Laotzu Discovers the Frequencies of Dervish Light

At the time of the dervishes' visit to the Forbidden City, Laotzu happened to be staying there. The Emperor sent for Laotzu and asked him about the frequencies of dervish light.

"In order to relate the wavelengths and frequencies, your Majesty must imagine the speed of light," said the sage. "Pray describe the speed of light," replied the Emperor.

"A fingerwidth", said Laotzu, "is the thickness at first knuckle of the little finger of the Son of Heaven. A hundred fingers make a pace, and a thousand paces make a mile. In one trice of time, which is a thousandth of a minute, light travels ten thousand miles. This is the same as a billion widths of your Majesty's little finger."

The throne room had a great south-facing window and sunlight was streaming in through it. The Emperor gestured towards the sun, and Laotzu understood the question. "How the sun moves from the standpoint of Earth mirrors how the Earth moves from the standpoint of the sun, your Majesty, and the Earth is traveling one mile per trice around the sun. It's speed is a tenthousandth that of light."

Then the three dervishes opened their mouths and light emerged of wavelengths three: 7 millionths and 5 millionths and 4 millionths of the Emperor's fingerwidth.

And Laotzu divided the speed of light by each of these three wavelengths and got 1/7 quadrillion per trice and 1/5 quadrillion per trice, and 1/4 quadrillion per trice.

In this way the sage obtained for the Emperor the frequencies of the three colors of dervish light.


notes on arithmetic:

The main point of arithmetic is simply that 109 divided by 10-6 is 1015 and that a common name for 1015 is quadrillion. Light's speed can always be divided by the wavelength of some light to learn the light's frequency.

The wavelength of typical green light is 5×10-6 finger. And the speed of light is 109 finger/trice. Dividing the speed by the wavelength gives 1/5 ×1015/trice. The other reckonings are done in similar fashion.

1/7, 1/5, and 1/4 quadrillion per trice are frequencies of red, green, and deep violet-blue light.

A conventional minute actually contains 1113 trice. When Laotzu says that a trice is a thousandth of a minute he is thinking of a Taoist minute which is exactly 1000 trice and thus about ten percent shorter than a conventional foreigner minute.

Angular format for frequency and wavelength is used throughout, which need not concern the reader unless there is some particular interest in technicalities of description.

It just happens that the earth's average orbit speed is very close to one tenthousandth of the speed of light. This is one mile per trice. You can snap your fingers twice a second or so and count the miles Earth has moved: "ten, twenty, thirty…"


Copyright © 2002 Leonard Cottrell. All rights reserved.
Table of contents for the New Metric Fables