Life is not all plain sailing. Even if you are not human, but a phenomenon of physics.
So: you set out in the morning, in the car to work, and someone’s broken down in the slow lane of the highway. There are tailbacks. Time is ticking by.
But all is not lost: sometimes, just sometimes, there is another way. You can pull over, grab the folding bike from the boot and scoot to victory.
So it is with light in mist, according to Brazilian physicist Herch Moyzes Nussenzweig. When a figure stands between the sun and a cloud of light-refracting mist, light waves can miss the bus, so to speak; they can fail to get their energy into droplets. But a concept called classical wave tunneling theorises that the light waves can get on their bikes: they can tunnel their energy into droplets, even without being inside them.
And then, we see the most extraordinary phenomenon.
A halo: a spectral rainbow around the figure. There is a name for it. Indeed, some say this is where the concept of the saintly halo came from.
High in the mountains the halo works hand in hand with spectres to astound.
Stand on a high mountain and ones shadow can become giant. Not only this, but it appears to stand far, far away, on a neighbouring mountain peak, surrounded by all the colours of the rainbow.
Brocken’s Spectre, they call it.The strangest sight: a shadow-man looking over the mists at you, apparently moving independently. It is caused by the shadow falling on water droplets as someone looks down from a ridge or peak. The figure can move as ethereally as the mist itself.
And here we stand, at the top of a year, looking down at something unclear, hazy: a future shrouded in mist.
The light of our past shines from behind, and what might be sits before us, a puzzle.
Yet down there, the ultimate metaphor is playing out. The very light itself is tunnelling to bring its energy into new spheres, confounding classical physicists and the science of centuries.
Small, identifiable miracles, rubber-stamped by physicists, weave their peculiar outlandish magic.
It’s just a perspective. Stand in another place, at another time, and we’re only human.
Life is lived forwards, said Søren Kierkegaard, but it can only be understood backwards.
So here’s a wish for you this year. May the light shine beyond you. May it burrow and tunnel in your future, and overcome incomprehensible barriers to bring energy to those parts of your life which need it most.
Happy New Year.