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The Message: 1. Waves, waves, waves...

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

One way to describe a text message is - it's an "electromagnetic wave". But what is that exactly? What's a wave anyway? Is it just something you surf on? Or waving goodbye to your parents?

Proof spread from, "The Message, the Extraordinary Journey of an Ordinary Text Message."

Waves are everywhere. Humans create billions of waves each day. But even if there were no humans on earth, there would still be waves. A wave is a shape, and a wave is an action. It's energy. Or rather, it's energy 'moving'. Some of the first things we think of when we hear the word, 'wave' is to wave goodbye, or ocean waves, or maybe sound waves. You might even think of radio waves, or a micro wave oven. And you'd be right about all of them. Sound waves and ocean waves aside for the moment, all of rest of them are what scientists call - "the electromagnetic spectrum".

A spectrum is a range of things that are the same, yet different. A colour spectrum for example - all different, yet still all colours. Things you've heard of that are actually all related, all electromagnetic waves include: radio waves, microwaves, satellite signals, gamma rays, sonar waves, x rays, sun rays, heat, laser beams, and all kinds of electricity. And last but not least, light.

All light, visible and invisible, is just another form of electromagnetic wave. Sunlight, infra red light, ultra violet light, and all the light you can see, including colours like red ,blue green, yellow, and purple. And things like rainbows, flash lights, spot lights, car headlights, table lamps, and the light from an LED, and computer and phone screen are radiating electromagnetic energy. Lasers are also a form of extremely concentrated light.

The science of waves, electromagnetism, the physics of all this, is fascinating and complex, yet the shape of a wave can be understood by anyone. All these things are waves, and all waves take the same basic shape, you know, wavy, like an ocean wave, or a ripple on a pond. The main thing that makes them different, are simply different sizes. Lots of tiny closely spaced waves, or long stretched out waves.

A text message is sent through the air as a kind of wave called an RF wave. That just means they are, size-wise, in-between a typical radio wave used to broadcast FM music, and the microwaves they use in a typical microwave oven.

What's fascinating, is that ocean waves also are the same basic shape as a radio wave. And sound waves too. If you could see them, musical notes take the same wave shape. Why is that? Well, again, I'm not going to give a physics lecture here, even if I was qualified to do it, (which I'm definitely not!), it's enough to take in that all these things take the same basic wave shape, or pattern.

A simple way to take it all in is that it reflects a basic principle of the universe - that nothing is static - nothing stands still. Nothing stays the same. As the saying goes, the one thing that never changes, is change itself. Even a very solid, still looking rock on a mountain is changing, coming apart, eroding, the very atoms it's made of are interacting on a microscopic level, causing the molecules of minerals to decay ever so slowly, century after century. The heat from a campfire, and the rays from the sun are both waves. Waves of energy. Ocean waves are not not made of water, they are energy moving through the water. Sound waves are not made of air, they are the result of energy moving though the air. Energy is life. Life and energy are always changing, moving, vibrating. There is literally a rhythm, a heartbeat of life on earth.

To bring it all back to your waving hand - You move it as far as you can one way, then move it back. Back and forth. Like when you put a finger in water and wiggle it, back and forth, a wave forms on the water. A playground swing, back and forth. A tapping foot. The rhythm of the universe. Seasons repeating, life is born, grows, dies, then is born again. Over and over. It's not an answer to anything, but it is a truth.

I hope all this hasn't confused you, but might possibly make you curious enough to lead you to ask more questions and look further. It just shows that a simple text, is anything but. Just the shape of it, as it radiates out of your phone, reflects a core scientific idea about patterns in nature, as well as a philosophical one, and possibly one of the great mysteries of the universe.

Next time - More on waves. How all the different kinds of waves contribute to your text travelling from your head to another person, half a world away...

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