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.
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.
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.
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 hownature works. Quantum mechanics is the theory of how the world works. What happens atsmall 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. Ithink 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, inother 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.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
When Erwin Schrödinger presented in 1935 his thought experiment with a cat in a closed box to his colleagues, in particular Bohr and Heisenberg, to demonstrate the absurdity of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, he used a rhetorical trick. He introduced a living being in a physics experiment, a living entity that would be in a quantum superposition. Secondly, he also introduced something to which Bohr would give a name in that same year, entanglement, which is now widely accepted among physicists. But back to the cat, are you allowed to introduce an element into your physics experiment, even if it is a thought experiment, of which it is actually not known what it is in a physical sense? Because, what is life?
What is life anyway?
We recognize the difference between life and death, and we think we know it well. We recognize if life has disappeared from a previously living being, when it has passed into the state of inert dead matter. Physics is the very science that deals with dead matter, not with living beings. A living being has a number of characteristics, including homeostasis and purposefulness, but is it then really clear what these characteristics are based on, what their origin is? One of the major problems with organ donors is to determine correctly the donor’s death so that the removal of the still usable organs can begin. But we do not yet have an objective measuring instrument for life, a test that determines with 100% certainty whether a being is alive or dead. It is therefore not surprising that in his later career Schrödinger gave a series of lectures on the subject “What is life”. With these lectures he gave the starting signal for what is now called quantum biology.
A physically correct thought experiment
Thought experiments should be also physically correct, every component should be described accurately and without ambivalence. Einstein was a master at it. So in fact, Schrödinger’s thought experiment should not be regarded as a correct physical thought experiment. So let’s take that unjustly introduced live cat out and replace it with something that can be described physically very well, a thing, dead matter. For example, a clock or stopwatch that is stopped by the click of the Geiger counter.
The Schrödinger stopwatch experiment: A hermetically sealed box contains a radioactive atom known to have a 50% chance of being decayed after one hour. It also contains a Geiger counter connected to a stopwatch. Closing the box starts the stopwatch. A click of the Geiger counter will stop the stopwatch. According to the Copenhagen interpretation, it is impossible to predict when the atom will decay, which is still the prevailing opinion among physicists. As the atom decays, it produces radioactive radiation that is detected by the Geiger counter. The click of the Geiger counter stops the running stopwatch. After closing the box we wait an hour before opening the box to observe if and when the stopwatch has stopped.
The Copenhagen interpretation tells us that the atom, the Geiger counter and the stopwatch form one joint superposition of quantum states, i.e. entanglement, when the box is closed and no measurements have been taken yet. As soon as we open the box, the quantum wave collapses and we will observe the materialized contents of the box. Now suppose that the stopwatch turns out to have been stopped after 44 minutes, so 16 minutes before the box was opened. Thus we recognize that the atom decayed 16 minutes ago. Now realize that the stopwatch materialized – became tangible matter with the hand at 44 minutes – at the moment that we opened the box. During the hour between the closing and the opening of the box, there existed no material stopwatch, neither running or stopped, but a non-material entangled state wave representing the contents of the box.
The observer also creates time
Behold – logically arising from the Copenhagen interpretation – the origin of time. The observer not only creates the matter that presents itself to us, but also – retroactively in time – the moment at which it happened. The observer creates the event as it unfolded in time. A stunning conclusion. No wonder the Copenhagen interpretation is not very popular among physicists. But those other hypotheses are even more unlikely.
If you are still in doubt here, I therefore refer you to the delayed choice experiments that seem also to demonstrate retrocausality – not to the one of Kim et al. of 1999, there is a flaw in its design and interpretation – but to those well designed ones that are very well explained as the retrocausal creation of history and time.
Hugh Everett’s proposition – everything that is possible, happens.
One of the hypotheses that tries to explain the phenomena in quantum physics, especially the quantum collapse that occurs at every measurement – the abrupt end of the quantum state wave and the appearance of the particle – is Hugh Everett’s Multiversa hypothesis. Remember; the state wave is a wave that contains all the possible states of the particle to be measured. In Everett’s proposal, everything that can happen happens physically. Therefore the actual universe, where the measurement takes place, splits into as many physical universes as there are possibilities. In all those split-off universes there exists a copy of the conscious experimenter. Each copy thus perceives one of the results of the experiment. There is then no quantum collapse at all that mysteriously occurs on measurement.
Initially, there were only a few supporters of Everett’s idea. But right now, the idea has quite a lot of support among quantum physicists. Its attractiveness is easy to understand. A non-material consciousness is not needed in his hypothesis, so we can continue to assume that consciousness is a product of the material brain. Which is still the most popular hypothesis in neuroscience today despite a huge amount of excellent forensic and casuistic evidence to the contrary. They apparently wish to remain ignorant of this evidence.
The double-slit as test
Reflecting on the multiversa hypothesis, I thought of Richard Feynman’s statement; “The mysteries of quantum mechanics can be understood from just one experiment. That’s the double slit experiment. The experiment is simple, but the results leave us in awe.” The question then becomes this: can I understand the double slit experiment from the Multiversa hypothesis? Can the double slit experiment serve as a test for this outrageous hypothesis?
The double slit experiment was first performed by Thomas Young in 1805. He let sunlight shine through two slits – two narrow parallel scratches on a sooted glass plate. The result of this looked then and looks still like this:
Parallel colored bands of light separated by dark bands (fringes). This is called an interference pattern. This pattern is easy to understand with the view of light as a wave. The two slits act as synchronous sources of light waves. The synchronous waves running from the two slits meet and at each location their amplitudes are added together. This is called superposition. The superposition of these two waves creates contiguous fanning lines of maximum vibration (intensity) and between them also contiguous fanning lines of rest (darkness). The colored lines arise because sunlight consists of a whole spectrum of wavelengths, from red to violet, and for each wavelength the locations of its maxima are at different distances from the central maximum.
The great problem is that light is not a continuous wave phenomenon, but consists of energy packets, photons, where the energy E of each photon is proportional to the frequency f of the wave. This proportionality constant is Planck’s constant, discovered around 1900. Incidentally, it is difficult to imagine a frequency of the photon itself when it is a particle. What is the frequency of a particle? What does it look like?
E = h.f – h is Planck's constant: 6,626 x 10-34 J.s
Photons and the quantum state wave
Photons are light particles whose behavior is controlled by a quantum state wave, the Schrödinger state wave. (NB: A moving photon has never been directly observed, because the observation means the annihilation of the photon). Each part of that state wave can be described as a vector, an arrow that describes both magnitude and direction of the wave’s deflection. This vector must be described in imaginary dimensions, which is not a problem for the mathematician, but for our imagination it’s a problem. The state wave is not a material wave, which can also be inferred from the fact that this vector is not something existing in our 3-dimensional space. However, the absolute length of the vector squared at a particular location does indicate something useful, the probability of finding the photon at that location when measured. However, a probability is not a material phenomenon. The state wave isn’t either.
The frequency and the wavelength of that non-material state wave are the frequency and wavelength that we seem to measure in our experiments with light, although this apparently consists of photons. When we detect a photon, it is the result of the aforementioned quantum collapse, the abrupt end of the state wave, in which the photon transfers its energy to the detector – for example our retina. The photons that appear as points of light on the detection screen are thus the result of the quantum collapse of the state wave upon arrival at the screen. The cause of the quantum collapse has still not been experimentally determined, although recent experiments seem to indicate that it is caused by the information we can get about the state of the quantum particles. Everett seeks to completely eradicate this enigmatic quantum collapse.
The key – a continuous interference pattern
Back now to the Multiversa hypothesis. We will do an experiment, we will send a single photon through a double slit. According to that hypothesis, our universe splits into as many copies as are necessary to contain all possible photon detections. And these are quite a few. Quantum mechanics predicts a continuous spread of maximum and minimum intensities. So not a limited number of discrete points with nothing between.
That means an infinite number of possible outcomes for where the photon can end up on the detection device. Possibly we can adjust that infinity to a countable number of possibilities by taking the Planck length as the smallest possible unit of length. At 10cm wide, it still gives you a huge number of possibilities, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1033. So, just sending one photon through a double slit and detecting it, has to result in about 1033 split off copies of our universe with just as many copies of you and me each observing one of those possibilities in their own universe.
In itself, that outrageously huge number is not sufficient proof that the Multiversa hypothesis is not the ultimate truth. But it seems to me anyhow a strong contraindication and in any case a good reason not to take it as seriously as is done by many physicists. Multiversa is still completely unproven and most likely unprovable.
Measuring at the slit and the multiverse
The Multiversa hypothesis should also be able to provide an explanation for a particularly remarkable, but time and again experimentally confirmed, phenomenon. As soon as we somehow, no matter how, set up the experiment in such a way that we can know through which slit our photon has passed, the interference pattern disappears. The result is a light spot that is strongest in the center and diminishes towards the sides.
If it can be determined experimentally that the photon passes through the left-hand slit, this means that the state wave must have adapted itself to that information and has changed to a 100% probability of being present in the slit. A 100% probability, in my opinion, is identical to a material presence. In any case, indistinguishable from that. It is then easy to understand that from that location in the slit of 100% probability of presence a single state wave departs and no more wave leaves from the other slit. Which explains the single light spot.
Thus, in the Multiversa hypothesis, the way in which the universe splits into as many universes as there are possibilities, as represented by the state wave, has been significantly altered by our experimental set-up. Now how could my decision to measure or not to measure which slit the photon passed, trigger this massive adjustment in the creation of copies of the universe? A persistent materialist will argue that that decision of mine was already 100% predestined, whereby of course he also expanded the demon of Laplace in his possibilities to fully know and predict all those split-off universes. That is, for example, the – completely unproven – position of Gerard ’t Hooft, Nobel Prize winner.
Is this still plausible?
Is that, this frenzied proliferation of multiversa, wholly predestined in their unimaginable totality, still more acceptable than the hypothesis that the observer’s consciousness creates the manifested reality according to the information at his disposal? That’s my question.
A radical change in perspective
Still, I think Everett noticed something valuable. All it takes to make his hypothesis significantly more plausible, as far as I’m concerned, is a radical change in perspective. His idea was that everything that could happen actually happens. He saw our reality as objectively material. Not only was the reality that we experience material, but all those split-off universes were also material, and so were indistinguishable in the nature of their substance. Now consider that that last phrase, indistinguishable in the nature of their substance, can be disconnected from the idea of materiality. So if we see all those multiversa as non-material probability distributions in the state wave of the universe, then if we’re consistent, we should do the same for the universe we experience. Our daily world of experience is then in fact just as immaterial as all those possible universes that do exist in that state wave.
That is indeed a radical inversion of perspective. The advantage of it is that it offers enormous possibilities for the role of the mind with which we apparently choose and create our experiences from all these possible states. Free will is back, the survival of the spirit after – and before – death is possible again. The near-death experience (NDE) fits completely into this framework and no longer needs to be denied or dismissed as the hallucinations of a dying brain. The latter, by the way, is an idea that does not provide any explanation for an important reported and verified subset of these experiences. These are those NDE experiences where there is no plausible material explanation whatsoever for the content of the experiences. And those are legion. Read “The Self Does Not Die” by Rivas and Dirven. Even if you are an inveterate materialist, then that’s what you honestly should be doing.
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.
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.
I love paradoxes. They provide an opportunity to critically examine your assumptions. That’s what a scientist does if it’s right, not to deny or ignore the paradox, but straight to the point of the problem. In this way, the quantum paradox – the quantum collapse, a particle can be in several places at once but eventually manifests itself in one place when we try to perceive it – was addressed by pinpointing a classical physical cause, namely gravity as the cause of the collaps. Readers of my book already know that my opinion is that the observer does this with his consciousness. But that’s a hypothesis that many physicists don’t like. Even an outstanding thinker and physicist like Carlo Rovelli – read Helgoland – seeks the explanation in a property of matter, namely that matter only exists physically in interaction with other matter. In doing so, he eliminates the consciousness of the observer as the cause of the quantum collapse, but assigns almost telepathic properties to matter, although he wisely does not use that term.
Gravity as the supposed cause of the quantum collapse
The gravitational hypothesis – gravity as the cause of the quantum collapse – is therefore a popular hypothesis. The hypothesis was first proposed by the Hungarian physicist Károlyházy Frigyes in 1960 and later again by Lajos Diosi in 1980. In 1980 this idea was taken up by the well-known physicist Roger Penrose and further developed. It seemed a fruitful idea and put the quantum collapse firmly back into the purely physical realm. Much to the relief of many physicists. Hopefully, the paradox was dealt with. But of course, it must be possible to test it, like any hypothesis, and that was not easy in this case. It didn’t even seem possible.
The idea behind this hypothesis is that the gravitational field is a separate field and not a part of the quantum field. The gravitational field of an object can therefore not be present in several places and that means that the object has to ‘choose’ for a location. I cannot help pointing out here that a field — a state of empty space that exerts forces on the appropriate objects within it — is an abstract concept that, through frequent application, has acquired the status of something physical. We still don’t know what gravity is and I don’t think it’s a good idea to make something we don’t understand the cause of something else we also don’t understand. On top of that, it’s a big problem if you can’t test your hypothesis.
A test of the gravity hypothesis of Penrose in Gran Sasso
But testing the hypothesis – quantum gravity collapse – now seems possible, assuming a physical testable quantum collapse. A charged particle that manifests itself as a result of a physical cause will have to emit a photon when it appears in physical space-time. This is an extremely weak photon, but if this happens with a collection of charged particles at the same time, the effect becomes measurable.
In order to generate this effect, a special detector was built, which is then shielded as much as possible against background radiation. This was done by enclosing this detector in lead and placing it 1.4 km underground in the Gran Sasso National laboratory. The effect that was predicted by Roger Penrose, which should be significantly greater than the ambient radiation in that situation, was not measured. Thus, the gravitational hypothesis has been falsified. For more details, read the full article in Science.
Unfortunate? I think not.
This is of course a disappointment for the materialistic physicists, one favorite hypothesis less. But as far as I’m concerned, one step closer to what I think is the correct interpretation. We create the world by experiencing it. In our consciousness.
Recently I did an online presentation to an audience while I knew I shouldn’t be speaking about electrons, photons and double slit experiments and all that phyicist stuff. Still, I wanted the participants to glean a useful insight into what quantum physics has to say about the world and how it supports the idea of a consciousness that doesn’t depend on our material brain. It worked wonderfully, given the comments and the questions. That is why I am posting this introduction here as well. I’ll start with some basic definitions.
When we talk about particles, what are we actually talking about?
A particle is a concept that originates from classical Newtonian physics. That is, it is a model and therefore does not necessarily have to be the true reality. What follows is therefore only the definition of the concept of a particle. However, one that we usually use when we think and talk about reality.
A particle is an object where all of its matter exists within its boundaries. It has clear defined boundaries.
A particle has an exact location and speed.
Material reality consists of particles and their interactions.
Particles cannot pass through each other, they collide and usually bounce back or stick together.
Particles exist in place and time but are not part of it.
When we talk about waves, what are we actually talking about?
A wave is a moving excitation of a coherent medium.
A wave has no boundaries. The boundaries are those of the medium. The boundaries of a wave in the ocean are the surrounding coasts.
A wave has speed and frequency, but not a precise location.
That a wave has no boundaries means that the wave is present everywhere in the medium. Every wave in the ocean exists everywhere in the ocean.
A wave is not apart from the medium. It is the medium in a state of excitation.
Waves do not collide but pass through each other. Their excitations can be added at any time, creating more complex waves. Even standing waves.
Waves and particles
Waves and particles are thus completely different concepts. To claim that something is a wave and a particle at the same time is therefore confusing, it’s nonsense, a sham. Don’t fall for it.
The quantum wave is a non-material wave
A sound wave is a good example of a material wave with the air acting as the coherent medium. Ditto for a wave in water. The quantum wave and its medium, on the other hand, do appear to be non-material, given the following facts:
The mathematical dimensions of the quantum wave’s physical properties do not exist in our 3D reality.
The immaterial quantum wave of an object gives us the probability of observing that object as a particle when we focus our attention on a certain location at a certain point in time.
The outcome of such a focused attention is called a “measurement” by physicists. Physicists do not agree in this regard to what an exact definition of a measurement is. The result of a measurement is, without exception, something that, independent of the instruments used, an experience in our consciousness.
That the quantum wave is a probability wave strongly suggests that the quantum wave is something that is not taking place in material reality but in our mind. Probabilities are not matter. They are numbers.
The medium in which a non-material wave propagates must be coherent because a wave can only exist in a coherent medium. A good candidate for a coherent non-material medium is, of course, the mind.
Prior to the ‘measurement’ – the observation – the observed particle does not exist. This has been confirmed in many experiments and is therefore a major source of cognitive discomfort for many physicists. That discomfort is in turn the source of interpretations that turn out as inconsistent and/or absurd on critical consideration – such as, for example, the multiverse hypothesis – when these try to explain this phenomenon materialistically.
There is no known reason why the manifestation resulting from observation – the quantum collapse – should be limited to atomic dimensions. The fact that we experience the world as a permanent presence is no proof that this is indeed the case. The statistical probability that my desk will be in the same place on the next time I observe it is so close to 100% that I don’t have to worry about that at all. Every time I look it is – it materializes – exactly where I expect it to be. The discontinuities are so small I’ll never be able to observe them.
Since the quantum wave itself has no boundaries – that is a basic property of a wave – any object can in principle materialize instantaneously at any location in the universe, although that probability is generally extremely small. This may sound far-fetched, but it is the basis of the so-called quantum tunnel effect, where objects materialize on the other side of an impenetrable barrier without being able to pass through it. This effect has been known since 1927 and is at the root of nuclear fusion, all semiconductor technology and also of the efficiency of the metabolism of animals and plants, something that was discovered at the end of the 20th century. Quantum tunneling can happen even faster than the speed of light.
An observation (measurement) thus seems to bring the manifestation about of the observed object. This is not necessarily a cause-effect relationship. It is conceivable and even credible that perception and manifestation are identical, that they both do take place in the mind. Hopefully it has become somewhat clear to you how quantum physics does not contradict the idea of a consciousness that exists independently of our brain and can survive death. It even supports it.
For those people who object that it would then be sufficient to simply close their eyes to an oncoming bus or train, for them I have this answer: train and bus are examples of macro objects. It is true that as long as they are not observed, they are a non-material probability wave. The probability of being hit by that bus is 99.999999999999% (or closer to 100%). So, closing your eyes will not help very much, and it should not be forgotten that we have more senses than eyes alone. Finally, the bus driver is also an observer, of course. In philosophy the view of the world as being entirely inside mind is called Idealism.
The above is an extremely concise summary of my view as a physicist on the meaning of quantum physics. If you want to know (much) more I have to refer you to my website or to my book. I invite you not to believe me on my word, but to be curious and to do your own exploration of quantum physics. No mathematics needed.
You can see the presentation ‘Quantum Physics and the Afterlife’ I did here.