TEDxBratislava – Michal CIFRA – Light of living organisms
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TEDxBratislava – Michal CIFRA – Light of living organisms

Translator: Viki Poórová
Reviewer: Zuzana Šplhová I am a scientist and researcher at the Institute of Photonics
and Electronics of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Our research group focuses on studying
our own electromagnetic fields and living organisms’ own radiation. So, my story has begun,
and now it maybe will begin even luckier. When I was a student
of biomedical engineering at the Univesity of Žilina, once I read somewhere that everything
alive shines with some weak light, and it can be measured. Until then, I was just
not a motivated student. I passed all the exams quite easily, but my studies had not had any kind
of a challenge or a purpose for me. When I read about this fact,
I was so fascinated and enthused about it that I wanted to find out
whether it was true, whether it was a fact and how it works. That is the reason
why I decided to be a scientist, so that I can study this phenomenon. I also understood
that having some aim, some concept, is something terribly important because this aroused
some inner motivation in me, and I found out that when I have some aim,
any study can be a pleasure for me, not any kind of trouble,
and that was a turning point in my life. And now a current photo. Before, the lab looked like that, and you can see on the right
how it looks now in the laboratory. How weak is an organism’s radiation –
electromagnetic radiation of organisms? For comparison, let’s talk
about the light of a candle or a lighter. It seems quite weak at first sight. But despite that, there is still
a huge number of photons, elementary particles of light,
which are produced from this small flame. It is 6×10 to the power of 17
photons per second per cm2. So it is 17 zeros after the six. What is the relationship, so we can compare it to that weak,
even weaker radiation of living organisms? Imagine a distance of around 1300 km,
which is roughly from London to Bratislava or from Bratislava to London
in an airplane. And imagine that I will take
this weak light, and I will stand on some high tower,
let’s say here on the Heineken Tower, with no clouds or obstacles
between Bratislava and London. So out of that light, out of 6×10 to the power of 17 photons
which get to London, only 60 photons remain. That small number is the electromagnetic
optical radiation of living organisms. You can imagine how difficult
it is to measure this – to measure the light of a candle
or a lighter from a distance of 1300 km. That’s how difficult our job is. But it’s still fascinating. In the ’50s, there were
some machines, detectors invented which can detect this radiation. One type of them is,
for example, photomultipliers. Basically they work
on the photoelectric effect, for which Albert Einstein
received a Nobel Prize in 1921. It works as follows: when a particle of light, a photon,
strikes the entry of the photomultiplier, an electron is ejected, which is accelerated
in the inner field of a photomultiplier and multiplied by the other collisions,
and basically what we measure is for every stroke of photon, simplified,
we measure one current of electric pulse. It helps us multiply photon energy,
and it helps us to detect this energy. There are other techniques as well which allow us to detect
ultra-weak radiation of organisms. These can also allow us
to create pictures and show the radiation. These include, for example,
techniques based on CCD cameras, which are similar to what you have
in digital cameras, but there is much less noise
and better sensitivity. The picture on the left shows
a basic black and white photo of hands. The picture on the right shows
spontaneous radiation of the same hands of the same person. These photos are
from Netherlands colleagues from Leiden University
and Meluna Research Company. These detection techniques
helped us to understand, or partially understand,
what are the mechanisms, what are the processes that generate
the weak light in living organisms. It was discovered that this light
of organisms is not of heat origin. It is not connected to the fact that an object
has a macroscopic temperature. So it is not thermal radiation
we are talking about. Yet what we know
is that the source of this weak radiation is so-called chemical luminescence
or chemiluminescence. Chemiluminescence works as follows: Let’s have two molecules, A and B, which react together
and create a so-called product which is in a so-called excited state. Excited state means that an electron
has a higher energetic level. This electron will later go down
to the lower energetic level and produce a photon. And basically this is the mechanism which produces the weak light
in living organisms. Here I should say that these reactions
are linked mainly to metabolism and stress in organisms, and it is mainly reactions
of so-called free radicals, which you have probably heard of,
and reactive oxygen forms. But light, as we know, is a very small part of a whole
electromagnetic radiation spectrum. It is basically electromagnetic radiation
which we are able to see as colors if it has sufficient
intensity and strength. But in fact, the electromagnetic
spectrum is much broader. It has an unbelievable number of colors
we cannot perceive or interpret, we can only describe them mathematically
by a numeric value as a frequency. There are some experiments
which have shown that living organisms are not only sources of weak light,
a perceptible form of radiation, but also electromagnetic radiation
in the other spectral fields. But in those it is harder to detect, and it is one of the subjects
of our research activity at the Institute. In biology, it is broadly accepted
that living organisms interact by exchanging their molecules, chemically, in principle,
and that is something we know very well. In higher organisms,
there is an electric interaction as well, in the nervous system, as was mentioned,
for instance, in the muscles. But there are also experiments which show that also chemically isolated organisms,
isolated cell cultures, or for example, two organisms, are able to interact
without any need of molecular exchange. How did researchers come to this fact? I have it pictured on this slide as well. Imagine you have two organisms, usually some simple
culture cells are used, which are in two different containers, and those containers
are chemically isolated, so there won’t be exchange
of molecules between them to avoid any chemical contact, and those containers transmit only
a specific color in a specific frequency. We may find out
when we stimulate one culture, and there are some processes
which produce electric fields in this culture or organism, that the other culture,
the other organism, is able to detect it. And this is how scientists have found out, as they were monitoring the reaction
of the second isolated culture, that there are some interactions
which are of another origin than chemical. There are experiments by several authors where different types of organisms
have been examined from yeasts, bacteria, red blood cells, endothelial cells, semen,
embryos and others, which show that a broad spectrum
of all kinds of organisms are able to really interact
not only chemically, but electromagnetically as well. And it was also observed that if one culture
was stimulated to grow faster, the second organism reacted to this growth
of the first stimulated culture even though they were isolated. It is of course very fascinating, and if those phenomena are real, because there are dozens of them
and still they are not broadly accepted, we ask what is the possible
electromagnetic ‘mouth’, the source in the cells and organisms,
and what are the ‘ears’, receptors which can detect
that electromagnetic field, electromagnetic radiation –
receive and detect. If there is some specific interaction, specific electromagnetic
communication between organisms, and it is not only some
kind of uncertain pokes, but it really carries
some specific information, is there something like
an electromagnetic alphabet? What are then those ‘letters’
which make words? How can organisms mutually communicate? If it is proven that there is specific electromagnetic
interaction between organisms, it will lead to completely new forms
of diagnostics and therapy. Imagine now what I can see
as a real aim for the next five years. We will be able, I assume,
to develop more sensitive detectors so we can measure and evaluate
this biological radiation so we can understand, uncover,
the first ‘letters’, ‘words’ of an electromagnetic alphabet
of cells and organisms. It would lead, of course,
to the new forms of diagnostics because we would ‘hear’
what the cell tells us about its physiological processes. We would be able to noninvasively listen
to the signals it sends. I dare to speculate a little bit
about what can we expect in the old age of our generation, or, I hope, what our children
would be able to expect. Imagine that we could
completely understand this electromagnetic communication
and interaction between organisms – and it is for real, as the experiments
show, that this phenomenon exists – we would be able to selectively,
noninvasively and gently start some specific biological processes, for example, in human therapy,
in human medicine, to start processes of healing
and regeneration which are sometimes more difficult
to make happen chemically. And so we would be able to make it happen by more gentle
and noninvasive means. Similar to Star Trek. To come back to Earth at the end, because I have shown you some speculations
but which have scientific justification, I would like to conclude
with what the current state is so you can catch onto something reliable. It is claimed, but still
not very well known, that all organisms
which are metabolically active are the source of some
measurable, ultra-weak electromagnetic radiation
in the optical field. Even though biologists
are little bit skeptical, there are dozens of articles and books
in the modern literature which confirm by experiment that really, chemically isolated organisms
are able to electromagnetically interact. And what follows will be the subject
of our further research. Thank you. (Applause)

3 thoughts on “TEDxBratislava – Michal CIFRA – Light of living organisms

  1. Could/would someone be kind and provide an english transcript or captions for this Very interesting (looking/sounding) presentation? I'd be very greatful, and I'm sure I'm not alone. 🙂

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