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The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics

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.


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The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics

The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics


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.


Insights of Albert Einstein
Insights of Albert Einstein

Many insights of Albert Einstein are now part of popular imagination: black holes, time warps, and wormholes show up in movies and books.

Less famous, but probably the most revolutionary pa...

Some changes don't change anything

The most fundamental aspects of nature stay the same.

For example, Einstein's papers on relativity show that the relationship between energy and mass is invariant, even though energy and mass can take on many different forms.

Even though matter produces energy, the energy-matter content of the universe never changes. Matter and energy are less fundamental than the underlying relationship between them.

Relationships over things

We often think of things as the heart of reality. But most often the relationship is more important, not the stuff.

We may think "stuff" like space and time are unchangeable aspects of nature. In reality, the relationship between space and time stays the same.

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Science providing anwers
Science providing anwers

Despite the advances in science over the past century, our understanding of nature is still limited. Scientists still don't know what the vast majority of the universe is made up of or how cons...

Mysterian arguments

"Mysterian" thinkers give an important role to biological arguments and analogies.

Late philosopher Jerry Fodor argued that there are bound to be thoughts we are unable to think. Similarly, philosopher Colin McGinn claimed that all minds suffer from "cognitive closure" about particular problems. Just as animals will never understand prime numbers, so human brains are unable to consider some of the world's wonders.

Mysterians and pessimism

Mysterians present the question of cognitive limits in fixed terms: either we can solve a problem, or we will never be able to.

A possibility that eludes mysterians is one of slowly diminishing returns. We keep slowing down, even as we exert more effort, and there is no point where progress becomes impossible.

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Gravity And The Forces Of Nature
Gravity And The Forces Of Nature

According to physicists, quantum particles are responsible for three forces of nature:

  • Strong nuclear force.
  • Weak nuclear force.
  • Electromagnetic force.
From Curves To Strings

The ‘curves in space’ theory of gravity is falling out of favour due to the fact that Einstein’s equations seem to work on our solar system but begin to break when we apply the same near a black hole or back in time, during the initial big bang.

String Theory, which conceptualizes that gravity and all other forces are products of tiny vibrating strings, is the prime candidate to replace Einstein’s work.

General Relativity Theory

Einstein's General Theory Of Relativity provides a rock-solid description of gravity, black holes and even the Big Bang, but fails to explain the very ‘singularities’ that signal towards infinity.

The extraordinary force of gravity can be researched with new-age engineering experiments but there is a risk of pushing too far and risking extreme damage by accidentally creating a black hole.

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Erwin Schrödinger proposed a paradox
Erwin Schrödinger proposed a paradox

Erwin Schrödinger was a Nobel prize-winning physicist. Schrödinger proposed a paradox in 1935 to illustrate a point in quantum mechanics about the nature of wave particles.

At the center of...

The feline paradox: Schrodinger's cat

A cat is placed in a steel box along with a Geiger counter, a vial of poison, a hammer, and a radioactive substance. When the radioactive substance decays (it decays as a random process), the Geiger detects it, triggers the hammer, and release the poison, which kills the cat.

Until the box is opened, the cat's state is entirely unknown. Therefore, the cat can be treated as both alive and dead simultaneously until it is observed. If you try to make predictions about the cat's status, you're possibly going to be wrong. But if you assume it's a combination of all of the possible states, you'll be correct.

Really minute things don't obey Newton's Laws. The rule that we use to govern the motion of a ball or car can't be used to explain how an electron or atom works.

Artificial Intelligence: Singularity and Virtual Immortality
Artificial Intelligence: Singularity and Virtual Immortality

The growth of technology and Artificial Intelligence(AI) is on track to provide us with:

  • Singularity: A merging of human intelligence and AI, resulting in Superstro...
Inner Awareness and AI

... or self-awareness is something many scientists and philosophers are discussing. The fact that there is consciousness inside us, is a big problem for those developing AI, as no matter what they do, and how technologically superior the product is, nobody can explain or even fathom the juggernaut of consciousness.

Qualia: Experiencing Sensations

Qualia relates to the raw sensations of experience, like colours, smells, sounds.

It is through our actual experience that we know what something tastes, looks or smells like, and it is not some information already drilled inside our brains on birth. We have to experience sensations to understand them.

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Vitamins and free radicals

In the 90s, vitamins were touted as treatments for cardiovascular diseases, cataracts, and even cancer. Sales in multivitamins and other dietary supplements boomed.

But over...

Added antioxidants

In the 1970s and into the 80s, research was done where mice were given a variety of supplementary antioxidants in their diet or via an injection straight into the bloodstream.

The result showed that an excess of antioxidants didn't stop the onset of disease or extended lifespan.

Antioxidant supplementation
  • In 1994, one trial followed the lives of 29,133 Finish people in their 50s who all smoked. Some were given beta-carotene supplements. The group that supplemented with Beta-carotene had a 16% increase in lung cancer.
  • Another study shows a breast cancer increase of 20% for postmenopausal women who supplemented with folic acid.
  • One study with 100 heavy smokers had a 28% increase in lung cancer after just four years of beta-carotene and vitamin A supplementation.

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Time Travel
Time Travel

The Science Fiction’s holy grail, Time Travel has been a popular topic in various books, movies and TV series for decades.

Time Travel is the ability to ‘travel’ between two different point...

Understanding Time

According to physicist Albert Einstein, time is not a constant phenomenon as it appears, but is an illusion, and can vary from different vantage points.

Space is three-dimensional, and Time, according to the famous physicist, is the fourth dimension. It also speeds up or slows down, so is actually subjective, as stated in his Theory Of Special Relativity.


Einstein's theory of general relativity says that Time can be bent, stretched and squeezed, and the four-dimensional fabric with a huge mass creates a dimple, or bending of Space-Time, causing gravity.

This effect of time dilation is proven using GPS satellite technology in space, making astronauts not only travel space but in a slightly different time than the earthlings.

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Teleportation is the idea in which we step into a sort of scanner and instantaneously find ourselves somewhere else.

There are two ways this can'(t) be done: physical deconstruction at x and...

Teleportation is possible in principle

Recently, scientists were able to "teleport" photons to a satellite 300 miles away, using "quantum entanglement." This is where a pair of photons are able to simultaneously share the same state, even when separated by distance. Change the state of one particle, and the other changes too.

Teleportation can have big implications for a new “quantum internet.” It will be faster, more powerful, unhackable. 

Teleporting humans

Scientists are still working out how to teleport photons. Assuming they figure out how to teleport atoms, then molecules, the amount of bits to record and transmit, is unthinkable.

A person is made of an estimated 32 trillion cells. They would require a huge bandwidth and roughly 10th gigawatt-hours of power. Teleporting one person would require using the entire UK power supply for more than a million years and take 4.8 million million years to transfer - that is if you survive the transfer. It would be quicker to walk.

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The Neuroscientist Karl Friston
The Neuroscientist Karl Friston
  • Karl Friston, a neuroscientist, published a radical theory called the ‘Free Energy Principle’ that has the neuroscience field in a tizzy. His papers, published in various journals, are heavil...
The Free Energy Principle

It states that the world is uncertain and full of surprises. Our brain, through perception, beliefs and action are trying to remain stable by minimizing the spikes, triggers and surprises.

We live inside our brains, and each of us has a unique perception of the outside world. Anything we say or document is just our way to explain the world we have lived. It has nothing to do with reality.

The Beautiful Mind
  • Our mind is programmed to sample the world so that the immediate future can be predictable, as a way to survive it with minimum surprises and disruptions, and as a way to conserve energy.
  • Free energy, outside the mind, maybe incomprehensible and even impossible to grasp fully, but our mind filters and curates much of the information and presents it to us in palpable format.
  • Our mind, when seen neurologically, is infinitely vast, much like the universe, which it even resembles visually.

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Richard Feynman (1918–1988) "The Great Explainer”

He is considered to be one of the most important physicists of all time.

Feynman was brilliant, eloquent, and an exquisitely passionate thinker who stands unequivocally for his...
The Feynman Technique
The Feynman technique for teaching and communication is a mental model (a breakdown of his personal thought process) to convey information using to the point thoughts and simple language.

Feynman started to record and connect the things he did know with those he did not know, resulting in a thorough notebook of subjects that had been disassembled, translated, and recorded.

We can use this same model to learn new concepts.

“In order to talk to each other, we have to have words, and that’s all right. It’s a good idea to try to see the difference, and it’s a good idea to know when we are teaching the tools of sc...

“In order to talk to each other, we have to have words, and that’s all right. It’s a good idea to try to see the difference, and it’s a good idea to know when we are teaching the tools of science, such as words, and when we are teaching science itself.” 

Richard Feynman

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