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The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics

Objectivity Vs Consciousness

Physicists argue that objectivity might as well be an illusion, and consciousness has to be put in the picture of its worldview.

The two puzzles of Science, Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics, might as well be closely related, with one arising because of the other.

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The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics

The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170215-the-strange-link-between-the-human-mind-and-quantum-physics

bbc.com

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Key Ideas

Consciousness And Quantum Physics

Understanding consciousness and how it fits in the universe is a perennial puzzle for decades. Some call it the holy grail of science.

Quantum physics is able to describe the atomic and subatomic level particles and their properties in ways never before understood, and science is beginning to understand a possible link.

The Observer Effect

Modern science is hesitant to talk about consciousness due to it opening a pandora’s box, putting their previously ‘bulletproof’ theories under suspicion.

Quantum Theory had a similar ‘uh oh’ moment when it was found that the behaviour of atomic level particles changes when we (a conscious observer) are looking at it, or not. This is known as the Observer Effect.

Objectivity Vs Consciousness

Physicists argue that objectivity might as well be an illusion, and consciousness has to be put in the picture of its worldview.

The two puzzles of Science, Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics, might as well be closely related, with one arising because of the other.

The Double-Slit Experiment

  • Quantum Guru Niels Bohr worked with physicist Pascual Jordan in the 1920s and conducted the now-famous experiment which involved tracking the path of a light beam through vertical slits and the outcome being displayed on a screen.
  • As light is a kind of wave, an interference happens, and it turns into alternate bright and dark stripes on the resulting screen, depending on if they are reinforced or cancelled out.
  • Oddly, when a ‘detector’ is placed in the slits, helping the observer know if light has passed through it, there is no interference. Nature seems to be changing its behaviour depending on whether it is observed or not.

The Delayed-Choice Experiment

An advanced version of the double-slit experiment by Physicist John Wheeler in the 70s made things even more interesting.

He proved that the mere intention or planning of measuring an outcome of the path of light changes its behaviour as if it knows that a conscious entity is planning to look at the outcome.

Quantum Cognition

The 1994 book Shadows Of The Mind by physician Stuart Hameroff suggests that the neurons of our brain and most of our cells contain protein strands called microtubules which may be responsible for quantum-level cognition. However, this process is easily nullified by its interaction with the surrounding environment and is known as decoherence.

The fact that the nerve signals or electrical impulses have interaction possible at the quantum level in the brain and is easily destroyed by outside influence, runs parallel to the earlier ‘Double-Slit’ experiment.

A Quantum Brain

Various experiments and studies on diverse subjects like bird migration and green plants show signs of natural quantum-level effects in nature, including our brain and cells.

Certain molecules called ‘Posner molecules’ can resist the decoherence for a short while, influencing how the brain works at a quantum level.

The Final Frontier

Certain drugs like Lithium can treat mental disorders, like bipolar disorder, due to it affecting the neural networks of the brain, something that wasn’t known previously.

Many factors bring us to the intriguing idea that the brain’s neural network and quantum mechanics are closely related, and consciousness is imbibed inside, making science finally encounter consciousness at the unlikeliest place.

The Problem With Consciousness

The phenomena of telekinesis and telepathy fall in line with the almost supernatural communication between atoms.

Scientists are wary to explain consciousness, build a theory around it, or even mention it alongside quantum physics and the idea of 'Quantum Consciousness' is disturbing for many, and is regarded as 'mystical woo'.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that science is now reluctantly encountering consciousness, something it had long avoided.

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