Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Magic and Value of Photons

By Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki

We live in a superbly beautiful world, whose underlying secret of life is borne by microscopic entities called 'Genes'. They are inconspicuous; they are not visible. And yet, they determine life and its characteristics. They are what determines each person, each identity, with precision and with details.

We are swimming inside an ocean of infinite particles, which relate to assorted and strange names: Quarks, Gluons, Bosons, Leptons, Baryons, Neutrinos, Photons and a host of others - which are also not visible. However these tiny particles are what supports the grandeur of this world. They are the ones that shield its mystery.

Each and every one of them has its mission and its significance, regardless of how small they are. Some are responsible for mass; they are called 'Bosons'. We don't know why. But, without them, our world wouldn't be tangible. Then again, they also assist in the propagation of forces.

Some are known as 'Gluons'. That's a rather ugly-sounding name. Then others constitute the light; they're called 'Photons'. A much better-sounding word.

Mass... forces... light...

It is important that mass be interpreted, or that forces be propagated. Matter is palpable, and forces are what maintain movements and preserve balances; that's how we are enabled to understand matter and gravity.

But, for some reason, the 'Photon' has a unique grandeur of its own. It is very noble, it has no mass, and yet it exists. In fact, it can even give birth to mass; it carries energy, but most importantly, it indicates and reveals. It is thanks to photons that we enjoy the sense of sight.

The world can be seen. And it is so beautiful: a multitude of colors, impressive symmetries, amazing asymmetries, contrasts, reflections, harmony, depth, alternation.

Without photons we would never know the meaning of beauty, loveliness, aesthetic, variety, visual harmony. We would not have been able to compare. It's as though these particles give life to matter.

Photons confirm the existence of the world, but they mainly reveal its beauty. However, in order to see it, you must find them. This is where our eyes assist; when they lose their precision or sensitivity, we use corrective lenses.

In order to examine minute objects that can't be discerned, we use microscopes. For the distant ones which are likewise indiscernible, we have constructed telescopes. We are thus able to see things that aren't visible.

Our world is a very beautiful one. And it encloses a whole lot of wisdom. Beauty is hidden behind everything that He displays, and wisdom is hidden inside whatever it conceals. The former is appreciated by the eye; the latter enchants the mind. Without the stimulant of visible beauty, the mind would not have been able to embark on its penetrative journeys. That is why photons are so valuable.

Usually, we can either photograph or trace something with the use of telescopes; we can't actually see the object. There's a difference between the two: tracing arouses one's enthusiasm for verification. Thought kindles the magic of discovery. But actually seeing something is what gives birth to the thrill of immediacy. Our senses are a wonderful thing. And most of all, sight.

The poet Elytis had said: "My God, how much blue You must be spending, so that we can't see You!" To which we add: "My God, how many photons You must be creating, so that we can observe Your presence!"

"And the Lord said 'Let there be light', and there was light"... in fact, it was even "in the beginning" - it was the first thing.

In the end, the 'God particle' is not the Boson, nor is its name Higgs; that doesn't tell us anything. The God particle is the photon. And the portal to the world is the telescope. You place your eye against the lens, and you are plunged into infinity: and that's where Beauty meets with the Truth. The eye sees, the heart pounds, the mind gallops. It is conversing with the photons. The view is breathtaking - of the living image.

This is markedly so in our homeland, with its seas, the little islands, gulfs, coastlines, mountains, all of these together. Her natural beauty takes you on journeys. It makes you want to either stay on earth forever, or to depart.

You want to live forever, and if that can't be accomplished on earth, you wish to go elsewhere. The presence of beauty strengthens your eternity. You place your eye against the telescope and you depart. You take off, into infinity. You are lost in space. You are released from Time. What a marvelous sensation is the universe!

However, after a while, even infinity feels finite. And Time is short. You want to 'depart' some more. You want to pass over from the beauty of the visible, to the experience of the invisible. And you owe all of these things to photons. Photons enable you to see the beauty of the created and make you suspicious regarding the truth of the Uncreated. Photons highlight the One Who cannot be seen. They highlight God.

I would like to express my joy for the opportunity given to me this evening, and my many thanks to Mr. Tsiganos also, both for the invitation as well as for the possibility to open my heart for a while in your presence. It is a wonderful thing, when your life can also host the sensation of Astrophysics, together with the experience of priesthood.

And it was wonderful spending a pleasant evening at Mount Pentelikon with the dome open chasing after photons. Probably better than spending entire years in search of a Boson in Geneva!

Metropolitan Nicholas studied Astrophysics aong other scientific subjects at Harvard University and was an adviser for NASA. These words were delivered on September 21, 2013 on the occasion of the complete restoration of the historical Newall telescope.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.