Tag Archives: Niels Bohr

Who Knew? Lucky Charms Actually Work

horseshoeAssay: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about superstition.

Superstition is the irrational belief that an object or behavior has the power to influence an outcome, when there’s no logical connection between them.

Most of us aren’t superstitious—but most of us are a littlestitious.

Relying on lucky charms is superstitious, but in fact, it actually works. Researchers have found that people who believe they have luck on their side feel greater “self-efficacy”—the belief that we’re capable of doing what we set out to do—and this belief actually boosts mental and physical performance. Many elite athletes, for instance, are deeply superstitious, and in one study, people who were told that a golf ball “has turned out to be a lucky ball” did  better putting than people who weren’t told that.

Any discussion of superstition reminds me of a perhaps-apocryphal story that I love, about physicist Niels Bohr. Bohr noticed that a friend had a horseshoe mailed above the door, and he asked why. When was told that it brought luck, he asked in astonishment, “Do you really believe in this?” His friend replied, “Oh, I don’t believe in it. But I am told it works even if you don’t believe in it.” (You can watch me tell the story in this video.)

To help herself quit drinking, a friend told me, she explicitly invoked the idea of luck. “I told myself, ‘The lucky parts of my life have been when I wasn’t drinking, so I need to stop drinking to get my luck back.’”

How about you? Do you have a lucky object, lucky ritual, or lucky item that you wear? I have a lucky perfume. I love beautiful smells, but I save one of my favorite perfumes to wear only when I feel like I need some extra luck.

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Are you interested in launching a group for people doing happiness projects together? These groups have sprung up all over the world, and one of my favorite things on my book tour was to meet some of the groups. Intrigued? Email me, and I’ll send you the “starter kit.” Read more here.

Deepak Chopra: How Science Explains Paradox

Reality is full of paradox. The happiest moment may bring tears to our eyes; enrichment can lead to depletion; a statement may be both true and false. Most of us learn early on to accept life’s ambiguity, only occasionally balking at the unfairness of a world that is never exactly as it seems. As it turns out, paradox is encoded in our very being, so fundamental though we hardly know how to talk about it. But in this week’s episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra sits down with Menas Kafatos, a physicist and professor at Chapman University, to unpack the principle of complementarity and the paradox inherent in reality.

Complementarity is a quantum mechanical principle first formulated by Niels Bohr, an early 20th century Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner. The principle describes the way in which atoms act both as particles and as waves, a seemingly contradictory, though undeniably true, fact. During experiments it may be impossible to witness both properties at once, given the limitations of measuring equipment. But both aspects of matter are essential.

As Deepak and Menas discuss, complementarity is a fundamental principle of reality, which means it applies to all aspects of the universe: mind and body, unmanifest and manifest, dead and alive, local and nonlocal. Without opposites, Deepak concludes, there would be no universe. Neither particle nor wave on its own is enough to constitute reality – only their duality allows nature to act and function as it does. Thus paradox is at the center and in the very essence of creation.

What do you think? Have you experienced paradox? Let us know in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and check out Deepak Chopra’s paradoxical book, Grow Younger, Live Longer!

Spirituality Is the New Science

The scientific world went into spasms last week when a Nobel laureate announced that he had, in effect, teleported DNA.  That was the sound bite, but of course the story was more complicated.  A French team headed by Luc Montagnier, previously known for his work on HIV and AIDS,  took two test tubes, one of which contained bacterial DNA, the other pure water. After the test tubes were surrounded by an electrical current, analysis showed that an imprint of the DNA was detectable in the water. The outrageousness of this claim echoes a finding from over a decade ago that water has memory.

What delights me about this controversy, which will be won by the skeptics, naturally, is that conventional science is fraying around the edges, and the fraying is being done by scientists themselves.  A decade ago, for example, you couldn’t find more than a small handful of physicists and biologists who were willing to consider that the study of consciousness was reputable.  This year there will be conventions on the subject with hundreds of participants.  This isn’t because there’s been an outbreak of rebelliousness in labs across the globe. Rather, there was nowhere else for the trail to go. You can’t discuss memory, either in the human brain or in water, without explaining consciousness.

 Popular books like The Tao of Physics and God and the New Physics played an enormous role in the general culture.  But their impact on professional physicists has been slight and gradual. That’s because physics is based on materialism.  Anything that isn’t a thing, any phenomenon that cannot be measured, doesn’t belong in physics. But the solid, material world vanished a hundred years ago, and almost all the quantum pioneers, such as Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrödinger, either became outright mystics or remained baffled by the radical discovery that the universe emerged from a void. This inconceivable place, which is outside space and time, isn’t empty. It functions as the womb of creation. Indeed, every particle in the universe — including those that make up our body — flicker in and out of the vacuum state thousands of times per second.

Is this also the place where mind comes from?  The world’s spiritual traditions have always held that creation is imbued with consciousness. The purest statement of this comes from the sages of ancient India, who proclaimed Aham Brahmasmi, I am the universe.  I look upon them as the Einsteins of consciousness, because they explored the farthest reaches of consciousness in order to find its essence, the irreducible quality that allows mind to exist.  The connection between science and spirituality took a long time to move in from the fringes, but even so renowned a scientist as Sir Roger Penrose has offered a theory that would trace human thought back to quantum events happening at the finest level of the neuron.

What this tells me is that some thick walls are tumbling down. In particular there has been a wall that shut science away from consciousness. For many reasons it was the last wall to be breached: science abhors subjectivity and enshrines objectivity, it depends on data rather than experience, and experiments require theoretical models, whereas there is no model of mind that anyone can agree upon.  These were valid reasons for hundreds of years. Yet two simple facts were being overlooked. Fact #1: Everything in existence is experienced through our consciousness, including subatomic particles and distant galaxies. The universe exists in our consciousness. There is no proof of an objective universe, which is taken on faith, as pure assumption. Fact #2: If there is a universe outside our consciousness, we can have no knowledge of it.

You can perform thousands up thousands of experiments while still ignoring these two facts. But eventually there’s a limit, and when you reach it, you have to ask some key questions: Is the universe conscious? Is everything happening in the mind of God?  Does the mind exist outside the brain?  Once preposterous, these questions seem to hold the key to the future, in both physics and biology.  There is much more to say on the subject, but for the moment, we can at least afford a smile at the notion that DNA can teleport itself and that water can remember things. Out of delight and imagination most of the world’s great ideas were born.



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