Mod+ [Resources] Physics & Consciousness



...But Many Worlds would probably account for the quantum strangeness without surrendering to immaterialism. I'm guessing there are other potentially valid materialist interpretations, just not familiar with the varied possibilities. So no smoking gun yet, but it does seem realism is not necessarily the obvious choice. Prof. Schafer, for example, is leaning toward Idealism.

Lothar Schafer 'The Infinite Potential of Quantum Physics' Interview by Iain McNay

Professor Schafer has an interesting take on QM and Idealism. It's not definitive by any means, and there's a definitive leap of faith beyond even the theoretical relationship of consciousness to QM, but I do give him credit for taking his research and offering people livable truths and a way for science to be inspirational.
Apologies if this article has already been included in this thread. I've been reading so many of these studies the last few days, they begin to blur. This one is not a study as such but a comment on the situation from Zeilinger et al.

Quantum experiment preludes the endgame for local realism (PDF download, 2 pages)

“Local realism” is a world view in which the properties of physical objects exist independent of whether or not they are observed (realism), and in which no physical influence can propagate faster than the speed of light (locality).
Although most scientists do not expect any surprises and believe that quantum physics will prevail over local realism, it is still conceivable that different loopholes are exploited in different experiments. It is this last piece in the history of Bell tests which is still missing – a final and conclusive experiment violating Bell’s inequality while closing all loopholes simultaneously. It is not yet clear whether such an experiment will be achieved first for photons or atoms or some other quantum system, but if it can be successfully performed, one needs to accept at least one of the following radical views: there is a hidden faster-than-light communication in nature, or we indeed live in a world in which physical properties do not always exist independent of observation. Almost 50 years after the formulation of local realism, its endgame clearly has begun.
Violation of a Leggett–Garg inequality with ideal non-invasive measurements

The quantum superposition principle states that an entity can exist in two different states simultaneously, counter to our 'classical' intuition. Is it possible to understand a given system's behaviour without such a concept? A test designed by Leggett and Garg can rule out this possibility. The test, originally intended for macroscopic objects, has been implemented in various systems. However to date no experiment has employed the 'ideal negative result' measurements that are required for the most robust test. Here we introduce a general protocol for these special measurements using an ancillary system, which acts as a local measuring device but which need not be perfectly prepared. We report an experimental realization using spin-bearing phosphorus impurities in silicon. The results demonstrate the necessity of a non-classical picture for this class of microscopic system. Our procedure can be applied to systems of any size, whether individually controlled or in a spatial ensemble.
The following is behind a paywall, unfortunately. But there is a video available here too. (Haven't a chance to watch it yet). It's from Leggett:
Realism and the Physical World


The Idealistic Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics [By Goswami]

A paradox free interpretation of quantum mechanics is given using the philosophy of monistic idealism. This idealistic interpretation is developed as an ontological extension of the Copenhagen interpretation, and it is shown to correct the dualistic errors made by Wigner and others who have tried to invoke consciousness in quantum measurement theory. I also compare the idealistic interpretation with such realistic alternatives as the hidden variables theory or the many-worlds hypothesis that are closest to the present idea in spirit. The new interpretation leads to a new way of thinking about the mind-brain and our self-reference problems.

An article that echoes this on Science & Nonduality:
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Just to clarify, the kind of Idealism Zeilinger is talking about is our account of reality can only be based on subjective observation, but he does believe in a greater reality where it seems matter & mind are unified under information.

So maybe he's more of a Neutral Monist. If nothing else his idea is different than Goswami's which is more like the shared dream.


A Course in Consciousness

From 1992 through 1995, I taught several seminars on reality and consciousness according to quantum theory for humanities undergraduates at the University of Virginia. These seminars attempted to outline in an understandable way to the nonscientist the reasons why consciousness is a necessary part of the most widely accepted interpretations of quantum theory. For these seminars, I wrote concise but complete notes which I handed out to my students, and which summarized the salient points in order to make as clear as possible the scientific basis for the seminar. A revised and refined version of these notes comprises Part 1 of this work.

From 1995 through spring 2008, again for the undergraduate nonscientist, I taught many seminars on nonduality, or Advaita, beginning with the above described scientific information as Part 1, following with several speculative chapters on the metaphysics of nonduality as Part 2, and concluding with the teachings of several contemporary jnanis, or enlightened sages, as Part 3. Sages are not usually interested in teaching the principles of nonduality in such a systematic, logical way since such a conceptual system can be a prison for the mind, leading it to think that it can transcend itself (escape from its self-imposed prison) merely by mastering the system. Nevertheless, for teaching purposes, I wrote a set of notes for these seminars also. Beginning with fall 2007, I began to teach the same course to senior citizens and other college graduates also.

I have continually updated and refined these notes as my experience and insights have evolved. My intent has been to present the teaching of nonduality in a scientifically sound and logically consistent, but still readable, document. While there is little about Part 1 that any scientist would disagree with, given enough time for careful contemplation, there is considerable material in Parts 2 and 3 that is in disagreement with what some sages say. The reason for this difference is that science deals entirely with concepts, which can be seen to be either self-consistent or not, and in agreement with observations or not, while it is impossible for a sage to use concepts to describe Reality, because Reality transcends all concepts. In science, concepts are (or are not) truth, while in spiritual teachings, concepts can only be pointers to Reality. The sage uses concepts as tools to crack open the conceptual prisons in which we live, but then all of those concepts must be thrown away or they become chains in our bondage. Nevertheless, there are many concepts in Parts 2 and 3 that are susceptible to verification by direct observation by those who think they are still in prison, and these impart credence to the rest of the teaching.


Steering by peeking: Physicists control quantum particles by looking at them

The scientists realised that it is possible to steer the nuclear spin by applying sequential measurements with varying measurement strength. Since the outcome of a measurement is not known in advance, the researchers implemented a feedback loop in the experiment. They chose the strength of the second measurement depending on the outcome of the first measurement. In this way the scientists could steer the nucleus towards a desired superposition state by only looking at it.
Unclear as to the relevance, but Prescott was also confused about whether this suggested "observer-participancy". Any board physicists with advice would be recipients of much gratitude. :)
IIRC, Legget inequalities only were meant to deal with Crypto-non-local interpretations of quantum mechanics, and not with all views ( for example, Bohm Interpretation was left untouched, as the original paper suggests ) so, IMHO, I wouldn't call it a dead blow to counterfactual definitiveness as such. Zeilinger seems to, in 2007, proven this inequalities. You can read a more good explanation of Legget Inequalities here, concerning Bohm Interpretation, for example:
Throughout the article the word measurement is used, that's the key. In other words the researchers didn't look [peek] or directly involve themselves in any way such as actually peeking or jostling the apparatus making the measurement. What it seems they did was use a variation of the technique called weak measurement. It looks like the confusion occurs with this sentence and the title:
In this way the scientists could steer the nucleus towards a desired superposition state by only looking at it.
However when you read this:
The scientists realised that it is possible to steer the nuclear spin by applying sequential measurements with varying measurement strength. Since the outcome of a measurement is not known in advance, the researchers implemented a feedback loop in the experiment. They chose the strength of the second measurement depending on the outcome of the first measurement.
It's clear what they were doing was looking at the results then making adjustments to steer the spin in a particular way. An analogy would be driving were you make small course corrections to keep going in the right direction through feedback by seeing where you don't want to go.
That misleading choice of wording may be the fault of the article. It should be noted that there's absolutely no indication these researchers imply their conscious intentions [will] played any role in the outcome of this research.

Unclear as to the relevance, but Prescott was also confused about whether this suggested "observer-participancy". Any board physicists with advice would be recipients of much gratitude. :)
I didn't find Prescott's comments. Would you link them or copy and paste them here?


This one's doozy, will probably take me multiple passes to get through it but smarter minds might have less trouble:
The Quantum World, the Mind, and the Cookie Cutter Paradigm

The problem of making sense of quantum mechanics is as much a psychological problem as it is a physical one. There is a conflict between (i) the spatiotemporal structure of the quantum world and (ii) the manner in which the phenomenal world is constructed by our minds and/or brains. Both are examined in detail. Unlike the quantum world, the phenomenal world conforms to the cookie cutter paradigm, according to which the synchronic multiplicity of the world rests on surfaces that carve up space much as cookie cutters carve up rolled-out pastry. The attempt to model the physical world in conformity with this paradigm gives rise to pseudo-problems that foil our attempts at making sense of the quantum world. The fact that quantum mechanics, the fundamental theoretical framework of contemporary physics, is essentially an algorithm for calculating the probabilities of measurement outcomes does indeed give rise to genuine problems, but their solution requires the rejection of unwarranted assumptions rather than the making of further such assumptions. The place of causal stories in a world governed by quantum laws is examined, and it is argued that presentism is inconsistent not only with the “block universe” of special relativity but also with the other corner stone of contemporary physics, quantum mechanics. Finally, the conclusions of this essay are situated within the context of the Vedantic theory of existence set forth in a companion essay (Mohrhoff, 2007).
Seems to me the Cookie Cutter Paradigm would relate to Glasersfeld's essay about Radical Constructivism?
Regarding idealism, Sciborg, would you be more inclined to a solipsistic type, or one where everything remains the same, but it's all sat on some sort of fundamental awareness.


Regarding idealism, Sciborg, would you be more inclined to a solipsistic type, or one where everything remains the same, but it's all sat on some sort of fundamental awareness.
I'm actually not really sure about Idealism, as I've come to think of it as I do Panpsychism - a stopping point on the way to Neutral Monism. The 'substance' from which Mind & Matter arise, in my thinking, may be akin to what Kauffman calls the Res Potentia of the quantum world...though I think the conception of reality offered by physics is incomplete or even just a patchwork.

So we have a firmament of possibilities, sort of like the Chaos of old mythology out of which Order arises. This "Res Potentia" might have some pre-existing Order as the causality transcendent math Massimo mentioned on his blog.

Goes back to stories I read about Tiamat and Anu, that Chaos and Order are the primordial lovers...

Still issues with this conception, but intuitively it's where I'm heading...


Here's a list of interpretations that attempt to solve/explain the measurement problem.

One thing I'd note is Bohm's ideas of Implicate Order were more akin to Neutral Monism than materialism, as noted by John Macguire in the sadly gobbled up Bohm thread. Here's the interview with Bohm biographer D.Peat.
The Bohm–Krishnamurti Project

The Krishnamurti–Bohm Dialogues took place over a span of almost 25 years. Although they had met and talked before, the first one to be recorded was in August of 1965, after an annual Krishnamurti gathering in Saanen, Switzerland. Someone had the good sense to purchase Nagra tape recorder and the six dialogues which occurred over a week or so were recorded in their entirety. It should be noted that the first three are labeled in the Krishnamurti Archives as “Small Group Discussions.” The latter three— were published as a set 20 years later in 1985 and are labeled as Dialogues. When one listens closely to this series, one can discern that Krishnamurti would have preferred to talk directly with Bohm, but neither man had any intention of excluding the others who were present; and, in a sense, their presence and participation underscores the unique nature of the kind of communication, both verbal and non-verbal that was beginning to take place between these two men. Over time, that communication would develop “organically” and thus the Krishnamurti–Bohm Dialogues were born.

Krishnamurti asked Bohm to be a Trustee at the Brockwood Park School, which was created in England a few years later. Many recordings exist of meetings that the two men held with the Staff and Students. In addition, two formal meetings were held with a groups of scientists and those were also recorded. In 1975 another series of 12 Dialogues were held—and recorded. Some have since been published in a book entitled The Limits of Thought. Then in 1980 a series of 15 dialogues were held. Thirteen of these were published under the title The Ending of Time. Some were also videotaped. What would be the final Krishnamurti–Bohm Dialogue took place in 1984. A book and full-color video of the two-part meeting were published under the title The Future of Humanity.
Some choice Bohm quotes:

The notion of a separate organism is clearly an abstraction, as is also its boundary. Underlying all this is unbroken wholeness even though our civilization has developed in such a way as to strongly emphasize the separation into parts.
–with Basil J. Hile, The Undivided Universe.

What is under discussion here is, of course, not merely a way of understanding and working with parapsychological phenomena. It is a different self-world view, emerging out of modern physics and yet going beyond the restrictive framework from which modern physics grew. In this way, the discoveries of modern physics come to give support to the movement in which the rigid division between observer and observed can be dropped—a movement that could evidently be the beginning of a fundamental change in [our understanding of] consciousness itself.
-The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 113-135

Consciousness is much more of the implicate order than is matter . . . Yet at a deeper level [matter and consciousness] are actually inseparable and interwoven , just as in the computer game the player and the screen are united by participation.
-Statement of 1987, as quoted in Towards a Theory of Transpersonal Decision-Making in Human-Systems (2007) by Joseph Riggio, p. 66

More discussion Bohm can be found here.


Spiritual Physics by Ulrich Mohrhoff

To be precise: every conceivable measurement outcome has a probability greater than zero unless it violates a conservation law. Physics therefore never explains how something is possible, let alone “how nature does it.” It only explains — via its conservation laws — why certain things won’t happen. But this is exactly what one would expect if the force at work in the world were an omnipotent force operating under self-imposed constraints. There would then be no reason to be surprised by the apparent impossibility of explaining the quantum-mechanical correlations laws — to account for them in terms of mechanisms or processes — for it would be self-contradictory to explain the working of an omnipotent force. What needs to be explained is why this force works under self-imposed constraints, and why under this particular set of constraints.

As we have seen, the purpose of this particular set of constraints is to allow for the existence of stable objects that “occupy space” even though they are made of finite numbers of objects that do not “occupy space.”

But why are objects that “occupy space” made of finite numbers of objects that do not “occupy space”? One possible answer is, to set the stage for the adventure of evolution. According to Sri Aurobindo, evolution presupposes involution, and the final outcome of the process of involution is the creation of a universe in which objects that “occupy space” are made of a finite number of formless objects and obey the well-established physical laws, at least initially.
Compare this to Bernando's ideas, as well as to Massimo's discussion of ontic-realism and Mathematical Platonism.


A Consciousness-based model of Physics

Following the dominant Indian philosophical tradition, an ultimate and intrinsically indefinable reality (UR) is postulated. This relates to the world as a substance that constitutes it, a consciousness that contains it, and an infinite quality/delight that experiences and expresses itself in it. By tracing a descending series of poises between the infinite and the finite, this article shows in outline how space emerges, how UR acquires the aspect of a multitude of localized selves, how quality manifests itself through quantity, how consciousness becomes distinct from substance, how the original creative consciousness gets "involved" in mind, how mind gets "involved" in life, and how life gets "involved" in matter—in short, how the stage for the adventure of evolution is set. Light is thereby thrown on the nature of life and evolution. While the laws of physics turn out to be instrumental in setting this stage, they contribute next to nothing to explaining the drama played on it.


Two articles suggestive of consciousness influencing reality at the quantum level ->

1) Quantum magic trick shows reality is what you make it

In 1967, Simon Kochen and Ernst Specker proved mathematically that even for a single quantum object, where entanglement is not possible, the values that you obtain when you measure its properties depend on the context. So the value of property A, say, depends on whether you chose to measure it with property B, or with property C. In other words, there is no reality independent of the choice of measurement.

It wasn't until 2008, however, that Alexander Klyachko of Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, and colleagues devised a feasible test for this prediction. They calculated that if you repeatedly measured five different pairs of properties of a quantum particle that was in a superposition of three states, the results would differ for the quantum system compared with a classical system with hidden variables.

That's because quantum properties are not fixed, but vary depending on the choice of measurements, which skews the statistics. "This was a very clever idea," says Anton Zeilinger of the Institute for Quantum Optics, Quantum Nanophysics and Quantum Information in Vienna, Austria. "The question was how to realise this in an experiment."


They found that the resulting statistics could only be explained if the combination of properties that was tested was affecting the value of the property being measured. "There is no sense in assuming that what we do not measure about a system has [an independent] reality," Zeilinger concludes.


Niels Bohr, a giant of quantum physics, was a great proponent of the idea that the nature of quantum reality depends on what we choose to measure, a notion that came to be called the Copenhagen interpretation. "This experiment lends more support to the Copenhagen interpretation," says Zeilinger.
2) A non-causal quantum eraser

Whether a quantum object behaves like a wave or like a particle depends (according to the Copenhagen interpretation) on the choice of measurement apparatus used for observing the system, and therefore on the type of measurement performed.

Anton Zeilinger's team of physicists at the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences has recently taken this phenomenon further than ever. Whether a certain photon behaves like a particle or like a wave depends on the measurement performed on a second photon. In the new experiment, this second photon is so far separated from the first photon that no transfer of information whatsoever (the velocity of which can never exceed the speed of light) would be fast enough. Yet, the first photon behaves like a wave or like a particle, still depending on the measurement performed on the second. While the results of such experiments are fully consistent with quantum physics, a clear explanation in terms of causality is impossible, as, according to Einstein's relativity theory, any transfer of information is limited to the speed of light. The science article "Quantum erasure with causally disconnected choice" has appeared in the current issue of the renowned science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


Closer to Truth: Quantum Physics of Consciousness

Are quantum events required for consciousness in a very special sense, far beyond the general sense that quantum events are part of all physical systems? What would it take for quantum events, on such a micro-scale, to be relevant for brain function, which operates at the much higher level of neurons and brain circuits? What would it mean?

List of physicists and their viewpoints on consciousness here.

Some more stuff on Bohm here
- and in the subsequent two posts from that location.


An essay on the subject of Idealism & QM by John Hopkins professor of physics Richard Conn Henry.

It's a commentary on an article entitled 'Quantum Physics Gets Spooky'.

I have created an illustration of the famous John Wheeler delayed choice experiment: ( What this experiment shows, is that Schrödinger's cat's history is determined by your observation: "If you find a dead cat, an examination by a veterinary forensic pathologist would determine the cat to have died eight hours ago. Your observation not only creates a current reality, it also creates the history appropriate to that reality" (Rosenblum and Kuttner, "Quantum Enigma," Oxford, 2006). This is where evolution comes from! The most recent experimental verification of the delayed-choice result, is by V. Jacques et al., Science, 315, 966, 2007.

Quantum mechanics is not spooky, and is not even slightly mysterious. No more than spherical trigonometry! Newton's
F = ma follows very simply from Schrödinger's equation, which, in turn, can be derived assuming simple symmetries (Henry, R. C., 1990, Am. J. of Phys., 58, 1087; Shapiro, M., 2008, J. Phys. A: Math. Theor. 41: 175303).

What is spooky, of course, inconceivably spooky, is our own existence (that is, our minds' existence) and the fact that we make observations. Physics does not even address these questions. The universe being purely mental begs the question of other minds—I resolve it, now, by belief in God—I dropped my atheism in 2004; not easily, but decisively.

It is also spooky that Galileo was able to educate the world to understand that the Earth goes around the Sun (and what could be spookier than that?), yet physicists today have utterly failed to inform the public to understanding the purely mental nature of the universe, with all that that implies for the meaning of human existence. That is a tragedy, and it should be rectified. I wish I knew how.