January 21, 2012

The “Quantum Soul” Part2 – The Quantum World and Fine Scale of the Universe.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

Written by Stuart Hameroff and Deepak Chopra

Quantum theory tells us that physical processes occur in discrete, quantized steps, or levels. The laws that govern the quantum differ strangely from the predictable reality of our everyday "classical" world. At small scales, and sometimes at large scales, the bizarre laws of quantum mechanics reign. For example, atoms and subatomic quantum particles can exist in two or more states or places simultaneously, more like waves than particles, and existing as multiple coexisting possibilities known as quantum superposition, governed by a quantum wave function. Another quantum property is "nonlocal entanglement," in which components of a spatially separated system remain unified and connected (Penrose 1989).

Physics circumvents the strangeness of quantum mechanics by strictly dividing the macro/classical and micro/quantum, keeping the two worlds apart. However, consciousness somehow bridges the macro/classical and micro/quantum domains, equivalent to the subject –   object split. Consciousness exists precisely on the edge between quantum and classical.

In our conscious experience, we do not see superpositions – coexisting wave-like possibilities. We see objects and particles as material things in specific locations and states. This is partly due to scale. A humpback whale leaps out of the sea whole, despite the fact that the atoms and subatomic particles comprising the whale may occupy uncertain or even multiple positions in the invisible realm of possibilities.But even when small quantum systems are measured or observed they somehow choose definite states.

The issue of why we do not see quantum superpositions in our everyday classical world is known as the "measurement problem," which has led to various interpretations of quantum mechanics. Early experiments by quantum pioneer Niels Bohr and others seemed to show that quantum superpositions, when measured by a machine, stayed as multiple possibilities until a conscious human observed the results. Bohr concluded that conscious observation "collapsed the wave function," that unobserved superpositions persisted until being observed, at which instant they reduced, or collapsed to particular definite states (the choice of states being random). In this approach, consciousness causes quantum state reduction, placing consciousness outside science. Erwin Schrodinger objected through his still-famous thought experiment in which the fate of a cat in a box is linked to a quantum superposition. According to the Copenhagen interpretation (so-named after Bohr's Danish origin) Schrodinger's cat is both dead and alive until the box is opened and the cat observed. The thought experiment was intended to ridicule Copenhagen, but the question remains: how large can superpositions become? Another popular interpretation is the multiple worlds view (Everett 1957) in
which superpositions are separations in reality, each possibility evolving its own distinct universe; a multitude of coexisting universes results. Yet another approach is decoherence in which interaction with classical world erodes quantum states. But decoherence does not address isolated quantum systems. Finally, various types of objective reduction (OR) propose that specific objective thresholds cause quantum state reduction.

One particular OR theory was proposed by British physicist Sir Roger Penrose (1989), who began by addressing the fundamental nature of superposition. He extended Einstein's general theory of relativity, in which matter is essentially spacetime curvature, to the Planck scale (10-33 cm), the most basic level of the universe. A particle in one state or location would be a specific curvature in space-time geometry, and the same particle in another location would be curvature in the opposite direction, extending downward to the Planck scale. Superposition of both locations can then be seen as simultaneous curvatures in opposite directions, and hence, according to Penrose, a separation, bubble, or blister in the very fabric of reality. If such space-time separations were to continue and evolve, the universe would bifurcate, leading to parallel universes as described in the multiple worlds view supported by many physicists and cosmologists including Stephen Hawking (Hawking and Mlodinow 2010). But Penrose has suggested that such space-time separations are unstable and will reduce, or collapse to one particular state or location at a particular time due to an objective threshold intrinsic to the fine structure of the universe, like infinitesimally tiny soap bubbles bursting one facet or another, shaping and creating a new reality. Penrose also suggests that each OR, or self-collapse – essentially a ripple or quantized annealing in fundamental space-time geometry – results in a moment of conscious experience. This is in direct contradistinction to the Copenhagen interpretation in which consciousness is outside science, externally causing reduction by observation. In Penrose OR, consciousness IS reduction (a particular type of reduction). Thus Penrose OR is the only worldview incorporating consciousness into the universe. Penrose OR differs in another important way from Copenhagen and decoherence in which particular classical states are selected randomly from among superpositioned possibilities. The selections in Penrose OR are not random, but influenced by information embedded in fundamental space-time geometry, information Penrose characterized as Platonic values (Penrose 1989).

The Greek philosopher Plato described an abstract world of pure form, mathematical truth, and ethical and aesthetic values. Penrose suggests such Platonic values, along with precursors of physical laws, constants, forces, and consciousness, literally exist as patterns in fundamental space-time, encoded in Planck scale geometry. Physics tells us the universe is as it is, and thus able to support life and consciousness, because 20 or more physical constants and the laws they dictate take on very specific values. If any of these varied even slightly, we would not be here, so the precise values and our presence in the universe are apparently a coincidence of staggeringly low probability, akin to wining the cosmic lottery. The "anthropic principle" addresses the question of why these values are what they are, and has several interpretations (e.g., Davies 2006). The most common is tautological – that we are in the particular universe which has these specific values simply because it has those values. If it did not, we would not be here. For many physicists and philosophers, the tautological answer is related to the multiple worldviews, that this universe with consciousness is one in a multitude of universes, the others having different physical constants and lacking life and consciousness.

This is the view espoused by Hawking and Mlodinow in their book Grand Design (Hawking and Mlodinow 2010) in which they assert "M-theory" (a derivative of string theory) with a near-infinite number of parallel universes, all others devoid of consciousness. Penrose suggests another possibility which avoids the need for multiple universes. Values for physical constants defining our universe may be encoded in the fine structure of the universe itself, along with mathematical truth, Platonic values, and precursors of mass, spin, charge, and consciousness. The roots of consciousness may thus extend to the most basic level of the universe. Penrose has also proposed that our universe is serial, that the Big Bang was preceded by a previous iteration, and before that another one and so on (Penrose 2010). Unlike the idea of parallel universes which is untested (and likely untestable), the Penrose proposal for serial universes is supported by evidence from the cosmic microwave background radiation (Gurzadyan and Penrose 2010). Perhaps physical constants, conscious precursors, and Platonic values embedded in the fine structure of the universe mutate and evolve with each cosmological cycle.

What is the fine structure of the universe? The material world is composed of atoms and subatomic particles. But atoms (-10-8 cm) are mostly empty space, as is the space between atoms. If we go down in scale from atoms, eventually we reach the basement level of reality, Planck scale geometry at 10-33 cm, with coarseness, irregularity, and information. Descriptions of Planck scale geometry include string theory and loop quantum gravity. String theory, in which Planck scale strings vibrate at specific frequencies correlating with fundamental particles, has several problems. It lacks background geometry (e.g., in which the strings vibrate) and requires multiple untestable dimensions (Penrose 2004).

Another approach, loop quantum gravity depicts space-time geometry as quantized into volume pixels, Planck scale polygons whose edges may be considered as irreducible spin whose lengths also vary but average 10-33 cm. Planck volumes evolve and change with time, conveying information as a 3-dimensional spider web of spin. Somehow, space-time geometry is also nonlocal, as revealed by entanglement experiments (Nadeau and Kafatos 2001), and perhaps holographic (e.g., Susskind 1994). Could Planck scale information affect biology? Recent evidence suggests that Planck scale information may repeat at increasing scales in space-time geometry, reaching to the scale of biological systems. The British-German GEO 600 gravity wave detector near Hanover, Germany has consistently recorded fractal-like noise which apparently emanates from Planck scale fluctuations, repeating every few orders of magnitude in size and frequency from Planck length and time (10-33 cm; 10-43 s) to biomolecular size and time (10-8 cm; 10-2 s, Hogan 2008; Chown 2009). At some point (or actually at some complex edge, or surface) in this hierarchy of scale, the microscopic quantum world transitions to the classical world. If this transition is due to Penrose OR, consciousness occurs as a
process on this edge between quantum and classical worlds.

This notion that consciousness is in some way intrinsic to the universe is comparable to purely subjective views on consciousness going back thousands of years in India. The Vedic tradition and ancient sacred texts derive their name from the Sanskrit word Veda, for knowledge. The most philosophical branch of Veda is Vedanta -literally, "the end of the Vedas." In Vedanta, consciousness is everything, and manifests, or creates reality. In this view (taken by one of us, DC, differing slightly from the argument presented in this paper), consciousness is both subject and object, both quantum and classical. Consciousness is all there is (Chopra 2001). Penrose OR (and Penrose-Hameroff Orch OR) maintains the classical world exists on its own. Consciousness is a process on the edge between quantum and classical worlds, the process consisting of discrete, quantized ripples in the fine scale structure of the universe, transitions between subject and object.

Write Your Comment

  1. Barbara Phillips

    If this doesn't prove that God/Spirit/Universal Mind/Spirit Mind/Intelligent Mind, et al exists, I don't know what would/does. As a lay person who is experiencing how the mind can heal the body and trying to exercise/stretch my brain to understand the laws of the universe and how they work (or should I just say Law), this article was pretty much mind-blowing yet beautiful and comforting.

  2. heartphone

    that`s why when one is immersed in deep admiration or contemplation, or meditation, or whatever concentration one is always in the center, spinning around with two feet on the ground :) We are so good in reflecting this truth in everything we create lol, from a carousel to a vortex well, from the blue danube to the whirling dervish, we can watch it all on Youtube :) Remembers me of a Dutch song, long long time ago: "Speel het spel": Play the game, the world goes around and turns like a disc with thousands of names on, play the game, discover your heart, a heart is a house with so many windows.. and so many points of view, yet every day is a new one :)

  3. Mark

    Something I`ve never thought about before. All the while we are contemplating the nature of gravity on Earth, we are hurtling though space at immeasurable speed. I normally consider gravity from a percieved static position, as if the planet was sitting still on a scale or something. But in reality gravity has all its affects despite the velocity of its host .

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