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The Light of Life: Biophotonics

Posted on September 30, 2015 at 11:40 AM


The Light of Life – Biophotonics

Maricela YIP & Pierre MADL

Maricela Yip - Research and Teaching Assistan - Center for Advanced Studies and Research in

Information and Communication Technologies & Society at the University of Salzburg;

Pierre Madl - Department of Material Science - Institute of Physics & Biophysics at the University of



Practically all organisms emit light at a steady rate from a few photons per cell per

day to several hundred photons per organism per second. The emission of biophotons, as

they are called, is somewhat different from well-known cases of bioluminescence. Biophoton

emission is universal to living organisms and is not associated with specific organelles. Such

emission is strongly correlated with the cell cycle and other functional states of cells and

organisms, and responds to many external stimuli or stresses. Biophotons include

electromagnetic radiation from extremely low frequencies - well below the visible range - and

extend all the way up through microwave and radio frequencies on the other end of the

spectrum. Contrary to the common assumption that molecular reactivity is determined by

chaotic stimulation of thermal energy, it is the result of a spatio-temporal manifestation of

electromagnetic field energy. The coherent property of this biophotonic field is thus an ability,

a communicative tool without which the state of each cell both in single cellular as well as

multicellular organisms could not be communicated to its surrounding. Coherence in this

sense includes also communication processes that are not limited to the immediate proximity,

but involves the entire organism. Even the DNA molecule is an excited duplex, or exciplex, in

which photons are effectively stored. Biophotons are thus a key tool in inter- and transcellular

communication processes. Rather than the “struggle for existence” do all organisms

contribute in play-like fashion to a truly dynamic interplay of communicative interaction.

Hence biophotonic processes along with intra- and inter-specific cooperation are essential

features for life to occur in an orderly manner. Any outside interference – including physical

and/or chemical disturbances – easily hampers these subtle biophotonic communication

patterns and results in erratic messages and eventually in the manifestation of diseases.

Keywords: biophotons, bioluminescence, electro-magnetic radiation, microwave

1. Introduction

Light and matter are intimately linked. Indeed light and living matter have such a

special relationship that it pushes at the very frontiers of current research in quantum

optics and other nonlinear optical phenomena in condensed matter physics.1

2 – T I T L E O F T H E B O O K ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Historically, this phenomenon dates back to Gurwitsch's famous onion experiment.2, 3

Whereby, he perpendicularly positioned the roots of two onions so that the tip of

one root points to one side of the other root. Gurwitsch found that there was a

significant increase in cell divisions on this side, compared to the opposite, “unirradiated“

side. The effect disappeared when a thin piece of window glass, which is

opaque for ultraviolet light, was placed between the two roots.

The word “biophoton” has been chosen to express the fact that the

phenomenon is characterized by measuring single photons, indicating that it has to

be considered as a subject of quantum optics rather than of “classical” physics.

Biophoton emission is a general phenomenon of living systems. Practically all

organisms emit light at a steady rate from a few photons per cell per day to several

100 photons per organisms per second and square centimeter surface area, within the

spectral region of at least 200 to 800 nm. Biophotons are associated to energy-matter

interactions; i.e.: absorbed electromagnetic radiation (EMR) results in an excited

atomic state (quantum jumps) and vice versa. In order to establish trans-molecular

communication, the molecules involved must be in some kind of excited state.4

Classical observations in solid state systems suggest that relaxation can occur in

definite quantum steps, i.e. the electron may fall to a lower yet still excited state

without the emission of visible light, or may start to move, thus becoming an electric

current, or yet in other cases it can be involved in a chemical reaction. Complete

relaxation to the ground state - recombination with the positively charged hole left

behind - would result in the emission of EMR. Yet it is known from quantum

electrodynamics, that orbital electrons and the nucleus are constantly exchanging

virtual (not quite real) photons. However, in biotic systems an excited electron-hole

pair, or exciton, can propagate over long distances within the system before releasing

the energy by emitting a photon. It is believed that the formation of excitons and

their propagation are involved in major energy transductions and in biocommunication.

In fact, the DNA molecule itself is considered to be an excited

duplex, or exciplex in which photons are effectively stored between the two DNA

strands. Hence, living systems emit light from processes taking place all over the

cell.1, 5

As living systems are reciprocally coupled entities embedded in an appropriate

environment, this coupling process results in coherent interactions with all cells that

constitute an organism. As biophotonic activity is strongly correlated with the cell

cycle and other functional states of cells and organisms, coherence when

biophotonically monitored, can be tapped via a hyperbolic decay pattern that is

independent of the emitted wavelength. This is in sharp contrast to “incoherent

systems” that follow an exponential pattern, as is the case in radioactive decay.1

However, in order to detect biophotonic activity, one has to irradiate the sample with

white light.1, 5

2. Biophotons and Semiosis

2a. Biophotonics and the DNA

In-situ, at least 75% of biophotonic activity originates from the DNA. However,

when isolated and purified, DNA is biophotonically inactive. DNA possesses an

information density that is 1·109 higher than any technical solution known today.

Spread out, this macromolecule stretches out to 2 m in length in which 100·109 basepairs

are sophistically wrapped. Taken all the DNA of a human and lining them up,

it would cover a distance of 10·1012 m, which is more than the diameter of our solar

system.6 This exorbitant information density leads to a phenomena known in physics

as Bose-Einstein-Condensate (BEC); that is, photons are trapped, much like in a

cryotrap, condense and “freeze” in time. The stored light accounts for the elemental

stability of the DNA-molecule. It is thereby assumed that the 97.98% of inactive

human DNA along with the “frozen” energy has the essential role of organizing the

2.02% of genetically expressed DNA. Hence, the BEC establishes a coherent cellbiological

state in which photons of same frequency and phase align to each other.

Thereby, the range of interaction increases from the microscopic to include

macroscopic entities to involve cells, organs, and entire organisms and even beyond.5

The BCE plays an essential part in the formation of the morpho-genetic field

(MGF). It is basically a chemico-mechanico-electric field that exerts its action in the

nanometer range. It induces a holistic action onto the DNA thereby controlling

growth, differentiation and coordination. It is capable to deform larger molecules by

altering electric fields and chemical potentials only to feed back onto the molecular

behavior. In turn, weakening this field induces chaotic morphogenesis: i.e. if the

MGF is not in an equilibrated state, these structures oscillate over a large bandwidth.

Experiments made with Drosophila embryos exposed to weak electrical and magnetic

fields have shown that they interact with the MGF and induce malformations, which

result in missing extremities, twisted body axis, or even phenotypic expression of

ancestral traits that are already extinct.1 Hence, biophotonic emission patterns are

directly linked to the MGF and show definite emission patterns.

2b. Biophotonics and the Cell

4 – T I T L E O F T H E B O O K ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Biophotonic activity within a cell can be easily monitored during mitosis. Detailed

observation of mitosis has shown that there is good agreement between the structural

pattern of the spindle apparatus and electrical field lines. In any moment of this

process the interior of the cell reveals a spatial energy distribution that controls the

release of chemical reactions in a well-coordinated functional sequence. As a result it

was suggested to compare mitosis with a technical cavity resonator. Doing so, one

obtains evidence that mitotic patterns are excellent examples of long-lasting photon

storage units in biological systems.5, 7

As with solid-state systems, superposition of different modes in the optical

range of EMR yield a spatially fine resolved intensity-pattern of “standing waves”.

The spatially distributed electric field serves as a guiding force for molecules and

accurately trigger more than 100·103 chemical reactions per second. The cytoplasm,

on the other hand, provides only a fraction of the biophotonic activity.4 However,

the microtubules of the cytoplasm plays a vital role in the propagation of the

biophotonic emissions originating from the cell nucleus, and along with tight-,

adhering-, and communications junctions they conduct biophotonic pulses to

neighboring cells and to the extra-cellular matrix. Adhesive forces between cells

connect them to functional units and thus form a resonator system also for longwave

photons. When a cell of such a unit dies, the resonance-frequency is disturbed,

and results in the emission of some photons, thereby initiating the process of cell


Quorum sensing, is a well-studied example of communication-based

cooperation among single-celled organisms – such as colonial bacteria.8 A very stark

example of this capability can be observed in Paenibacillus vortex. As the name

suggests, its advanced sensing faculties are so elaborated that it is capable to form

structured colonies in which task separation is performed. Part of the colony forms a

condensed group and eventually will evolve a vortex and swarm collectively around

their common center at about 1 µm/sec. Ongoing communication on the colony

level is particularly apparent when it comes to the birth of new vortices.9, 10

An even more striking example of direct intercommunications can be found

between separate populations of the luminescent dinoflagellate Gonyaulax polyedra.

Two identical quartz cuvettes, filled with the same population density from the very

same culture, are found to synchronize their light flashing when they are in optical

contact but detune when separated by an opaque barrier.1, 5

2c. Biophotonics and the Organ

The purpose and function of biophotons also regard the superposition from various

cells within an organ. Here, cell-membranes are positioned in the nodal planes of

interference patterns. As can be observed with the cell-cycle, the energy distribution

of the extracellular space serves as communication means and to interact with

regulatory process within neighboring cell-units. In this regard the connective tissue

(CT) with its network of collagen fibers plays a crucial role. The conventional view

assigns the CT a mere bonding role that ties tissues together and supports flexible

body parts. In biophotonics, however, the CT is given a more fundamental role as it

represents the “fiber-optical” network that conducts optic messages throughout the


Another examples in which biophotons play a crucial role are molecular signal

cascades. It is common to all processes involved in signal transduction and is used to

amplify extremely weak stimuli. The nervous system of the retina for example, has

time constants, which are in the order of 10·102 sec - far too slow to account for the

rapidity of visual perception. Thus it would take about 10 msec to activate one

molecule of phospho-di-esterase after photon absorption. Much of the amplification

is actually in the initial step, where the single-photon-excited rhodopsin passes on the

excitation to at least 500 molecules of transducin within 1 ms. Although the

underlying mechanism is still subject of current research it is assumed that

biophotonic processes are involved.1, 5

A yet different example of how biophotonics is embedded in the macroscopic

framework can be found in muscle fibers. The energy stored in a single molecule is

released in a specific molecular form and then converted into another specific form

so quickly that it never has time to become heat. Macroscopic action is produced by

the sum of all the individual molecules involved – predominantly myosin and actin.

These molecules are packed and arranged very precisely, approaching the regularity

of piezo-crystals, causing even muscles to emit biophotons. Since muscle contraction

involves electron tunneling (going under an energy barrier that occur within

nanoseconds), the fluctuations have to be coordinated in order to do useful work.

Hence, stored energy capable of doing work must be coherent energy. Furthermore,

muscle contraction along a single fiber occurs in definite and synchronous quantal

steps. The catenated process - here the sliding actin-myosin filaments - is essentially

fluctuationless and is a characteristic of a coherent quantum field. The astronomical

number of cells involved in a typical muscle contraction is executing the same

molecular threadmilling in coherent manner - just as in a concert. However, it does

so over a scale of distances spanning nine orders of magnitude. In addition skeletal

muscles contraction is sustained over a long period without break. Here energy is

available to us at will in the amount we need at almost 100% efficiency.1, 5

6 – T I T L E O F T H E B O O K ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Further evidence of coherence on a higher level can be found in chronobiology. It is

a field of science that examines cyclic phenomena in living organisms and include

many essential biological processes – in animals: eating, sleeping, mating, hibernating,

migration, cellular regeneration, etc.; in plants: leaf movements, photosynthetic

reactions, etc. The most important rhythms in chronobiology are the circadian

rhythm, migration and reproduction cycles, rapid-eye-movement cycles, tidal cycles,


2d. Biophotonics among Species

Coupled biological rhythms and synchronization in conventional biology can be

found among shoals of fish or even swarms of birds. Such aggregations consisting of

up to several thousand individual specimens move effortlessly, spontaneously and

freely in unison without following marching orders from a leader. Yet it appears that

the coordinating principle causes each individual to receive signals for enhanced

coordinated action. In order to maintain coherence, these signals must arrive there

long before they actually become manifest as coordinated motion.1 Only then can

synchronicity be achieved within the entire population. This suggests that there is an

underlying system of communication that sends messages simultaneously to all

organs, including those perhaps not directly connected to a signaling (e.g. neuronal)

network; i.e. it could be associated to some kind of entanglement – a concept already

well elaborated in solid state physics. Thus, coherence too, refers to wholeness and

relates to a healthy steady state. This pure state - not to be confused with a mixture

of states – enforces the existence of biological rhythms as such.

Common examples of such coupling mechanisms regard the harmonic

relationships of respiratory and heart-beat frequencies. Another case is found in the

oscillating wave of beating cilia of deep-ocean ctenophores or even in mucus

transportation by bronchial cilia in lungs of mamals. A well-studied example regards

the genes in Drosophila; they reveal chronobiological coupling relationships over 7

orders of magnitudes of time periods linking the circadian to the wing beat rhythm of

the male fly’s love-song. Indeed, many organisms, tissues, and cells show

spontaneous oscillatory contractile activities that are coherent over large spatial

domains with periods ranging from milliseconds to minutes.1

Once the natural state of coherence is established, synchronization is

eventually expredded on an even a larger scale. It is known from physics that any

population of oscillators interact with every other via the absorption of oscillating

energy, thus resulting in phase locking (PL). Such principles are technically applied in

PL-locked electronic circuits of wireless communication devices. Examples of

synchronously oscillating and PL-locked biological systems include populations of

fireflies that flash together in unison, coral spawning, synchronized crickets chirping,

among sardine baits, swarming birds and so forth. These phenomena are even found

in the pacemaker cells of the heart, the neuronal network of the circadian clock of

the hippocampus, and the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas. Likewise, the

movement of the limbs bears a definite phase relationship to one another that are

simultaneously reflected in the electrical activities of the corresponding motor center

in the brain.1

Chronobiological investigations among higher organisms, as for example in

teacher-student interactions revealed that periods of stress on the teacher’s side

negatively feed back onto the concentration efficiency of the pupils in class.11 Such

correlations can also be found in patients suffering from chronic diseases. The more

severe the disease, the less the patient is able to respond with an appropriate

regulatory process. Coma patients, for instance, are found to have such restricted

regulatory patterns that failure of one of them results in immediate death. On the

other hand, relaxed people have numerous regulatory patterns to choose from when

exposed to internal or external stress factors.12

3. Beyond Biophotonics

A coherent state thus maximizes both global cohesion and local freedom. Nature

presents us with a deep riddle that compels us to accommodate seemingly polar

opposites: deterministic and probabilistic properties at the same time. However,

coherence does not mean uniformity. One can begin to understand it by thinking of

an orchestra, where every member is performing his or her part, and yet stay

perfectly in tune with the rest. In such an imaginative super-orchestra, coherence

both within each member as well as beyond includes the entire group. It must span

an incredible spectrum of sizes, from nanometers all the way up to the macroscopic

range, covering a spectrum of at least 72 octaves.1 Without destabilizing the whole,

each and every player, however small, can enjoy maximum freedom of expression

while at the same time contributing to a harmonious performance.16 One can

imagine what happens if just a few members of the orchestra decoherence by playing

the wrong tune: it disturbs the harmony of the entire orchestra, or to put it in Bohm’s

terminology: it interferes with the explicate order.13 Here, the key issues are

correlations between observables of entities which seem separated by great distances

in the explicate order, but are nonetheless governed by manifestations of the

implicate order. This idea is rooted in the concepts of quantum theory, where

entanglement is an accepted fact, and living beings are quantum beings. This view of

order necessarily departs from a notion, which entails signaling, and therefore

8 – T I T L E O F T H E B O O K ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

causality. The correlation of observables does not imply a causal influence, and

represents 'relatively' independent events in space-time; and therefore is the explicate

order of our so-called “reality”. Thereby, unfoldment characterizes processes in

which the explicate order becomes relevant or "relevated".13 Patterns of interaction

within the continuum of both implicate and explicate orders are basically the same in

all organisms, and includes intra-, inter, and meta-communication. No organism can

exclude itself from these communication patterns at any stage in its lifespan. Fruitful

interdisciplinary cooperation between socio-biology and semiotics is evident in signmediated

communication processes. These processes are used in any individual to

coordinate behavior and to enter in associations that are essential for the survival and

prosperity of all species. Even though the “language” used is quite different in all of

the known taxonomic kingdoms (bacteria, protista, fungi, plantae, animalia), all of

them rely on:7, 14

1) syntax, which refers to formal correctness, i.e.: in linguistics it is the


2) semantics, which refers to the significance and how it is used, i.e.: in

linguistics it is synonymous for the interpretation in order to create a

meaningful context; and

3) pragmatics, which refers to the aim or the effect of the message conveyed,

i.e.: in linguistics it regards that provoke feelings and reactions.

4. Conclusion

Evaluating the phenomenon of biophotons, it becomes obvious that nature has not

designed organisms following some pre-designed blueprint, but rather via a process

of biotic self-organization that is embedded within the MGF. Organisms do not

store the information required to construct the system, but rather the information for

creating the needed "tools" and the guiding principles. Additional information is

cooperatively generated as the organization proceeds following external stimulation.

The outcome is an adaptable complex system, capable to evolve, that can perform

many tasks, learn and change itself accordingly. These features are biophotonically

mediated and regard the following regulatory processes:

• spatially inhomogeneous energy distribution structures biological matter;

• biological matter changes the spatial distribution of energy;

• feedback-loops exhibit a self-organizing control of the regulation process;

• regulation processes enable growth and lead to an increase in functional


Doing so, three distinct conditions need to be fulfilled. First of all, the biocommunicative

means have to obey syntactic rules, a grammatical structure to

comply with formal correctness. In order to be interpreted in a meaningful context,

these messages have to bear semantics. And finally the associated pragmatic aspect

that gives the message a value, which provokes certain reactions.14, 15

Collectively, even the simplest forms of life, such as bacteria, reorganize

themselves by gleaning relevant latent information embedded in the complex

environment and pave the way for the evolutionary path that gives rise to other and

even higher organisms. Bacteria interpret the information in an existential

(meaningful) way, develop common knowledge, and learn from past experience.

They do so by acting coherently as a whole.

Coherence is the capability of each unit to interact with all the other parts that

constitute a living system. It is possible to show evidence of an extraordinary high

degree of coherence of biophotons. It follows that this universal phenomenon of

biological systems is responsible for the information transfer within and between

cells, organs, and organisms. This responsive pattern is crucial for intra- and

extracellular bio-communication, including the regulation of the metabolic activities

of cells as well as of growth and differentiation and even of evolutionary

development. Organisms are neither mere subjects, nor objects, but subjects and

objects at the same time. In contrast to the Neo-Darwinistic point of view, the

capacity of evolutionary development does not originally depend on the rivalry and

power in the fight for existence, rather, it depends mainly on the capacity of

communication in which the relationship attains a far more important function than

the biological entities themselves. Living systems are dynamic, multimode storage

structures that communicate in various ways, which are rooted in biophotonic action.

This contributes to a totally new dimension in the preservation of biodiversity, and

the embedded principle of self-organization. It is a process where the organization

(constraint, redundancy) of a system spontaneously increases and is controlled by the

environment or an encompassing or otherwise external system. Not only cellular

compounds and population of species but also growth, embryogenesis,

morphogenisis, biological rhythms, metamorphosis, differentiation of tissues, as well

as communication and social forms, patterns and behaviors of individuals and

populations are organized and regulated by coherent photons.5, 15 Coherence is

strongly correlated to biological rhythms and extends over some ten orders of

magnitude - from millisecond oscillations of membrane action potentials to circaannual

rhythms of entire populations. It seems obvious that theses oscillations must

be coherent over varying spatial domains that again stretch from single cells to entire

organs, organisms and to populations of organisms that form the network of life.

10 – T I T L E O F T H E B O O K ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The implications of such correlations uncover a vast unexplored area, whereby the

notion of nonlinear, structured time represents itself as far more common than

previously considered in the conventional scientific framework.1


1. Ho MW (2003). The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms; 2nd

ed.; World Scientific, Singapore.

2. Gurwitsch AG (1926). Das Problem der Zellteilung, physiologisch betrachtet;

Protoplasma 1/1: 473-475.

3. Klimek W (2005). Biophotonics - A Review. Int. Institute of Biophysics, Neuss.

4. VanWijk R (2001). Bio-photons and Bio-communication; Journal of Scientific

Exploration: 15/2.

5. Bischof M. (1995). Biophotonen, das Licht in unseren Zellen. 2001-Verlag.

Frankfurt / Main.

6. Popp FA (2002). Die Botschaft der Nahrung. 2001-Verlag. Frankfurt / Main.

7. Dürr HP, Popp FA, Schommers W (2000). Elemente des Lebens. Alfred

Schmid-Stiftung, Zug.

8. Bassler BL (2001). Tiny Conspiracies: Cell-to-cell Communication allows

Bacteria to coordinate their Activity. Natural History Magazine: 110/4.

9. Ben-Jakob E (2003). Bio-Inspired Engineered Self-Organization. Online:

10. Ben-Jakob E, Shapira Y, Tauber AI (2006); Seeking the Foundations of

Cognition in Bacteria: From Schrödinger’s Negatice Entropy to Latent

Information. Physica A 359: 495-524.

11. Balzer HU (2004). Auswertung des Beanspruchungsverhaltens

(Konzentrationsphasen und Wechselwirkungen) im Verlaufe eines

Schulunterrichts zwischen einer Lehrerin und Schülern. Unpublished.

12. Hecht K, Balzer HU (1999). Psychobiologisch-regulatorische Aspekte der

Stressdiagnostik als Evaluierungsmethodik wissenschaftlicher Arbeitsprojekte.

in: Dauer S., Hennig, H. (Hrsg.). Arbeitslosigkeit und Gesundheit: Beiträge zur

Medizinischen Psychologie und Grenzgebiete (Bd. 1): 145-166.

13. Bohm D (2004). Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Taylor & Francis, London.

14. Witzany G (2005). The Logos of the Bios 1. Umweb, Helsinki.

15. Kratky WW (2003). Komplementäre Medizinsysteme. Ibera, EUP.

16. Berendt JE (1985). Das Dritte Ohr – Vom Hören der Welt. Rowohlt, Hamburg.

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