[Preface: This is a controversial subject and most scientists are extremely skeptical. Bio-photonic concepts are very abstract so it is hard to believe in them, but I intend to explore some of the ideas first hand by recreating Arroyo’s experiments. I would love to get the results Arroyo got whether they can be attributed to mitogenic radiation or not. I’ll never been in a position to pinpoint anything, but it will just raise curiosity and be fun. At this point I think I believe that mitogenic radiation is possible, but that the results are simply not always positive or the relationship is very weak. In many experimental examples the effect is a negative so there is no easy cure-all. It sort of reminds me of the olfactory hallucination idea. Most people are not capable of spotting them when they are harmonious because they do not raise the same kind of flag as when they are inharmonious. When they are already difficult to spot, this makes everything twice as difficult. I just got some papers from the skeptics camp and hopefully I can incorporate their ideas in here in a few days.]
What the hell is mitogenic radiation and what does it have to do with rum fermentation? Rafael Arroyo has a chapter on the subject within his 1945 opus, Studies on Rum, but for some reason wine, beer, and basically no one else is even aware of it. Oh, this is an interesting one!
Mitogenic radiation is an older term relating to the field of bio photonics which is some of the freshest, most controversial science out there and may re-write a lot of what we know about biology in general as well as specifics regarding the very origins of life. It is very fitting that it would be applied to rum first, because as I spelled out recently, rum is by leaps and bounds the most progressive spirit.
A bio photon is light emitted by organisms and even some things not quite alive. It allows physical rather then chemical communication between organisms which can often bring them into strange synchronous states. To cut to the chase in regards to rum, Arroyo was attempting fermentations of simultaneous pure cultures of bacteria & yeast to produce very heavy Jamaica-type rums and repeatably getting amazing results that upended every rule of thumb of fermentation science. When fermentation science says these cultures should compete for resources and inhibit each other, bacteria was making the yeast grow faster and ferment significantly quicker. But was it chemical or physical?
Arroyo had a serious ear to the ground for an agricultural scientist working on a tiny island pre WWII. He was aware of ideas in mitogenic radiation though he knew they were controversial and should be approached with skepticism. Arroyo tried many experiments to prove that no chemical products of the bacteria’s metabolism turbo charged the yeast, but rather that it was light based. The final experiment was fermenting pure cultures separated by a quartz barrier (cylinder within a cylinder) so that they were chemically separate but physically in visual contact and he observed the same results of the yeasts synchronizing with the bacteria. Arroyo was confirming controversial ideas in mitogenic radiation and applying them to a commercial product.
When I tried to find a primer of the subject, the best was written by Stanford scientist Cody Jones and for some reason hosted by Linden Larouche, possibly because it touches on cosmic radiation which relates to plans for colonizing space. It is a wonderful read, but I was left wondering how it got associated with an ultra fringe political group. Jones has an interview on a Larouche news program that begins with political insanity and ends presenting him as a finely articulate speaker. Other pursuits of the subject also brushed up against political weirdness.
After reading Cody Jones’ primer I was reminded of an intriguing Scientific American article from last year, describing the work of Jeremy England at M.I.T., and it turned out to ground everything in some serious respectability. England has been looking at the very origins of life before it grows to anything described by Darwin. At the earliest points there is significant grey area between what is alive and what isn’t and bio photons are still important. They give seemingly non-living or abiotic things the power to organize themselves. This is sort of like a gravity that constantly moves towards life.
It is probably useful to cover some classic experiments to get a better handle on things and all of them are paraphrased by Cody Jones. The first person to recognize the bio photon was Alexander Gurwitsch and the first experiment was performed on onions in 1923.
It is demonstrated that cell mitosis can be induced in an onion stem via extremely low-intensity ultraviolet (UV) emissions from the root of another onion—is that chromatin (as in chromosomes, DNA) is the source of this biological radiation, measured by him in the UV range, and that this radiation stimulates and regulates the mitosis of other cells. In other words, UV radiation emanating from one cell can trigger the act of mitosis in another cell.
This really makes you wonder if we see any of this in agriculture. Many planting decisions are based on competition for chemical resources and designing experiments to isolate the effect of bio photons may prove near impossible. But there are murmurs of cosmo-culture techniques used in wine making and when you consider the possible effects of cosmic radiation on cell function, they might not be so silly.
I found this experiment described by Cody Jones interesting because it dealt specifically with yeast:
Other studies were done on the influence of non-thermal microwaves on the growth rate of yeast cells, were it was found that the effect of either enhanced growth, no effect, or deteriorated growth rate, occurred in repeated studies at very specific frequencies. A significant difference of effect was demonstrated in a narrow microwave range around 42GHz (109 Hz), with a maximum increase in growth rates, relative to a baseline growth rate, occurring at 41.782 GHz and maximum decreased growth rates occurring at the 41.788 GHz. Interestingly, when the applied frequency range was doubled (from 42 to 84GHz range), the new frequency that corresponded to the maximum growth rate was double that of the maximum growth frequency of the previous tests (from 41.782 GHz to 83.564 GHz). These results again demonstrate a highly tuned quality of interaction of radiation with living processes, with fundamental differences of effect occurring within a very narrow range of frequency, as well as a periodicity of effects within a broader range of radiation quality (i.e. microwave), as seen with the growth effect occurring at doubled frequencies.
Not all effects are positive and synchronous effects as seen here can sometimes be damaging.
Here is a great one:
One such experiment done with unicellular flagellate protists, know as dinoflagellates, demonstrated that when two different groups of the protists were brought into optical contact with each other, though still physically separated by quartz containers, they would start to engage in synchronous bio-luminescent flickering among members of the the two different samples, whereas when in non-optical contact, the relationship of the flickering was random.
There is lots of interest in bio photons and cancer, both for detection and therapies:
In another experiment, tests were done on the delayed luminescence from stimulated liver cells, of both the healthy and tumorous variety. It was found that as you increase the density of the healthy tissue, the rate of luminescence increased up to a maximum, at which point it started to decrease with further density increase, whereas with the tumor tissue there was a steady hyperbolic increase in rate of luminosity which continued irrespective of how dense the population of cells became. This was interpreted, in light of Gurwitsch’s work on the role of bio-photon emission in stimulating cell mitosis, as a breakdown in a regulatory function in the tumor tissue, which did not occur in the healthy tissue.
A wildly interesting one:
It is worth mentioning another series of experiments which show similar types of effects conducted by A.B. Burlakov, a Russian scientist following in the Gurwitsch tradition, who looked at the effect of optical contact between fish eggs of differing ages. What he found was that if a group of young eggs was brought into contact with another group just slightly older, the younger group actually accelerated its growth rate as if to catch up, whereas if the difference was of a greater interval, past a certain threshold, the effect was deleterious, resulting in mutations and higher death rates.
And the finale:
We can add to the list of experimental phenomena that orient towards understanding the radiation expression of life, the work currently being done by Dr. Luc Montagnier, the discoverer of the HIV virus. What he has demonstrated is that microscopic fragments of the DNA of various viruses and bacteria in highly dilute solution produce detectable electromagnetic waves, even when the DNA fragments are so minute that they are undetectable by any other means. In one experiment, his lab set up a container of pure water that was in close proximity to a dilute solution that was emitting the measurable electromagnetic waves, but was not in material contact with it. When constituent genetic material (nucleotides, primers, polymerase) was add to the pure water solution there was a synthesis of DNA strands of the same sequence as that which was in the initial dilute solution. The electromagnetic waves of the solution produced in the pure water a characteristic shaped living space, that, when material was added, took the form of that shaped field. We see this as not only the role of radiation in living processes, but this brings into question we actually draw the bounds of what we consider the living substance: clearly in this case it extends far beyond what is conventionally recognized as living material.
This was the experiment that I saw most relevant to the work of Jeremy English as described in Scientific American. I would love to know if this work has been duplicated.
If you’ve got the time, another wonderful primer was written by Compton Rom Bada. The most important ideas within is that there are diseases posited to be symptomatic of a loss of coherent light (chaos) like cancer while there are diseases from too much coherent light like Multiple Schlerosis (order) where cells are too in sync with others of different functions which prevent the cells from acting as individuals and performing their own special functions. The take away here is that even if you believe in bio-photonic effect, its no easy positive.
The idea of chaos is very important to concepts important to wine like terroir. It is interesting to speculate how synchrony from bio photons may cause a ripple of order through the chaos, but it is also very hard to tease out anything confidently. A metaphor that I like to use for techniques wine makers and distillers use is to create and frame windows for chaos. There are things we can control and things we cannot that are left to happen chaotically within certain bounds. The inverse now looks true with mitogenic radiation where distillers can frame windows for synchrony, but it will still resemble chaos.
Mitogenic radiation and synchronizing a yeast culture with a bacterial culture is at the heart of Rafael Arroyo’s technique for creating heavy rums. Arroyo also started to classify heavy rums by the dominant auxiliary culture. Jamaica-type heavy rums were created by a fission yeast culture partnered with Clostridium Sacharo Butyricum, but the others did not parallel established traditions. With molasses, Arroyo also explored Propionobacterium Technicum and with fresh sugar cane juice, the Imperfecti mold Oidium Suaveolens, “isolated by the writer from the sap of a tree much used in Puerto Rico for shading coffee plantations.” Um, wow. Anyone know what that tree may be?
What on the market specifically can be tied to any of these ideas?
Fake aging is pointless if the ferments aren’t epic, helping us tease out ideas related to the birth of all life, and emitting bio photons left and right. Can bourbon do any of that? My infatuation with rum just grew again. If its lore, its lore, but its pretty good lore.