What if ..?

A good way to do science is to ask the question ‘What if .. ?’. Posing this question is usually the first step in a hypothesis. The next step in such an exercise is to investigate how many unanswered questions you find a satisfactory answer to. The phenomena and experiments that do not match the hypothesis should also be considered of course. If they don’t match, the ‘What if..?’ assumption can be rejected as impossible or improbable. Important: bias should be recognized and avoided in this regard. Together, that is what I call: ‘Research with an open mind’. So switch your bullshit detector off. It is a fast but unreliable instrument. Read if you wish ‘Thinking Fast and Slow‘ by Daniël Kahnemann.

Isaac Newton must also have followed such a what-if thought: ‘What if the heavenly bodies attract each other with a force that depends on their mutual distance?’ Quite an absurd assumption at the time, given the question of how such a force could be exerted through empty space – although we already had experience with forces at a distance such as magnetism. In fact, that force-at-distance question still hasn’t really been answered today, but Newton’s what-if question did result in the classic gravitational mechanics that were beautifully confirmed by Edmund Halley’s comet and that we still start our physics study with.

The Case against Reality

A good recent example of what-if thinking and then consecutively seeing whether there are obvious conflicts with known facts and if it provides explanations for as yet unexplained phenomena is – as far as I’m concerned – Donald Hoffman’s ‘The Case against Reality‘. What if the reality that our senses present to us is just a construction that our senses and our brains create? Hoffman is a cognitive psychologist and convincingly argues that our senses developed by Darwinian evolution where the appearance of the most suitable version of an organism for survival – read also sense here – always offered the best chances for becoming inheritable .

Based on that assumption, we can say the following:

  • It is not necessary that what is presented to us by our senses corresponds 1:1 to reality, whatever reality may be. What we sense as beneficial to our survival – an apple on a tree, a slice of bread, a glass of water – is just a translation that makes us act in such a way that we survive and are able to reproduce, in this case grab the food and consume it. Think of a VR program where the actual electric digital actions in the computer are hidden and are translated for us into an image that we understand, such as a map icon. There is absolutely no need for that translation to be equal to the underlying reality, as long as our response is adequate that’s fine. So here we see no apparent conflict with our experiences.
  • Hoffman’s idea is broadly in line with the idealism of Bernardo Kastrup. According to Kastrup, everything, including our own senses and brains, is not material and does not exist in a solid state separate from us. All our observations are complex experiences that enter our consciousness through a translation (Kastrup evokes the image of a dashboard that represents the phenomena that are happening outside) and are only experienced within consciousness. Solid material reality as something that exists outside of us is an illusion. Again, there are no obvious conflicts with our experiences, although it requires that we switch our bullshit detector off.
  • The question of what consciousness – that which experiences – is has not been answered, neither by Hoffman nor by Kastrup. However, it is the ground on which their philosophy rests. That is in itself not an argument against their idea as there is no philosophy where consciousness is fundamentally or even weakly explained. Neurologists are also limited to speculating about consciousness as some hazy emergence from a complex brain like steam rising from hot water, but that’s very far from even being a provisional explanation.

All in all, we thus arrive at the what-if assumption of primary consciousness which says that all matter, and the experience of it, are products of consciousness. By primary consciousness I mean something much more extended than our daily waking consciousness, which is probably only a small part of it. The next step in this what-if exercise is whether we can with the hypothesis of primary consciousness explain phenomena that we have not been able to explain with the materialist paradigm – also often called physicalism. Then, of course, we also have to see if there are phenomena that contradict it. That’s the scientific approach.

Step 1 – Explanations of observed phenomena not explained by physicalism

What observed phenomena is the hypothesis of primary consciousness able to explain where physicalism fails utterly, I count nine here:

  1. Quantum Physics: Quantum physics seems to tell us that the information available to the observer creates the observed reality in time and space. There are excellent arguments for this. I’ve published a complete book about quantum physics, information and consciousness, also and especially for the lay reader. If reality is a construct of our consciousness – including our body and bodily senses – then it provides an explanation for the otherwise incomprehensible results of quantum physics such as objects that can be in multiple places at once and are entangled over astronomical distances, to name but a few.
  2. Relativity Dilation: Special relativity says that when we observe a relative to us moving object such as a rocket, a bullet, or an elementary particle, the rulers, or whatever may pass for them, shorten in that object to zero and time slows down to standstill as its relative velocity increases to lightspeed. This effect has been confirmed by many experiments. This dilation effect is incomprehensible if we stick to the ideas of solid permanent matter, fixed space and time. But when the consciousness of the observer creates the world – the world is within the mind – it becomes suddenly understandable. Matter, space and time acquire then the same properties as thoughts (James Jeans: ‘The stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter… we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.’
  3. Field Forces: Gravity, electromagnetic force, the strong and the weak nuclear force are all field forces. They affect matter remotely without direct contact through the use of force-transmitting objects, such as with billiard balls. If the world consists only of matter, then field forces are inherently incomprehensible, not even when we try to use the curved space-time dimensions of Einstein’s general relativity. But when consciousness creates reality, field forces become not fundamentally different from thoughts either.
  4. Dreaming: Dreaming is utterly common and incomprehensible at the same time. When dreaming we sometimes create fantastic virtual realities sometimes complete with all possible sensory impressions, seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling. You really see colors, hear sounds, touch objects. However, try evoking such a realistic experience in the waking state (without hallucinogens). Just try to evoke, with your eyes closed, the experience of seeing the color red or the picking up and feeling the size and weight of an object as a real experience. The result is never more than a faint shadow of a real experience. It always amazes me how little amazing most people find it that we can dream at all. If consciousness is indeed capable of creating vivid experiences of reality, then dreaming is no longer so different from what we do in our everyday waking world.
  5. Blindsight: Nicola Farmer has founded a school – the ICU academy – where children can learn to read, draw colored figures, and play with balls while blindfolded. Nicola also trains teachers who can teach this subsequently to children. This blindsight ability of these children has been confirmed by independent observers and recorded in a film ‘Children with real superpowers‘. Apparently our eyes are not really necessary to perceive the world visually. From the idea of primary consciousness creating the idea of matter this is understandable since what the children “see” is the creation of consciousness itself. Blindsight is also a phenomenon recognized by neurologists, but they attribute it to a different from normal visual processing neural path, ultimately still based on the signals that our eyes transmit to the brain. This cannot be the case with these blindfolded children.
  6. Psychokinesis (Pk): Pk has been confirmed in laboratory experiments, although they concern usually micro-Pk. This is nothing but the primary consciousness in immediate action.
  7. The NDE (Near-Death Experience): Since Raymond Moody’s book “Life After Life” – published originally in 1975 – worldwide interest in the NDE has exploded and large numbers of people have come forward with their NDE experience. The Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) has collected more than 5,000 experiences on its website since 2000. It is estimated that between 3 and 5% of the world’s population has had an NDE. Primary consciousness provides an excellent explanation for such a widely reported phenomenon, since consciousness being primary means that it cannot the product of a material brain and thus – after the death of the material body – can continue to exist and perceive independently. Skeptics’ claim that the NDE is neurologically explained is – sorry – bullshit.
  8. The ADC (After-death-communication): Since the beginning of this century, the After Death Communication Research Foundation (ADCERF) has collected more than 2,000 reported experiences of contact with recently deceased loved ones and animals. Polls show that more than 50% of people report an ADC experience shortly after the death of a partner, child or beloved pet. Read “The Departed among the Living” by professor Erlendur Haraldsson. This phenomenon is also perfectly explainable from the non-material death surviving primary consciousness.
  9. Evolution: The predominant neo-Darwinian view of the origin of life and evolution — life has come into existence by blind chance and by the survival of the most suitable organism plus a few billion years of single local mutations in DNA — is on the verge of collapsing. Read “Evolution 2.0” by Perry Marshall, “Evolution: A view from the 21th Century, Fortified” by James Shapiro or “Active Biological Evolution” by Frank Laukien. All life, from viruses and single-celled organisms to “modern” animals and plants, responds to challenges from its environment by actively modifying its entire genetic machinery (not just its DNA) – humans also. Amazingly often successfully and also inheritable by the next generations. The irrepressible suspicion that an intelligent reaction to the experiences of the organism is taking place here, starts to receive more and more attention. Primary consciousness, assuming it is also intelligent (a fairly obvious assumption), offers a good explanation.

Step 2 – Conflicts with established observations

Are there phenomena that conflict with the hypothesis of primary consciousness? At first glance (our bullshit detector) it seems there are at least four:

  1. The experience of solidity: Reality as we experience it is solid and rather permanent. We can’t walk through a wall. If we bump ourselves, it hurts. If we fall, we get hurt. Objects left behind remain there until we – or others – relocate them. Matter does not appear out of nothing, nor does it just disappear into nothingness. That would go against the well-known and soundly affirmed conservation laws of physics.
  2. Multiple observers: When my consciousness creates the world and everything in it, a problem arises with multiple observers (read ‘Tom Poes en de Kwanten’ in the bundle ‘Trammelant en Tierelier‘ by Marten Toonder, highly recommended, however only available in Dutch).
  3. Free will: Why – assuming I have free will – can’t I create the world I want. I cannot create or make matter disappear at will. The latter can probably be doubted if you take Mary Rose Barrington’s book – JOTT – seriously.
  4. Evil: Why does Evil exist? In itself this is not a physically definable conflict but nevertheless a valid question. If consciousness creates the world why also Evil? That question is food for philosophers.

I hope you can see that in all the above points the assumption is hidden that primary consciousness is identical to the individual waking consciousness. Which is not necessarily the case. When we can drop that assumption, all of the above points fail as strongly valid conflicts that might reject the primary consciousness hypothesis.

Furthermore, the above is not intended as a plea for idealistic monism, as for instance Kastrup advocates, and which completely denies the existence of matter. Most of the points mentioned in step 1 can also be explained with the dualistic view that matter and consciousness coexist and can influence each other. Something that René Descartes assumed in his Meditations. However, the question that is not answered in his dualism is how these two intrinsically different things, matter and consciousness, can interact with each other.

Conclusion

As far as I’m concerned, this what-if exercise provides ample confirmation that the primary consciousness hypothesis is at least worth taking seriously. While it’s probably not the ultimate scientific theory of everything, it can explain a lot of things that are simply inexplicable from the physicalist perspective that prefers to ignore en deny an abundant amount of clear facts.

What is real? A short exercise in reality

When I’m discussing quantum physics in company of friends or presenting a course in quantum physics and consciousness, and I present the substantiated conclusion from the quantum physics experiments – especially the delayed choice experiments of John Wheeler – that we create reality by observing it, the common and very understandable reaction is often that people shy away from it because of its unimaginablity. As if it would imply that the everyday world is an illusion and therefore not ‘real‘. I answer them usually by giving them the metaphor of the rainbow, definitely not an illusion but a ‘real‘ phenomenon. But if you think that the rainbow above you is a material arc, then you are clearly wrong and suffering from an illusion.

The words “real” and “material” have become so closely linked by our upbringing that, for most people, they have taken on the same meaning. What is considered ‘real‘ is something that can be measured – so to speak – with a yardstick. If you can’t measure it, it is not ‘real‘. In this way ‘Real‘ means nowadays a permanent existence without the involvement of an observer. I wonder though: Are thoughts, dreams, fantasies not real? Are my thoughts not real as long as I have expressed them not in words, like I am doing here now?

A VR fantasy

To disconnect that engraved automatic link between the concepts ‘real‘ and ‘material‘, I propose now that you do the following simple VR imagination exercise. You don’t have to be in possession of a VR headset. A little bit of imagination will suffice.

Nursing home residents using VR headset ‘visiting’ the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Imagine then that a VR headset is ready and waiting for you on the table, including a pair of wireless earbuds. You place the headset over your eyes, plug the earbuds in …. and find yourself looking out over a plain covered mostly with fresh green grass, blooming flowers and scattered here and there a bush. Above you the blue sky with some white clouds floating quietly with the wind. Birds fly, and you can hear their songs. In the far distance you see an imposing mountain towering high into the sky, a super Mount Everest. It’s upper half is covered in snow and you notice wisps of clouds streaming away from the top.

Then you turn 180 degrees. Now you do notice that you are standing firmly on the top of a ridge overlooking a sea. Down below you see a beach where the waves roll in. Now you understand where that background noise came from. A sailboat is passing far away. The crew waves to you.

Now the reality question. Where’s that mountain you saw a moment before? Has it disappeared from reality? Does it still exist? You turn back again and there is the mountain again. Did you just recreate it from nothingness? By observing it?

Creation from non-existence by observation?

I do not think so. The image of that mountain was just not displayed on the LCD screen of the VR headset when you were looking in the direction of the sea, but its source still existed. It existed in the memory of the headset’s VR software all along, ready to be displayed if you turned your head in the right direction. The image of the mountain thus constantly exists as an opportunity to be shown and thus seen.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly like the quantum behavior of the reality that we experience every day. The moment I look at the table before me, it becomes real through my observing. Before I looked at it, it did exist “really” as a well-defined stable possibility wave pattern in the quantum field. The larger the object, the smaller the relative deviations of its physical properties that are allowed by the quantum probability wave distribution. That is what makes the world appear so sharp and concrete to us with our relatively coarse senses. As far as I’m concerned, the world is ‘real‘ enough to be careful when crossing a busy road.

No creation out of nothingness

So, it is not the case that by observing we create something out of empty nothingness. It is already there, but in an unmaterialized form that leaves some room for deviations from the exact outcomes as predicted by Newtonian mechanics. That’s more room than you perhaps think. It has been calculated that after 7 or 8 collisions the movement of a billiard ball has become fundamentally unpredictable because of the accumulated and exponentially increasing Heisenberg uncertainty. Thus, the deterministic mechanical predictability of the universe, á la Laplace, collapses. That’s all. We are creators, but not free to create anything we want.

Not yet anyhow.

Help, I’m being shut down!

Is my computer aware? Would it mind being shut down? Sometimes you might wonder with your finger lingering on the off switch. Not likely, but still…..?

The PEAR Lab

The PEAR laboratory – Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory – was founded in 1979 by Robert Jahn, a professor of aeronautical engineering, along with Brenda Dunne, a developmental psychologist. In the PEAR lab, the special influence that the mind could have on physical devices, including electronic random signal generators (REGs), were studied in a variety of ways. Below is an example of the result of their influencing by intention REG experiments .

The three colored graphs represent the cumulative deviation from the standard expectation (the zero line) of the output of a REG in three test runs. The curved lines indicate the limits where the result is within the commonly accepted standard expectation limit of 5%. The red graph represents thus an clear case of the influence of intention. But apparently a reverse effect of intention is also possible (blue graph). Compare this with the behavior of an unaffected REG shown below. The graph hovers clearly around the zero line.

REG Cumulative Deviation without intention

Psyleron Conscious Technologies & Research

One of the lab collaborators was Herbert Mertz who mainly dealt with the REGs used in the PEAR experiments. Together with colleagues and friends he founded Psyleron in 2005. Psyleron supplied affordable REG kits based on QRNG devices (QRNG: Quantum Random Number Generator) with accompanying software. With these kits everyone should be able to independently investigate the effects of the mind on matter. One of their more playful products was the Psyleron Mind Lamp, a lamp that changes color when the results of the built-in REG deviate slightly from the standard expectation. Be sure to read the user experiences on the Psyleron Mind Lamp page.

Psyleron’s Mind Lamp. Changes color with focused attention, it seems. Unfortunately no longer for sale.

Herb Mertz’s book The Selection Effect is an account of his fascination with quantum number generators (REGs) and of his serious attempts in succesfully influencing them. He finds that he can indeed, but his influence evaporates as soon as the playful element disappears from his efforts and he becomes too serious in his attempts. What I want to talk about here is his description of an experiment where the experimenter effect seems to have played an important role. Herb opens his book with an extensive report of an experiment that certainly seems to belong in the category of special experimenter effects. It was conducted in 2013 by Professor Garret Moddel of the University of Colorado Boulder, one of his students, James Zhu, and Adam Curry of the Psyleron Company.

The Colorado Research Question: Is a Machine Conscious?

The research question was whether a machine, such as a QRNG, ‘feels’ coming that it is being turned off and shows this in its reaction. A QRNG is based on a quantum physics process and its output, a zero or a one is fundamentally unpredictable according to quantum physics. The only way a QRNG can ‘react’ is a deviation in the generated sequence of ones and zeros. Such a sequence is completely random, the probability of each bit – a zero or a one – in the sequence does not depend on the series of zeros and ones before it. The probability of a sequence of, for example, 20 consecutive zeros is less than 1:1,000,000. The expectation for the mean value of a random sequence of ones and zeros is 0.5. When the deviation from the expected mean value of such a sequence is statistically significant, you can consider that a QRNG reaction. Incidentally, this is exactly what is being done in the Global Consciousness Project. All over the world QRNGs continuously produce zeros and ones (the so-called EGG sites) and check in real-time whether significant deviations from the mean value of the bit rows occur and whether these are correlated with important global events. And it turns out that it is. Remarkable in itself. And ignored in many academic circles still trapped in a purely materialistic paradigm.

Global Consciousness Project: Cumulative Deviation during 12 years of standard expectation

Many experiments have been conducted to test whether people do sense a negative event coming. Most of the time this is done by showing subjects, sitting in front of a screen, a randomly selected image five seconds after they have pressed a button. The image shown can be neutral or emotionally disturbing. Through the output of an QRNG, five seconds after pressing the key, a random image is selected, and displayed, by the computer from a database with an equal amount of neutral and emotional images. Monitoring physiological factors such as heart rate and/or skin resistance can be used to investigate whether the test subject unconsciously senses what is coming before the time that the image is selected by the QRNG. This sensing the future has indeed been demonstrated in these kind of presentiment experiments. Read Dean Radin’s 2004 presentiment experiment research publication. His experiment is also extensively discussed in my book.

The warden and the prisoner

Garret’s idea was that if a machine with a QRNG built-in had any consciousness, it would probably find it unpleasant to be turned off, and, like those human subjects, it would have a presentiment of it. In those last few seconds before shutdown, it’s QRNG would respond with a measurable deviation in the generated series of zeros and ones.

The unpredictable switching on and off of the device with the QRNG was done by a second QRNG, the warden. It’s victim, the device with the QRNG 1, is the prisoner. The generated zeros and ones from warden and prisoner were both recorded. The whole device had been extensively tested for correct functioning, ‘null’ tests had been done, so, the experiment could begin. Expectations were tense. The device was switched on at the end of the day and the results would be viewed the next morning.

And lo and behold, the next morning it turned out that the ‘prisoner’ had indeed reacted every time shortly before the fundamentally unpredictable times when the ‘warden’ took out the ‘prisoner’. Statistically significant in a way that the result could not be ignored. It could not be considered as an accidental glitch in the experimental set-up. Had they perhaps made a discovery here that would stir up a lot of controversy around the world in universities and labs investigating consciousness and its effects? It was wise to wait a little longer and let the set-up run another night. The second day the outcome was an even stronger indication of presentiment of the prisoner. The third night again yielded the same result, the prisoner every time shortly before being shutdown reacting by producing a significantly deviating series of zeros and ones .

The serious scientific approach

Now it got really interesting. It became possible that a serious publication in scientific journals was in the offing. But in that case there are strict conditions attached to the test procedures. Does the length of the interval between off and on switching affect the outcome for example? The frequency of the generated zeros and ones maybe? The way it was turned off and on, perhaps? The experimenters turned the dials, doubled the frequency and then waited another night for the result. The result was now that the deviations in the prisoner’s behavior were shown no longer. Then they halved the frequency. Again no reaction of the prisoner any more. At last they reset the frequency to its original value. Again, the result remained zero negative. The effect was gone.

What had changed?

Mertz’s suspicion, and mine too, is that the moment the experimenters started to behave ‘really’ scientifically, their unconscious expectations changed. In other words, that the expectations of the experimenters early in the experiment, when uninhibited natural open curiosity played an important role and academic scientific demonstrability was less important, had changed into academic goals. It was no longer play but serious science. When they were still ‘playing’ the experimenters’ expectations influenced the outcome of the QRNG’s quantum process, the prisoner, in such a way that it changed significantly in the short time before the guard evicted the prisoner.

In my opinion the minds of the experimenters did two things. First it premonited the shut down of the prisoner by the warden, second it then influenced the prisoner REG to produce a sequence of bits outside the normally evenly distributed values.

Isn’t it panpsychism?

Panpsychism – all matter is conscious – is becoming more popular among philosophers and physicists. Too bad for them that the guard and prisoner experiment turned out so disappointingly at the moment stricter research methods were applied. But I suspect anyhow that consciousness, and in particular the expectations of the researchers, played a significant role here.

How do space, time and gravity emerge from quantum physics?

In an earlier post I wrote how, according to the Copenhagen interpretation, not just matter but time is also created by the measurement.

Today I want to present to you my comments on a particularly interesting interview Steven Strogatz had with Sean Carroll which was published in Quanta Magazine on May 4, 2022. Steven Strogatz is a mathematics professor, Sean Carroll is a quantum physicist who studies quantum gravity. Carroll discusses the creation of time and space.

Einstein’s description of curved space-time doesn’t easily mesh with a universe made up of quantum wavefunctions. Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll discusses the quest for quantum gravity with host Steven Strogatz.

I found Carroll’s statements in this interview extremely captivating. It reveals a lot about the changing view of nature of quantum physicists. I therefore want to comment on some of his statements. You can find the full interview here. He has also published a book on the subject – the emergence of spacetime from the quantum world: Something Deeply Hidden.

Incidentally, Sean Carroll is also an advocate of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics. A hypothesis that is not mine. Read my post “Multiversa and the Double Slit“.

Relativity and quantum physics

To begin with, Carroll puts the importance of Einstein’s theory of relativity into perspective from the position of quantum physics:

C: ‘Yeah, you know, we think of relativity, the birth of relativity in the early 20th century, as a giant revolution in physics. But it was nothing compared to the quantum revolution that happened a few years later’.

Yet the relationship between time and space, between energy and matter became established by the special theory of relativity in an extremely revolutionary way, even though the theory is still considered part of classical physics. Time and space are elastic and relative to the observer. That elasticity can certainly no longer be called classic. The important role of the observer is already apparent, although Einstein has denied it. You could say that relativity has paved the way for the even more shocking message of quantum physics.

Quantum physics is the real fundamental physics – on all scales

C: ‘We’ve accepted that quantum mechanics is a more fundamental version of how nature works. Quantum mechanics is the theory of how the world works. What happens at small scales is that classical mechanics fails. So, you need quantum mechanics. Classical mechanics turns out to be a limit, an approximation, a little tiny baby version of quantum mechanics, but it’s not the fundamental one.’.

Finally someone who says it plainly. Quantum physics is not limited to the world of the atomic, it is a fundamentally more correct description of the world at any scale. Classical physics is the special case, which predicts very well on the limited scale of our senses.

C: ‘And we kind of tend to think of the world in classical terms. Classically, things have positions, and they have locations — positions and velocities. Quantum mechanically, that’s not true.

The experience of the world on the scale of our biological senses determines how we think about the world, about what we can imagine. There are things, permanently occupying a position in space. But it is the wrong picture. The world as we experience it, doesn’t really exist like those permanent things.

There is no procedure that will take you safely from classical physics to quantum physics

C: ‘So there’s supposed to be, in some sense a map from the space of classical theories to quantum theories, okay? The quantization procedure. This is all a complete fake. I mean, it sort of is a kludge that works sometimes, but this purported map from classical theories to quantum theories is not very well-defined’

We are still trying to understand quantum physics departing from a classical basis. That of concrete things. We used and still use a procedure to convert the classical description to the quantum physical, the quantization procedure. For example, physics students learn to translate to quantum physics from the classical basis they have learned before . But it’s not right at all. Quantization produces infinities in your equations. We were able to normalize these with mathematical tricks for the electromagnetic forces. But with gravity, those tricks no longer work. Quantization produces complete nonsense with gravity.

C: ‘But then there’s a whole set of more deep conceptual issues, not only do you not know what to do, you don’t know what you’re doing. Because, with everything else, every other theory other than gravity, it’s very clear what’s going on. You have stuff inside space-time. The stuff has a location, right? It has a point in space, it’s moving through time. Even if you have a field, it has a value at every point in space, etc.’

As long as you continue to use the classical concepts, such as objects in space and time, things will go wrong. You don’t really know what you’re doing. You don’t understand.

Before quantum physics it was obvious what a measurement was

This is where the major pain points are clearly discussed. In classical physics it was not necessary to describe things like observation and measurement, in quantum physics they are necessary, but we are still not in agreement on what exactly these are.

C: ‘So I don’t think that there is any such thing as a position or a velocity of a particle. I think those are things you observe, when you measure it, they’re possible observational outcomes, but they’re not what is — okay, they’re not what truly exists. And if you extend that to gravity, you’re saying that what we call the geometry of space-time, or things like location in space, they don’t exist. They are some approximation that you get at the classical level in the right circumstances. And that’s a very deep conceptual shift that people kind of lose their way in very quickly.’

There are no things with a position and speed. What may emerge from a measurement is not what already exists. That’s quite a statement, isn’t it? But Bohr and Heisenberg had already said this.

Energence of space and time

Then Carroll talks about his idea that spacetime is emergent in the same way that the macroscopic properties of a gas are emergent and arise from the atomic properties, whereby nothing fundamentally new arises during that emergence. That’s called weak emergence. Spacetime emergence is also a weak emergence according to Carroll. That means that there is a fundamentally different reality beneath macro-reality that we have to master first. So, don’t quantize our classic models, but set up something very fundamentally new. We must therefore say goodbye to the classical idea of locality. Which is the message of entanglement. Entanglement violates locality. Carroll then inverts the question of entanglement and locality, why is there so much locality in the universe that we perceive if it is not fundamental?

C: ‘Locality is just the idea that if I poke the universe at one point in space-time, the effects of that poke will happen at that point, and then they will ripple out…. So then, if you believe that locality is fundamental like that, then you’re sort of asking this question, why does the universe almost violate that but seem to not quite? That’s the puzzle that we have. It’s “why is there locality at all?”’

So, this is the question: can we infer reality as we experience it with its locality in space and time from what we know about quantum physics?

C:’ We just have an abstract quantum wavefunction and we’re asking, can we extract reality as we know it from the wavefunction? Space-time, quantum fields, all of those things’
C: ‘So, in the real world, we have, to a very good approximation, the world is run by what we call quantum field theory. Okay, so, the stuff of the world, the particles and the, you know, the forces, etc., all come from fields that spread all throughout space and time and have a quantum mechanical nature.

Space, time and entanglement

Could we perhaps establish the relationship between non-local entanglement and physical distance in spacetime via the quantum wave function?

C: ’Okay, so, the stuff of the world, the particles and the, you know, the forces, etc., all come from fields that spread all throughout space and time and have a quantum mechanical nature. The quantum state of the fields at these two points in space, is it entangled? And then what you can do is take two different points of space-time, at some distance between them, and because there’s still things there, because there still are fields even in empty space, you can say, is there entanglement between these two points of space? And the answer is yes, it is always going to be entangled. And in fact, more than that, if the points are nearby, the fields will be highly entangled with each other. And if the fields are far away, the entanglement will be very, very low. Not zero, but very, very low. So, in other words, there is a relationship between the distance between two points and their amount of entanglement in the lowest-energy state of a conventional quantum field theory. Let me assume, let me put out there as an ansatz [a mathematical assumption], that when the entanglement is strong, the distance is short. And I’m going to define something called the distance. And it’s a small number when the entanglement is large, it’s a big number when the entanglement is small. But the point is that if we follow our nose, if we say we start not with space, but with entanglement, how should it behave? How should it interact?

In short, the more powerful the entanglement between two points in space, the closer they are to each other. That’s Carroll’s hypothesis. In other words, we experience (measure) distance in space and time by quantum entanglement in the non-local quantum field! So, distance in space and time are no longer fundamental concepts. This makes the elasticity in dimensions in time and space experienced by the observer, which follows from the theory of relativity, a lot more comprehensible as far as I am concerned.

I’m curious where the developments are going. I see a paradigm starting to shift.

Materialism and its disastrous consequences

Why materialism is the cause of the catastrophic state of the world and humanity, and what to do about it

At the start of my course in Quantum Physics and Consciousness for students of the Academy of Spiritual Sciences in Utrecht, I made the above statement. At the end of the course, the last lesson, an explanation of that statement was asked – rightly so. This led to a heated discussion that ended not entirely satisfactory because of time constraints, after which I decided to explain my position in much more detail in this blog.

That materialism is leading us to the abyss is my personal conviction. In these times there are many outspoken supporters of hard materialism influencing public opinion on the issue. By hard materialism, also called physicalism, I mean the deep conviction that the world can be fully explained with just matter and all interactions between matter. To avoid misunderstanding, this does not mean that I think that those with such a matter-only view are people with bad intentions. Most materialists are certainly not people harboring malicious intent, but mostly – in my opinion – misinformed. They may very well be very nice, empathetic, responsible and honest people. However, their belief is leading the world in a catastrophic direction.

I will explain below in a number of logical steps where materialism is leading us and why I consider it disastrous.

The materialistic postulate and its conclusions about the world

Pure materialism is based on the postulate that the world can be fully explained with matter and all interaction between matter. This is a postulate that leads us step by step to the following logical conclusions:

  1. Consciousness can only be a product of matter because there exist only matter. Consciousness is therefore an emergent property of a complex brain.
  2. From this follows that a complex material brain is needed for our experience of having a consciousness. Everything that does not have a complex brain, therefore, has little or no consciousness. The less complex the brain, the less consciousness. Man has obviously the most complex brain (on earth) and therefore also the most complex consciousness and is therefore superior to all other forms of life.
  3. Consciousness, being a product of a complex brain, ends with the death of the physical body and its brain.
  4. All interactions of matter are mechanical and without purpose. Each outcome is basically unintentional and therefore purely coincidental.
  5. Life, including consciousness, can only have arisen through purely coincidental combinations and interactions of matter. Life and consciousness are therefore ultimately accidental phenomena in an indifferent universe.
  6. Life is therefore, in principle, a purely mechanically explicable phenomenon.
  7. Heredity, a characteristic of life, is a mechanically explainable phenomenon. Changes in the hereditary properties are only the result of accidental mutations.
  8. Evolution, the gradual emergence of increasingly complex organisms, occurs through mechanical random effects. The best adapted organism has the best chance of passing on its, sometimes altered by chance mutation, hereditary characteristics to the next generation. The hereditary mutations that are less fit for survival do not survive and won’t be passed on to the next generation.
  9. Although very complex organisms can arise in this way, possibly with consciousness, this must ultimately be based on blind chance. There is no other explanation and we don’t need another.
  10. Blind chance, along with the basic properties of matter, are therefore the only real elements in the universe.
  11. Free will is an illusion because each action is the result of mechanically explainable interactions of matter.
  12. There is therefore no purpose in the universe. It’s pointless.
  13. There is also no good and evil in the universe since good and evil are not properties of matter and cannot be derived from it. Ethics, ideas of good and evil, have no material basis.

I hope that you understand that the above statements are contrary to my beliefs. They are logical derivations from the materialistic postulate. The same beliefs can be found in the publications of Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene) and Daniël Dennet (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea). You will also find them in the beliefs of many neuroscientists like Dick Schwaab (We Are Our Brains) and Sebastian Seung (Connectome).

Everything is allowed – in the materialistic perspective

From the last three statements – 11, 12 and 13 – which are fully endorsed by the said adherents of the materialistic view of the world – I then deduce:

  • Each individual organism is therefore completely free to determine and achieve its own goal. However, if other organisms get in the way, bad luck for them.
  • In other words: everything is allowed. If other organisms suffer as a result, it is only important for the organism that causes their suffering when itself suffers a disadvantage as a result of the suffering of its victims.
  • Love, empathy are nice but not necessary, they are just a luxury.
  • Rampant sociopathy, lust for power, greed, depletion of natural resources, wars, oppression, exploitation, exclusion of the other and even the torture or the killing of the other organisms are all justifiable from the above explained purely materialistic perspective. Matter is indifferent to suffering.

These conclusions may well disappoint you. Good thing, too. But are they not illogical from the materialistic viewpoint? They do, in my opinion, support the rampant greed that is increasing and causing social inequality and the concentration of capital in the world and that is becoming increasingly alarming.

The Matter with Things – Materialism is no good

This eloquent, almost poetic quote from ‘The Matter with Things‘ by Iain McGilchrist therefore seems to me very appropriate here:

The business of life then becomes like a dance watched by a deaf person: puzzling, pointless and somewhat absurd. Death becomes just the meaningless end of a life itself without meaning. Goodness becomes mere utility, and suffering just frustration of utility. Eros becomes just lust; longing just want; sleep and dreams an inefficiency that we should do away with if we could; art a toy; the natural world a heap of resource; and wonder merely a measure of our failure, rather than, as I believe it to be, a measure of our insight.

Therefore: Materialism is no good.

Above that: It has not been demonstrated experimentally. It’s a dogma. An unproven belief.

It is not only a belief, but it is also severely shortsighted. Materialism offers no credible explanation for quantum phenomena such as the observer effect at the double slit, entanglement demonstrated in all Bell experiments and the influence of the mind on quantum random generators (QRNG) by the observer’s intention. Anyone who reflects on hypotheses such as decoherence, multiversa, superselection and spontaneous collapse with an open mind, and is willing to let go of the materialistic view of the world, will be able to see that none of these are very credible attempts to save the materialistic view. Incidentally, the materialistic view has also no real explanation for the evolution of life, which is becoming increasingly painful in view of the recent discoveries in heredity research where organisms, unicellular and multicellular, appear to adapt actively and intelligently their own hereditary properties, their own DNA, in response to the challenges of their environment.

Again, that doesn’t mean that materialists are bad. Most people are good, even when they cherish materialistic views. But this does say something about what this image of the world invites to. Is it any wonder, then, that we are on the brink of catastrophe today, despite all the good intentions of most people?

But isn’t primary consciousness also just a hypothesis?

Indeed. The assumption of primary consciousness is also a hypothesis and because it cannot be proved experimentally it is as much a postulate as the postulate of materialism. However, consider that the postulate of primary consciousness offers excellent explanations for quantum physical effects that are incomprehensible by the materialist view. That’s why it’s my preference. A hypothesis that offers no understandable explanations for experimentally observed effects is, in my view, a poor hypothesis.

Quantum physics has repeatedly confirmed that the information that an experiment can provide determines where the object under investigation will appear, how it behaves and how it has behaved. Reality does not act materially in its fundaments but much more like a dynamic and interactive field of potential. Information including its meaning is typically something that resides in consciousness. That effect, the observer manifests the observed by his observation, can only be properly explained if consciousness is much more than an emergent phenomenon of matter.

When we assume that consciousness is primary and that matter is very probably an expression of that consciousness, a very different picture emerges. Materialism loses its current persuasive power and hopefully we can start to create a world that is not – as it is doing at the moment – crashes into the abyss.

A Crash Course in Quantum Physics and Consciousness

On April 3 and 10 I presented a Crash Course in Quantum Physics and Consciousness in two Zoom sessions for Wendy Zammit’s Global Gathering audience. Quantum physics is not an easy subject, but in my opinion you can get a good idea of the basics if you pay attention so you can also understand its message. Consciousness is the primary stuff of the universe. Pretty good news about what happens when the body dies. Consciousness is the creator of your experiences. Think about that.

The audience – about 50 attendants – were very interested in the consciousness message of quantum physics. A lot of questions were asked, some I could answer.

Part I
Part II

Quantum physics is NOT Weird. The 2nd revised edition is out.

The 2nd edition is out now and locally available in the UK

I got some comments about the English translation in Quantum Physics is NOT Weird. So I decided to re-edit the book taking special care concerning the language. In the process I also took the opportunity to improve the content considerably and to make the language clearer and more understandable. I also added a complete new chapter at the end. So, I hope this time the reception will be much more favorable.

Click on the picture for more information
“A wonderful, very readable book that will convince thousands upon thousands of serious readers, including students of science, why consciousness is necessary to understand quantum physics and why materialist science is not adequate. I give the book my highest recommendation." –– Amit Goswami, PhD, author of The Self-Aware Universe. 

"A monumental book. A masterpiece in disguise." - Prof Emer dr. Dirk K.F Meijer, University of Groningen.

The book can be ordered in the UK at www.mybestseller.co.uk.

The e-book is to be expected before March 2022.

Entangled in space ánd time

Entanglement in space

Quantum entanglement is generally presented as the effect that if two (or more) quantum objects have a common history that they are quantum entangled until one of them is measured. Common history means that they have had physical interaction in the past. That is, the objects have one common quantum wave and, if one of the objects is measured, its collapse has an immediate influence on the properties of the other entangled objects. This has been demonstrated time and again in numerous Bell experiments that seem to convincingly demonstrate effects that are contrary to the laws of relativity. These say that the maximum speed of information transfer is the speed of light. For more on entanglement see this page on this site.

Entanglement in time

In 2013, an experiment was conducted – Entanglement Swapping between Photons that have Never Coexisted – that showed that photons can become entangled even when they have never been together. What does that mean? A somewhat clearer way of describing the experiment is ‘entanglement in time instead of space’. See the diagram below from the publication of the experiment.

Four photons exhibit a common quantum wave that starts with the creation of the first photon entangled with a second photon because they were created as pair. The first photon is measured, irrevocably thereby ending its existence. The second photon is then entangled with one of a second pair of photons that are created later in time than the destruction of the first photon by its detection. Finally, photon four, the second of the second pair, is measured. The measurements of photons one and four have been shown to be correlated. Which means that all photons were indeed entangled.

Their entanglement, a common history, happened via entanglement of photon two and three. This was done by a Bell projection where these two photons were detetected after passing through a Bell type polarizer with two inputs and two output channels. I can’t explain this further here, because I’m not really familiar with this technique. I therefore refer quantum physicists wanting to know more to the publication of the experiment. The conclusion the authors draw from the outcome is that photon one and four were entangled while the existence of photon one ended before photon four was created. So, they evoked and observed entanglement in time, not in space.

Explanation of the diagram:

  • I: The birth of entangled photons one and two at t=0.
  • II: The destruction of photon one by its detection.
  • III: Birth of entangled photons three and four.
  • IV: Bell projection of photons two and three. This will make these photons to become entangled. Because photon three has become entangled with photon four, all four photons have become entangled, even though photon one no longer exists.
  • V: Detection of photon four.
  • VI: Observation of the result by observer!

Retrocausality?

The results of the detections of photon one and four are of course only viewed after photon four has been detected. Only then is the result ‘experienced’ in the experimenter’s awareness. That’s important in this regard.

This is strongly reminiscent of the retrocausal effects that occur in the delayed choice experiments and about which heated discussions can be found on the internet. As I note at the end of the post Schrödinger’s stopwatch, the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that observation (measurement) causes the spatial manifestation of the quantum object through the collapse of the quantum wave. Our looking inside the box not only manifests its contents in space, the radioactive atom, the stopwatch and the Geiger counter, but also manifests the stopwatch with the clock pointer indicating a specific moment in the past. This implies that these three observed entangled objects are not only manifested in space but also in time.

But that is, in my opinion, only apparent retrocausality. I think, it is the literal creation of history through the observation of an observer carried out at a later moment in time. It has always been clear that any experience of ours always lags behind what the experience tells us now. In most cases, the distance to the interpreted past is small, otherwise we would never be able to respond adequately to the world. But however small that distance may be, our experience is always an interpretation of a past event. We are always lagging after the PRESENT. We live however in the past.

Consensus in a virtual reality

Observation thus records an event in the past. After that, the result cannot be altered any more. The past, after observation, is fixed. In my book I make a case for the view that our experienced world is only an experience that takes place entirely within the mind. A virtual experience. But then the question inevitably arises how it is that we can usually agree with each other about our experiences. This is ensured within this virtual reality by recording everything that is observed as fixed history which can no longer be changed. The experimenter who first looks at the results of the experiment irrevocably records what happened. After that, the others can only confirm this. That is not true retrocausality but the creation of history. Creative accounting.

Quantum Computers

An Easy Leap Into Quantum Computing © LiveAtPC.com

There are often interesting reports about quantum computers in the media. The world is on several places busy building quantum computers with very generous budgets, funded by governments and software giants such as Microsoft and Google. They are also working very intensively on this in The Netherlands, Delft – QuTech. Instead of writing blogs on it, spread over different moments, I have devoted a special page on my website to it. It is also made visible in the main menu. This page will – in addition to some information on the subject – contain also actual links to articles on this subject that are interesting to me and – important – readable for laymen.

So you are invited to have a look at Quantum Computers.

Gifts of Unknown Things

Sometimes, in a book actually not really about quantum physics, I unexpectedly come across a text that particularly appeals to me in the context of my idea that quantum physics has an important message for humanity. A message that is still not understood or not been recognized by the majority of scientists today. Lyall Watson however is a scientist who recognizes the message.

A scientist of stature

Malcolm Lyall-Watson is a widely oriented scientist of stature. He is a botanist, zoologist, biologist, anthropologist, paleontologist and ethologist. He was, among other things, director of the Johannesburg Zoo and has produced nature series for the BBC. Watson is an adventurer and also a captivating storyteller. This has resulted in a series of books of which I have only recently read just this one which leaves me wanting more.

I am concerned here with a passage in his book ‘Gifts of Unknown Things’ where he summarizes adequately quantum physics in three pages, in an attempt to explain his experiences on a small Indonesian island where the local population accepts extraordinairy phenomena as an element of everyday life. By the way, I can recommend the entire book to you, if only for its captivating reading pleasure.

An infinite book as a metaphor of the state wave

The text fragment in question: Watson presents in it a very understandable metaphor about quantum physical reality as a book where every set of two pages contains one of the infinite possible states of the universe. Where the book will open is unpredictable, but the book is bound and used in such a way that it does show a preference for certain pages. As long as the book is still closed, everything is possible, all pages – all possibilities – are still there. That is comparable to the situation where the state wave has not yet collapsed. The opening of the book is thus the measurement, the collapse of the state wave by the observation of the reader with only one pair of pages now being readable. But in fact everything is possible, all the pages are still there. Sumo – mentioned in the text – is one of the inhabitants of the island who, because of his belief system, cannot accept what he sees, until a dramatic outcome is needed.

A Modern Physics Problem

“Modern physics has a problem. In Newton's time, concern was directed largely at measuring things, because he believed, as many people still do today, that everything was knowable, and it was just a matter of clear thinking and lots of hard work. It was felt that the collection of information was vital and that when enough was available, the rest could be calculated or inferred. So classical physics for two centuries concerned itself almost entirely with the motion of bodies and the force of fields.

Then Heisenberg showed it was impossible to determine exactly the position and momentum of any body at a single instant in time. This discovery in itself would have been of only academic importance if it had not also shown that changes were necessary in some of the most basic equations of physics. The changes were made, and they resulted in the development of quantum mechanics, and this has begun to bring about a major philosophical revolution.

Physics is concerned with systems. As an example, let's choose a system made up of a number of moving particles that happen to look like the letters of the alphabet. The old physics had its classical equations of motion which were supposed to be able to calculate the complete state of such a system. Let's say that what they had in mind was an arrangement something like this page of this book. A pattern in code which would need deciphering but which could be used, they thought, like the Rosetta Stone, to understand the language and to predict the form of all future states, the pattern on all pages that might precede or follow this one.

The new physics says fine, but there is a problem. There is no such thing as a single state. Each system has an infinite number of possible states, and it exists in all of them simultaneously. Quantum mechanics recognizes not the page, but the whole book as a more valid expression of the pattern of a system at any one moment in time. In fact, it goes a lot further than this thin book can, because it needs an infinite number of pages.

Now, when we try to observe a physical system, when we attempt to make a measurement, we do not find a particle moving at a number of velocities, located in widely different positions. We catch the system in one of its infinite number of states. When we open a book, we see only one of the many different pages. With the book lying closed on the table in front of you, all those pages or states already exist, and any page is possible. The probability is not necessarily equal; there is usually a bias built into the binding which makes the book open more easily at a well-thumbed page. But with the covers closed, the system is open. It is a multiple state and enters a single state only when a reader comes along to take a measurement or make an observation.

In the words of quantum mechanics, an observer collapses the system into one of its component states. He is not part of the system, he is not one of the letters that make up the pattern on the pages, and he cannot be included in the equations. But neither can he be left out, because without him there cannot be any particular pattern. Without an observer, there is no description; but no description can be considered complete unless it takes into account the effects of the observer who made it. There is no such thing as an objective experiment.

This is the measurement problem, and it has left much of the physics community in a state of considerable disquiet. There are inevitably a number of unconvinced Newtonians (like Sumo) who are doing their best to discredit this interpretation, but so far they have had very little success. The uncertainty just won't go away. In fact, it gets more alarming all the time.

When a system is observed, it collapses into one of its states. But what happens when there is more than one observer?

Science refuses to accept as valid any measurement made by only one person. The experiment has to be repeatable and produce the same result. So when two scientists in widely separated laboratories succeed in making the same measurement, when they get the book to open at precisely the same page, there must be some factor which at that moment puts them on common ground. They must be linked. This linkage, which provides them both with the same page number, is a procedure that we call experimental protocol. It has to be followed precisely or the experiment will "fail"—the book will open elsewhere. It is a very strict procedure with a precise set of rules which require that individuality be held as far as possible in abeyance. It suggests that the scientific approach is a ritual, an incantation, a set of magic words and gestures for producing the desired effect.

And what if there are two observers stationed at the same vantage point? Assume that the two scientists involved in this work happened to be together in the laboratory when the experiment was completed successfully for the very first time. They were exploring new territory, so there was no established protocol; they were simply following a hunch. They collapsed the system and exposed one of its states. Both made the same observation. They saw the same page. This could happen only if the observation process itself united them in some way, or if one of them saw the state first and imposed his view of it on the other. Both sides in the quantum-mechanical argument support the theory of relativity which says it is not possible to put either of the observers first. So that leaves us with only one possibility. Observers of the same state at any moment in time are coupled. And if there are more than two, they are grouped. And as joint observers are often too far apart to hold hands or make any normal physical contact during the process of observation, they must be united by some nonphysical factor.

There is only one nonphysical entity that is nevertheless real and sufficiently widespread to be held responsible.

Our consciousness.”

From: Gifts of Unknown Things by Lyall Watson published by Inner Traditions International and Bear & Company, © 1991. All rights reserved.
http://www.Innertraditions.com  
Reprinted with permission of publisher.

I totally agree.