Quantum Science, Your Brain, and Us
This one covers a lot of topics to do with quantum theory and human consciousness and how they interact, but more importantly, how we interact with you:
Quantum mechanics is the best theory we have for describing the world at the nuts-and-bolts level of atoms and subatomic particles. Perhaps the most renowned of its mysteries is the fact that the outcome of a quantum experiment can change depending on whether or not we choose to measure some property of the particles involved.
When this “observer effect” was first noticed by the early pioneers of quantum theory, they were deeply troubled. It seemed to undermine the basic assumption behind all science: that there is an objective world out there, irrespective of us. If the way the world behaves depends on how – or if – we look at it, what can “reality” really mean?
That’s what Schrodinger’s Cat is about. It’s both alive and dead until a person observes its state. Of course, this is a macrocosm example, because the cat itself knows if it’s alive or dead. Cats don’t need people to tell them. But it’s the kind of example people need in order to understand what happens at the quantum microcosm level, which is a whole other situation.
Today some physicists suspect that, whether or not consciousness influences quantum mechanics, it might in fact arise because of it. They think that quantum theory might be needed to fully understand how the brain works.
Here’s where the article starts to get really interesting and isn’t the same old thing about dead/alive cats. It’s turning the theory back on itself, or on its head, or whatever. You get the idea.
The article then talks about the “slit experiment” with light photons and observations and measurements affecting the outcome. But then…
Wheeler even entertained the thought that the presence of living beings, which are capable of “noticing”, has transformed what was previously a multitude of possible quantum pasts into one concrete history. In this sense, Wheeler said, we become participants in the evolution of the Universe since its very beginning. In his words, we live in a “participatory universe.”
Now you’re reading more closely, right? Right. Now we’re getting into where people are affecting how the universe is created and plays out, and not just through conscious (or even unconscious) choices. Simply observing the world around you alters things at the quantum level.
Now imagine if you could control this. Some of us can, as I’ve talked about here before. But I digress. Back to the article:
What if, Penrose asked, there are molecular structures in our brains that are able to alter their state in response to a single quantum event. Could not these structures then adopt a superposition state, just like the particles in the double slit experiment? And might those quantum superpositions then show up in the ways neurons are triggered to communicate via electrical signals?
Maybe, says Penrose, our ability to sustain seemingly incompatible mental states is no quirk of perception, but a real quantum effect.
These structures are called microtubules. They’re real and they exist inside you right now. There’s even a photo of them in the article I’m quoting here. I posted a link to an article here a while back talking about these things, and how they could be what contains consciousness when it’s inside a meat suit. Hello, let me just borrow some of your microtubules for a few minutes so I can type. That kind of thing. But anyway…
Pay close attention to this next part:
Put another way, entangled states are really superposition states involving more than one quantum particle.
Okay. If you’ve read other articles about quantum entanglement, they talk about how two particles can affect each other even though they’re nowhere near each other. I’ve also talked about how parallel universes overlap, which is how I’m able to talk to you here. But this takes it a little farther into explaining how they can overlap, for you people out there who need hard science to explain all this. The superposition state at the quantum level.
But wait, there’s more. It also explains how some of you can not only hear us, but how you can interact with us, and let us front, beyond (or maybe in addition to) the microtubule theory.
The article talks about a particular kind of phosphorus atom and Polsner molecules, then:
In Posner molecules, Fisher argues, phosphorus spins could resist decoherence for a day or so, even in living cells. That means they could influence how the brain works.
Because of entanglement in Posner molecules, two such signals might thus in turn become entangled: a kind of quantum superposition of a “thought”, you might say.
…You might say.
There’s some other cool stuff in there that I’ll let you explore on your own. I’d love to hear what you think. Post a comment.