Conscious agents and the emergence of space-time

A proof of reality by reductio ad absurdum

Earlier on this website I wrote already about professor Donald Hoffman – cognitive psychologist – and about his book ‘The Case Against Reality. How evolution hid the truth from our eyes.‘ When reading that book for the first time, a few years ago, I had some objections to the way he came to the counterintuitive conclusion that reality is not what it seems and that our physical senses have not evolved to represent reality. This was because he arrived at his conclusion, by implementing the neo-Darwinist evolution theory of the survival of the DNA of the better fitted carrier thereof. And, as I have argued before, I am not a fan of this materialistic neo-Darwinist theory, although Hoffman’s final conclusion was in line with the conclusions I drew from quantum physics.

Reductio ad absurdum is the best proof there is and also the finest

But I was wrong. What I didn’t realize is that Hoffman shows that the neo-Darwinist hypothesis ultimately, through the application of game theories based on it, evolutionary games, ends up in a logical paradox. By performing a good many computer simulations, evolution games, based on the neo-darwinistic evolution theory, he showed experimentally that the neo-darwinistic hypothesis shoots itself ultimately in the foot. Evolution games, based on the reproduction of the fitter organism for survival, consistently delivered the result that evolution always chooses to adapt our sensory processing in a way that costs the least energy but is effective. A truthful internal representation of reality costs way more than a simple but effective representation that does not have to be truthful.

The delicious juicy apple you observe therefore does not have to be exactly that in reality. If your action – pick it and and eat it – is beneficial for your organism, that’s enough. So it is precisely the case that if neo-darwinism were correct, your image of reality would not. That’s pretty absurd, isn’t it?

Neurons are not the source of consciousness

Hoffman then goes further and says that the image we have formed of physical brains and neurons is also absolutely incorrect. His next step is then to reject the hypothesis that your neurons are the source of your consciousness. It cannot be because the image of material brains and neurons that our physical senses produce cannot correspond to reality. Furthermore, the real hard – and not even approximately solved – question is how physical neurons would produce consciousness. These physical neurons are only just there when we turn our attention to them.

Which is precisely what I conclude from the now well-known observer effect in quantum physics. When we see that the observer, simply by observing, can influence reality – think for instance of the experimentally confirmed changed behavior of the quantum wave if we can know the slit that the electron traverses. That change of the immaterial quantum wave cannot be accomplished by your supposedly physical neurons. Such an assumption would be a fairly absurd one. So Hoffman and I reach the same conclusion, but along different lines.

A network of ‘Conscious Agents’

Hoffman therefore assumes – just like me and many others – that consciousness must be primary. Together with his team he created an already fairly complete mathematical theory, describing a network of interacting consciousness units, Conscious Agents (CAs). His extensive article ‘Objects of consciousness’ of 2014 is easy to find on the internet. In it he shows mathematically, among other things, that several interacting CAs form together a larger and more complex CA. The mathematical description of the simplest CA appears – very surprising – to be identical to the quantum physical description of a free particle. So every conscious organism is a complex CA with several layers of complexity.

Each complex organism is then such a complex CA. Each multicellular organism is made up of billions of cells, where each of them in is a complex CA. And so on. At the very bottom we find particles acting as CAs.

A Virtual Reality game

The interaction of the entire network of interacting complex CAs then ultimately yields spacetime as we experience it. This spacetime is therefore an illusion that is experienced by those complex CAs. Hoffman often uses the virtual reality metaphor of a VR game in which the players present themselves as action figures, named avatars. He often makes the comparison of our senses – not only the eyes – with virtual reality goggles or glasses. What we experience as an object or person is, in that case, not very much different from a set of pixels generated by the VR system at the moment we look there. When we are not looking, those pixels do not have to be generated and are therefore not there.

This also explains the observer related elasticy of space and time as it emerges from special relativity. If space and time are a by a VR system generated experience, we can, in that case, understand that elasticy better.

Note: A pixel is the smallest unit of presentation in an image on a computer screen. Everything you see on a computer screen is made up of pixels.

Pixels – enlarged

What is not observed does not exist

Thus, Hoffmans idea fits seamlessly into the findings of quantum physics that the observed object does not exist before it is observed. The object – the set of pixels – is generated when we focus our attention on it and thus experience it. André Duqum’s interview with Donald Hoffman below – a full two hours – is very interesting and easy to follow because Hoffman explains very patiently. But be advised to take a quiet do-not-disturb moment for viewing the whole interview.

NB: The term ‘Markovian kernel’ is often mentioned in the interview. A Markovian kernel is a mathematical concept used in Hoffman’s CA model. Translate that, for an easy understanding of the concept, into the two-way filter that any communication combination of sense and expression capability actually is. It’s just a highly technical word for what is exchanged and what is suppressed in experiencing and responding.

So, we live in a VR Game. A rather absurd looking conclusion. But that’s no reason to take the game idea not seriously. Perhaps a good reason to just enjoy it without much fear but more in wonder and admiration of the presentations.

Proof That Reality Is An ILLUSION: The Mystery Beyond Space-Time – Donald Hoffman

Coherence, decoherence and the observer of the state wave

The state wave is a probability wave

The state wave in quantum physics is the solution of the Schrödinger equation, it is thus a mathematical object. This mathematical object predicts the probability of an object, to which that state wave relates, to be found at a given time and location when doing a measurement. Because it is a wave, its medium, whatever that is, should be coherent. The coherence of this state wave plays an important role in quantum physics. When a measurement takes place, the state wave ends abruptly and the object is observed. The end of that wave is often called the decoherence of the state wave. An understanding of what is meant by coherence and decoherence is therefore important for a better understanding of quantum physics.

A coherent phenomenon

In order to exhibit wave behavior, a form of cohesion of the medium is required plus a force that strives for the middle position. In water, this cohesion results from the direct physical connection and attraction of the water molecules. It is gravity that returns the medium to the middle position, the rest position of the water surface. Gravity thus ensures the return to the middle position of the wave. The physical connection, the coherence, of the water molecules ensures that the movement is propagated in the medium.

Surface wave in a liquid. The liquid particles perform a circular movement. So there is no liquid transported by the wave in the direction of the wave.

With a sound wave in air, the air pressure is the force that strives for the middle position. This ambient pressure ensures a return to the middle position. In the middle position, the pressure is therefore equal to the ambient pressure. The coherence of the medium transporting sound waves in air stems from the continuous collision of air molecules, through which they constantly exchange their energy. A sound wave is therefore a coherent phenomenon. This means that the air provides coherence, just like with a liquid.

No air molecules are transported in a sound wave, only areas of high and low pressure. Switching on the sound system does not lower the pressure in the room by transporting air molecules out of the room.
© ar.inspiredpencil.com

With electromagnetic waves, EM waves, such as light, the coherence is ensured by the fact that a changing magnetic field also causes a changing electric field. And vice versa. These changes are therefore closely related and evoke each other. The force that makes the EM wave return to the middle position is a bit more difficult. Electric and magnetic fields tend to extinguish gradually when there is no electrical or magnetic charge nearby. Only their mutual dynamics keep them moving. The force to the middle position is therefore a result of the tendency of an oscillating field to lose its energy. This is again a result of the tendency of an electric or magnetic field to spread in space at the speed of light in all directions, so that the local strength must quickly decrease. That an electric or magnetic field spreads in space in this way is a fundamental but also an unexplained phenomenon. We still don’t even know what it is. We only know very well how it behaves.

EM wave. The electric (E) and the magnetic (B) field forces are perpendicular to each other. The change in electric field strength causes a change in magnetic field strength .. and vice versa. This only functions well if the wave moves at the speed of light.

The quantum state wave and the observer

The quantum physical state wave is somewhat more difficult. As far as we can judge and know, it is a wave of potential, of possible observations, in which the probabilities of position and movement, more exactly the probabilities of showing these properties when measured, alternate. This is thus a wave of potential. Potential is clearly immaterial. The object – before its measurement – is not. Position and movement do conflict with each other. If the position changes then that is clearly movement. As soon as there is movement, the position becomes more variable, so it becomes more uncertain. But as soon as the position is more certain, the movement decreases.

In short, standstill is the absence of movement, movement is the absence of standstill. That is therefore also a form of coherence between these two phenomena, position and movement, in which wanting to know position and/or movement is the driving force. In this wanting to know, we immediately, hopefully, recognize the observer’s influence on his observation, which is just having an experience, and perhaps understand a bit more of the non-material nature of the state wave.

Yin and Yang. Standstill is the absence of movement, movement is the absence of standstill

Loss of coherence?

So, can you still speak of a collapse? Can something that is not material, so is not really there in the sense that we are assigning to the idea of materiality, collapse? We never see such a sudden loss of cohesion in all the waves that we can observe unless we take very special measures. Such as the sudden removal of the medium in which the wave propagates. There is then no longer any sound propagating in that vacuum. In an analogous way would a measurement then suddenly annihilate the medium in which the state wave propagates. The appearance of the measured object from nothing is even more mysterious.

Citing decoherence as a cause of the loss of coherence that is the end of the state wave is a tautological trick. Using the description of the event, the name we give it, as a logical explanation is a tautology. It rains because it rains. The wave disappears because the wave disappears. Decoherence is just a label and very probably a misnomer.

An immaterial wave of potential

Now back to the, in my opinion most likely, cause of the transition from the state wave, that wave of potential, to the observed object. This, the transition from potential into realization, happens in our experience, which is the becoming aware of what is observed. It is here that we see the influence of the observer. This is not to say that the awareness of the act of observing something, inexorable means that the observed objects then materially concrete exist. Just think of what we observe in our dreams.

Why are we convinced that the quantum state wave exists when we cannot observe it? That’s because of all these double-slit experiments, the result of which can only be explained as the result of a wave phenomenon. The overwhelming evidence of it.

I have said already a lot about the influence of the observer on what is observed elsewhere. That is something that Einstein saw very early on already as a consequence of quantum mechanics and he did not like it at all. So, he used the predicted effect, the observation of the slit influencing the outcome of the experiment, which is the dissappearance of the fringes, therefore as an argument for his deep suspicion that quantum mechanics could not be a complete theory. Complete in the sense that its predictions were in all circumstances correct. But he was proved right in a way by various experiments that indeed demonstrated the observer effect he had predicted. Quantum mechanics was therefore right in its predictions. Too bad for Einstein.

I refer those who still have doubts about the reality of the observer effect to this fascinating interview with Professor Donald Hoffman below who makes a very convincing argument for the case of primary consciousness. He aasumes a network of a multitude of conscious agents. For an article by him on this, just google for ‘Objects of Consciousness’ or click here for the pdf.

Entangled Neurons?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Btub.jpg
Microtubuli in a fixated cel

If you look closely, quantum entanglement can be found almost everywhere. Quantum entanglement says that objects, however small or big, that were once in contact with each other, share a common state wave and that the observation of one of those objects has an immediate effect on the state wave of the other objects. Can we encounter quantum entanglement in everyday life? Good question. I think so.

Microchimerism in mothers

In the Scientific American of 2013, I come across an article that says that the unborn child’s cells can enter the mother’s body through the placenta to live there for many years. There is no immune response by the mother’s body to this. The phenomenon has been given the name microchimerism. The SA article describes in detail how neuronal brain cells can enter the mother’s brain and then live on for decades. However, the researchers are in the dark about the biological reason for this phenomenon.

‘In this new study, scientists observed that microchimeric cells are not only found circulating in the blood, they are also embedded in the brain. They examined the brains of deceased women for the presence of cells containing the male “Y” chromosome. They found such cells in more than 60 percent of the brains and in multiple brain regions. Since Alzheimer’s disease is more common in women who have had multiple pregnancies, they suspected that the number of fetal cells would be greater in women with AD compared to those who had no evidence for neurological disease. The results were precisely the opposite: there were fewer fetal-derived cells in women with Alzheimer’s. The reasons are unclear.’

White blood cells love playboy girls

Then I jump to an at first sight unrelated topic. I will discuss therefore briefly the controversial research of Cleve Backster, a top specialist in the use of the polygraph. In a playful mood, Backster hooked a polygraph up to a plant to see if the polygraph would show anything when he watered the plant. This gave no discernible response. But when he considered burning a leaf of the plant with his lighter, the polygraph, and therefore the plant, responded violently. His interest was immediately piqued and he continued to do polygraph experiments with all kinds of living organisms throughout his further career. In one of his later experiments, he collected white blood cells from a subject’s mouth, and hooked these somehow up to the polygraph. The subject then leafs – in the meantime – through a Playboy lying on the table next to him and hits on the centre fold picturing Bo Derek. The polygraph responded immediately with a maximum swing of the writing stylus. Apparently the white blood cells , though not physically linked to the subject’s body, were still linked to the subject emotions!

Polygraph result showing the reaction of white blood cells, taken from the subjects’ mouth, to the subject viewing the Playboy Bo Derek centrefold. From ‘The secret life of Plants’.

This is in my opinion entanglement in action.

Entangled living cells

When I connect those two stories – neural cells of their children in mother brains and white blood cells that respond to an emotional event that takes place in the organism they have come from –, then the reason for the microchimerism in mother brains should become clear. If there is a reaction to an alarming situation in the child’s brain, the “entangled” neurons in the mother brain will also fire. The mother receives thus a signal that something serious is going on with her child and that she must intervene quickly. The reports about such maternal instinctive red flag actions are countless. You may still remember stories by your own mother.

Quantum entanglement and information transfer

Now I have spoken here about entangled neurons that apparently can fire in response to each other. That is actually information transfer through quantum entanglement. That’s something Einstein protested vehemently as it would violate his laws of relativity. ‘Spooky Action at a Distance‘. Quantum entanglement has been demonstrated convincingly and repeatedly by many Bell experiments, however, and is now widely accepted. It is even an essential feature used in quantum computing. The Bell experimenters have even been awarded a Nobel Prize. However, quantum physicists explicitly state that quantum entanglement cannot be used for data transfer because the collapse of the quantum state by a measurement (the quantum collapse) is fundamentally unpredictable. We can’t influence the unpredictable outcome of the measurement on the entangled objects.

Descartes again?

Drawing by Descartes how the immaterial mind connects to the pineal gland

The quantum observer effect has also been investigated in parapsychological experiments. The question there was whether people can influence the results of a quantum experiment. The outcome in many of these experiments is affirmative, often with a significance that is even higher than the confirmation of the existence of the Higgs particle. So, this could answer the question that has been asked since Descartes: can an immaterial mind influence matter – the body – and vice versa. Such an influence however goes against generally accepted scientific dogmas, notably the conservation laws of energy. A reason for many to reject Cartesian dualism.

But if we were to allow that possibility, interesting new perspectives would open up in the study of consciousness. Move your index finger and then wonder how it is possible that this movement is created by your thought. The classic orthodox answer to that question is the computer metaphor that is used by neuroscientists. According to them, your brain is an extremely complex advanced parallel processing computer that also generates your consciousness and thus your thoughts. So also the nerve signal to your index finger. Problem solved. Oh yeah, really?

The observer effect has been demonstrated

However, this vision of neuroscience is strongly contradicted by the observer effect in quantum physics. Matter does not exist prior to observation. This has been confirmed by multiple Bell type and Delayed Choice experiments. These confirm that an observation is required for the materialization of matter in a measurement. Since the observer is needed for the manifestation of matter, it is unlikely that matter will produce conscious observers and then manifest itself recursively.

If we can recognize the possibility that the observing mind can also influence the reduction of the state wave – the quantum collapse – then perhaps we can apply the Orchestrated Objective Reduction hypothesis of Penrose and Hameroff where consciousness is a product of the quantum collapse in microtubules (microscopic structures in living cells) in our neurons, but then in the reversed direction. Consciousness is then able, through the influence of the quantum collapse in these microtubules, to control the firing or the not firing of the neuron.

Thus moves my thought my index finger. And mothers are warned that their child is in danger. Magnificent.

Subject, object and synchronicity

The inner and the outer world

In the ‘Quantum Physics & the Mind’ course that I lecture at the Academy of Humanities in Utrecht, The Netherlands, the study assignment is an essay about which insights quantum physics has yielded for the student. In one such an essay, a student wrote that she could well understand the interference pattern that results in the double slit experiment, but that she did not get clear why, as soon as one of the slits is observed, the interference pattern disappears. Musing about the small but important difference between those two experiments, I realized that the problem for many may be found in our usual subject-object stance.

Observing the slits destroys the interference fringes because the quantum wave must then reduce to one of the slits.

The ordinary double slit experiment – where it is not observed through which slit the object or quantum wave goes – is a clear example of how we usually do experiments. We are not physically involved and observe the results from a third person perspective. That is the way we observe the world, as we have been used to do so from childhood, as if the perceived world is not part of our inner world.

As an aside, I assume that it is the quantum wave and not the materialized object that passes through one of the slits. That explains the observed loss of interference just as well and does not contain the additional unnecessary assumption that the object materialized for a moment in the slit even though it was not directly observed there. The assumption that the object materializes in the slit originates probably from the preference we have for the idea of the permanence of matter. The assumption that the state wave is a probability wave as long as it is not observed is sufficient to explain the phenomena without anything materializing anywhere on its path to the detector. If the state wave reduces itself to just one slit, the probability that we would have found the particle there, if we had actually observed there in the slit, is indeed 100%. However, a 100% probability is only just a number in our mind and not the same as a material presence. Probability is not matter.

But as soon as we notice that our mere observation has an effect on the result in the experiment – the state wave changes its behavior, even retroactively, to pass only through one of the two slits – we ourselves become a part of the experiment. Our knowledge, our spiritual inner world, becomes entangled, literally, with the perceived material outer world. Which is absolutely something we are not used to. The intellect – that is the way we interpret the world – no longer understands what happens and backs away. Confusion arises.

The illusion of separate inner and outer worlds

How can this confusion be resolved? The logic is in itself simple and correct. Einstein saw it as early as 1920 (and he was very opposed to what it implied). If you can determine in some way the slit that the particle has passed, it is no longer possible that the outcome is that it has passed through both slits, even if this happens in the form of a probability wave. The probability in one of the slits should become 100%, zero in the other. Those outcomes, passing two slits and passing only one of the slits, are logically and mutually exclusive. The wave therefore conforms clearly its behavior to our knowledge of the world. At that crucial moment, the intellect realizes a violation of its deeply ingrained stance of “I am in here and the world is out there and they are both independent of each other“. Which results in confusion and not being able to understand. I think the only solution to understand this is to let the logic come in through quiet introspection. Ask yourself if you are really sure – from positive experience – if the inner and outer world are separate worlds. The acceptance of the idea that the inner world and the outer world are strongly connected and influence each other must take time. Be patient.

The usual interpretation is that the object materializes in the slit when it is observed and then continues again as quantum wave on its way to the detector. See insert aside above. The result – the disappearance of the interference pattern – is indistinguishable from the expected effect of the reduction of the wave to one slit. In the first case, the observer’s inner world has a slightly different effect on the outer world, materialization of the object in the slit instead of the reduction of the wave. Does the difference matter? Not a bit really.

Who now manifests the object when our inner worlds are separated?

Synchronicity explained

In other words, the outer world is a part of the world of the mind. Which would explain the phenomenon of synchronicity excellently. Synchronicity becomes something that should be expected. How it is possible that we – each aware individual – have an inner world that is not separate from the outside world, is then made understandable by assuming that that seeming individuality, de personal inner world, ultimately is also an illusion, a special form of a constrained perspective. This also sheds light on the consensus question that was an insurmountable problem for Eugene Wigner.

No separate inner and outer world.

How to actually observe the slits

‘Observing’ the slits is a metaphorically intended expression in these experiments. We only need to be able to determine by measurement the slit through which the object went. This is usually done by using two entangled photons, where one of them is sent through the slits and the other one provides us the information about its twin sister.

The principle of ‘observing’ the photon passing the slits. A high-energy photon is split into two photons that fly in two directions, the signal and the idler. The signal photons pass through a double slit and will normally show an interference pattern at X1. The idler photon also carries the path information of the signal photon because of their entanglement. If that information is recorded, the interference at X1 disappears. For more information on this experiment and its results I refer to another page on this website.

Doing three-slit experiments

Wavelike behavior diminishes with increase of information

The question of what happens when ‘observing’ only one of the three slits in a three-slit experiment is of course also interesting here. This question comes up often when I’m giving my course on quantum physics and the mind. With three slits where only one of them is ‘observed’ we have some information, but not enough to know each time which slit the object went through. If we don’t observe the object’s passing – a probability of 2:3 – the state wave will pass through the other two slits. Interference of these two synchronous waves will then occur.

But, if we do ‘observe’ an object passing the observed slit, which means that the probability wave is reduced to the observed slit, then there will be only a single wave coming from the ‘observed’ slit, so no interference. The pattern of fringes, which becomes discernible when we fire a large enough amount of photons, becomes less distinct. The clear fringes and the spread-out spot become superimposed. The less information we can have about the path followed, the stronger the wave behavior becomes. The more information we can have, the stronger the particle behavior will be shown. Which is confirmed in a Korean experiment that I discuss elsewhere. That experiment showed that there is a mathematical relation between information and wave-particle behavior.

Conclusion

So, the illusion is not that of the experience of an illusionary material world, the illusion is one of separation between the mental and the material. There is no hard impenetrable separation between the inner and outer world. Observation: the inner world is undeniably ‘real’. So, the outside world therefore too.

The meaning of what should be understood as real changes accordingly.

The Laws of the Universe

Why does nature obey mathematical formulas?

Galilei investigates the fall movement. His assistant counts his heartbeats to measure the time the rolling ball needs to pass the markings.

Since Galileo Galilei we have known the idea of the laws of nature. A nature that neatly adheres to exact mathematical formulations. These laws describe the supposed immutable mandatory rules that nature has to adhere to. Since Galilei it has proved possible to discover the mathematical descriptions of those laws. It has become the task of the physicist to find them so that we can predict the behavior of the universe with increasing precision. And yes, we are only too happy to predict the future. Alas, quantum physics has thrown there a spanner in the wheels, but the consolation is that the future of large objects can still be predicted very well, the bigger the more precise, but in the small we lose that possibility.

A small selection of those ‘laws’ that we have ‘discovered’ since Galilei:

  • Newton’s first law: the law of inertia: An object on which no resulting force acts stays at rest or moves in a straight line, and at a constant speed.
  • Newton’s third law: Action and reaction are of the same magnitude and opposite.
  • Conservation law of energy and mass: the amount of mass (plus energy) in the universe is constant. No new mass is created and no mass disappears. Mass is solidified energy.
  • Gravitational relativity time dilation Law: time slows down in a gravitational field. The greater the gravity, the slower the clock is ticking.
  • The second law of thermodynamics: the entropy of a closed system can only decrease. This means in simple words that the coherence of the parts of that system, because it is closed, necessarily eventually dissolves into chaos.
  • Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle: The greater the precision with which the location of an object can be determined, the smaller the precision with which we can determine the speed. And vice versa.
  • Quantum ‘Law’: The location and speed of an object in time can be described as a wave of possibilities. This is the state wave. The state wave extends in time and space without limits. It is a wave of potential. The intensity of that wave at a certain location and time indicates the magnitude of the probability that we will find the object when observing at that location and time. This is not yet accepted as a law actually, but it is an extremely accurate interpretation of the meaning of the solution of the Schrödinger equation. Many experiments have confirmed that the object has no speed and location before its observation. It therefore cannot be said to exist before its observation.

All these laws – and more – are discovered by humanity in the last centuries and are all laid down in mathematical formulations. Nature’s behavior can be described apparently very well with mathematical formulas. Many prominent physicists have already expressed surprise and wonder at this willingness of nature. But the more common opinion is that nature should obey to these laws anytime, anywhere. Basta. That opinion is the source of the following statement by Pierre-Simon Laplace (1814):

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. 

An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom.
For such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past could be present before its eyes.

That everything would be predictable – albeit in principle – meant not only the end of chance and of free will, but also that Laplace’s demon is in fact powerless. He knows everything but has to watch the course of events idly. You would almost feel sorry for him. Laplace’s statement is from before the introduction of quantum physics. A physics theory that posits the unpredictability of nature on an atomic scale as a fundamental property of nature. But Laplace still has a major influence on our ideas of reality today

That the mathematical formulations we have found since Galilei have been promoted to laws illustrates the human need for certainties. If something happens often enough, we declare it a certainty. Just like that turkey that gets fresh food every day from the farmer’s wife, which he could declare then a law – till his surprise at Christmas. Rupert Sheldrake also throws the bat into the henhouse in the presentation below by stating that the so-called natural laws are probably just habits of nature.

Even God would better stick to the laws of nature

What is the place of God in this? For the God who has been presented to us by most religions, that does not seem very different from that of that poor demon. The big difference is that God can intervene. Which means he’s overruling then the laws of the universe at his whim. Something we would rather not have, as that makes us powerless. We would rather have a trustworthy God that sticks to his laws. We would then at least have the (false) certainty of the predictable results of our actions, even when we are facing an almighty entity, right?

The past is created and fixed by the observation in the NOW

In the delayed choice experiments, which I also discuss in detail elsewhere on this website, it has been demonstrated that what happened in the past – history – is created and recorded only at the time of observation – NOW. Also have a look at my ‘Schrödinger stopwatch in a closed box’ thought experiment. That is easier to understand and says essentially the same thing. The past is recorded upon observation in accordance with the knowledge that is available to us at that time. Before that observation, that past did not exist. Past is in fact just memory.

That is the inescapable conclusion of the delayed choice experiments I discuss elsewhere. If we can have knowledge of the slit through which the photon passes in the double slit experiment, the state wave that describes that photon will only pass through one slit. The probability that the photon was in the other slit is zero. Even if that information only arrives in our awareness later. This apparent retro-causality follows inescapably from the results of the delayed choice experiments. It cannot, of course, happen that this outcome may conflict with information that surfaced at a later time. That would incur a real change of the already recorded past and therefore mean real retro-causality. That existing but unseen information still influences the outcome of an experiment is an even more stunning conclusion. It means that the universe must therefore be aware of existing but still unobserved information! This is indeed congruent with the law of conservation of information that quantum physicists have discovered.

The result of observing the photons as they are passing the double slit. As soon as the slits are observed in order to catch passing photons, the interference pattern disappears. There is only a single wave left for each photon. With many photons, a single diifuse spot is created in the middle behind the slits.

Incidentally, creating the past by observing also explains the apparent retrocausality that occurred in the parapsychological experiments of Helmut Schmidt and Marilyn Schlitz that I describe extensively in two previous blogs (here and here).

An intelligent and intentional operating universe

In other words, the universe makes everything – in retrospect – happen, matching the expectations we have of it, based on available information, although that information is not yet known to us. As far as I am concerned, that is enormously impressive intelligent behavior of the universe. The Universe is therefore very probably aware of our current knowledge plus the existing knowledge that we are not yet aware of – but that will in the future be at our disposal – and finally of our expectations we have on the basis of what we know. The Universe then ensures that the observed events, our experiences, correspond to that knowledge plus our expectations based on that knowledge and on previous experiences.

That’s Hollywood studio’s on steriods over glassfiber – no, it’s infinitely more than that.

Even when the knowledge where the Universe is aware of, is not in our own awareness yet but, for instance, waiting in a drawer, on a yet to be developed photonegative or on a hard drive in a computer, it will be taken into account.

The law of conservation of information

And so we have arrived at a law that was not mentioned in the list at the top this blog. A law discovered by quantum physicists during the last century and that they take as seriously as the other conservation laws: The total amount of information of a closed system is constant. Physicists have discovered that information is a physical reality and must therefore comply with the other conservation laws. In order to use that law in their calculations they express the information of a system in groups of zeros and ones, bits and bytes. That black holes seem to destroy information runs contrary to this conservation law which is at the moment still an issue in physics.

Translate what these physicists understand by their concept of information into available knowledge, the knowledge we can gain about the system if we investigate it. But now I hope you start to suspect that information conservation is not a real law, some script that the universe has to obey following cause and effect blindly. On the contrary, it is very active to ensure that the total knowledge – including still unobserved but somehow existing knowledge – matches precisely what is experienced.

So now becomes clear, I hope, that the laws of nature that we experience are the result of intelligent and intentional behavior of The Universe / God / Source / The One. This means that The Universe monitors and controls everything that happens in the visible and invisible universe down to the smallest detail, in order that what is experienced by us or by any intelligence corresponds to the expectations and knowledge of every living being in that universe. And I think that means that if we adjust our expectations, there will very probably be listened.

It’s time to work on our expectations

For many, right now, our expectations are those that arise from the image of a mind-bogglingly large but completely indifferent universe, in which we have accidentally ended up. On that basis, we will have to make the most of it in that one single life that we have, whereby that ‘best’ is strongly limited by those supreme and inflexible laws of nature. It is therefore high time that we adjust our expectations. I strongly suspect on the basis of the all-knowing, intentional, and attentive character of the universe that we will be listened to.

Each observer is a different perspective of ánd on the universe

And what are we, those observers of the Universe then? That could well be the universe itself divided into a myriad of observers. I think that the simultaneity of all those observations is no problem for such an Universe. After all, it creates time itself as I argue in Schrödinger’s stopwatch. For comparison: The Unix operating system for computers has no problem with simultaneity because of the enormous speed of the processor, if I can make an irreverent comparison with a computer operating system. Each observer is then a unique individual perspective of the universe on itself, a conscious individual peephole to itself.

That is also the solution to the consensus problem in quantum physics that prompted Eugene Wigner – Nobel Prize winner in physics – to abandon his initial belief that it is consciousness that plays a role in the reduction of the state wave – the quantum collapse. He confused his own awareness with the consciousness of the universe.

Miracles happen, Every day, Everywhere you look.

It is actually abundantly clear that the laws of nature are regularly violated. That’s what we, those little peepholes, call miracles. They have been described and recorded so often and by several witnesses that it is time for us to ‘believe’ more in The Universe / God / Source / The One than in those unchanging indifferent laws of nature.

By believing, however, I do not mean that critical thinking should be suspended, on the contrary.

A warning should be given here, do not confuse expectations with desire. This is what happens when people try to materialize a shining new car by desiring and visualizing the outcome. 

Quantum Physics and PSI

Quantum physics and psi may sound like a strange combination at first hearing. But on closer inspection, the connection is even obvious, however in an indirect way. The quantum collapse, the collapse of the intangible state wave and the manifestation of the object upon observation, is an experimentally confirmed fact. However, as long as you refuse to give up the material vision of the world – that there is only matter and energy and nothing more – you will not be able to understand the world as quantum physics reveals to us. You can, probably, perform mathematical calculations, and with great predictive success, but that is not the same as understanding.

“What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school…
It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don’t understand it.
You see, my physics students don’t understand it…
That is because I don’t understand it.
Nobody does.”  

Richard Feynman in a lecture on quantum physics.

Science fiction as a metaphor and prediction

However, if we are willing to accept that the world is showing itself to us because we observe it and that we are therefore an intrinsic and necessary part of the world, not only quantum physics becomes understandable, but also psi because in that vision the world is primarily mental. Above that, quantum entanglement tells us also that everything is connected. It would perhaps be better to avoid the word connected because that implies separation, even when that is a separation in which everything is connected. The world is ultimately one. Even a quantum physicist like Heinrich Päs eventually comes to that conclusion in his book The One. I wrote about his book in a previous blog. Think also of David Bohm’s Implicit Order, which is only another name for the single source from which everything, the explicit order, unfolds.

In this way, when the mind is needed for material manifestation and thus precedes matter as it presents itself to us in place and time, psi becomes a very acceptable and even predictable possibility. If we do create the world by observation, it is very understandable that we also influence it with intention. Numerous experiments, where quantum generators are influenced by intention, have shown that psi is a real effect. Knowing that we also create time through observation, the idea of viewing in the future, something that belongs to the psi phenomena, won’t be very surprising. The quantum wave, as it follows from the Schrödinger equation, extends endless into the future without bounds. Its end, the quantum collapse, is the result of observation, an action that cannot be captured in the equation. This means that the future cannot be fixed since there are many observers. So viewing the future clairvoyantly is merely looking at a possible future, at something that will happen if we don’t take action to prevent it.

The main character - the hero of the story - Jason dinAlt, has a psychic gift with which he provides for his somewhat irregular but profitable existence by significantly enhancing his chances of winning in casinos. He becomes involuntarily  involved in the struggle for existence waged in a human mining colony on the planet Pyrrus. He wins a fortune in a big casino on an urgent assignment, almost  on the point of their gun, for a group of settlers from the planet Pyrrus. In itself an exciting scene that would do well in a Hollywood movie. The settlers have a great need for money to continue their deadly struggle with the planet. That battle is one against a nature that attacks the settlers with claw and teeth. Going out on the streets of the only settlement is already extremely dangerous and a sure death for the unprepared. The flora and fauna are lightning fast and extremely deadly. Children are already in kindergarten trained violently in survival tactics. Jason is ashamed to have a toddler as a protector and instructor because that's vital for his street survival.
Jason, meanwhile, learns that there are also descendants of runaway settlers who, without advanced technology, succeed in surviving and seem even to be thriving in that hostile nature. The relationship between the settlers and the runaways is not cordial, on the contrary. He makes contact with these runaways by actually making a narrow escape from the settlement. Landed outside the settlement, he notices that all nature on Pyrrus is psychic and that all this psychic "energy" is directed against the small settlement. In fact, the planet is working very hard to remove a persistent irritant from its surface. This psychic energy is apparently able to produce increasingly hostile mutations in the flora and fauna in an asthonishing rate. He finds that the settlers once evoked that reaction of the planet through destructive behavior towards the native flora and fauna, the runaways tell him this. Jason initiates contact between the settlers in the settlement and the hated runaways. The planet is appeased when man shows respect for nature. The settlers and the runawayse are reconciled. All's well that ends well.

You can find many examples where science fiction made a prediction that came true or very near to it. Is that perhaps also the case in Death Planet? Well, it is becoming increasingly recognized that mutations are not the result of just chance. They are intelligent adaptations to challenging circumstances. Is psi perhaps involved in evolution? Secondly, are you not seriously reminded by this story of the direction in which humanity is going on earth? I am. Earth is starting to protest against our presence. Deadly viruses, earth quakes, hurricanes, floods and more. Harrison apparently saw it coming in 1960. Psi and science fiction are a good combination. A pretty good one. The warning is that we have to make peace with and show respect for nature, else …

By the way, my new book 'Quantum Physics & the Mind, a Crash Course' is out.
Click on the image for more information

Yin and Yang

Observation causes the manifestation, 
manifestation causes the observation.

The first part is the message of quantum physics, the second part is so obvious that we tend not to see the connection. But there is a straight connection between the two. Both seem opposites and implicate and initiate each other. It’s very much like the Yin-Yang symbol for simultaneous unity and duality. Yin and Yang are not real opposites but complementary and shape reality, just as observation and manifestation do.

We experience the events in the world as something that happens to us, but the truth is deeper, we are the author of our own story. But we are so absorbed in our story that we have forgotten our authorship.

The experience of a thought is the thinking of that thought. Do you see the obvious parallel to the observer effect? Think about that. Isn’t everything we experience a thought?

Which means that the moment you really control your thoughts, you have your own story also in hand. That is essentially what you are looking to achieve with meditation.

Hence our fascination with stories, such as in a book, a film, a play. We are the storyteller and the listener at the same time. Even dreams are actually stories that we create ourselves without realizing that we create them. The moment we realize that we dream, that it is ourselves who are creating the dream, we dream lucidly.

Isn’t the transition in dying something like it? In the communications about life after death that come to us through mediums and shamans, life after death is very similar to a transition from an ordinary to a lucid dream.

The Realities of Heaven: Fifty Spirits Describe Your Future Home.
by Miles Allen.

Asking for the meaning of existence is asking about the meaning of listening to stories, of the meaning of creating stories, of going to the cinema, of visiting a stage performance, of listening to music, of reading or writing a book. Of gathering wisdom.

This is the deeper message of quantum physics. Things, matter, are stories that we tell. That’s all folks.

Retrocausality or Retro-creativity?

Rereading the excellent book ‘The Holographic Universe’ by Michael Talbot – originally published in 1991 and still a splendid and well-documented overview of scientifically based insights on the nature of reality – a passage in the chapter ‘Time out of Mind’ resonated with my idea that we not only do create matter by observing but also do create time. Read also my post ‘Schrödingers Stopwatch‘ on this site why I think that is so. Therefore, try to understand really what Talbot describes and what it implies. Talbot writes there:

"At the 1988 Annual Covention of the Parapsychological Association, Helmut Schmidt and Marilyn Schlitz announced that several experiments they had conducted that mind may be able to alter the past as well."

What had Schmidt and Schlitz found to justify their remarkable statement? Well, in one of their experiments, they had produced 1000 different sound tracks through a random computer process and copied these sound tracks onto 1000 empty audio cassettes. Each sound track consisted of a series of audio clips, each clip differing in duration and character. Half of these audio clips were producing tones that were pleasant to the ear, the other half were producing uncomfortable raw noise. The computer selection program randomly chose clips from a database of 100 different clips, 50 of them producing pleasant tones, 50 of them just unpleasant noise.

Important: The selection process was a 100% random process, and the duration of each clip was also the result of a random process, so the expectation is roughly a fifty-fifty distribution of pleasant/unpleasant clips, not only in their number but also in the length of each clip.

These 1000 cassettes – containing the copies of the prepared soundtracks – were then sent by mail to volunteers. These were instructed, while listening to the cassette, to try with their minds to lengthen the duration of the pleasant clips and to shorten the duration of the unpleasant ones. The original 1000 soundtracks were still residing – unlistened to – in the laboratory of Schmidt and Schlitz.

When the subjects had finished listening to the tape, they informed Schmidt and Schlitz, who then examined the original sound track, that still resided in their laboratory. They found that the original sound tracks, after the subjects had listened to the copies, contained significantly more pleasant tones than unpleasant noise. Their conclusion was that the subjects had influenced the production process and thus had changed the past. Talbot joins their view:

"In other words, it appeared that the subjects had psychokinetically reached back through time and had an effect on the randomized process from which their prerecorded cassettes had been made."

Talbot thus also interprets this – the influence of the minds of the subjects on the randomly chosen length and type of sound clips from a database with 50/50 divided pleasant and unpleasant sound types – as a real retrocausal effect, a psychokinetic backwards action in time, thus changing the past. However, I am here of a different opinion, one that has a lot to do with the non-locality in space and time of quantum entanglement.

It’s not found in the description in Talbot’s book if the random generation of the compilation of sound clips was controlled by a QRNG, but it is very likely that it was given Schmidt’s other experiments. I’m assuming such for the moment.

Quantum entanglement applies also to macro objects

Nothing in quantum physics dictates that entanglement applies only to elementary particles. Most quantum physicists accept the possibility of entangling macro objects.

When generating the sound tracks, the QRNG and the sound tracks became entangled. Most quantum physicists will agree to that. Copying the generated sound tracks on the cassettes created more entanglement, the contents of the cassettes became also entangled with the QRNG. What was recorded and copied onto the cassette had not been observed yet. The contents of the cassettes – the magnetization of the iron particles – were therefore still a non-collapsed quantum state wave. However, the physical material of the cassettes, the cassette including the recording tape, was visually observable, so the observable part of it was material. The cassettes were then unlistened to – their content not observed, so still entangled with the QRNG – sent to the subjects. So the entanglement of QRNG, soundtrack, ánd copy thereof, now stretched considerably over time and place.

It was only when listening that the entangled quantum state wave – which contained not only the probabilities of the magnetization of the iron particles on the cassette but also the probabilities of the electronic zeros and ones generated by the QRNG – collapsed in its entirety in time and space. Only then – through the observation by the subject – did the entire production history of the contents of the audiocassette along with its contents become history as an experienced reality. So, the full history was created by listening to the contents of the tape.

So the past was not really altered, that would be true retrocausality, but the past was created at the moment of listening – observation – by a conscious person. Finally, if Schmidt and Schlitz didn’t use a QRNG in their experiment, but some other not-quantum based device, then this only has even greater implications for our ideas about quantum entanglement.

Feeling the future

Finally, this reminds me also of the more recent experiments conducted by Daryl Bem in 2011. He also noticed an effect, where the past seems to be altered by an action in the present. Studying the answers after the test, had a measurable positive effect on the test results. Indeed, the improved test results are clearly already in the past. But in my opinion it is not the already fixed past that is altered. It’s more comprehensible to consider it as an action in the present that is influenced by an action in the future. This action in the future is already residing as a potential in the outside time and place existing entangled quantum state wave. The future exists already in some quantum state, it is however not fixed. Which explains why prophetic dreams do not always come true.

The One

The ultimate ground of the world.

Some physicists are beginning to realize that quantum physics has much more to say about the world than that quantum mechanics is an unparalleled successful predictor of physical phenomena. The book ‘The One‘ by Heinrich Päs, professor of theoretical physics at TU Dortmund, is a very good example of this changing attitude. He concludes that quantum physics can only be fully understood if we accept the existence of a quantum universe – already ages ago described by many philosophers as The One – as the ground of the world we observe.

According to Päs, this quantum universe is the – immaterial yet real – version of Everett’s multiverse, but metaphysical instead of physically material. Päs states that the image presented to the public of endlessly splitting material universes is wrong, brought into the world by opponents of Everett’s idea. All these possible universes exist certainly, however as state waves that together, by their respective superpositions, form one single state wave, where all their oscillations cancel each other out. This composite superpositioned state wave of all possible universes together is The One, the unmoving immaterial ground of everything, where space, time and matter do not exist any more, not even as thought, but from which all observed diversity sprouts. This is the Tao of Lao Tze, here anew presented as an ultimate quantum metaphysical reality..

So what’s Everett’s idea, precisely?

To answer that, we first need to look at the greatest mystery that quantum physics confronts us with, the quantum collapse. The end of the – unlimited in space and time expanded (non-local) – immaterial state wave that, according to the accepted quantum physics interpretation, represents the probability to find the material particle at measurement when, precisely at that act of measurement, that wave ends abruptly. This end of that state wave is however not predicted by the mathematics describing the state wave, the Schrödinger equation. How the act of measurement triggers this abrupt transition of immaterial probabilities into matter is still not explained satisfactorily. The most commonly accepted explanation given is decoherence, which is actually not an explanation but only a verbal description of what seems to occur. Which is that a coherent phenomenon – the wave – suddenly loses its coherence as a connected whole, whereupon only one element of it – the in our measurement found particle – remains and becomes matter.

The attributed name – decoherence – doesn’t really explain how it works. However, Päs explains decoherence as an effect caused by the necessarily limited perspective of the observer on the composite quantum wave of the universe, that one single unmoving state wave in which the state waves of all possible universes are summarized, superpositioned in the language of the physicist. His explanation how a limited perspective of the observer hides the full unmoving universal state wave and presents us only one of its myriad components, does unfortunately not go into more detail.

A metaphor he offers as an explanation is that of a completely flat ocean surface that, observed from an overall perspective, shows no movement, but which in that motionlessness may as well be the result of an endless conjoining of an enormous number of waves, that together completely cancel each other out. Waves can cancel each other out, which is what we call destructive interference. This is applied in noise reduction headphones. From a much more restricted perspective then, the area of that ocean that we are able to observe becomes something that appears to be separated from the rest. I don’t understand fully how a perspective change will present to us the world of distinct objects, but it’s an interesting image and it can at least serve as a useful metaphor for a rough explanation of the idea. If you accept his idea, the decoherence of the state wave, happening on measurement, is not that the state wave does disappear into thin air on observation, but that it is just no longer observable from the limited perspective of the observer. The observer observes then only a small part of the full quantum universe. It’s still there, in its immaterial way, but we can’t ‘see’ it.

Everything becomes an observer

Which raises the questions of what an observer actually is, and – related – if an observer is really necessary for evoking the quantum collapse. Everett’s idea to do away with the observer and the quantum collapse is that every possibility exists in the state wave where ‘existence’ does not mean a material existence, but nevertheless a real existence. With this, the definition of what is real is changed in an important way. Accept this for the moment. According to Everett’s proposal, in the double-slit experiment with a single object shot at the slits, both possibilities exist in a real way – the object goes through the left slit and it goes also through the right slit – but both in their own separate immaterial realities. In each of these two realities exists an immaterial observer, who observes the only one outcome within his reality. Every observer is after all only able to observe the reality in which he exists. This eliminates the apparent necessity of a physically enigmatic influence of the observer on the state wave, triggering the quantum collapse of that wave, simply because there is no collapse at all. Instead, however, there are now two completely identical observers.

I hope that you will understand that Everett’s proposal does not impose any special immaterial requirements on the observer, such as perceptive awareness, a camera will suffice. The underlying condition for his idea is clearly that consciousness is an emergent property of the immaterial but nevertheless real brain of the observer. Both observers in both universes are (immaterially) identical to each other and therefore have an identical emergent consciousness, with their also identical emergent memories. The only difference is their observation at the time of the experiment. There splits their universe, with them in it, in two.

Wat is real, really?

Multiverse interpretation of Schrödinger’s living ánd dead cat.

This example of ‘bifurcating’ observers in their universes has been kept simple for reasons of explanation here, way simpler than in any practical real double-slit experiment. In practice, there are many, almost innumerable, possibilities in such an experiment where the observed object can manifest itself everywhere at any of the interference fringes on the back screen, and each possibility therefore means a split universe, each including a copy of the observer. I hope you see that the number of universes and observer copies can get quite substantial if not improbably gargantuan. Therefore, Päs stresses that all these possible universes are not material, even if they are real. The definition of what is real therefore needs to be adjusted. But in such an extended interpretion of reality, an illusion, even a dream, is also something real, although I think Päs does not want to stretch it that far.

Emergent consciousness as condition for the multiverse

Only by considering consciousness as an emergent property of the physical brain, this way of interpreting quantum physics is defensible, it is definitely a prerequisite for Everett’s idea, and this assumption is also stated repeatedly in Päs’s book: ‘Of course, as long as we stick to the reasonable hypothesis that our consciousness is confined within our brains, …’. After shortly considering the idea of primary consciousness as a possible cause of the quantum collapse like, for example, John von Neumann did – Päs joins the almost unanimous opinion of neurologists (Tononi et al.) that consciousness is an emergent product of the brain. He forgets that neurology is an ultimately reductionistic branch of science while he argues elsewhere in his book strongly against reductionism in physics.

Monism – not a new idea – to the rescue of physics?

The idea of the existence of an ultimate source of reality that is The One, that knows no separation, that contains no separate elements, that knows no time and space, is called monism. Päs spends an extensive and indeed fascinating chapter of his book on the history of monism. It is a view on reality – also known under the more common denominator Platonism – that can already be found in Greek antiquity with proponents like Thales, Plato, Parmenides, Pythagoras, and Philolaus. Later on, monism as an opponent of the monotheistic but dual presentation of the world that the Christian church steadfast portrays, repeatedly pops up in historical figures such as Giordano Bruno, Kepler, Copernicus, Meister Eckhart, John Scotius Eriugena, and much later on in time, Spinoza and Kierkegaard.

According to Päs, the strong reactionary suppression of the Catholic church of these clearly monistic ideas, through torture, pyre, excommunication and social exclusion, is the root cause of the fact that the notion of an immaterial ground of our reality is not very popular at the moment, certainly not among most physicists, although I do notice a growing change in attitude. Bohr and Heisenberg also played an important role in this suppression, with their idea of complementarity, by classifying the deeper reality of the state wave as not relevant to physical theories. They classified thus the contradictions, between for example particle and wave, as fundamental to nature, and thus not susceptible to further investigation. There is just no underlying reality to investigate. Case closed. Shut up and calculate.

According to Päs, this is the reason that physics, with its highly reductionistic approach, is currently in crisis. The investigation into the foundations of matter has so far been sought in the ever smaller dimensions of matter for which the necessary energies ánd finances are correspondingly increasing . The path of reductionist approach of nature, and what could be achieved by it, seems to have come to an end. It is therefore time, according to Päs, to introduce monism as a grounding principle in physics. Quantum physics and the quantum universe show us the way.

Entanglement as the ultimate creator of unity and universal love

According to Päs, entanglement is by far the most important factor in the quantum universe. It ensures a connection of everything with everything and confirms thus the unity of The One. Individual properties of the parts do cease to exist in favor of strongly interrelated properties. Interestingly, he quotes Neoplatonist John Scotus Eriugena in: ‘Just as entanglement unites the universe in quantum cosmology, for Eriugena it is “the pacific embrace of universal love” that “ gathers all things together into the indivisible unity which is what He Himself is, and holds them inseparably together”. Päs, apparently makes here a connection between quantum entanglement and what Eriugena calls universal love. That immediately reminds me of the NDE reports that are almost always about the overwhelming experience of universal love. This is found in almost all reports. That’s real, if only because of the amount of data.

You could protest now that you and your ex have a common history and must therefore be quantum physically entangled, but that there is no more love in your present relationship. Päs would say – I think – that your observation is of course a matter of your limited perspective.

Love is entanglement, entanglement is love.

Does Päs acknowledge the quantum physical reality of universal love? It might be different. By linking entanglement and universal love in this way, he also could reduce the latter to the first. Love would then become something that could be examined in the physicist’s laboratory as a phenomenon to which numbers could be assigned by means of measurement. He would then do the same that physicists have done with the actually incomprehensible mystique of forces at a distance, as we experience it with gravity, electricity and magnetism; reducing it to a field that can be measured and described mathematically and thus reduce the phenomenon to something that belongs to the material universe. Reïfication by reduction.

How could they know?

An important question then is, of course, how the ancient philosophers had already stumbled on this principle of the very substance of our reality without having the technical tools available to science today. The ancient Greeks had little more at their disposal than their own senses and their sharp minds. Päs just briefly goes into this and assumes that early and primitive humanity was capable of a more direct observation of The One than modern man, and that these insights were handed down from generation to generation. Which is very close to the assumption of the general validity of mystical lore.

Summary and comments

At the end of this book review, it is good to briefly summarize Päs’ ideas, supplemented with my summarized comments:

  1. The perceived reality is an illusion and originates in the quantum universe. Certainly a remarkable statement by a physicist.
  2. The multiverse is the quantum universe and it is not material. It’s one. That too is remarkable.
  3. In the apparent split of the universe, the physical observer and his mind also split into several observer copies, each observing a single outcome. The quantum collapse is therefore the impression that every observer copy has because each one observes necessarily only a single result of the many possible outcomes. That means that an underlying assumption has to be made, that the mind is a product of the physical brain. That assumption is essential in this multiverse explanation of the quantum collapse. Accepting this, the large number of experiences of people leaving their body at the threat of an imminent physical demise, often verified by third parties, while being able to perceive and report the circumstances near their body correctly (the NDE), are either completely ignored or declared as illusion.
  4. In this assumption, the observer is therefore just a physical object, so that actually every physical object becomes an observer. Which is also the conclusion that, among others, Carlo Rovelli, Sean Carrol and Thomas Hertog convey. Why certain objects, such as lenses, mirrors and even reflective crystals, are exempt from being observers is not clear to me.
  5. But since, according to Päs, physical reality is an illusion, we as observer have an illusion that observes the world and thus creates also reciprocally the illusion of the observer. Whoever wants to believe something contorted like that, is fooling himself, as far as I’m concerned.
  6. The quantum collapse is caused by decoherence which is, according to Päs, an effect of the observer’s limited perspective. The deeper mechanism of decoherence, and how it is triggered, remains unexplained.
  7. Given the interference that the state wave always shows us when it travels through the double slit, all those universes must be able to interfere with each other. That can only be true if all those universes are themselves indeed non-material state waves. Then they can indeed interfere with each other, because they are waves. In this way, they are not material and therefore do not contain any material observer copies. How a non-material state wave can then produce emergent consciousness is pure speculation.
  8. As Päs describes the quantum universe, he is already very close to the idea of the universal mind from which all reality comes, which is a description precisely matching those reported by many near-death experiences. He’s clearly switching his own perspective and he is almost there.

In short: A fascinating, instructive and in general honest book of the quest of a quantum physicist for the meaning and future of quantum physics and a much needed beginning of a farewell to the there-is-only-matter paradigm.

The Observer and his Measuring Device

The classical view on observation and measurement.

In classical physics, the human observer does not play a creative role in what is observed. Everything is observed from the so-called 3rd person perspective. In all physics experiments, any influence of the measurement on what is measured should be avoided as far as possible, although some small effect is unavoidable. For example, consider the radar detection of a vehicle’s speed. The radar photon will bounce back from the vehicle and thus have a tiny influence on the speed of the vehicle. But that effect is so small that we can safely ignore it in practice. Protesting the traffic control fine on account of this effect will be in vain. The electricity meter also uses a very small amount of energy by its measurement. But protesting the energy bill on that account will also be in vain, I am afraid.

Observation in quantum physics

However, in quantum physics – a branch of physics that has succesfully taken over the fundamental role of its parent, classical physics – this is not the case. The way we measure is of crucial influence on the behavior of that which we are measuring. There is nowadays no doubt about that effect. Is it the influence of the measuring instrument or of the experimenter? After 120 years of quantum physics success, the discussion about exactly what a measurement is is still not definitely decided. Measurement causes the so-called quantum collapse, the end of the immaterial state wave and the emergence of the material particle. John von Neumann – one of the first quantum physicists – already stated emphatically that the observed object and the measuring instrument are not physically connected in some way and thus cannot cause the quantum collapse.

Two waves meet without collapsing each other

This was the way he reasoned; both – instrument and measured object – are ultimately composed of fundamental particles that, when not measured, will behave like an immaterial wave of probabilities, which is their state wave. Both state waves will meet each other when doing the measurement, but will not collapse, just as two meeting waves will run unimpeded through each other without eliminating in some way the other wave. On meeting they excite their medium by summing their movements and after that they just roll on, unaffected. According to von Neumann, there is therefore no reason to assign a special influencing role to the physical measuring instrument with regard to the end of the state wave. His insight was dismissed by later phycisists, as the influence of the observer (and his consciousness) was not considered as something objectively measurable and was therefore preferred to be left out of physics. What made it even worse is that the state wave is a wave that we can formally describe, calculate and predict with physics – that is, with numbers and symbols – but that the state wave itself is not materially observable. It does not even exist in a material sense. It is a wave of probabilities and these are numbers, symbols, mathematical constructions of the mind.

Is then everything an observer?

As soon as you make a measurement, however, the immaterial wave ceases to exist and we find only one of the many possibilities, the particle, which is decidedly not a wave. This behavior is also expressed in the Copenhagen interpretation of Bohr and Heisenberg. Gradually, the insight of von Neumann, Bohr and Heisenberg – mainly because of some recent advanced quantum physical experiments such as the delayed choice experiments – has been confirmed in such a way that the observer, who is seemingly physically realising that which is observed, can no longer be ignored and is acknowledged as an essential element in the fundamental understanding of nature, which is of course something what physics aspires to. This inspired Carlo Rovelli – among others – to declare that literally every object acts as an observer of any other object in order to materialize each other. So, according to his idea, each particle only exists materially in relation to another particle. My question is then, of course, how to imagine such a process, where both particles – while not yet existing materially – are able to relate to each other and then become material as a result. In my opinion, the order of events here is wrong. Cosmologist and quantum physicist Thomas Hertog describes in ‘The origin of Time’ something similar; all things become observers causing the quantum wave to collapse and therefore matter to appear. But things are made of matter which has to collapse itself first? So – to ask the real question – what exactly do we mean by an observer and what role does it actually play?

What is an observer according to quantum physics?

Alternative realities Wigner’s friend experiment 2019

In many quantum physical experiments – especially those seeking to investigate the observer effect – have until now been carried out by an instrument acting as observer. The question is whether this is the right perspective. In an complex experiment pictured in the above figure – it was based on Eugene Wigners thought experiment with two observers – Wigners idea was indeed implemented, albeit with instruments acting as observers. In such an experiment, part of the experiment is carried out within a closed environment. One of the so-called observers is residing within that closed environment and thus observes directly the result of ‘his’ experiment. The state wave is then considered to collapse by that observer observing the experiment and has by that observation collapsed into an observed particle.

But outside this closed environment there is a second observer for which the content of that closed environment – the larger box with the experiment and the first observer in it – is still an uncollapsed state wave as long as the second observer has not yet observed the contents of the larger box. Only when that second observer can observe the contents of the larger box will for ‘him’ the state wave end, making the measurement of the particle becoming a fact. As far as the second observer is concerned it is then that the particle becomes manifested with its physical properties. Who of these observers is now the person who triggers the materialisation of the measured particle with its properties?

The figurines inside and outside the boxes, representing the observers, are physical measuring instruments and lack therefore any consciousness that could interpret their observation. So, is an interpretating consciousness really necessary here? The experimenters apparently do not think so. Anyhow, the outcome of the experiment implicated surprisingly that we could start to doubt the existence of an objective material world in which consensus rules, in which a fact is simply a fact, regardless of who did observe it.

Is consciousness really needed? Is interpretation necessary?

Can a physical instrument observe its environment and then interpret its observation? I would like to draw attention here to something that I do not think a physical instrument can do, however advanced it may be, namely interpretation, giving meaning to perception. That’s the core of the case here. What is interpretation? Can a physical instrument do that? The experimenters think so, which fits their materialistic image of the world in which man, and any organism, is only a complex machine. Something that can – in principle – be described as the result of its parts. The observers brain is according to them merely an advanced computer, coincidentally created in the evolutionary process of survival of the most suitable biological machines. The mind, emerging from the brain, can therefore be replaced by an advanced but non-biological machine such as ChatGPT, an AI. Interpretation by the mind is – in that vision – not different from a calculation. So, the question is; is there any difference between an organic living observer and an observing instrument? And what is the difference? In trying to answer this question, we have to simplify the discussion and look at the essential differences between a simple ‘acting’ measuring instrument – a central heating thermostat – and an organic observer.

Can a physical instrument be an observer?

What is the difference between the central heating thermostat and the biological entity that depends on its central heating thermostat for a pleasant ambient temperature? Is there a fundamental difference, fundamental in the physical sense? The thermostat ‘senses’ the ambient temperature, determines if it deviates from the optimal value, and then activates or deactivates the central heating boiler. Is that interpretation? Is that a measurement? These seem to me to be essential questions, although I suspect that they cannot be answered with a 100% waterproof answer. But I will try.

What causes the state wave to collapse?

We could therefore ask the following question. How is it possible that a physical instrument, which itself is not observed and thus is in a state wave, will cause the state wave to collapse or reduce? (The “collapse of the wave function” is also known as the “reduction of the wave packet). Consider the central heating thermostat. It does its job, even if no one is present because you have forgotten to lower the ambient temperature for a few days of absence. When you return home after a few days of absence you will notice that the house is warm, that the thermostat is still set on higher temperatures, so you must conclude that during your absence the boiler has been burning fuel for nothing. That conclusion – fuel burned for nothing – is interpretation. This unconscious thermostat was not able to understand that, otherwise it would have chosen to lower the desired ambient temperature. Can you still say that this unconscious thermostat is an observer? If so, did the thermostat collapse the state wave that contains your unobserved central heating boiler, all the radiators and the air in your home into a materiality? Every time it measured the temperature? How?

Real observers are interpreters

I think indeed that a real observer should be able to interpret his observations. Interpretation is assigning a meaning to an observation. That’s not what an instrument does. I have to tell the thermostat first, by programming it, which is a pleasant temperature. It cannot do that by itself because such an instrument has no knowledge of ‘pleasant’. Now you might argue that an advanced AI like ChatGPT could do it. But to do that, ChatGPT should first search through a huge database with data on what are pleasant temperatures for human beings. And how is ChatGPT’s database fed with these data? Indeed. By human beings who have recorded what they experience as a pleasant temperature. Had they not done so, ChatGPT would not be able to produce an answer on the question of what a pleasant temperature is. You might get an answer on the question of what ambient temperature a biological human being needs. But that’s not what is meant by pleasant. Pleasant is not a numerical expressible experience. Always, and without exception, the question of the meaning of an observation, its interpretation, has to be traced back to an observation by a conscious being. A being that was able to consciously interpret his perception as pleasant or unpleasant, red or green, hard or soft, wet or dry, beautiful or ugly. These experiences are certainly not numbers. I hope you will realize that, without living people, the ‘pleasantness’ of a temperature wouldn’t make any sense. The thermostat has no inkling of ‘pleasantness’. Of course it can be programmed to produce pleasant temperatures, but that always takes someone to think what that means and to translate it subsequently into the numbers a machine can process.

Conscious interpretation is always the final act of an experiment

The fact that a conscious interpreter is ultimately required, in my view, applies without exception to any experiment. Even for a run of the enormous Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. Ultimately, the result is always observed by a conscious being that assigns meaning to it. We may eventually get informed of the meaning by a publication, but it is usually not mentioned in the publication that there was always a person involved in the interpretation of the results. That is so obvious that it does not need to be mentioned explicitly. This means that an essential element of the experiment is never mentioned in reports. The observation was X, and that means Y. And that last part of it — and that means Y — that’s what it’s all about. That’s the interpretation of a person and therefore the actual experience of the world. That conclusion creates in the Copenhagen Interpretation by observation also all the previous events in the experiment as someting that did happen. As in previous example about the central heating, the history of the unwanted fuel consumption during your absence has become a fact after and because of your observation. That fact is then, after the quantum collapse brought on by your observation on returning home – unfortunately – no longer an immaterial probability distribution. It became what we call a fact. That’s something for which there can exist consensus.

What then is the role of a recording measuring instrument?

We have spoken enough of the observer for this moment and will now focus on the other question. What is a measuring instrument in this context? The requirement seems to be that it should be able to register. This means that a certain class of passive measuring instruments won’t qualify. Think of the yardstick, for example, which does not itself make a registration of length. It is a completely passive measuring instrument in contrast to an advanced central heating thermostat that remembers the indoor temperature pattern to anticipate the next moment of starting or stopping the boiler. So, registering ability seems at first glance a valid criterion, measuring plus recording. So, is a voltmeter connected to a recorder an observer or not? Is a photon detector connected to a coincidence detector in an advanced double-slit experiment an observer or not?

In order to answer that question, try therefore to think about how a recording measuring instrument might affect – by some yet unknown physical process – the registered object in its wave state and, above all, why another very similar instrument would not do so. Take, for example, a solid length of iron rod. That rod doesn’t seem a recording instrument, until you realize that the rod expands or shrinks according to its temperature. So, the rod measures the temperature by its length. If the rod is long enough and cleverly connected to a marker pen and a moving roll of paper, this would record the temperature evolution history. The change in the length of the rod provides the information on the temperature evolution. In this way you can consider the rod with marker and paper as a recording measuring instrument. Because we are able to use the rod in an ingenious way, as a registering instrument that we considered from another point of view as passive, it would thereby become an observer who would cause the quantum wave to collapse. I hope you see the inconsistency.

So you will not easily identify any arbitrary iron rod as an observing measuring instrument. If you start thinking about measuring instruments in this way, then the idea of an instrument as an observer becomes inconsistent and therefore highly questionable. Whether an instrument registers, or not, would then be not determined by its physical properties but by the way in which we employ it, and this is of course a case of human reflection. Ultimately, therefore, we must begin to acknowledge that even with an instrument that measures and records the result, the real observation – the observation that makes the quantum collapse happen – happens only if the result is observed finally by a conscious observer. If we accept that as an explanation then we may have an acceptable, useful, and consistent criterion for the definition of a measurement and also for the triggering of the quantum collapse, which is the material manifestation of the world.

Conclusion

So in the end we have to acknowledge that a conscious observer is needed for a real measurement, no exceptions. The measuring instrument is then nothing but an extension of our senses – which are also physical measuring instruments – and cannot be the cause for the quantum collapse, evoking the appearance of matter in our world. That has a profound meaning for our experience of the world. We are essential in the (hi)story. We are an essential part of the world, of the universe. By observing the world and thus experiencing the world consciously we create it.