&#91VIEWPOINT&#93Searching the spectrum

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[VIEWPOINT]Searching the spectrum

Many worms have three senses; they perceive light, they smell scents and feel temperature changes. The worm's skin senses changes of light, which leads it up or down on twigs. When victims crawl along those twigs, the worm senses its warmth and attacks. The world of the worm is limited to those three senses.

Animal senses are usually designed to distinguish food, to recognize mates and to sense dangerous predators.

The world of animals is based on their instincts, which have been genetically carved since time immemorial. The width of perception will be expanded as species evolve.

Then, what is a human being's world like, and what do humans experience in it? The five human senses are all necessary for survival, but some things like culture and the arts depend mostly on vision and hearing. Eyesight is by far the more efficient of those two senses, processing 10 megabytes of information per second.

Human beings can see visible light in a range from 4,000 angstroms to 7,000 angstroms in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Electromagnetic waves shorter than that, such as gamma rays, X-rays and ultraviolet rays, cannot be perceived by human eyes. Longer waves, those in the radio or audio spectrum, also are beyond a human's sense of vision. People are able to see a much larger world than worms can, but humans and the small creatures have one thing in common: There are limits to their vision. And both species perceive the world they see as the entire universe.

Biological conditions of humans have been discussed without considering race or culture. The differences between humans comes from different cultures, upbringing and education. The different cultural backgrounds give people different points of views about the world because of differing experiences. The world we know is not the entire world but the place we see or the ground we perceive with our sense of vision.

So people cluster with those who have seen the same things, and the world is divided into friendly and enemy spectrums. That may be fine for animals, but it does not suit human beings.

Buddha once preached to an apprentice who believed in the existence of God that there was no God. Buddha said different things to others who did not believe in a supernatural existence. He did not say anything to his pupils who were confused about existence.

One of his pupils asked why he taught them in that puzzling way; he answered that his students did not have to have stereotyped views of the world. It would be a better way of getting to the truth if we try to enlighten our minds filled with prejudice, rather than to learn a few more things. Only humans are able to admit that they can be prejudiced. Not black and white, but the spectrum from red through violet will let us build a truly developed culture.


by Yang Hyeong-jin

The writer is a professor of physics at Korea University.
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