Dr. Irving Dardik's radical notions about how all matter moves in interconnected waves has drawn deep skepticism from physicists, and his early attempts to put his theory into practice in the field of health care got him banned from practicing medicine in the 1990s. But now, after a decade's worth of rigorous research that seems to support Dardik's SuperWave theory, scientists at such esteemed institutions as MIT, Harvard, and Stanford Research International are signing on with Dardik's team to probe the possibilities. For example, Dardik's unique approach to physical exercise, based on his Principle, has achieved some remarkable successes in reversing symptoms of chronic disease.
Making Waves weaves together two fascinating stories: Dardik's personal progression from vascular surgeon to scientific iconoclast and pioneer, chronicling his struggle to convince the scientific community to take him seriously; and the evolution of his mind-expanding SuperWave Principle. Colleagues--skeptics as well as supporters--consider the impact of SuperWave theory on current thinking about nature on all scales, from the universe to the subatomic world, and in the realms of biology, applied science, and medicine. The resulting read will interest those concerned with their own health and vitality as well as those curious about the fundamental workings of nature.
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It's All Waves
"Maybe there are no particle positions and velocities, but only waves. It is just that we try to fit the waves to our preconceived ideas of positions and velocities."
EVER SINCE LIFE FIRST APPEARED ON EARTH, some 3 billion years ago, the sun has risen and set a trillion times, a constant daily rhythm to which the vast majority of organisms are exposed. It is little wonder, then, that virtually every aspect of an individual organism's behavior and physiology is imprinted in some fashion by daily, or circadian, rhythms. Scientists have been fascinated with these rhythms for centuries, but for much of the 1800s and 1900s the scientific establishment balked at the notion. It is only in the past few decades that such rhythms have been universally acknowledged to exist. The principal reason for the resistance to the notion of rhythmic fluctuations in human physiology was the belief that normality in nature was characterized by stability and that deviations from stability implied a state of pathology. Scientists now know that these rhythms are real and not simply driven by the cycle of dark and light; they are actually are encoded in our genes--an internal biological clock.
The French astronomer and mathematician Jean Jacques Dortous de Mairan was the first scientist to perform an experiment on circadian rhythms, in the early 1720s. He noticed that the mimosa plant by the window in his Paris study stretched its leaves toward the sun in the morning and folded them up when darkness fell. Wondering whether the plant was simply responding to the sun's rays, de Mairan picked up the plant and put it in a dark closet. The next morning he looked into the closet and saw that the plant's leaves were unfurled, just as they had been when it was located by the window. When the sun went down he looked again;, the plant was acting just as it had while in the open: the leaves were folded up. He repeated the experiment with other "sun-sensitive plants" and found that they, too, reacted in the same way in the dark closet: they unfurled their leaves in the morning and folded them as the sun set.
De Mairan, whom Voltaire described as one of the five most outstanding scientists of the 18th century, didn't write up his results, claiming he had more important scientific work to occupy his time. But his botanist friend Jean Marchant, to whom de Mairan had described his observations, decided that the finding was so important that he would tell the world about it at a scientific meeting in Paris in 1729. He described the mimosa plant's sensitivity to light and dark, explaining how it unfurled and folded its leaves in synchrony with the sun's rise and fall. "But," he went on, "Monsieur de Mairan observes that this reaction can be observed even if the plant is not in the sunlight or outdoors."
Two millennia earlier, the Greek scientist Androsthenes, who chronicled Alexander the Great's expedition to India, had similarly noticed a plant's response to day and night. He wrote that by raising its leaves in the morning, the tamarind tree appeared to be "worshipping the sun." Romantically appealing though this notion might have been, de Mairan's scientific experiment showed it to be wrong because plants raise their leaves even when no sun is visible. Marchant observed that the plant "feels the sun without in any way seeing it." That, too, was wrong; had de Mairan persisted with his observations over a period of weeks, rather than a few days, he would have found that although the plant would continue to unfold and fold its leaves in a regular way, the cycle would slip to a little less than 24 hours. (Such an experiment wouldn't be done for another century.) What this means is that the plant has its own internal clock that it follows slavishly in the absence of natural light and dark, on a 23-hour cycle. The effect of exposure to the 24-hour day/night cycle is to entrain the internal clock to run on a 24-hour schedule, in synchrony with the rising and setting sun.
In his presentation to fellow scientists in Paris, Marchant extended his observations to humans. He said that the mimosa plant's behavior "seems to be related to the delicate sensitivity by which invalids confined to their sickbeds perceive the difference between day and night." Humans, like light- sensitive plants, know when it is night and when it is day, even when they are isolated from natural light, he said. Brilliant as this insight was, it was also wrong in the same way his statement that the mimosa plant "feels the sun without in any way seeing it" was wrong. Like mimosa plants, humans possess an internal clock that is slightly different than 24 hours--ours is a little longer--but this wasn't demonstrated until the middle of the 20th century. In numerous experiments, volunteers spent weeks in isolation--in bunkers, in caves, cut off from natural light, without social interaction from the outside, and without access to clocks. They recorded when they slept and when they woke. In all cases, their records showed that the "natural" daily rhythm for humans is close to 25 hours. Like the mimosa plant, a human's internal clock is entrained to a 24-hour cycle when exposed to natural light and dark.
From the 1960s on, scientific interest in circadian rhythms burgeoned, revealing daily fluctuations in practically every behavior and physiological measure that was investigated. The activity/sleep cycle is obvious, of course. But our physical and mental activities fluctuate, too. Hand-eye coordination is best in the early afternoon; mental alertness and athletic ability are highest in the mid to late afternoon--which, incidentally, is when many world records are set.
In the physiological realm, we think of "normal" body temperature as being 98.6°F: it's inscribed on the clinical thermometer in your bathroom cabinet. Actually, every healthy individual's temperature varies throughout the day, from as low as 96° to as high as 100°F. Body temperature is lowest a couple of hours before your regular waking time; by the time you wake, it has already begun to rise. It plateaus for a while in midafternoon, reaches a maximum around 7:00 P.M., and then starts to fall.
Similarly, blood pressure and pulse rate fluctuate with the time of day. The production and release of scores of hormones and enzymes follow the daily cycle, but with each element marching to its own beat. The human body is like a symphony orchestra, with each instrument (physiological function) following its own characteristics but contributing to the harmony of the whole.
Some disease symptoms also follow a daily clock, as the Greek poet Hesiod noted in 700 BCE: "Of themselves, diseases come among men, some by day, some by night." We now know that heart attacks, strokes, headaches, hay fever, and rheumatoid arthritis cluster in the morning. Symptoms of asthma, gout, colic in infants, gastric ulcers, and heartburn tend to occur at night.
The study of all these fluctuations--our circadian rhythms--is known as chronobiology, and it is a vigorous field of scientific endeavor. Scientists are not only trying to understand how the rhythms work, but are also exploring the health impact of the disturbance of rhythms. They are seeking ways to enhance medical treatment by, for instance, administering drugs at a time of day when they are most effective, an approach known as chronotherapy.
Prior to the 1950s, biologists were ignorant of all these daily rhythms and their implications. There wasn't even a word for them! The term circadian-- from the Latin circa, meaning "about," and diem, meaning "day"--was coined in 1959 by the American biologist Franz Halberg, who is regarded as the father of chronobiology. Biologists had overlooked circadian changes in physiological measures for the simple reason that, according to the prevailing paradigm, such changes were not supposed to happen. Toward the end of the 19th century, the French physiologist Claude Bernard argued that the body is built so that it tries to maintain constancy in its milieu interieur, or internal environment. Half a century later, in the late 1920s, the Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon enshrined Bernard's idea as the principle of homeostasis, or steady state.
The body's physiology, Cannon argued, is finely tuned to respond to any deviation from constancy, by bringing the factor in question back to "normal." For the better part of the 20th century, homeostasis dominated teaching in biology and medicine, and still does in many ways. It is true, of course, that the human body, like all organisms, has mechanisms that prevent physiological systems from slipping dangerously out of kilter, which Cannon called "the wisdom of the body." But the principle of homeostasis was taken too far, to include the notion that any fluctuation in a physiological measure was wayward. Moreover, the hypnotic quality of the idea of homeostasis encouraged biologists to believe that stability was a sign of normality and health; any departure from stability, such as regular or irregular rhythms, was taken as a sign of abnormality or ill health. Now, with four decades of research on circadian rhythms recorded in the scientific literature, it is clear that the opposite is true: rhythmic fluctuation is ubiquitous and a sign of normality and health; the absence of fluctuation betrays abnormality and ill health.
Recognizing the existence of circadian rhythms was an important step toward understanding how nature works. Finding out what propels those rhythms came next. A natural and reasonable assumption was that exposure to day/night cycles was the ultimate engine of circadian rhythms. That's what de Mairan and Marchant concluded back in the 18th century--and it's what the great majority of scientists believed, until relatively recently. Three decades ago, scientists discovered what may be described as the conductor of the human body's orchestra of daily rhythms: two groups of about 10,000 nerve cells, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), tucked away at the base of the brain in the bean-size hypothalamus. The hypothalamus, sometimes called the body's master gland, helps regulate breathing, heart rate, body temperature, hormone production, and many other important physiological functions. The role of the SCN is to impose a circadian rhythm on all the physiological functions under the control of the hypothalamus. When the SCN is destroyed--in a laboratory experiment, for example--the animal's daily rhythms vanish.
The steady beat of the circadian rhythm is built into the very nature of the SCN--an inner, master clock, so to speak, that runs on a cycle slightly longer than 24 hours, independent of the day/night cycle. But, as mentioned earlier, the SCN's cycle is entrained by light. Certain light-sensitive cells in the retina (different from the ones that mediate vision) send signals to the SCN. As a result, our daily cycle follows the external 24- hour rhythm. If entrainment were not possible, then we wouldn't be able to adjust when we travel to a different time zone, and jet lag would be permanent.
During the 1990s, molecular biologists discovered a handful of genes that underlie circadian rhythm of the SCN. And these same genes operate in all organisms, including fruit flies, scientists's favorite organism for studying genes and their effects. Much to the surprise of everyone, these same discoveries dislodged the SCN from its supposed all-powerful role as the inner clock. It turns out that the circadian genes are active in all tissues, implying that there are many clocks throughout the body, all following the same rhythm. Place human tissue, for example, in a petri dish, and the cells keep up their circadian rhythm of gene activity, hormone secretion, and energy production. Our bodies, it seems, are suffused with an innate rhythm, pulsating unendingly in every cell. Rhythms, or waves, are what make nature alive. Rhythms are the nature of nature.
Likewise, Irving Dardik came to his Superesonant Wavenergy Theory, which he now calls his SuperWave Principle, from nature, not from physics. It began, appropriately enough, with the heart. In March of 1985, Dardik's friend Jack Kelly, who was chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, took a morning run as he often did--and dropped dead from a heart attack. That unexpected event prompted Dardik to look closely at the activity of the heart.
Typically, the heart's activity is measured by the electrocardiogram, which shows repeated blips on a straight line graph, very linear. Dardik, a former vascular surgeon, studied it in a very different way. He saw that as an individual exercises briefly and recovers, his or her heart rate goes up and comes down: a simple wave of exertion and recovery. Superimposed on that large wave are smaller waves of contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle, systole and diastole--the beating of the heart. Further superimposed on the wave of each heartbeat are waves of biochemical oscillations associated with contraction and relaxation. Now there are three waves, nested and waving within one another. Go deeper, to individual molecules and atoms: these too are oscillating, or waving--yet another level of waves waving within waves.
If we look at this nested set in a macro context we see that it is also nested within waves: the daily wave of the circadian rhythm, the monthly wave of the lunar cycle, and the cycles of the seasons. Dardik's SuperWave Principle says that nature is all waves, right down to regularly pulsating DNA and all the way up to pulsating galaxies and the birth of the universe; waves, not as a description of behavior, but as the fundamental stuff of nature.
A critical aspect of Dardik's emerging theory involved the findings of a Dutch physicist, Christiaan Huygens, the inventor of the pendulum clock. One day in 1665, Huygens wasn't feeling well, so he stayed in his room. Unable to read or do any form of work, he stared aimlessly at two clocks he had recently built, hanging side by side on the wall in front of him. To his surprise, he noticed that the two pendulums were swinging in perfect synchrony, and they continued to do so for hours, for as long as they were wound. Curious about why this should be, he got up and changed the swing of one of the pendulums so the two clocks were out of synchrony. Within half an hour, they were again swinging in perfect unison. Were they influencing each other, he pondered, perhaps through vibrations mediated through the wall? To test that idea, he placed one of the clocks on the opposite side of the room. Before very long, the pendulums were no longer swinging in synchrony. Huygens's serendipitous observation led eventually to the development of a new sub-branch of mathematics: the theory of coupled oscillators.