Cosmos Café [8/13] - Quantum Entanglement, Quantum Coherence and Quantum Consciousness


These ideas about quantum effects and their relationship to consciousness are emerging at the forefront of research in many different disciplines right now. There are emerging subdisciplines such as quantum biology, quantum brain theory, and even quantum social science! Which parts of this miss-mash make sense and how are these discussions relevant to understanding the mind-body problem? Or the God question for that matter?

Drawing partially on the writings of Alexander Wendt (Quantum Mind and Social Science: Unifying Physical and Social Ontology) as well as other parts of the literature on this question (e.g. the Hameroff and Penrose papers), we propose to generate discussion and hopefully, some improved understanding in this area. Wendt proposes to defend the argument that “human beings are walking wave functions”.

The Cafe will be animated by Geoffrey Edwards (@Geoffrey_Edwards) and Marco Masi (@MarcoM), both physicists active on Infinite Conversations. However, you don’t need to have read any of this material to take part in the discussion, although viewing the shorter videos might be advisable - Wendt’s book isn’t an easy read, even to those of us with a grounding in quantum physics, although it is very thought-provoking, and I don’t recommend the papers to non physicists either (the talk by Hameroff is good, however, and covers much of the same ground as their papers)! We hope to simplify the issues so they can be understood in general terms, and applied to issues of consciousness, understanding time, spirituality, etc. Tall order, perhaps, but it should make for an interesting discussion!

Reading / Watching / Listening

  • Here is a video on Quantum Entanglement … kinda cute with the spinning effigies of his own person :slight_smile: (9 min) : https://youtu.be/ZuvK-od647c
  • Here is another one, more historical in focus, but which asks very interesting questions at the end (20 min) : https://youtu.be/5_0o2fJhtSc
  • For those interested in quantum biology, here is a longer exposition (roughly an hour) by the same speaker as the previous one, quite good: https://youtu.be/bLeEsYDlXJk. This is interesting because quantum biology bears some similarities to studies of quantum consciousness, it is also a fledgling area of interest, but is slightly more mature than studies of quantum mind.
  • For the double-slit experiment and wave/particle duality, the first half of this video is great (but the second half gets far too complex, far too quickly - it is trying to explain another experiment about entanglement, the delayed time experiment, but there is a better video for this below): https://youtu.be/U7Z_TIw9InA
  • For the delayed time experiment (time travel!), this is pretty good… you have to pay attention, because there are many detectors being discussed (listen to first 10 min): https://youtu.be/8ORLN_KwAgs
  • Finally, here is Hameroff talking about his ideas. Hameroff is interesting (although a bit long-winded), he is an anesthetist by training, not a physicist at all (his explanation of superposition is awful!) but he raises very important questions about the standard approach to brain states, and many of his ideas are quite elegant. Overall, his talk is very clear (1 hour 45 min): https://youtu.be/2_sgFETJzak

Couple of tidbits from Hameroff’s talk : “I think that the brain is a fractal-like hierarchy, a resonance system, more like an orchestra than a computer, it may do computing, but I think consciousness is more like music, metaphorically, and the brain is more like an orchestra operating at different resonant frequencies.” And this one, censored out of the slide by slide reprise of the conclusions! “I often get asked about out of body experiences and the possibility of afterlife, … and if consciousness is happening at the level of space-time geometry, which I believe it is, normally the space-time geometry in the brain, in the microtubules, then it could be that when, for example, in a near-death experience, when the blood supply stops flowing, and the microtubules lose their energy supply, that the quantum information reverts to space-time geometry, but remains entangled as an entity, and so if the patient is revived and comes back and says “Hey, I was floating above my body”, or I had this experience, that could actually be happening, even afterlife, the consciousness remains entangled as a unit, a unitary entity, a quantum soul, if you will, outside the body.”


Seed Questions

  1. What is Quantum Entanglement? What is its history? And what is Quantum Coherence and how is this related to Quantum Entanglement?
  2. What can these ideas about quantum entanglement and coherence, tell us about mind, time, spirituality?
  3. Can the theory be really trusted to be used in this way? What are the limits of applying these ideas? Can they affect your life?
9 Likes

Very exciting proposal. I am looking forward to this Cafe. Thanks!

4 Likes

As a further introduction, I might suggest a couple of short chapters I wrote on the subject of quantum biology and quantum consciousness for an upcoming volume on quantum physics I’m working on. It is only a rough overview since these topics are not the central theme of the book and have been added only for completeness (and also as a pretext to let off my ‘sociological critique’ on how modern since works). Since it has still not been subjected to a native English proofreading, I apologize for the low-level English, but I hope it will help nevertheless.

5 Likes

Looking forward to this. Thanks for the invite! Am most of the way through Wendt’s book, and reading some of Karen Barad’s work on the side, as well as Joe Dispenza and other more popularized/applied work.

5 Likes

Great to have you on board, Blake, and welcome to the Infinite Conversations site!

2 Likes

Hi, Blake. I just finished Wendt’s book and am just starting Karan Barad. I find the intra-active a fascinating idea although I am far from understanding her. Wendt is really making me review my assumptions about our social worlds. We look forward to learning what you are learning.

4 Likes

This is a clear presentation of some difficult ideas. We will not leap into a new cosmology without gathering some motifs from the old cosmology. We need to create a bridge. Maybe we are preparing ourselves to make a metaphorical transition? I imagine Aurobindo might agree. Thanks, Marco.

5 Likes

“Consciousness is more like music” YES! Looking forward to this.
(If I comment here and now, will I get notified when vid recording is posted?)

2 Likes

Hi Maia,

Where you see a button that says “Watching,” “Tracking,” or “Normal,” there you can control whether and what kind of notifications to receive on specific topics.

I so agree with your YES.

Hear, hear!
I hear consciousnesss singing!

3 Likes

Looking forward to this conversation. I thank you for setting up this Café as you did @Geoffrey_Edwards and @MarcoM (and thank you again for providing your own work free of change, Marco Masi; your effort in bringing difficult subjects into a clear light answers every layperson’s “prayers”). I expect a few future strands of conversations and other deep dives to arise on our forum out of the deep waters we explore this Tuesday.

Wendt’s book has this particular reader working overtime…:sweat: …but well worth it. Definitely the most rewarding book I have encountered in a long while. I am trying to work my way to at least the chapters @johnnydavis54 recommended a few months back on quantum semantics, language and meaning. I understand our Café has Wendt’s work listed as supplemental, but I just can’t put this one down. Though the pieces have not all come together yet for me, it should fall into place by the end of the book.


I hesitate to quote from the book based on my low-level comprehension and its (possible) irrelevance to this particular thread. I only bring it up to make a few connections with recent conversation around Timothy Morton and to make introductory and explicit headway into what is a generally implicit discussion that has yet to be voiced in our forum, around some of the names listed in the quote below (can’t read and discuss them all!):

This ontology (vitalism) has both affinities with and differences from an important new movement in critical social theory, associated with Jane Bennett, Gilles Deleuze, Graham Harman, Bruno Latour and others, known variously as New Materialism and/or Neo-Vitalism. A common starting point for this otherwise heterogeneous body of scholarship is a re-thinking of the nature of matter, from the inert and passive substance of classical physics to a productive and active force in nature. A provocative effect of this move is to reveal the essential continuity, not of living matter with dead (as in Old Materialism), but of dead matter with living, such that, in varying degrees, we can attribute to inanimate objects (sic) many of the intentional qualities we normally associate just with human beings…
My proposal for a quantum vitalism has important elements in common with New Materialism. It too aims to re-think matter into a less “material” and more active force. In its panpsychist basis it also sees an essential continuity between living and dead matter. And in its claim that all organisms are subjects it shares a non-anthropocentric, post-humanist view of reality, which would deny to human beings a privileged ontological position from which to justify abusing nature. —Quantum Mind and Social Science: Unifying Physical and Social Ontology, p.146

He goes on to note a few differences in his approach, showing that the New Materialists neglect both a study into consciousness and into quantum theory. He does state that Karen Barad is a likeminded soul, an author JOhnny has mentioned before and @Blake_Poland mentions above. Also Timothy Morton may fit the bill as a “quantum panpsychist” as Wendt labels himself below. In Hyperobjects Morton references quantum theory throughout, adding to what Wendt says is missing from the New Materialist toolkit (and adding a healthy does of what seems to be Tim Morton’s signature style of serious playfulness…or is it playful seriousness?).

The ultimate problem here is that by failing to come to grips with the hard problem of consciousness, the New Materialists/Neo-Vitalists remain caught up in the limits of the classical worldview - in short, by the Old Materialism. Making a quantum panpsychist turn enables us to abandon materialism once and for all in favor of a broader, vitalist physicalism that can accommodate that which is most distinctive about life, namely its subjective aspect — p. 147

I will be going about my days “as if” I am a quantum panpsychist, just to see what arises in this physical stratum. So far it has been a fun ride!

4 Likes

Let’s not stress out about Wendt’s book. I can feel my blood pressure start to rise, hoping against hope, that this meet up on Tuesday will focus on the paper written by Marco, which is just a few pages long. I intend to listen to the conversation between the two physicists and post pone Wendt for another day. He is way too big a chunk, dear Doug, for those who are less athletic in the literary leaps they wish to take. Wendt is probably for a study group, not for a Cafe.

I will be going about my days “as if” a quantum gossip. Let us drop all the names we please at the Cafe, but let’s do not give anyone a reason to feel that they are not up to speed it they haven’t read the book or heard of the author. No one is up to speed. So, relax, breathe, feel your feet on the floor. This is not a race to a finish line. There is no way anyone is going to finish any of this. And Tim Morton is another full length study. If you want to develop Morton for a Cafe I recommend that we listen to podcast ( not a read book!) I have a dozen easy to follow podcasts by him to recommend if you want to do that. Let’s find a pace that is easy for everyone to keep up.

5 Likes

I agree largely with @johnnydavis54, it’s why I didn’t want to require the reading of Wendt. You can’t even begin to tease out the arguments raised by Wendt until you understand entanglement. That said, I learned some important things about how to think about entanglement from reading Wendt. It is definitely relevant, but let us say Wendt is cappuccino, and we’re going to sample coffees in general. Some of the discussion will turn to Wendt, but not before people get some sense of entanglement, which is not an easy concept to grasp (maybe entanglement is caffeine - after all, it’s everywhere!)!

5 Likes

It was but only a friendly post :mailbox: with no intent on cluttering the desk with junk mail. As mentioned, I read Wendt as a personal supplement to what will be offered Tuesday.

And as most of you may have noticed there is a grand difference between reading ability and reading comprehension…as one with the former skill, I come to this Tuesdays discussion all ears and a grateful heart.

3 Likes

4 Likes

I thought that the clips @Geoffrey_Edwards posted were the primary reading and that Marco’s was in addition to that, as quantum biology was a secondary issue we would get into if we don’t fry our brains on Entanglement (and Coherence?) first. At least that’s how I read the original notification page, and was trying to tick of the prep items in that order. But, I plan on doing more listening than talking anyhow.

2 Likes

I didn’t read Wendt’s book myself, only went through some reviews to get a glimpse on what it is about. Sounds very interesting for the mystic in me but raises also questions for the scientist. I’m willing to discuss it nevertheless, even though I have not gone through the details. Of course we can focus on my paper, but it assumes the reader being already aquatinted with concepts like quantum superposition, entanglement, decoherence, nonlocality, etc. (these are two short concluding chapters of a book in preparation which explained these concepts in several preceding chapters). Just wondering if that is the case here? If not, the best way to begin might be that to discuss the seed questions first.
Or, as yet another alternative, let it flow spontaneously without our (indeterministic quantum?) minds trying to pre-determine and predict how the meeting shoud develop.

4 Likes

Hmmm … seems to me the clips and seed questions might be the best way in, so that ALL of us get up to some "minimal " common level (not of comprehension, but of exposure) and see how far the discussion gets. Those who have read Marco’s paper would benefit from that further discussion, should it present itself.

But, hey, let the actual organizers make the command decisions. I’m willing to put my fate in their hands. :grimacing:

2 Likes

Amen to SLOW. I am coming to feel it as a holy word… a blessing.

3 Likes

Yes, here, too, going about as if a QP, to see and sense and feel and be grateful for and learn from…what arises, the shit hitting the sparking blades and the flowering breezes and the inbetweens we can’t name…yet…or ever.

4 Likes

Ed, which Marco’s paper? How do I get there? Thanks!

2 Likes