Transparent, Translucent, or Opaque?

This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. – 1 John 1:5

This is a very profound verse in scripture. Taking this verse literally, if we study the nature of light, we will probably learn a lot of things about God. In fact, light is one of the most fascinating things to discover in Physics!

Consider first the following points about light that we have learned from Physics:

  • Light is energy.
  • Light is a wave.
  • Light is a particle, so it has mass.
  • Light is electromagnetic, and it can transform into other forms of energy, e.g. electricity, heat.

A person could study these four qualities for several years, if he had the mind to do so, but I will focus on the first two points in this essay. The figure below shows all the kinds of electromagnetic radiation in relation to the wavelength.

Transparent, Translucent, or Opaque?

The first thing that you think of when you see the visible spectrum, is that it resembles a rainbow. Rainbows are mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 9:1-17). The Bible says that God sent a rainbow to Noah as a symbol of his promise to never flood the earth again. So, we might conclude that what we can see of God, is filled with colorful promises about life.

As seen in the figure, the visible range of light is only a very small part of the full spectrum. By extension, we can conclude that we can only see a very small part of Who God is and what He does. There is a lot about God that we simply cannot see with the unassisted eye.

In fact, there is one more category of light above “Gamma Rays”, having wavelengths shorter than 0.1 Angstrom. These are called “Cosmic Rays” because they are found mostly in outer space. I think it is quite fitting to think that the most intense things about God are “out of this world”!

One interesting thing about electromagnetic light is that it can pass through things. We can sit inside our house or car and watch TV, listen to the radio, or talk on our mobile phones, because radio waves, including television broadcasting and our mobile phone service, are transmitted through the air, wood, metal, glass and concrete. The idea of “hiding from God” is as absurd as “hiding from the radio waves” in modern times. In spiritual words, we would need to burrow deep underground, or move far away from the broadcasting station, before we would LOSE RECEPTION of the message that the telecommunications company sends to us. But even so, radio and microwave transmissions are a man-made source of electromagnetic communication. Natural light (or God) surrounds us in other forms constantly.

The transmittency of light is utilized in medical X-rays, which allows doctors to “see through” the human body. The X-rays can easily pass through the flesh, but our bones are higher in density, and they deflect some of the X-rays passing through. The transmitted X-rays are shown on a photonegative plate, much like visible wavelengths of light cast images on camera film, thereby producing a “photograph” of what is inside the body.

Another interesting point is that the high-energy gamma rays and X-rays are harmful or even deadly to the human body. This loosely compares with the scriptures that tell us how certain people died when they “looked upon God”. Our modern scientific language might say, “They got zapped by cosmic rays!”

Ultra violet light, though much less energetic than X-rays, is still harmful to the eyes and skin, producing sunburn, retinal burn, and even melanoma or skin cancer. So it is helpful to wear sunglasses and sunscreen lotion whenever spending long periods of time outdoors in the summer.

This phenomena may help us understand why a lot of children of pastors and deacons get “burnt out”, or “blinded by the light”, and then prefer to spend a lot of time in “darkness” during their post-adolescent period. Such children are more commonly labeled, “rebellious” by church folks. Why don’t they use sunscreen?

Why are the shorter wavelengths of light so harmful? It is because the energy of any particular wavelength is proportional to its frequency. In other words, very short wavelengths are high energy, whereas, longer wavelengths have a lower energy.

It is somewhat impressive to think that light can travel, not only through air, but through solid objects as well. There is a lot more that we can learn from this point.

If the light can pass through an object without being deflected, then it is called TRANSPARENT. If some of the light is deflected, then it is called TRANSLUCENT, and if most of the light is deflected, then it is called OPAQUE.

The Bible says that Christians are “the light of the world”. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that this light does not originate from ourselves, but from God. In effect, God’s light “passes through us” and illuminates the people and environment around us, wherever we might be.

So now we must pose the question of what makes some things transparent, and others, opaque? Why does God shine through some people and not through others, even though they all may claim to be Christians?

Optical transparency in polycrystalline materials is limited by the amount of light which is scattered by the microstructural features. Optical scattering occurs when the sizes or the distances between microstructures are on the same order of magnitude as the wavelength of the light. When the sizes of all such structures are reduced well below the wavelength of the light being used, the scattering becomes insignificant.

For example, crystalline quartz has lattice spacings that range between 0.491 to 0.541 nm, and ordinary glass has a crystallographic order that is limited to the range of 2-3 nm, due to geometrical frustration. (1,000,000,000 nanometers = 1 meter) Thus, X-rays are refracted in quartz and glass, since the wavelengths are on a similar spatial scale. But these materials are both transparent in visible light, which has a much longer wavelength, on the order of half a micrometer (or 500 nm).

As a general rule, the sizes of the microstructures should be at least 1/15 of the wavelength in question, in order to eliminate the scattering and preserve translucency. (e.g. 550 nm / 15 = 36.7 nm) Materials with microstructural dimensions much smaller than λ/15 should display a greater transparency.

What are the microstructures that cause optical scattering?

The main causes of optical scattering in otherwise transparent materials, include the following:

  • Cracks, voids, and porosity, which is basically EMPTY SPACE. The volume fraction of microscopic pores should be less than 1% for a high-quality optical transmission, or in other words, the material density should be 99.99% of the theoretical crystalline density. In other words, “SLACKERS DON’T SHINE”.
  • Microstructural interfaces and grain boundaries – In polycrystalline metals and ceramics, these are internal surfaces of high DISORDER which lie between areas of crystallographic order. These interfaces commonly contain larger concentrations of (moral) IMPURITIES.
  • Geometry – when light passes through a material, the speed of transmission changes as a function of wavelength, when entering or leaving different medium, such as glass or air. The index of refraction is a fixed material property that describes how the direction and velocity of light tends to change when passing through the material. Smaller (higher energy) wavelengths are refracted more than longer wavelengths. Transparent optical instruments that have a carefully controlled geometry, such as prisms, lenses and fiber optics, are useful because of their ability to bend or diffract light. So we ask the question here; “What is your SPIRITUAL SHAPE?”
  • SURFACE ROUGHNESS, especially between two materials with contrasting indexes of refraction. This is basically a geometric property on a very small scale.

In many cases, an OIL is used to fill cracks and voids, and produce a smooth, shiny surface on materials. This makes them more ATTRACTIVE and USEFUL, and it also PROTECTS the material from rot and rust. Common finishing oils include tung oil and linseed oil. Another example is the Oil of Olay, which is helpful in smoothing cosmetic wrinkles. Oil also REMOVES FRICTION in sliding parts and SILENCES CHATTER AND SQUEAKING (complaints). Sometimes, drops of oil are used as lenses themselves. This knowledge might help us understand the spiritual significance of how and why God’s chosen leaders are ANOINTED WITH OIL. The only difference is that Elijah used Berio’s Extra Virgin.

The noteworthy point of application here, is that we must reduce the sizes of our own microstructures if we are to expect God’s light to shine through us. Remember that the wavelength of the light that can be transmitted, is at least 15 times larger than the dimensions of our own microstructures. We must also note that the high energy light has shorter wavelengths, which implies that smaller things tend to make bigger impressions on us about God. So it is not hard to understand why simplicity and humility are important towards our spiritual health, and why individuals, such as friends, teachers and family members, tend to shape our ideas about God much more than a large sized church can.

Remember that diamonds, which are hard and transparent, are nothing more than carbon (e.g. ash, soot, graphite) which is perfect and flawless on the microstructural level! Diamonds are formed in conditions of high temperature and pressure, which remove all crystallographic flaws, voids and impurities. So, if we hope to become spiritual “diamonds” we must expect to withstand similar experiences in life.

What is your level of spiritual transmittency?

Are you a diamond or a lump of coal?

Are you transparent, translucent, or opaque?

About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
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3 Responses to Transparent, Translucent, or Opaque?

  1. Pingback: Growing “Roots” in My Faith | Σ Frame

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