Unexpected Signals Within Life Forms

From: Terry W. Colvin (fortean1@mindspring.com)
Date: Sat Sep 08 2001 - 22:25:38 MDT

Science Frontiers, No. 137, Sep-Oct, 2001, pp. 2 & 3

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Multicellular organisms are information networks. They have to be because
life is conferred by the flow of information. We all learn how the nervous
system carries a heavy traffic of electrical signals, but we hear less
about chemical signals, and they are more important. Chemical signalling
molecules help cells learn what is going on around them so that they can
make decisions concerning metabolism, division, and even whether to die
not not [or not die]. This is mainstream biochemistry, although there is
much here yet to be learned. A signalling medium that *still* survives
well off the mainstream is the old idea that information is carried from
cell to cell via electromagnetic radiation.

Yes, we mean *mitogenetic* radiation--the infamous M-rays of the 1920s and
1930s. During this period about a thousand technical papers were published
on mitogenetic radiation---mostly in Russian. The champion of mitogenetic
radiation was A.G. Gurwitsch. He claimed that fundamental biological
functions, such as cell division, were communicated via ultraviolet light.
Although a few other researchers said they detected mitogenetic radiation,
most could not replicate Gurwitsch's work. Mitogentic radiation was
thereafter subjected to the "cold-fusion" treatment; it was one of those
things that "wasn't so"!

In a recent article in the *Journal of Scientific Exploration*, R. Van Wijk
tries to reignite interest in "bio-photons" that carry "bio-information."
First, he assures us that mitogenetic radiation *is* real, that bio-photons
truly exist. To thus swim against the scientific mainstream, he reviews
recent experiments and provides us with a huge bibliography. Apparently,
mitogenetic radiation is not "pathological science," as physicist I.
Langmuir called it back in 1953. Second, Van Wijk advances some
mechanisms by which cells can generate bio-photons via their metabolic
and enzymatic processes. Finally, he comes to the crux of the matter:
Do bio-photons really transmit information to neighboring cells and
thereby affect their functions? Bolstering his claims, Van Wijk cites
confirming modern experiments with seeds, neotrophil cells, dinoflagellates,
and fireflies. (Fireflies employ bio-photons internally in addition to
their external flashes.)

(Van Wijk, R.; "Bio-Photons and Bio-Communication," *Journal of Scientific
Exploration*, 15:183, 2001.)

Comments. Most of Van Wijk's references are European. He was apparently
unaware of V.B. Shirley's positive review of the subject in a 1990 issue
of *Physics Today*. (See SF#73 for our digest.) For a mainstream review
of the complexities of intercell chemical signalling, see: Downard,
Julian; "The Ins and Outs of Signalling," *Nature*, 411:759, 2001.

Terry W. Colvin, Sierra Vista, Arizona (USA) < fortean1@mindspring.com >
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