Saturday, October 9, 2010

यज्ञ, मंत्र and the ozone layer? Some back of the envelope thoughts


(Statutory warning: Arbitrary browsing could be time wasting (but fun as well :-) )

Today I got hints from some "lazy-time" wikipedia browsing that Yajna/Mantr could help replenish the ozone layer, and started thinking if there is indeed any scientific basis to that. If there was some such reaction happening in those burnings of samidha that might produce (or) stabilize ozone (or) de-stabilize the de-ozonizers such as methane, then effectively, ozone could be forming/being sustained.

Although the article seemed like a stub (Wikipedia's words!), it said that the use of ghee or घृत in Yajna helps to build and sustain the ozone layer.

With some Google Scholar, I soon got intrigued by this puzzle and got a peek down the rabbit hole !

Here are the fragments of the puzzle I found :

1. Yajnas from the Elden Days in India were performed by offering samidha(holy offerings to please Agni) to the holy fire (Agni) and Mantras were sung/ chanted at the same time. Ghee was used as an ingredient of samidha. Bovine fats, such as Ghee, is a milk product, and to my limit of knowledge about organic molecules(!), contains a lot of lipids.

2. Research exists on the effect of breathing ozone as inducing formation of "lipid hydro-peroxides" (read : = lipids + -OH bonds and the peroxide O-O bond) in the lungs of lab rats. This has been researched in the medical field in view of cancer research, as the peroxides are always carcinogenic : the extra oxygen they can give off (the O radical) can catalyze breaking of some vital bio-molecules.

3. What about the मंत्र part? Putting the chanting words aside for a little bit, an intriguing fact about Vedic Mantras is that they are sung in three specific notes (if I am not wrong, the Ni, Sa, and Re).

4. Research exists on the effect of sound waves / pressure fields on the kinetics and selectivity of some biomolecular reactions in water phase. Examples are cell wall damage, lipid oxidation (read sonochemistry here). The sound waves studied in all these papers are of ultrasonic limit (frequencies > 20 kHz, not audible). Ultrasonic pressure waves can catalyze or increase selectivity to certain lipid-oxidation products.

5. An important point here, is that the sound waves sung by the rishis would never go ultrasonic: off the cuff, Sa is 440 Hz freq, (and 78 cm wavelength) and 20 kHz being the auditive limit. Bats scream ultrasonic, we can not! This means the musical notes of Mantras would be much less in energy than the ultrasonics : Ok, so maybe they wont break cell walls : but maybe they are able to catalyze some reactions: worth exploring ..

6. So coming back to the lipids getting oxidized, a search for "ultrasonic lipid oxidation" directs to some interesting research papers in the medical field, where they are interested again in the carcinogenic effects of formation of lipid hydro-peroxides!

Now putting the two together, formation of peroxides of lipids is possible and already seen in the presence of ozone AND/OR sound waves (--where the published research is only on ultrasonics, not on acoustic range of waves.. but oh well..)

An argument then, based on the reversibility of such an oxidation reaction, would be as follows:
If after burning these peroxides rise and reach certain heights (where ozone is naturally a stable compound) to react with oxygen molecules and dissociate, ozone could form. Although a hand-wavy argument, to me this seemed far better than just doing the Yajna for the sake of it!

A complete (though rudimentary) argument would be as follows:

"A sono-catalyzed reaction (due to Mantras chanted in specific acoustic frequencies) of oxidation of bovine lipids (such as in ghee) selectively shifts towards formation of lipid-hydro-peroxides. These LHPs rise up in the air at ambient conditions and an (oxygen + peroxide) - to - (ozone + lipid) dissociation reaction takes off. An equilibrium could be reached where the peroxides get rid of extra oxygens to form stable ozone at the high altitudes. This, even if very minutely, could increase ozone layer."

Worth giving it a shot, don't you think, @biochemists? :-)

hows that!