I recently watched a 5-minute piece of footage from PBS’s NOVA (from the 2013 season) about the development of “Super-Fast Cameras.” It not only inspired in me a sense of awe and wonder about the character and behavior of light, but also about the current state of our technological and scientific know-how.
This video shows that which humankind has never been able to observe before – the fastest thing in the universe – light.
In the 1950s, a 2000-mph bullet was photographed passing through an apple. The video shows a picture of that bullet as if suspended in time, in one particular moment.
In the past 60 years, a new Super-Fast Camera has been developed that can break down what happens to a one-trillionth of a frame per second, thus enabling us to see, moment by moment, light moving into a scene.
We can even see the moment a shadow is formed after light hits an object, not simultaneously as we once assumed.
We can watch light traveling at 600 million miles-per-hour, and observe what occurs in one-billionth of a second.
This NOVA PBS segment offers suggestions about how this new Super-Fast Camera can one day benefit the fields of medicine and many other human endeavors.
We will read on Simchat Torah next week the mythic story of the Creation of the universe and the human being (Genesis 1 and 2). After seeing this video, I marvel in a completely new way at the workings of the universe and at our human capacity for invention on the one hand, and the experience of awe and wonder on the other, which leads me to an insightful analysis of the differences between the two accounts in the Hebrew Bible of the creation of the human being (Adam) that appear in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.
The great scholar Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik commented on the essential differences of these two creation narratives of Adam. He named the first Adam of creation “Adam I” (Genesis 1:26-27) and the second Adam of creation “Adam II” (Genesis 2:7, 18, 21-24).
“Adam I” of Genesis 1 is a utilitarian man/woman. S/he is charged with the task of ruling over the world, mastering and subduing it to his/her purposes. The man partners with the woman who are created simultaneously, and their goals are practical, purposeful and productive. They embody the principle that two are better than one, but each, by virtue of being created “b’tzelem Elohim-in the Divine image,” are empowered with intelligence and the ability to create and be productive. Such people through history have been farmers, artists, scientists, legal scholars, physicians, architects, builders, manufacturers, fashioners of institutions, and creators of community. They are this-worldly and are energized by virtue of being useful. They find meaning and relevance when they are productive, and as long as they are they are never rebellious nor ever lonely, for they do their work in partnership with others.
“Adam II” of Genesis 2 is an existential being. He/she is created from the dust of the earth (adamah) and is endowed with divine purpose by means of being infused with divine breath (nishmat chayim). He/She does not lord over the earth. Rather, s/he watches over creation and protects it by virtue of being one with it. Nevertheless, s/he is alone and lonely and needs an intimate partner, to be in relationship with another. So God, the Creator, draws from Adam II a tzela (often translated as “rib” but it could also mean a side, part or aspect of the primordial human) to make woman-isha.
Adam II responds to the world spontaneously, and s/he yearns for intimacy and a life of quality and meaning. S/he is neither controlling nor power-centered. S/he intuits God’s presence everywhere and strives for “ach’dut-unity” with God. (i.e. to be at one-yichud with the root-shoresh of his/her being and life in God).
Adam II is an existential being, a seeker and an appreciator, and s/he is ever-aware of God’s Infinity, Eternity and Ineffability. S/he aspires for the religious experience of community, sanctity and transcendence. S/he is faith-oriented, needs a soul mate (i.e. beshert) and a faith community.
I mention Adam I and Adam II in the context of the invention of this Super-Fast Camera because our human engagement with it embraces both Adam I and Adam II.
My brother, an awe-struck scientist, remarked to me when he shared this video with me that this Super-Fast Camera and what it can show about the behavior of light would “even boggle Einstein’s mind!”
Chag Sukkot Sameach.