Sunday 21 September 2008

"Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness"

The main fodder for my recent post on consciousness was a book I just finished (see post title) by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner. It is a very easy introduction to some quantum physics ideas including the "enigma" of superposition and the role of consciousness in the collapse of the wavefunction. It deals mostly with the Copenhagen Interpretation but mentions Everett's Many Worlds and several others. It's all non-technical and a pretty easy read.

Something perhaps interesting to Karl (in the unlikely event that he isn't already aware of them) are two quantum theories of consciousness. A very bare-bones outline is given and I don't quite get them but

1) Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff: This theory is based on quantum gravity and "proposes a physical proess beyond present quantum theory that rapidly collapses macroscopic superpositions to actualities. ... This process collapses, or 'reduces,' the wavefunction objectively, for everybody, even without an observer. Penrose calls this process 'objective reduction,' abbreviated OR. Penrose and Hammeroff clain that superposition states and long-range coherence might exist within a brain even though it is in physical contact with the environment, and that spontaneous ORs could regulate synaptic/neural functions. Penrose speculates that OR occurs spontaneously whenever two space-time geometries, and therefore gravitational effects, differ significantly. ... Such ORs would constitute 'occaisons of experience.' If entangled with an object external to the observer, the OR would collapse the wavefunction of the observed object, and everything entangled with it."

2) Henry Stapp: This theory "takes off from von Neumann's formulation of the Copenhagen interpretation. Von Neumannm ... showed that in viewing a microscopic object in a superposition state, the entire measurement system---from, say, the Geiger counter, to the human eye looking at it, to the thus entangled synapses inthe observer's brain---must, strictly speaking, be considered part of a grand superposition state. Only a consciousmess, something beyond Schrodinger equation evolution, can collapse a wavefunction. Stapp postulates two realities, a physical and a mental. The physical includes the brain, perhaps in a particular superposition state. The mental reality includes consciousness, thoughts, and, in particular, intentions. The mental can intentionally act on the physical brain to choose a particular superposition state, which then collapses to a particular situation. Consciousness does not itself 'reach out' to the external world in this theory, but this mental choice itself nevertheless determines, in part, the character of the physcial world external to the body. The final random aspect of the choise is then made by Nature."


Anthony Peake said...

KEN: This gets weirder. It was only last Wednesday that I emailed Bruce Rosenblum congratulating him on the best explanation of quantum physics that I have read. Like you I found the book "Quantum Enigma" a terrific read.

I first contacted Bruce about a year ago and we swopped emails regarding his approach to particle physics and my "Cheating The Ferryman" thesis. Bruce stated that CTF sounded very interesting and that he would try and check it out.

It was very interesting that Bruce stated that as a known academic he has to be very careful with who he acknowledges and has his name associated. However I am hopeful that he will take the time to check this blog out and maybe even read the book.

ken said...

Well, the participants on this blog do seem to prove the theory that synchronicity is alive and well and living in Wirral, NY, Kansas City, etc. etc. etc.

Bruce and Fred state and restate the fact that "Professional" Physics is still not all that tolerant with speculating beyond the brute facts of quantum theory. They relate the facts around John Clauser who did some experiments that invalidated Bell's theorem and then could not get a university position because he had merely checked quantum mechanics which is unnecessary because we all know it's right.

Karl Le Marcs said...

Ken: Yes, I agree with Tony. I think it was about this time last year that he and I first read "Quantum Enigma" (I recall Tony excitedly thrusting his newly acquired copy in my hands when I ambled back from the bar in a pub in Wigan with replacement ales for the sadly empty ones that stood on our table)and indeed this book by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner has been discussed by AP and I in several ale houses over that last year (I myself re-read it just last month), and it has been discussed on BLOG as well (don't think it's been discussed on FORUM much though so maybe we should place it in the ITLADian Literature section)

Ditto Penrose and especially Hameroff's ORCH-OR (a particularly splendidly obsure gag I remember making about to a comment by ROBIN about music being played into Operating Rooms) *smile* Go find it, it's hilarious (to about 6 people in the world)!

I would seriously recommend Hameroff's additional theory to ORCH-OR which he equally humorously calls "Conscious Pilot"
*theological giggles*

Indeed Hameroff's work with Microtubials forms an important chapter in my CtCw theory regarding the location of the collapsed particle of consciousness.

And sadly, ditto to Stapp and Von Neumann. I recall a BLOG discussion between myself, Susan Marie and Tony on this subject a few months ago (apologies for not linking but I am strapped for time)
*pun VERY much intended*