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

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 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.


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.

Entangled in space ánd time

Entanglement in space

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

Entanglement in time

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

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

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

Explanation of the diagram:

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


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.

Schrödinger’s stopwatch

A rhetorical trick

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 showing the retrocausal creation of history and time.

Aristotle and time

Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos from 330 BC; the alabaster mantle is a modern addition.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Born: 384 BC, Stagira, Chalcidian League
Died: 322 BC (aged approx. 62), Euboea, Macedonian Empire

It turns out to be interesting to compare Aristotle’s ideas about time with my insights about time and quantum physics. There are striking similarities.

A quote from Physics, book 4.11:

But neither does time exist without change; for when the state of our own minds does not change at all, or we have not noticed its changing, we do not realize that time has elapsed, any more than those who are fabled to sleep among the heroes in Sardinia do when they are awakened; for they connect the earlier ‘now’ with the later and make them one, cutting out the interval because of their failure to notice it.

So, just as, if the ‘now’ were not different but one and the same, there would not have been time, so too when its difference escapes our notice the interval does not seem to be time. If, then, the non-realization of the existence of time happens to us when we do not distinguish any change, but the soul seems to stay in one indivisible state, and when we perceive and distinguish we say time has elapsed, evidently time is not independent of movement and change. It is evident, then, that time is neither movement nor independent of movement.

Aristotle says here that time does not exist without change being perceived by our [consciousness]. If no change is experienced, then we also won’t experience time. So time is not the same as change or movement, but it is not independent of it.

Now we perceive movement and time together: for even when it is dark and we are not being affected through the body, if any movement takes place in the mind we at once suppose that some time also has elapsed; and not only that but also, when some time is thought to have passed, some movement also along with it seems to have taken place. Hence time is either movement or something that belongs to movement. Since then it is not movement, it must be the other.

If we observe a ‘before’ and an ‘after’, which is observing a change, then there is time. But time is not equal to change. Time results from the comparison between two now moments. We define the sequence of nows ourselves by assigning it an ‘before and’ after ‘.

When, therefore, we perceive the ‘now’ one, and neither as before and after in a motion nor as an identity but in relation to a ‘before’ and an ‘after’, no time is thought to have elapsed, because there has been no motion either. On the other hand, when we do perceive a ‘before’ and an ‘after’, then we say that there is time. For time is just this-number of motion in respect of ‘before’ and ‘after’.

The ‘now’ itself does not change, but the moments recorded in every ‘now’ do.

The delayed quantum eraser

This vision of Aristotle on time reminds strongly of the conclusions about time that can be drawn from studying the results of delayed choice quantum eraser experiments. In a simple double-slit experiment, observable interference will always occur behind the double-slit. A pattern of dark and light bands. It invariably shows up whether photons, electrons, atoms or even larger molecules are sent through a double slit.

Electron interference buildup over time. Provided with kind permission of Dr. Tonomura
Source: Wikimedia commons

In the delayed choice experiments, in principle, photons are sent through a double slit, and simultaneously information is collected about which slit the photon has passed. The measured information about the passed slit is randomly either recorded or irrevocably destroyed in order to determine the effect of available information about the passed slit on the interference pattern. The experimental results are in line with the predictions of quantum mechanics but nevertheless very intriguing.

  • If information is available about through which slit the photon has passed, the result of the experiment is affected in such a way (no interference) that the conclusion has to be that the photon state wave must already have collapsed in the slit manifesting a physical photon there.
  • The experiment is set up in such a way that the moment in time when that information is measured and recorded follows in time sequence after the photon appeared (manifested) in the slit.

At first glance, this looks like an effect back into the past, retrocausality. However, this doesn’t mean that we can change the past. Once measured, the past is irrevocably fixed. But as soon as we involve the active observer, retrocausality is no longer needed as an explanation. The observer will by his conscious observation only fix the order of events at that moment . It is then not the instrumental detection of the slit passage that exerts an effect on the interference behavior of the photon. History – the sequence of now moments – is fixed by the observer’s attention. That’s time.

Time sequence created by observer

In short, quantum physics seems to confirm Aristotle’s ideas about time. Now we can see an important difference between experienced time and clock time. The latter was introduced by Newton in the 16th century as the only model of time of importance in physics. With that the observer was sidelined and was no longer an important player in the physical universe. But quantum physics seems to restore experienced time as something that also plays a role in physics. The conscious observer acting as an information processor becomes thus an active participant in the universe again.

Beyond Weird & The Quantum Handshake

To keep up to date with the subjects on my website I have to read quite a bit. And a lot of highly interesting material on quantum physics is being written and published. But occasionally I come across something that impresses me particularly and seems worth of special attention. Especially when it considerably broadens or clarifies my view on quantum physics and its interpretations. Therefore highly recommended stuff for visitors of my website. So, I’ll discuss two books here. The first one I want to discuss is: “Beyond Weird – Why Everything You Thought About Quantum Physics is .. different” by Philip Ball.

Beyond Weird

I am grateful to the student who put this book in my hands. Philip Ball is a science journalist who has been writing about this topic in Nature for many years. You don’t need to be able to solve exotic Schrödinger equations to follow his fascinating and utterly clear explanation of the quantum world and the riddles it presents. Also, he clears some misunderstandings up about this subject. Such as the word quantum, which is actually not the fundamental thing in quantum physics but rather an emerging phenomenon. The state wave is not quantized but fundamentally very continuous. He desctibes how quantum physics in its character and history deviates from all previous physical theories. It is a theory that is not built by extrapolation on the older theories. You can’t imagine what happens in the quantum world as you can do with, for example, gravity, electric currents, gas molecules, etc. The mathematical basis of quantum physics, quantum mechanics was not created by starting from fundamental principles but was the result of particularly happy intuitions that worked well but whose creators could not fundamentally explain what they were based on. Examples are: The matrix mechanics of Heisenberg, the Schrödinger equation, the idea of ​​Born that the state function gives you the probability of finding the particle at a certain place when measured. It was all inspired intuitive guesswork that laid the foundation for an incredibly successful theory we still don’t really understand how and why it works. Ball makes presents a good case for the idea that quantum mechanics seems to be about information. It is a pity, in my opinion, that he ultimately appears to adhere to the decoherence hypothesis. That is the point in his book where the critical reader will notice that what was until then comparably good to follow step by step suddenly loses its strict consistency and that from there one has to do with imperfect metaphors. His account remains interesting but isn’t that convincing anymore. Despite that, the book is highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand more about the quantum world and especially about quantum computers.

The Quantum Handshake

A completely different type of book is “The Quantum Handshake – Entanglement, Nonlocality and Transactions” by John Cramer. His interpretation of quantum physics seems, in my opinion incorrectly, not to be placed on the long list of serious quantum interpretations. Not a big group of supporters. In any case, I had never heard of his interpretation until it was brought forward by someone at a presentation about consilience I attended a short time ago. The subject made me curious because the state wave seems to stretch out backward and forward in time as I see it. Cramers’ hypothesis is that the state wave can also travel back in time, creating a kind of ‘handshake’ between the primary departing state wave and the secondary backwards in time reflected state wave. The reflected state wave traveling back in time arrives at the source thus exactly at the time of departure of the primary wave. This handshake between both waves effects the transfer of energy without the need for the so-called quantum collapse. The measurement problem where the continuous state wave instantaneously changes into an energy-matter transfer would then be explained as the result of a energy transfer by the handshaking state waves. However, in order to finally be able to complete that energy-matter transfer from source to measurement device, Cramer has to assume that the state wave is “somewhat” material-physical. This ephemeral quality of the state wave is considered as a severe weakness in his interpretation. Nevertheless the book provides worthwhile reading for those who want to delve into the various interpretations of quantum physics, also and especially because of Cramer’s discussion of a large number of experiments with amazing implications such as, for example, quantum erasers and delayed choice experiments where retro causality appears to occur. His idea of ​​a state wave that is traveling back in time – which is not forbidden in the formulations of quantum mechanics – remains a fascinating possibility.

Quantum physics and time

From Wikipedia: Vlatko Vedral is a Serbian-born (and naturalised British citizen) physicist and Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and CQT (Centre for Quantum Technologies) at the National University of Singapore and a Fellow of Wolfson College. He is known for his research on the theory of Entanglement and Quantum Information Theory. As of 2017 he has published over 280 research papers in quantum mechanics and quantum information and was awarded the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award in 2007. He has held a Lectureship and Readership at Imperial College, a Professorship at Leeds and visiting professorships in Vienna, Singapore (NUS) and at Perimeter Institute in Canada. As of 2017, there were over 18,000 citations to Vlatko Vedral’s research papers. He is the author of several books, including Decoding Reality.

Watch this movie “Living in a quantum world” from Vlatko Vedral on YouTube: https://youtu.be/vaUfZak8Ug4. At the end of his presentation a question from the audience about time and quantum physics is asked (at about 1: 10) and in his answer he describes the behavior of a super-accurate clock and what happens to the last digits when you lift that clock half a meter in the gravitational field. And then he wonders what it means when you imagine that clock to be in a quantum superposition at the two different heights in the gravitational field. A superposition of two different timelines. Fascinating.

By the way, the first part of his presentation – about 45 minutes – is actually a very compact version of my quantum physics book. Everything is presented in an almost blazing speed: interference, the Mach-Zehnder interferometer, Schrödinger’s cat, the Copenhagen interpretation against the multiverse interpretation, delayed choice experiments, interference with very large molecules shot through double slits, the orientation of our robin on the earth’s magnetic field in its annual migration, the 100% efficiency of chlorophyll. Highly recommended.

Dark Matter, Antimatter and Anti-time

Our Big Bang model universe is not symmetric in time. This doesn’t perhaps disturb you, but it disturbs physicists who think symmetry rules all. A new cosmology model, published in 2018, suggests that our Universe has a mirror image in the form of an “antiuniverse” that existed before the big bang. Read the summary on physics.aps.org f, read the complete article at arXiv.org.

We like symmetry

In the anti-universe, according to the idea of Boyle, Finn and Turok, time moves in the opposite direction of our universe, everything is made up of antimatter and is also mirrored with respect to us. This fulfills three important symmetry conditions that our universe without an anti-universe does not meet. This is called CPT symmetry. So, very attractive because we like symmetry. At the Big Bang, both universes arose at the same time and developed in opposite directions. But there’s more. The model explains the fact that we hardly seem to find antimatter in our universe. It also predicts the dark matter that we seem to find in our universe as a heavy variant of the neutrino and it also predicts the amount of dark matter we calculated. So it seems to agree with theory. Until now, I was not a big fan of dark matter as an explanation for the excessive rotational speeds of the stars in the periferies of their galaxies, the Electric Universe offers a better model there, but this might ‘convert’ me.

L. Boyle/Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Finally, this hypothesis seems to offer a attractive confirmation of the idea that we experience time by increasing entropy. In the anti-universe, its entropy should grow in the opposite direction. From our perspective, the clocks in the anti-universe are running backwards and the people there are getting inexorably younger to end up being squeezed into their mothers’ wombs.

Where is it located?

The question remains, of course, where that anti-universe is located. But maybe that’s the wrong question. Dimensions like space and time are an experience, a product of the mind, the energetic changes in matter and of our memory.

Waiting for he Big Crunch

Ultimately, if the universe and the anti-universe stop expanding and gravity eventually wins, both universes could reunite at the so-called Big Crunch. Which would probably be followed by another Bang and Anti-Bang, time and anti-time, matter and anti-matter. So why worry?