without necessarily transporting anything from point A to point B. And what a diversity! You have sound waves,light waves,x-rays,electromagnetic waves,seismic waves,shockwaves and most dangerous of all,perhaps,brainwaves (which,we shall come to later.) Some of these are “transverse” waves — like the waves in the sea when your boat moves up and down as they move under and past it; some are “compression” waves (like from the beat of a drum). Some waves can move through a vacuum (light and electromagnetic waves),others (like sound) can’t. And all of us living creatures are sensitive to waves — but usually within a specific range of frequency. Take sound and light,for example,two of the most familiar and everyday waves we come across.

Elephants rumble a sonorous bass in their tummies and can communicate with each other over many miles,about the nearest dance bar,and we can’t hear a thing. Whales do much the same across ocean depths. Bats emit high-pitched sonar squeaks to navigate by and home in on moths. Other creatures (of the deep sea,for example) can see ultraviolet light,which again we can’t.

More fascinating and powerful are the invisible electromagnetic waves and “microwaves” with which we can do all kinds of magic — drive and guide rockets and satellites,communicate with loved ones everywhere,and make popcorn in 30 seconds flat. And we’re now apparently working with lasers (which are coordinated light waves) in order to duplicate what happens in the sun so we can develop an inexhaustible supply of energy to drive our SUVs.

But there are other kinds of waves,which can be very dangerous if you don’t know how to respond to or deal with properly. Thick-skinned people will be completely impervious to the waves of disapproval emanating from upset loved ones — until they receive a stunning shockwave to the face in the form of a tight slap. Extra-sensitive people will,of course,break down in a flood of tears if the tiniest ripple of disapproval is sensed and immediately turn into a tsunami of breast-beating emotions. Scientists and inventors through the ages have been struck by brainwaves,which have given us things like the atom bomb and sarin gas,though agreed,they’ve also given us plenty of good stuff like antibiotics and supercars. In fact,these days,everyone is talking about healing waves as demonstrated by reiki. You can send healing waves across vast distances to your target and heal him or her.

Well,I tried it. I was recovering from a pacemaker implant in a hospital recently — and no,wasn’t the one who needed the healing because I was coming along fine,thank you — but in my hospital room stood a small,depressed-looking empty mini-fridge,unplugged,unwanted and unloved. It was comatose and needed the healing touch. So,for a couple of days as I recuperated,I concentrated on sending waves of healing energy to it,willing it to get well again and become operational. Two mornings after starting the treatment,I tentatively opened it.

Alas,it remained empty,silent,smelly and sad. It had not,in spite of all the healing powers of reiki at my command (which I had never called upon until now),changed into a cheerful mini-bar,crammed with cans of chilled beer and Belgian chocolates. There wasn’t even a can of Coke or Pepsi,or a jug of nimbu paani. I shook my head sadly and shut the door.

But wait,my healing waves may not have cured the poor fridge,but they had found a target. A few days later,before I was discharged,I was handed my discharge “summary” and then the hospital’s dietician entered,blithely bearing a four-page-long diet sheet. Here’s just a bit of it:“Foods Totally Restricted: Sugar,jam,jelly,cold drinks,sweets,glucose biscuits,Rooh Afza,fruit juice,murabbas,ice-cream,halwa,other sweet dishes,etc. Highly fried food,cream,ghee,butter,malai,egg yolk,red meat etc.”

I’m certainly not going to be the one making waves any more.

*Ranjit Lal is an author,environmentalist and bird watcher. In this new column,he will reflect on the eccentricities and absurdities of nature

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