Thursday, March 31, 2005

Hi everybody and thanks for following along on Dr. Quantum’s adventure in this land of dreams and nightmares. I have been getting loads of questions from you all—usually you send to me at my email address I thought I would share a few with you in this blog.

Question: Can a machine or measuring device collapse the quantum wave function and turn a possibility into a real event?

Answer: A measuring device does not collapse the wave function according to quantum physics. That assumption although popular and practical turns out to be incorrect as careful experiment indicates. There have been a number of schemes attempting to add an ad hoc assumption to quantum physics to take care of the “measurement problem” but none are consistent. Some take it that since a device is “classical” and noisy, the device couples in the following way: Take a coin that is flipped so that it lands somewhere. Make it a simple atomic coin like the spin of an electron. The coin can land H or T and the device D can therefore point to Dh or Dt. If the device is a good device then according to quantum physics we get the following scenario: Dt*T+Dh*H, as the final quantum wave function. Since Dt and Dh are very complex quantum wave functions the probability that there is any overlap between them is practically nil. Now an observer comes on the scene. The observer S can see the instrument and can see St or Sh. Hence the observer thinks the coin has landed one way or the other but the actual situation is both St*Dt*T+Sh*Dh*H. These two worlds are very complex and any overlap between them is practically nil. If we assume there is no overlap this becomes what is called the “decoherent phase approximation.” It is then envisioned that the system has “become” classical and the quantum coin is now behaving as if it has a real side showing and the device has a observed that side and the observer has observed that device. But take care it is only an assumption that appears practical but quantum physics does not say that happens.

Question: What if the observer is actually conscious of all the possibilities of the coin flip (including it landing on its side like in the twilight zone, and the possibility of it falling out of space/time, and the possibility that it bursts into flame etc.). The experience that I am ‘feeling’ (heads), however, is just one of these possibilities (as quantum theory suggests). But why does my reality have to be a choice, what if ‘I’ am actually not making any choices at all and realizing all of these realities at different times. There is no ‘consciousness’ because there is no choice, I am not actually discriminating anything, I am a cog in a much larger overall discrimination.
My question of coarse regards consciousness. I am a fan of Daniel Dennett and heterophenomenology which posits that consciousness doesn’t exist as a sincere entity. In relation to quantum physics, it seems that we are forced to believe in an observer, because without one, we have no world. However, why are we dedicated to positing an “observer.” Why couldn’t we suggest that in this reality, or this one of many realities, that the principles of light, and how light interacts with atoms results in this process. The observer, as it were, is not there. Rather, what is there is an organism that has been designed to project light towards atoms over time. The observer is our misconception that light directed outwards denotes a being, when it actually just denotes a principle of mechanics.
Moreover, if everything that can happen does happen, than isn’t therefore true that consciousness is unreal because it could be?

Answer: Thanks for your interesting question and your views on Dennett’s work. I also admire his work, although I believe it’s not taking into account quantum physics principles but only those of classical deterministic physics and Darwinism.
To really understand the problem of consciousness you will need to grasp that physics does not explain the action of an observer. Modeling what an observer does has been in the works for a long time. I am working on several ideas myself based on some new ideas called “weak measurements” which might explain how different observers often do not see the same things.
Now quantum physics predicts that according to von Neumann’s model of quantum physical observation an observer interacts with an observed in such a manner that the observer’s state and the observed state become correlated. Let me use a flipped coin as an example. That means if the observer “sees” heads the coin will be showing heads AND if the observer sees tails the coin will show tails. However quantum physics tells us that BOTH of these possibilities must exist simultaneously. In other words, the observer has split into two worlds a heads world and a tails world.
Yet the observer is conscious of only one world either heads or tails. That is the mystery. No physics explains that. Hence consciousness cannot be explained by current physics. Hence since I believe we all feel we are conscious beings, but what makes that happen? For more on this I suggest you read any of my latest books or listen to my audio CDs. Here is a list to look at: The Dreaming Universe , The Spiritual Universe . Mind into Matter, Matter into Feeling, The Yoga of Time Travel, and Dr. Quantum Presents: A User’s Guide to Your Universe.