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Quantum theory and Consciousness This is an interactive discussion. Please feel free to interrupt at any time with your questions and comments. Why are we dissatisfied? • We feel separate from our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. • We think they should not be the way they are… • …so we try to control them. • The more we try to control them, the more separate from them we feel. We feel separate from the world… • We think it should not be the way it is… • …so we try to control it. • The more we try to control it, the more separate from it we feel. What does physics say about separation? • Until the late 1800s, it was thought that all matter could be described by classical physics, which was a theory of separate, independent, observable objects. • The theory was thought to describe objects as they were, so… • …no interpretation of the theory was needed. • Western culture is a culture of separation, as was the culture of classical physics! But… • Classical physics could not explain certain experiments. • It turned out that something was wrong with the basic assumption that matter consists of separate, independent, observable objects. After 3 decades of trying to make classical theory work, in the 1920s physicists replaced it with quantum theory • However, quantum theory turned out to be purely mathematical… • …and it was not immediately obvious how to relate the mathematics to our observations. • An interpretation was needed for this. There are several interpretations used in quantum theory • Physicists use different interpretations for different purposes. • But in none of them is separation real… • …so, if we feel separate, we still live in a pre-quantum world! The most widely used interpretation: the Copenhagen interpretation • In this interpretation, the only thing that is assumed to exist prior to an observation is a mathematical wavefunction that exists over all space. • It represents the probability that a specific event will be observed by the observer using a specific type of apparatus (e.g., an electron detector, or the visual sense). • It describes all of the possible events that could be observed, but cannot predict which event will actually be observed. Wavefunction collapse • At the moment of observation, the wavefunction changes irreversibly from a description of all of the possibilities that could be observed to a description of only the event that is observed. • This is called wavefunction collapse. The next observation • After an observation and wavefunction collapse, a new wavefunction emerges. • It represents all of the possibilities that are allowed by the previous observation. • Another observation results in another wavefunction collapse, etc. • In this theory, there are no objects. There is nothing but a stream of observations, represented by a sequence of wavefunction collapses. The mind • “Your” mind consists of one stream of observations. • “My” mind consists of another stream of observations. • When our observations are simultaneous, they result from the same sequence of wavefunction collapses. • However, the wavefunction represents all possibilities and therefore predicts only the probability, not the certainty, that “you” will observe something. Similarly for “me”. • It does not guarantee that what “you” see is the same thing that “I” see. For example… • …suppose “you” and “I” set up an apparatus to drop no more than one B-B onto a table top (all described by the wavefunction), but we don’t know in advance where it settles on the table top. • Now, suppose “you” and “I” simultaneously observe the table top. • What prevents “you” from seeing a B-B at one place on the table while “I” see it in a different place? Consistency requires that collapse be nonlocal • The Copenhagen interpretation requires that wavefunction collapse happens over all space simultaneously so that “your” observations are consistent with “my” observations, no matter how far apart “we” are. This is called nonlocal collapse. • But, Einstein’s special theory of relativity says that no physical effect can travel with a velocity greater than the velocity of light. • Thus, there is no physical explanation for anything that happens over all space simultaneously, so there is no physical mechanism for nonlocal collapse. • Therefore, nonlocal collapse can only result from a nonphysical mechanism. What is it that… • …is nonphysical and can cause collapse to occur over all space simultaneously? • …can ensure that what “you” observe is consistent with what “I” observe no matter how far apart we are? A possibility that physicists do not like to consider • It might be Awareness that causes wavefunction collapse. • Awareness is not an object. It is what is aware of objects. • Since It is not an object, It cannot be observed. • Because It is not an object, It cannot be localized in space and time. Therefore, It is nonlocal. • Because It is nonlocal, It could collapse the wavefunction so that what “you” observe is consistent with what “I” observe. The subjective interpretation: An alternative interpretation of quantum theory • In this interpretation, there is no objective reality, no objective wavefunction, no wavefunction collapse, and no problem of nonlocality. • There is only subjective experience. • The wavefunction is merely a tool for calculating the probability that something will be observed (experienced). However, in either interpretation… • Each mind appears to be separate from every other mind. • But, if “your” mind is really separate from “my” mind, what allows “your” mind to communicate with “my” mind? Why isn’t separation absolute? • Answer: “We” can communicate with each other because “we” only appear to be separate. • The Awareness that is aware of “your” mind is the same Awareness that is aware of “my” mind. Namaste΄ “The Awareness that I am is the Awareness that You are.”