Articles: the physics of healing (part 1)

With all the mentions of light as medicine, I had soooo many questions. Please find below the results of my exploration of this ancient treatment. Let’s start with the basics of light, building upon what we’ve already learned before we venture into actual mechanism(s) of healing and its specific applications. 

Keeping in mind light is electromagnetic, recall from my prior post the significance of electromagnetic currents in the Human body, which are the basis for healing treatments, such as bone stimulators and acupuncture. Likewise, light has healing capabilities. Here’s where it gets tricky, so stay with me—I’ll try to keep my explanation from getting convoluted…

A spatial plane is a two-dimensional or three-dimensional space, a setting in which to determine the position of a point. A vector is the quantity of magnitude and direction of a point represented by a line segment emanating from its source. For example, a train’s velocity as it travels away from a railway station. A vector field is a diagram that illustrates such vectors. For example, a map used by a weather reporter to show air flow patterns. (Think back to middle/ high school Math class: Geometry had you plotting points on a grid. Calculus builds upon this principle and has applications for everything from 3-D animation– building objects within a given space rather than drawing them flat on a page– to medical imaging, such as an MRI scan.)

Hopefully you’re tracking so far… Have you ever wondered about the significance of sunglasses with polarizing filters? Just as a children’s skipping rope can be yanked up and down when tethered to a source, or like an inflatable stick man shimmies and flaps outside a car sales lot, a wave can vibrate in multiple directions. Light waves are transversal– their paths of trajectory frequently intersect each other. To restrict their vibrations is to polarize them. Polarization occurs by transmission, reflection, refraction, or scattering. Unpolarized light, such as from direct sun, a light bulb, or a candle is waves vibrating in more than one plane. (Polarized light vibrates in only one plane.) In a future post, I’ll elaborate on polarized lenses and outline their pros and cons.

Recall from my previous post, colors on the the spectrum of visible light have electric and magnetic fields, which vibrate at particular frequencies. MONOchromatic waves (e.g. laser, LED) have a single frequency; POLYchromatic light (e.g. incandescent bulbs) contains multiple wavelengths. The visible spectrum can be seen by passing light through an optical prism, which splits it into a rainbow (picture the album cover of “Dark Side of the Moon” by classic rock band, Pink Floyd). This is refraction: a wave’s change in speed as it enters a medium. Its waves bend, which is why things (e.g. a tree branch or pool net in water, a spoon in a drinking glass) look split as an optical illusion.

This is where light therapy (such as heliotherapy via sun rays and chromotherapy via the visible spectrum) comes into play. In future posts, we’ll explore various examples and how they work.


Medicine & Doctoring in Ancient Mesopotamia

polarization of light; a history of Polaroid

CCNY physics lab: wave optics

Optical Microscopy Primer: refraction of monochromatic light

Los Alamos National Laboratory: light polarization tutorial

interference of light: wave optics (monochromatic vs. polychromatic light)

electric field of a uniformly charged plane

the physics of polarizing filters

American Academy of Ophthalmology what are polarized lenses for?

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