By Patricia R. Spadaro
What really makes us tick? How do we know?
And what are the implications for our health?
From molecular science to string theory, modern researchers are proving what ancient sages have taught for millennia—that our body responds to vibration and that the trillions of cells inside of us form one grand symphony of sound…
One of the most intriguing roads that leads us into the world of vibration—and there are many—emerges from the leading edge of physics, where scientists are still debating what the world is really made of at the most fundamental level. Greek philosophers over two thousand years ago proposed that the basic, indivisible unit of matter was the atom (a word derived from atomon, meaning “that which cannot be divided”). The idea was revived in the eighteenth century. By the 1930s, physicists had discovered that the “atom” could be broken down into smaller components—a nucleus, which is made up of protons and neutrons, orbited by electrons.
In the 1960s, physicists uncovered still smaller units—dubbed “quarks” and “leptons”—that make up all particles of matter. But in the last several decades, some physicists have claimed that there is yet another layer of the onion to peel off, and that under it, at the very core, lie the real building blocks of matter—strings of energy.
The Wild West of Physics Gets to the Heart of Matter:
Vibrating Strings of Energy
Before the birth of atoms, before protons, neutrons and electrons, there is…the vibrating string of energy. This theory, popularly known as string theory or superstring theory, is one of the newest upstarts in science. It was first introduced in the late 1960s and is now a popular field of study. Called by some the Wild West of physics, string theory claims that everything in our universe, from the planets swirling through space to the tiniest subatomic particle, is at its most basic level made up of microscopic strands of energy. This conclusion has important implications for our understanding of why energy, sound and vibration are at the frontier of progress in many fields, including the healing arts.
What do scientists mean by “strings” of energy and what do they look like? Through complex mathematical formulas, physicists theorize that these fundamental strings are incredibly tiny, thin and elastic, like a rubber band. To give you an idea of the size of a string, it is estimated to be about 10-33 centimeters, which is about a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. These strings can take the form of a loop with a closed end or a strand with open ends. They can twist and wiggle. They can merge with each other and they can break apart.
If everything is made up of these basic strings, what is it that makes one particle of matter or one object different from another? It’s all in the way the string vibrates, say physicists.
Think of it like this: the basic “stuff” from which everything else is made is like a guitar string. Depending on how we pluck a guitar string, we will hear different notes, or frequencies. According to string theory, the vibrating strings that form the fabric of all matter also produce a number of different notes. But in the microscopic world, these “notes” are various subatomic particles. Which notes (or kinds of particles) we get depends on how the string moves and how much energy accompanies the vibration.
For example, a string that vibrates one way is what we call an electron with its specific properties of mass and charge. Another string vibrates in a way that is characteristic of a photon, the particle that makes up light. In addition, the four forces of nature (gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces) can also be explained by the particular pattern of a string’s vibration.
In other words, if we go to the deepest and most indivisible level of matter, we find patterns of vibration, and the vibrational pattern is what gives a particle its specific properties. As physicist Brian Greene explains, all the different properties of the particles that make up matter are “the manifestation of one and the same physical feature: the resonant patterns of vibration—the music, so to speak—of fundamental loops of string.”1
The amazingly versatility and flexibility of the string—that is, its ability to give birth to all the variegated phenomena in the universe—is what makes string theory such a good candidate for what physicists call the Theory of Everything (or T.O.E.).
Simplifying the Laws of the Universe:
Is Vibration the Key?
Scientists have always had a deep yearning to find the theory that will tie together everything we know about the universe. This is one of the reasons why Isaac Newton’s discovery in the 1600s of the universal principle of gravitation generated such excitement. With one stroke, Newton unified heaven and earth by explaining that the same force (gravity) that makes an apple drop also holds the planets in orbit around the sun.
Two centuries later, in the 1860s, James Clerk Maxwell developed four simple mathematical equations that united the concepts of electricity and magnetism by showing their inseparable relationship. He also united our ideas of light and the electromagnetic force by proposing that light was just one part of a larger spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. We now know that light—including infrared (not visible to humans), visible and ultraviolet light—as well as other waves, such as radio waves and gamma waves, are all created by the same phenomena, the interplay of electricity and magnetism. Maxwell’s breakthroughs formed the basis not only of modern electronics but the revolution in physics known as quantum mechanics.
Albert Einstein also had an intense yearning to unify and simplify. He spent the last three decades of his life searching for the missing element that would tie together our understanding of electromagnetism and the forces of gravity. For a time, Einstein seemed to be alone in his quest. As he focused his attention on the big picture, others were captivated by the increasingly smaller realm inside the atom.
Einstein never fulfilled that dream, and as the years passed, the need for unification only became greater as a growing conflict lurked in the background of science—a conundrum that still leaves physicists scratching their heads. As Brian Greene describes in The Elegant Universe, at the root of this dilemma is a discrepancy between Einstein’s theory of relativity (which revised our understanding of gravity and which works well to describe what happens in the world of the large) and quantum theory (which works well in the subatomic world of the very small). But when you put the two together, they just don’t jibe. In other words, if both the theory of relativity and quantum theory are valid “laws” that govern the universe, they both need to work all the time—and they need to work together. Without delving into the complex mathematical and conceptual ideas behind this, it’s as if there are two alternate versions of how our universe operates. Or we haven’t yet discovered the link in the chain that connects both theories.
Today some are heralding string theory as a possible solution to the dilemma, the answer Einstein was looking for. “String theory,” says Greene, “has the potential to show that all of the wondrous happenings in the universe—from the frantic dance of subatomic quarks to the stately waltz of orbiting binary stars, from the primordial fireball of the big bang to the majestic swirl of heavenly galaxies—are reflections of one grand physical principle, one master equation.”2
Scientists refer to this master equation as a “unified theory.” When physicists invoke the word unified, what they are really talking about is the drive to simplify and to harmonize. Both philosophers and scientists will agree that the most important laws of life are, in the final analysis, the most simple. The greatest theory of all would be the one that reduces all that we know about nature and the universe into less (and more simple) principles, perhaps even one principle that would neatly tie everything together. Is string theory—with its oscillating strings of energy as the common denominator—the Theory of Everything? Not everyone agrees it is. Yet there is intense interest in the field, and it is one of the most active areas of theoretical physics, with many well-respected physicists (and billion-dollar particle accelerators) devoted to proving its validity.
String Theory, Pythagoras and Vibrational Medicine:
Sharing Principles of Vibration and Energy Flow
Beyond the intricate meanderings of physicists, why should we care about string theory or vibration? Does the idea of vibrating energy have anything to do with our everyday life? More and more researchers, health care practitioners and futurists and are answering with a resounding yes.
If it’s true that all matter is composed of vibrating strands of energy, so are we. In this scenario, the body itself is literally a symphony of strings. Our cells, organs and tissues vibrate. Billions upon billions of frequencies interact with each other and resonate within us. Just as importantly, those vibrations constantly interact with what’s happening in our environment.
In short, in a world where vibration reigns supreme, the sounds and vibrations that fill the world outside of us can influence and change the vibrations inside of us, affecting our health and well being for better or for worse. The converse would also be true—the vibrations emanating from inside of us affect and change what takes place in the environment outside of us.
Of course, string theory is by no means the origin of such ideas. It is only a very recent adjunct to powerful and long-held principles that have been around for millennia. The principles of vibration and energy flow—and the idea that sound can influence our health—were espoused long ago by ancient sages of many cultures, East and West. To name just a few, Hermetic philosophers taught that one of the seven major principles we should live by is the principle of vibration: everything is in motion and everything vibrates. Chinese healers (and modern acupuncturists) seek to restore the flow of energy (or chi) through the body’s meridians. In the Chinese system, particular healing sounds are associated with one of the five organ systems of the body and can help balance the body and emotions. Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish sages taught that sound, in the form of specific mantras, divine names and prayers, can bring about a host of powerful effects, both external and internal.
Pythagoras is said to have used music to heal the body and the emotions. Through his study of vibrating strings, Pythagoras discovered the relationship between tone and the ratio of the strings. He believed that the essence and relationship of all things could be expressed through numbers. The great philosopher also taught about the “music of the spheres.” Pythagoras said that the movement, rhythm and vibration of every atom as well as every celestial body produce a particular sound.
The concepts of vibrating energy that are behind modern string theory and ancient traditions also underlie what is known today as energy medicine or vibrational medicine. Dr. Richard Gerber in his landmark book Vibrational Medicine defines vibrational medicine as “medicine that is directed toward an understanding of energy and vibration, and how they interact with molecular structure and organismic balance.” 3 (To be continued)
1. Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (New York: Vintage Books, 2003), pp.15-16.
2. Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe, p. 5.
3. Richard Gerber, Vibrational Medicine, 3d ed. (Rochester, Vermont: Bear & Company, 2001), p. 65.
Article © 2004 Patricia R. Spadaro. All rights reserved.
Patricia R. Spadaro is a freelance writer and coauthor of several books on personal growth.
Read Part 2 of “The Body’s Symphony of Sound and Vibration,” including sections on “Pictures of Sound: Making Invisible Vibrations Visible” and “The Sounds of Progress: Advancements in Technology and Medicine Powered by Sound.”
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