Tag Archives: Higgs boson

Physics’ Split Personality: Is the Dark Side Winning?


By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Menas Kafatos, PhD

For some time now most of the universe has gone dark. This startling news was brought to popular attention in a June Op-Ed piece in the New York Times called “A Crisis at the Edge of Physics.” It began, “Do physicists need empirical evidence to confirm their theories?” In other words, once you work out a theoretical explanation for how Nature works, do you need evidence to prove it?

The answer seems like an obvious yes. If someone had a theory that unicorns live at the center of black holes, no one would believe it without evidence. But for a hundred years, ever since the quantum revolution, mathematics has often substituted for empirical data. The quantum world is too far removed from the everyday world for empiricism to guide the way. There have been famous validations of arcane theories, as when astronomers used a total solar eclipse in 1919 to verify Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity that light can been bent into a curve by strong gravitational forces. Continue reading

Do We Really Know What’s Real? The Most Optimistic Answer Is Maybe


By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Menas Kafatos, PhD

For a very long time, if you wanted to know if something is real or not, the go-to people have been scientists. The rise of rationality over superstition is considered the single greatest achievement of the past three or four centuries. So it’s startling news–as we discussed in the last post–that physics has arrived at a reality crisis. Three great unsolved mysteries remain, and they are the same riddles asked by ancient Greek philosophers: What is the universe made of? Where did the universe come from? How do we know what’s real?

It’s fascinating to observe how working scientists approach these questions. The vast majority pay no attention to them, because a scientist’s everyday work, including the work of physicists, is about collecting data, running experiments, and making calculations from known theories, and once in a while formulating new theories. The Big Questions which are left to theorists, are usually bypassed in the everyday lives of scientists. But as we discussed last time, science has to test every theory to see if it matches empirical reality.  Galileo could calculate on paper that two objects, when dropped from a height, would hit the ground at the same time, despite the age-old assumption that a cannonball, being much heavier than a lead fishing weight, would hit the ground first, as Aristotle believed. To prove that his calculations were correct, Galileo offered empirical proof, and physics took a huge counter-intuitive step forward.

Most physicists are still deeply wedded to empirical proof, and because massive particle accelerators and deep-space telescopes continue to bring back better and better data, delving deeper into the fabric of Nature, there’s a camp we can label “we’re almost there.” If you belong to this camp, you view the future as an unstoppable march to progress; the same march science has been on for centuries. There is no reason to believe that the Big Questions won’t be answered as long as we’re patient enough. But this confident attitude has run into three major obstacles: Continue reading

What Would God Think of the God Particle? (Part 2)

Particle-collision-via-ShutterstockClick Here For Part 1

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP and Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Chapman University

The “God particle” seems to be well and truly with us. The award on October 3 of the Nobel Prize in physics that focused on the Higgs boson – the technical term for the God particle – capped a decades-long search that has cost billions of dollars. In the first post we discussed why the discovery of the elusive, fleeting Higgs boson is two-edged. It represents a triumph in human curiosity and our drive to understand the universe. At the same time, however, a huge stumbling block hasn’t been overcome. In fact, the Higgs boson may indicate that creation (whether God exists or not) is becoming ever more mysterious.

The mammoth collider at CERN Switzerland blasted the Higgs boson out of the invisible quantum field so that it could be observed, at the faintest level of measurement and then only for precious milliseconds. But this was enough to disclose the finest level of the subatomic realm so far known to be real. The problem with getting this close to the source of creation is that space, time, gravity, matter, and energy have become more and more ambiguous, as if the quantum revolution hadn’t already done enough in that department. With the probability that so-called “dark” matter and energy may account for 96% of the universe – along with another probability, that “dark” stuff doesn’t obey the same laws as visible mater and energy – the picture of creation is undergoing radical revision.

Stephen Hawking added to the ambiguity, in his last book, The Grand Design, by siding with those who have basically given up on a Theory of Everything and are settling for a piecemeal patchwork or mosaic of theories, each pertaining to distinct regions of creation while never being synthesized into one grand design. If God exists, the deity must be smiling. For behind the high fives and hoopla over the Higgs boson, there’s a growing doubt that we are anywhere near to understanding the nature of reality. These doubts arise from two major sources.

First, there’s broad agreement that science doesn’t comprehensively describe reality to begin with. Over a century ago the pioneers of quantum theory dismantled the common-sense notion that the world “out there” consists of hard, solid, tangible things. As one of the greatest of these pioneers, Werner Heisenberg, noted, “The atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.” No one has ever refuted this claim, and when you add into the mixture the Uncertainty Principle, which says that quantum objects can be located only by the probability that they will appear at a certain place (only after it is observed does a particle actually settle into a measurable position), the solid, tangible world is radically undermined.

The result is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in science: How does the shadowy, invisible quantum domain transition into the familiar, reassuring world we perceive through the five senses?  Something almost inconceivable is taking place, and to parallel this mystery, there is a second one. How did atoms and molecules give rise (if they did) to the thinking brain? The glucose that feeds your brain isn’t very different from the sucrose in a sugar cube, but a sugar cube can’t read this sentence, while your brain can. The starting point for solving these two mysteries was neatly summarized by the illustrious British neurologist Sir John Eccles: “I want you to realize that there exists no color in the natural world, and no sound – nothing of this kind; no textures, no patterns, no beauty, no scent.”

Until very recently the two mysteries we’ve described (leaving out others that are more technical, such as the debate over Einstein’s cosmological constant) were essentially shrugged off by working physicists, who are content to accept the ordinary, common-sense world when they drive their cars, and who delve into the quantum domain as if it were a separate reality, which it isn’t.

The second reason that physics might be very far from understanding creation can be traced to the failure, now decades old, to mesh the two greatest achievements of twentieth-century physics – Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.  It’s highly embarrassing that two such spectacular intellectual discoveries don’t agree with each other. We won’t go into the technical reasons for the disagreement. It’s enough to say that trying to make them mesh has led theorists to the very brink of creation, to the boundary in spacetime where space and time emerge from a pre-created state. (One reason for celebrating the Higgs boson is that it represents a minuscule but vital step toward the pre-created state).

So the popular sentiment that we are near the big answers to big questions is hardly shared by many theoretical physicists who know more about their own theories. There is certainly a camp that believes the only way forward is to build more powerful particle accelerators to probe finer and finer fabrics of Nature, while another camp sees a way forward beyond the Standard Model and supersymmetry, through string theory, which offers a possible mathematical mode for the pre-created state (mathematics becomes the only guide left, since imagining the quantum vacuum, which precedes time and space, is mentally impossible).

Speaking for ourselves, we side with a small but farseeing group who turn for answers to consciousness, working from an unassailable fact: Reality, as far as humans are concerned, consists of the things we experience. Even the most arcane activity of physicists – and the Higgs boson is extremely arcane – are experiences; so is mathematics – if the laws of mathematics exist outside our experience, we will never know that or be able to prove it. For decades consciousness has been dismissed by “real” scientists as simply a given.  But Max Planck, the founder of quantum physics, was as real a scientist as you can get, and he said this: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. We cannot get behind consciousness. ”

This belief that mind is inescapable, that so-called “objective” science must one day come to grips with subjectivity, was shared by any number of quantum pioneers but got put on the shelf while the thrust of physics remained physical. The vast majority of physicists continue to work and think as if mind shouldn’t be part of their equations. As long as such a belief persists, despite its self-contradiction (can the mind really ignore the mind?) there will be more elementary particles for expensive machines to blast out of the vacuum state. At the same time, God will rest comfortably that creation’s greatest mysteries haven’t been revealed. At some point, perhaps in the near future, science will finally accept, and awards will soon follow, that the mind cannot be left out of the picture that the mind studies.

What Would God Think of the God Particle? Part 1

particle or wave?By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP and Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Chapman University

The award of the Nobel Prize in physics generally creates a mental blur for most people, since no one can comprehend the current state of physics without training in advanced mathematics.  This year was somewhat different, thanks to a nickname.

As the world learned on October 3, the British physicist Peter Higgs and the Belgian physicist Francois Englert shared the Nobel, as was widely expected in the profession. The award was given for a theory involving a missing particle in the so-called Standard Model of particle physics. The particle had come to be known as the Higgs boson when it was postulated or more popularly as “the God particle” from a 1993 book by Leon Lederman, another Nobel laureate who also served as the director of the prestigious Fermilab.

The discovery last year at CERN in Switzerland of the Higgs boson was a triumph for the Standard Model theory.  Higgs and Englert, along with Robert Brout, Gerald Guralnik, C. R. Hagen, and Tom Kibble, had hypothesized the existence of a field filling the entire vacuum of space.  If it hadn’t been dubbed the God particle, physicists wouldn’t be saddled with an embarrassing, catchy name.  Meant initially as a joke, the enduring moniker suggests that in some way science has reached an ultimate destination. Creation has surrendered its final secret, even if there is no God. But in reality particle physics keeps moving forward, and after the celebration at finding a Higgs boson dies down, new frontiers will open up. Meanwhile, every physicist who is asked about the God particle takes pains to distance himself from the label, including Higgs himself.

Now that God has been invoked in the discussion, however, it’s worth asking if we are getting closer to understanding Him/Her/It in a way that matters beyond the arcane of quantum physics.

Certainly a step was taken in our understanding of the finest fabric of the cosmos. In technical language, the ubiquitous Higgs field allows all particles in the universe to acquire mass through interactions with it, as the particles move through space, via a kind of dragging effect analogous to chunks of matter moving through molasses (elementary particles being the equivalent of the chunks and the Higgs field the molasses). High energy proton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN revealed the elusive Higgs boson. The Higgs, unlike the photon, which is also a boson, has a mass, expected to be in the approximate range of 125 (or more) times the mass of the proton. Bosons are particles in quantum theory that carry forces – for example, the photon is the carrier of the electromagnetic force. They can be packed together in unlimited amounts. The Higgs boson is very unstable, instantly decaying after its creation into other particles prescribed by quantum field theory.

What’s also clear is that particle physicists were willing to go to almost any lengths to provide evidence for this missing link. It took many billions of colliding protons in the huge LHC CERN accelerator, backed up by multitudes of computers around the world to painstakingly analyze the data, before the discovery of the God particle seemed real. Most physicists by now, although guarded, believe that some form of Higgs boson was in fact observed last summer. And the rapid award of the Nobel is a testament of that commonly-held belief. The difficulty of this achievement was underlined by the fact that the Higgs boson is so mysterious and fleeting that it took from 1964, when its existence was first proposed, until last March to verify that such a particle actually exists.

Being irritated by a nickname doesn’t dispel the widespread belief that science is somehow getting very, very close to understanding the fundamental nature of reality. Some take an optimistic view of the road ahead. There is hope that the Higgs field may help bring together general relativity and quantum theory. Currently cosmologists believe that dark energy permeates the universe, evolving according to general relativity, and is responsible for an accelerating expansion of the universe. Although a standard Higgs particle would say little about dark energy, more exotic versions could provide theoretical understanding of it. Scientists will have to look at the LHC results on how the Higgs decays into other particles after it is produced in high energy collisions. The “dark” side of the universe poses both a new frontier and a stumbling block.  Cosmologists seem to agree that all the luminous matter in the universe makes up only 4% of whatever exists. All the hundreds of billions of galaxies, composed of many billions of stars, make up just 4% of everything. The rest may be in the form of dark matter and even the more exotic (but unknown) dark energy. So if the “Higgs-like” particle discovered at CERN turns out to be the more exotic form, it could help us understand dark energy.

As Rolf-Dieter Heuer, director of the LHC project, stated in a 2011 talk, “The Higgs is neither matter nor force. The Higgs is just different.”  We won’t go into the differences here, except to say that there is reason to assume that the Higgs isn’t one of a kind but the opening wedge to an entire class of so-called scalar particles. One optimistic view of the results observed so far holds that the discovery will lead to new developments in particle physics. These would open up a finer level of the quantum domain and thus bring physics closer to its holy grail, a Theory of Everything, a grandiose-sounding, particle-based view of the cosmos.

The more pessimistic overview, (but as its proponents claim more realistic,) states that the LHC results have not given any evidence of the existence of other particles that would be needed to continue our understanding of the physics beyond the Higgs, to what is expected to be the next theoretical development, dubbed supersymmetry. As such, there’s a major snag in attempts to ultimately develop a Theory of Everything. Even leaving arguments related to theories of physics aside, such a theory, as envisaged, doesn’t say anything and in fact cannot say anything about life, evolution and the phenomena of mind and awareness. It is not even clear how gravity, the last of the four forces of nature described by general relativity, will fit into the Standard Model – at this point, a great deal of current theory, including the widely touted superstring theory, is interesting speculation.

It is inescapable that two world views, one scientific and technical, the other human and experiential, must either collide or converge. That is, the universe must make room for how human beings evolved in order to investigate the creation that gave rise to us. Any Theory of Everything that leaves the human dimension out – as particle physics tries overwhelmingly to do – cannot reach its goal. The Higgs boson, as viewed from the world we all experience every day, isn’t simply arcane. It leads toward a collision of world views rather than a convergence.

We will discuss what this means in the next post.

Continued in Part 2

photo by: hlkljgk

Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 12)

University of Maryland Brain Cap Technology Turns Thought into MotionClick here to read part 11!

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD

In our prior post we reconstructed the concept of “you”, which we all typically, think of as bounded by the skin and the body it encloses.  But a hallmark of 21st-century science is to tear down boundaries.  A limitless universe that springs from the quantum vacuum, (along with possibly multiple universes) is the setting for an unbounded “you” – a self that merges with creation. The bond that unites you with the universe isn’t simply physical, although every atom in your body comes from stardust, much of it the residue of exploding supernovas in intergalactic space.  Far more importantly, “you” are a mental construct, and therefore the bond that weaves your life into cosmic life is invisible.

We’ve argued that human intelligence most plausibly arose from an intelligent universe. As the great physicist Erwin Schrödinger declared, “To divide or multiply consciousness is something meaningless.” In other words, consciousness is one. It only appears to be divided up into billions of human minds, and likely into uncountable forms of consciousness in other species. In the same way, you might see an aqua sweater as blue while I see it as green, but “color” itself is a single thing; two people can’t have their own separate definition of it.

There’s a telling metaphor in the Vedic tradition: When the sun shines on a perfectly still sea, there is one sun reflecting back. But when the sea is rippled and moving, there are millions of tiny suns shining back. This appearance doesn’t mean that the sun isn’t one. This insight comes very close to an ancient passage from one of the central texts in Indian spirituality, the Yoga Vasistha: “Cosmic consciousness alone exists, now and ever. In it there are no worlds, no created beings. That consciousness reflected in itself appears to be creation.”

In short, either consciousness is unbounded or you haven’t looked deep enough. The reason that Schrödinger felt competent to talk about unbounded consciousness was that physics had finally reached deep enough, to the most fundamental level of nature. In the quantum realm we know for certain that notions of “boundaries” evaporate: the wave functions that describe the locations and boundaries of “particles” extend in all directions to the borders of the universe itself.  Eventually the dissolution of boundaries became total. Einstein, who was a conservative in these matters compared to some of the other quantum pioneers, wrote a condolence letter to a friend who had just lost her husband. It contained the following famous passage: “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Quantum physics forced us to re-conceive ourselves as creatures who appear to be physical and bounded by time, even though our substance isn’t material and has no boundaries in time. Down further in scale, re-conceiving who we are becomes an ever greater imperative: gluons, quarks, neutrinos, mesons, bosons (including the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle”) all intimately overlap. The universe – and you – continually bubbles up from these shadowy subatomic entities, each sensing, reflecting, and interacting in a seamless whole. In the nanoseconds when these elusive entities escape their invisible domain, science touches on the same picture painted by the Yoga Vasistha, of a creation born of unseen activity beyond the reach of inner thought and probably beyond the reach of imagination as well.

What’s left is mathematics clinging to the edge of the cliff with clutched fingers, hoping not to fall.  But mathematics isn’t reality, while consciousness is. All of us, including scientists, protect our boundaries, finding it hard to join unbounded reality. But if consciousness is real, we don’t have to leap into an alien realm to reach the foundation of creation – it is inside ourselves. The limits of physicality have been reached. This is an area on which there is scientific consensus, thanks to quantum theory: There is a smallest level of scale beneath which one can go no further, at least in this “real” universe of four-dimensional spacetime, known as the Planck scale: 10-35 meters (-1 followed by 35 zeros).  Besides defining where physicality ends, the Planck scale also marks the end point of the environment that encloses material things, such as time, space, and the laws of nature.

We don’t know for sure what the smallest entities are like.  (The five senses don’t help at such an inconceivable scale.) Some think they are the “multidimensional strings” of string theory, but there are other theories as well each sorely lacking in evidence but backed up by various intricate and beautiful mathematical formulations – indeed, the real problem is that there are too many mathematical possibilities that all seem equally valid – or invalid. Whatever the smallest “stuff” is, it cannot be subdivided into smaller bits and pieces with known locations in time and space.  Instead, the universe emerges from the energetic void that is the foundational nature of creation. But even “void” is a tricky term, since the pre-creation state isn’t empty, a pure, empty, vacuum. There are huge amounts of energy linked to vast numbers of virtual particles that potentially manifest an observable reality. Emptiness is spontaneously and continuously giving rise to these tiniest entities, coming and going in a “quantum foam.”  Thus, from the smallest level of scale, the universe is not a place, an empty box in which we reside.  Creation is a process that brings existence out of non-existence. You are that process. You are seamlessly woven into a reality that is complete, whole, and perfect just as it is.

Surprisingly to some but not to all, the subjective experiences found in the Yoga Vasistha and many other ancient texts emphasize the unity of experience. These texts, as it turns out, precisely reflect our objective scientific understanding of how the universe arises. The usual terms attached to ancient texts (e.g., spiritual, religious, wise, intuitive, enlightened) send up red flags to scientists and their ingrained distrust of subjectivity. So let’s resort to a neutral term that links subject and object: observation. In a reality where artificial boundaries have collapsed, the “in here” of subjectivity is no longer walled off from the “out there” of objectivity. The seamless flow of creation expresses itself in both. An observer-based science can be founded on meditation or the Hubble telescope. In a dualistic framework these are opposite poles.  But they come together in an unbounded framework.

For a century quantum physics has wrestled with the so-called observer effect as it impinges on isolated waves and particles. It was mind-blowing enough to believe that the process of observation turned waves into particles.  But the logical extension is mind-expanding: Everything in the universe depends on the linkage between observer, observed, and the act of observation. If it is willing to adopt a touch of humility, science will see that ancient contemplative traditions arrived at conclusions that were not duplicated until “objective” methods acquired incredibly advanced, precise tools. The Higgs boson required billions of dollars in machinery, and countless hours of theorizing, in order to pry out a new piece of knowledge about how subatomic particles emerge from the void. The ancient wisdom traditions began with the big picture instead, and their descriptions of the big picture still outstrip ours. The ancient explorers of consciousness understood the nature of the void, encountered not through mathematical calculation but through direct experience. The void revealed itself to be none other than mind, usually written as Mind to signify that it lies beyond our small, personal minds.

To be continued… 

* * *

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books translated into over 35 languages with over twenty New York Times bestsellers.  Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation. Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony) P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine. Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony) Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) and Director of the Liver and Stem Cell Research Laboratory, Beth Israel Medical Center — Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.  www.neiltheise.com  neiltheise.wordpress.com

Will the “God Particle” Replace God?

If you went to church in the 18th century, you would have heard God described as a celestial clockmaker who had wound up the universe and left it to run itself. Today, the wind-up is the Big Bang and the clock’s parts are subatomic particles. But the problem of creating matter out of emptiness remains the same.

How does matter form from the immaterial? What gives particles their mass, and how do they stick together? The physicists at the CERN facility in Europe are busy using the massive multibillion-dollar Large Hadron Collider to try to answer those questions by hunting for the elusive Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle.”

The search takes place between the visible and the invisible. The hypothetical Higgs boson is a virtual particle, which means it can be coaxed to enter spacetime for the tiniest flash of a millisecond. It operates at the Planck scale, which is millions of times smaller than the nucleus of an atom.

The excitement over finding the Higgs particle is that physical science will have uncovered the mechanism for how the tangible world arises from the intangible. That’s as close to the divine act of creation as physics can get. Yet there’s an irony in basing the solid physical universe on — nothing. Could this in fact be where materialism destroys itself from within?  The Higgs boson may be the key to unlocking the mystery of creation by affirming very different things than materialism dreams of.

Assuming that the particle allows itself to be discovered, the second step is the exploration of the invisible domain. It is literally nothing, and yet everything comes from it. Centuries ago the wisdom traditions of the world compared creation on a small scale to creation on a massive scale. The great sages noted that our minds are nothing, too.  Before a thought appears, there is emptiness and silence. And yet once the mind produces its creations, they are potent, meaningful, and coherent.

Creation doesn’t move from the invisible to the visible with random particles like foam on the surface of the sea. They look random in the Large Hadron Collider, but the scientists running the machine, who are themselves part of creation, don’t have bodies that fly apart into a cloud of particles. Rather, our bodies, like the human brain and DNA itself, are exquisitely ordered creations, the farthest thing from random events. 

Physical forces cannot explain such exquisite order, much less the meaning we derive from it, which is why God came into being. The God particle delivers the tiniest bits of the clock but not the maker. I do not mean that an actual person in the sky made the universe. Keeping strictly with the scientific worldview, the maker must be impersonal, intelligent, universal, invisible, yet manifest in the visible world. The only viable candidate is consciousness.

The Higgs boson particle represents a tiny stepping stone toward a theory of creation that rests upon consciousness as the primal stuff of the cosmos. Many theorists are already getting there; it’s been several decades since the concept of a self-aware universe has been in play.  

Someday it will be commonplace to concede that the intangible, immaterial domain of quantum physics is conscious.  In that world of virtual particles, non-locality, and indeterminacy, things don’t exist with shape, hardness, or color. Their existence is a fleeting display of tendencies, and the superposition of possibilities.  It will be a major realization for science to recognize that all of these tendencies and qualities are tendencies of consciousness.

The third step to a full comprehension of the universe will be connecting the consciousness, which is the ground of the cosmos, to our individual experience of consciousness.  Our ground of existence is the same as the ground state of the universe. This is the message of Vedanta:  Atman is Brahman. Individual consciousness fully awakened is the same as the essential nature of the entire cosmos.   Somehow our consciousness participates and is integral to the creation of the universe.  Sadly, by the time we realize our true creative role, our ignorant actions might have already destroyed our planetary home.

The creative function of consciousness in quantum mechanics was originally outlined in the Copenhagen Interpretation which says that an observer is required in order to collapse the wave function into a single occurrence and produce a measurable outcome. Without a conscious observer, the wave function remains a superposition of eigenstates that are not real in a measurable way.

The Many Worlds theory of quantum mechanics seeks to avoid the need for an observer and the collapse of the wave function by positing enough parallel universes to contain all possible states of the wave function. But in the end, to solve the measurement problem without an observer, a measuring apparatus is needed that is physical yet when analyzed quantum mechanically would not itself be a wave function, or superposition of eigenstates. No one can explain what kind of matter that would be.

The Transactional Interpretation describes quantum interactions in terms of a standing wave formed by retarded (forward-in-time) and advanced (backward-in-time) waves. Here it is assumed that the interaction with the measurement device somehow activates the emission of a possibility wave going backward in time. This is a way to avoid the need of an observer, but like the Many Worlds theory it too implies a dualistic universe that takes us outside of the rules of quantum measurement. Again, the equipment that measures the wave function would have to be made out of matter that does not obey quantum physics with the superposition of possibilities.

A more promising theory of quantum mechanics is David Bohm’s paradigm of Implicate and Explicate Order where primacy is given to wholeness over the parts which include space, time, particles, and quantum states.  In this view, the parts unfold from the whole.

Sir Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, PhD. have evolved the Orchestrated objective reduction model (Orch OR) and this I find to be the most progressive theory to bridge universal consciousness and individual consciousness.  Penrose starts with the position that consciousness is fundamentally non-algorithmic and therefore incapable of being duplicated by a computer or machine. He proposes that consciousness could be explained through quantum theory with a new type of wave function collapse in the brain.  Hameroff’s expertise in the field of neurophysiology provided a likely quantum link in the microtubules in the neurons. Instead of the conventional view is that consciousness emerges from complex computation among brain neurons, they propose that consciousness involves sequences of quantum computations in microtubules inside brain neurons, not between them in the dendrites and synapses. The quantum computations in the brain are also ripples in fundamental spacetime geometry, the most basic level of the universe. 

Penrose suggests that quantum wave function collapse happens by itself above the Planck scale. He postulates that each quantum superposition has its own spacetime curvature and these bits of curved spacetime form a kind of blister in spacetime maintaining superposition. But when it gets larger, beyond the Planck scale, gravity’s influence makes it unstable and it collapses. That is the objective reduction or collapse of the wave function into a measurable particle.

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Amir Aczel Interview by Deepak Chopra

 Amir Aczel interview on Deepak Chopra Wellness Radio-Sirius XM  September 19, 2009


Deepak Chopra:   My guest today  is Dr. Amir Aczel. Dr. Aczel  received a Master of Science in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley and then earned a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Oregon. He  has taught mathematics at universities in California, Alaska, Italy, and Greece. He holds a professorship at Bentley College in Massachusetts where he taught classes on the history of science and the history of mathematics. He wrote the New York Times bestseller  Fermat’s Last Theorem, and has written a new book called The Collider.

Amir Aczel:  Happy to be on the show.


DC: Thanks so much for joining us. You probably heard that we had Michio Kaku a little while ago. So you’re an appropriate follow up. I have so many questions to ask you, but as he was leaving I said, I asked him, is string theory verifiable, experimentally? And as he was leaving he mentioned that we might be seeing some data emerging from the Large Hadron Collider which is the subject of your book which is published by Harmony which is also my publisher and it’s coming out in March 2010. It is about the Large Hadron correct?


AA: Absolutely. It’s called The Collider.


DC:   So,   tell our audience a little bit about the Collider. The Collider is biggest machine ever made. It’s in a tunnel that 26 kilometers in circumference, 16 miles in the French-Swiss border region. It stars around Geneva and it goes around, 70 percent of it is in France and 30 percent in Switzerland and it’s just huge. It’s just huge, it’s the biggest machine and I just visited it. Since I had a good connection there they allowed me to go into the machine itself where they don’t allow visitors. They gave me a white helmet instead of a red one which the visitors have. So, I got to put my head where the protons will collide in a few months.


AA: And what I’ve done for the book is I interviewed 13 Nobel Prize Winners and they all told me what they expect will happen. So we can compare it with what Dr. Kaku told you.


DC: Well I think you are suggesting that we’ll find evidence for String Theory and dark matter and dark energy and what scientists called antimatter. Tell us a little bit about what these entities are. Because now we’re being told that 96% of the universe is made up of this dark matter.


AA: Right. There’s a hierarchy of things that are expected to come out of the LHC collisions and String Theory is actually the last one because it requires a lot more energy than is generally available for the LHC. So, the one aspect of String Theory which may come out is the hidden dimensions of space, but that’s low on the scale of probable things. The most probable thing that will happen is the discovery of the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson is called the “God particle,” the one particle that endows all other particles with their mass. Which is a very strange concept.  How come there’s a particle that gives all other particle’s their mass?

 I can give you some examples if you want, but you wanted to know the other thing. So, the next most probable outcome of the LHC is super symmetry. Virtually everyone I spoke to at CERN, I spoke to about 40 different physicists including these Nobel Prize winners and they all think that some aspect of super symmetry will be discovered. Super symmetry is a theory that uses a very high level of symmetry, symmetry of the human face, symmetry of the pentagon or something like that but extended to a more abstract sense, mathematically. Super symmetry says that for every particle that we know there’s another super-symmetrical partner that exists somewhere and these particles are the best candidates for the dark matter. As you mentioned 96% of the universe is not seen and in fact out of the 4% that is matter only .4% is matter that emits light which is stars and so on.

                The rest is dust and gas between stars, so 4% is matter the rest is 20 something percent that is dark matter and the rest is the dark energy and that’s something that no one really understands. It has to do with Einstein’s lambda, the cosmological constant which Einstein added to his equations in 1917. The equations of the universe, of cosmology. Trying to keep this universe from expanding because astronomers thought that the universe was static. They didn’t know at the time that it was expanding now. In the 20’s, Hubble and some other astronomers discovered the expansion of space so Einstein said “Oh, away with the cosmological constant,” and never wanted to talk about it again and now in 1998 when the discovery was made that the universe is expanding faster all the time, lambda came back because mathematically the same type of constant, which is called lambda can make the universe expand faster. But, other than what I’m telling you now nobody knows what it is. It’s called dark energy; it’s some kind of energy in space that’s pushing it to expand faster all the time. So, dark energy is not a likely candidate to be found at CERN, but dark energy is. I’m sorry. Dark matter is, but dark energy is not. Dark matter is very likely to be found in one of these strains, super symmetric particles.

Now the last thing you mentioned is anti-matter and that’s probably the most dramatic one because of the Dan Brown novel and movie and indeed they do make anti-matter at CERN. The movie actually starts with a picture of the Large Hadron Collider and the anti-matter is not produced directly in the LHC, it’s produced in another location there at CERN. It’s a very complicated procedure in which they try to make anti-atoms. They start with anti-electrons. Nuclear processes called beta-decay emits positrons. These are anti-electrons. They’re like electrons with a positive instead of a negative charge and they annihilate immediately with something and then garment (?) because of their anti-particles. But, they are emitted naturally and beta-decay. Now, anti-protons occur when very high particles called cosmic waves impact our atmosphere. One of the decay products are  anti-protons, but again they decay quickly because they annihilate when they meet normal matter. So the drama is really there when anti-matter meets matter they annihilate. What they try to do in CERN is get a very strong magnetic field that contains the charged particles inside so they don’t touch anything. They’re in vacuums so they can stay without annihilating. But the minute you’re creating atoms that are not charged anymore, they’re neutral and then the drift to the walls of the container and they annihilate anyway. But they do manage to keep them for some time, study them. What they’re trying to find out is why our universe is made of matter and not anti-matter? Because the theories of the Big Bang maintain that both matter and anti-matter were produced in equal amounts.


DC: I’m speaking with Dr. Amir Aczel who is the author of the forthcoming book called The Collider and in this book he discusses everything we’ve been talking about, but he goes further into the relationship between physics and the mind. Dr. Aczel I have a question to ask you as a mathematician. You are obviously very familiar with the relationship between physical laws of the universe and mathematics. Now mathematics is an activity in human consciousness. How is it that this activity in human consciousness corresponds to the laws of nature out there? Does that mean that consciousness is in a sense inherent in nature? Does it also mean that there’s creativity in nature because some of the things that we can talk about including entanglement, uncertainty, or observer effect, all kind of show a deep connection between consciousness and what happens out there in nature.


AA: Well this is the biggest question in all of science and one that all mathematicians ponder all the time. Physicists too, but physicists and mathematicians have differing approaches to this very very big question. Now most mathematicians I’ve talked to and as you know I’ve written a lot about pure mathematics, are Platonic in their thinking which means that they believe mathematics is an existent that transcends the universe, it transcends the physical universe. Now if you’re not a mathematician you say, “Now what does that mean?”


DC: No, I totally get it. I love where you’re going, please go on.


AA: (laughs) Okay. When I actually just talked to a pure mathematician over the weekend and I asked him a similar question. He said, “What do you mean?, the universe just approximates mathematics. Mathematics is an existence that is much greater than anything physical.” Now having dealt with a lot of physicists since doing pure mathematics, I came to see that physicists don’t think that way. To them obviously the universe is number one and nature and what’s around us and mathematics is only a tool. I’ve talked to great mathematical physicists who actually get great, big awards in pure mathematics and yet they think as physicists and therefore their mathematics is a servant to our understanding of the physical world. To answer your question, there are two approaches as we basically see here. One is to think that mathematics is independent of everything and the other is to think that our minds use mathematics in order to understand the universe. If you go in this direction of course you can link mathematics to the connections between money, between body and mind or between soul and physics. Between processes that happen inside our heads and what happens in the physical world. So, mathematics from that point of view can be viewed as a tool that allows us to understand the universe. That obviously goes into what you mentioned, entanglement. This is a mystery that has been uncovered in a sense that we know it happens and we know the mathematics of why it happens. And that’s how the three meet: the mind, physics, and mathematics.

Processes that are using mathematics can be proven to be affected by the mind or affected by the environment or affected by outside processes. So let me give you a specific example so we’re not talking very generally. There’s a kind of experiment I don’t know if you talked in your show about the Double Slit experiment?

DC: No, we did not but go ahead.


AA: Sure, that’s the typical example of the physics experiment which looks at the particle/wave duality. So when you have lights going though two slits many people know that the light will interfere and cause an interference pattern which is a dark and bright, dark and bright because it’s like a wave. Now if you have particles going through there it shouldn’t do it. But it has been proven by de Broglie  in France in the early part of the 20th century and then by Schrodinger that all particles actually have wave nature. So both particles and waves at the same time, which is very strange, but that’s how quantum mechanics works. It works with this duality.


DC: So  before the act of observation, it’s neither a particle or a wave. It’s just a probability cloud and the way you set up the experiment or how you ask the question determines its behavior.


AA: Exactly and that’s the connection with the mind. If you can see the results of the experiment, if you can watch the particle it’s not going to behave as a wave. Even if you can observe it without actually observing it it won’t behave as a wave. It will behave as a particle which means it will go through one slit of the two slits available. Two slits available, so it will choose one. But if you can’t see where it will go it will go through both and interfere with itself which is very strange here. This is the typical example here and there are many others in which a physics process in quantum mechanics interact with a mind in some sense and nobody knows why it happens. There’s a guy…


DC: David Bohm is somebody who suggested that our mind has both wave-like and particle-like qualities. When we examine the content of the mind it’s almost like behaving like particles when we look at the stream of consciousness, then it’s a wave. Something like that?


AA: I think you’re right and in fact some people have suggested that your mind is a quantum computer. So, so basically that’s what he said. You have these processes in the mind that are particle and wave. They’re quantum processes. They have that weirdness. In fact, every time you have a single electron doing anything or a single particle of light photon doing something you get this quantum weirdness. Rather than a big stream of these particles then they behave more in general like macro objects. When you have a single one. So a single electron in your brain obviously acts as a quantum particle. Then you have that particle/wave duality which basically mimics the process of you observing in the lab.


DC: This is such an interesting and fascinating discussion that I would love to have you back again, but before you go I read something in your notes that you met the Schrodinger’s Cat at Schrodinger’s daughters house in Tyrol, Austria. Tell me about that.


AA: Well this is amazing. I wrote a book called Entanglement a few years ago and she read it. She’s his daughter and she didn’t like the fact that I mentioned her father had several girlfriends. I was using a biography.

DC: Didn’t he come up with the Schrodinger equation on some trip that he went to with his wife and some mistress?


AA: Absolutely. That’s what I wrote, so the daughter who was the daughter of the girlfriend, she didn’t like that.


DC: Aha.


AA: But, she was very nice and she said “Why don’t you come and meet me?” I thought well maybe she’ll kill me but I’m going to go. I went and I visited her in Tyrol and it was very nice and she had a cat and I said “Schrodinger’s Cat?” and she said “Yes, of course this is Schrodinger’s Cat,” and she didn’t laugh. I went to bed at night and this cat jumped on my bed and I had this dream that I am both the particle and the wave, that was the story of Schrodinger’s Cat. Schrodinger’s Cat is both dead and alive at the same time, the same way that the particles and the wave are the same or quantum particles can be here or there at the same time which is so bizarre.


DC: Such an amazing discussion and I would love to have you back. We will feature your book Entanglement on our website and I would love to have you back when your new book The Collider starts to come out and feature that as well because there’s so much to talk about.. Where does intentionality, where does creativity, where does insight, where does choice, fit into this? I have always wondered that even some of the simplest things in life cannot be explained by our regular reductionist science. Let me ask you a question that has been troubling me a little bit because we started about mathematics existing in a transcendent realm of possibilities. This morning I was exercising on my treadmill and I was running at three miles an hour and then I decided to start to run at five miles an hour. So in other words I had the intention to increase my activity in the body and that intention of course resulted in the muscles in my whole body going into a completely different expenditure of energy. But the intention to run three miles and the intention to run five miles an hour that didn’t cost anymore in terms of energy expenditure or did it?


AA: Mmm.


DC: Do you understand the question?


AA: I think so. An example that comes to mind is when people lose limbs and they put an artificial hand for example and then your intention to move it actually does move it even though you don’t actually have the muscles and normal nerves there anymore. And I wonder if that’s related to your intention to run faster and how…


DC: What I am saying though is that the intention must exist in a non-local, transcendent realm because the intention doesn’t use more energy.


AA: Right, right.


DC: Once you have the intention then a whole series of events happens in a local domain.


AA: Right.

DC: Intention comes from a non-local domain. That was what I was trying to suggest.


AA: Right and non-locality which is in the quantum world, right.

DC: Well, we have to discuss all this because the more we understand non-locality, entanglement, quantum leaps, uncertainty. The more these are the qualities of our consciousness.


AA: Right, absolutely.


DC: Well Dr. Aczel thanks very much for coming on the show it’s been a great privilege to have you. I hope you’ll come back.


AA: I hope so too. Thank you so much.




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