Entrainment 1


PendulumI read recently about the property in physics called entrainment. In the 17th century, a physicist named Christian Huygens noticed something unique about the pendulums in his clocks. Even when startred out of sync, given some time, they would begin to swing in the same rhythm. He conducted some experiments to see if he could repeat the process, and he noted that after a while the faster one slowed down and the slower one sped up until they were in sync (anti-phase to be precise). Weird, huh? He thought so, and called the phenomenon entrainment. Today, some 350 years later, scientists still cannot really explain it, but they verify it happens.

Do you think that’s true among people too? Biologists think so. When you were a newborn baby you probably woke up at 2am and expected to eat and play just like it was the middle of the day. Eventually you were entrained into a pattern of being awake when it is light out and asleep when it is dark. That may also explain why I am having so much trouble waking up this week when it is so DARK out, now that we “sprung ahead” on Sunday.

I don’t know much about physics or sleep patterns, except as a parent, but I am aware of connections I don’t full understand. I was reminded of that again last Friday morning. I woke up in the morning to Facebook posts from some young people who live in Hawaii that I met on a Mission Trip in Colorado a couple summers ago. They posted about tsunami sirens and being evacuated to higher ground. I went to a news site to see what was going on. An earthquake off the coast of Japan, almost 4,000 miles away from Hawaii and more than 5,000 miles from California, was sending massive waves to both of those shores. We are connected in ways that we don’t always recognize – sometimes by entrainment and sometimes by a wave.

This serves to remind us that we need to care for one another in our family, in our church, in our jobs, and all over the world. We are connected in ways we do not fully understand, but we can be sure that when we care for one, we care for all. Jesus said it this way, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40 NRSV).


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