“The world’s full of light!”, they shout at your side, and the voices don’t let you think. You look for a corner of silence, a refuge of solitude from which to look before speaking. There the light looks almost like darkness. Something is missing in this cavern. Something else must be outside. But the others only see what the light shows, and it’s only you feel the chains.
You pull once, and again, and once more until the shackles break. The unknown noise draws some attention, and now shouts of rejection turn towards you. Your tremulous body rises and takes the first step. Your lethargic legs stumble upon the chains, and you fall down towards the voices. But nobody grabs you. They would have to move by themselves to do that. You rise again, and new steps follow the first one. The shouts are now echoes in the distance.
The exterior opens in front of you. You’re blinded, yet you see more than ever. The light is only a piece of a whole spectrum that before remained invisible: there are rays that darken your skin in plain sunlight, twinkles that blind you without ever being seen. The light was not enough before, now the spectrum is too much. You try to understand blindly, reaching for a glimpse of clarity. Your own thoughts exhaust you. You have one breath left, and you go back with it to the cavern.
“There is something else out there. What we see is not everything”, you say, but the outraged whispering becomes a howl, louder than your clam voice. “Madman!”, they shout, because you don’t shout with them. That word resonates inside your head with echoes of doubt, and for a moment you look for comfort in the dark light of the cavern. But you saw more, you still see more, and slowly hear less and less those who shout.
The spectrum speaks louder than the crowd, and holds you up when you rise. The second time is easier to go outside, and the third one even easier. Several trips make you understand the spectrum. It is nothing but an extension of light, some of it more vibrating, some of it less. As easy as changing colour, as difficult as listening in silence.
You’ve realised how the outside influences the cavern, how the latter is a part of the former. There is something you’ve understood, and there are things you can change. You use the invisible energy to improve life inside the cavern. A little invention here, a little adjustment there, and now the cavern is a more comfortable place. You celebrate your achievement, and you almost hope to find acceptance, even admiration.
People use your inventions, yet despise, in a louder or lower voice, your madness. Some of them admire you without understanding you, while others completely forget you. They all now wait for the next novelty without caring where it comes from. You don’t find the strength, not even inside you, to make the next trip. The noise grows in your head and pierces your eardrums. Maybe you should leave it all, maybe you should shout with the rest. It looks liberating somehow.
With the energy you no longer have you look around one last time, and finally, you see something different. Something shines in the darkness. Where the shouts almost don’t let you see, a mirror returns your gaze. In the distance another madman listens, another madman waits. He also was blinded by the spectrum outside, he also thought impossible colours. It is a madness of another kind, sure, but a madness after all.
When you see this light the cavern becomes mute. The chains fall at your side and cease to exist. The way out is now easier knowing someone else waits. You find each other beyond the voices, and your silence introduce you. You don’t walk, you run at each other’s side towards those invisible lights. Far too well you know that at the end of the day you’ll have to go back to the cavern, but now the way out will always be open.
The Science behind the Story
The story is an extension of Plato’s Cave myth that illustrates the Electromagnetic Spectrum. The original story describes a cavern where people only see shadows of real objects, while the true world waits outside.
Scientists and engineers see light as a part of a whole spectrum. The only difference between the sections of the spectrum is the frequency of vibration. Apart from visible light, there are many other electromagnetic waves. For example, UV light are the “rays that darken your skin in plain sunlight”, while the gamma rays are the “twinkles that blind you without ever being seen”. Microwaves, X-rays, infrared and radio waves complete the spectrum.