Monday, April 16, 2012

What I've learned thus far about Bose and why you should care

So Bose's stuff is pretty easy to get ahold of on Amazon or whatever, but I've already blown my book budget. So I've had to make do with Google books. The problem with this stuff is that you never know when to post what you've found. There is no neat end of the chapter. I think that the more you read into any technical subject, the more you realize that there is no hope of becoming truly well informed. The most you can ever hope for is, comparatively speaking, "able to dress his or herself and be minimally supervised."

Besides, this blog was intended for me to be an ongoing log of my ongoing education. Not a memoriam to some distant diligently studious past. I ain't got that kind of time. So without further ado, I present to you "Data Dump Number 9".

Bose was born into a Bengali family. In my past, I was an avid reader of Indology and Bengal/Bangladesh is my favorite part of India (note: Bangladesh is its own country, but you get the idea). They are the underdogs, in my eyes. And their culture shows it, when they are given the means to do so... which is still pitifully infrequent. Bose and his family were intentional Slumdog Millionaires- and I mean that as the highest compliment. His father was an educated man employed by the British controlled government. He was a consulate of some sort and was (allowed to be) an entrepreneur. Among his successful (although personally ruining) endeavors was the first community bank of India. He would have been stupidly wealthy except for the fact that he either gave it all away or refused payment. Bose inherited his father's sincere altruism and often said that it was a major inspiration to his character for his adult life. Bose invented things that are awesome by today's standards. With literal junk yard parts, he invented radio transmission and millimeter wave transmitters. The latter was invented because he just wanted to see what they did. Needless to say he could have held numerous patents, but opted to share them freely with the public. He considered it his duty to his people. It was plainly another time...

So what did he do that we should care about? He zapped things. Lots of things. More precisely, he liked to make things twitch. He played around with organic and inorganic (in this context meaning living and non living) substances and observed their similarities. The book that I mostly read (google books) described his experiments on muscle, plants and the electrical currents that existed in all things. He could change the polarity of the organically originated current by damaging. So if he took a frog's leg and subjected it to, say, a Crossfit workout, it would produce this altered current. If he damaged a plant by slapping it (no really) it would do the same thing. That's all cool. Living things generate electrical current and it changes quality in relation to damage. Here's where it gets weird: He did the same thing to rocks and hunks of metal. They did the same thing. They contracted when introduced to electrical current and altered polarity when strained.
If you smack a plant (or frog's leg or whatever) around for long enough, it'll become tired and "die". That is, no more current will be produced and no more contractions will occur. If you do the same thing to a rock, it will die in much the same way. Luckily for the rock, you can recharge it by running it over a magnet, which makes perfect non-woo sense.
He was encouraged by this stuff and tried some really weird things. He got frog's legs drunk on booze. Same with plants. In fact, he makes a list of plants that are most affected by these things. A sort of little black book for botanists. Afterward, he tried getting rocks drunk. It worked. Things got so weird that he was eventually able to prove that, according to Peat, all matter exhibits all the hallmarks of life. While that sounds very mystical on first blush, it has a very practical implication. That all the bits and parts of us are all matter and all respond as other matter does. Life is not special. There is nothing that life has that boring old matter does not. In fact, he goes out of his way to say this in flowery, old person English.

Going further, there is nothing that separates life from non life. "Organic matter" as it pertains to living things is just a minor philosophical distinction.

While I'm sure that this wasn't the first time that Dr. Peat had seen such a wholistic vision of reality, I'm sure it greatly influenced him. Especially seeing as though he actually spoke to this person. So thank you, JC Bose for helping to set the stage for a later unfolding of these ideas. I'm sure you would approve of where it has ended up.


  1. "All matter exhibits all the hallmarks of life"
    That's truly alchemical, which for me means that under special conditions, matter can reveal "living properties". Matter is a lot more metastable than we believe. Perhaps what we call living matter is a system which can exhibit continuously these traits because of maintained non-equilibrium conditions ? I am looking forward to read you on this magical theme

  2. It does have that feel to it, doesn't it? Bose starts off his book with a quote from one of the Vedas that reinforces that "all is one" theme. I've been there before and this approach seems fresh for some reason. It parallels the older alchemical modalities and goes beyond it a bit in my view. At least it seems to. Although to be honest I'm just starting my journey into this alternative scientific world, so who knows where I'll end up. I'll be posting briefly on William Blake, which should be interesting.

  3. Could you give the link toward the google-book you refer to ?

  4. This is a better interface:

  5. "Perhaps what we call living matter is a system which can exhibit continuously these traits because of maintained non-equilibrium conditions ?"

    Peat's early view of life is that it distinguished itself by its ability to self order. That and its seemingly inherent intelligence. I'm not sure how he feels nowadays. Initially, he referred to life as a "fourth state of matter". I think you'll continue to be interested as all of this unfolds.

  6. Plasma - etymologically "something formed" - is often described as a "fourth state of matter" ... and is fundamentally linked to electrical phenomena. For that matter, the inside of cells is called plasma...

  7. This is great, may have to look into Bose soon. There is definitely something alchemical about Ray Peat.