Tag Archives: Roger Penrose

Reality Gets an Unlikely Savior: Infinity


By Deepak Chopra, MD and Menas Kafatos, PhD

Infinity has been getting a bad reputation recently. It has become the sticking point in the story we tell ourselves about reality. The trouble begins with a split between what is real and what is unreal. If you send someone to the store to buy three apples, and they return with only one, it matches reality to say, “you only brought me a third of what I wanted.”  This statement matches the way numbers are meant to behave. Numbers are pure in the sense that they are abstractions, ever-existing and perfect as the ancient Greek philosophers thought. They cannot be disturbed by real-world events. Yet they are reliable because they allow us to engineer the real world, from building bridges and cathedrals to manufacturing microchips. They are rational because they strictly obey mathematical order and perfect logic.

These three virtues are wobbly when it comes to infinity, however. Getting one apple instead of three represents a one-third return, and when written in decimals, one-third is .33333 out to infinity. In other words, it is an endless number, and “endless” isn’t something we can actually conceive. There is a mismatch between the real world and mathematics, and when it comes to advanced mathematics, the kind applied by physicists and cosmologists, the misbehavior of infinity becomes serious. (Actually, this is one kind of well-behaved infinity, because rational numbers like 1/3 can be known to any order and predicted in advance—the repetition of three continues ad infinitum. An irrational number like pi (π) is a different kind of infinity, since its digits are unpredictable and do not repeat.)

The noted physicist Max Tegmark wrote an article for Discover magazine in Feb. 2015 titled, “Infinity Is a Beautiful Concept – And It’s Ruining Physics.” The ruination exists on two disturbing fronts. The first front is theoretical. Physicists need valid, provable theories to explain the biggest and smallest things in nature. As it turns out, the smallest things, subatomic particles, wink out of sight and vanish into the quantum vacuum. The biggest things, including galactic and intergalactic matter and the universes itself, emerge from the same vacuum, and our universe was set on a course of seemingly almost infinite inflation a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. The rub is that when calculating the behavior of cosmic inflation, infinity keeps intruding and destroying any reasonable prediction. To quote Tegmark, “. . .inflation always gives the same useless answer: infinity divided by infinity.”

The reasons for arriving at this useless calculation are technical, but the upshot isn’t: reality comes down to an inconceivable concept. Infinity also intrudes in the fashionable theory of the multiverse, which derives our universe by supposing that it is only one in an infinite, or nearly infinite, number of alternative universes. But for this to be true, there have to be reasonable calculations of the odds for producing our particular universe with all its vast number of stars and galaxies, and these don’t exist. There are infinite reasons for why the Big Bang produced the universe that led to life on Earth and infinite reasons why it might not have happened. This is surely a very unsatisfying situation. Continue reading

Synchronicity, Evolution, and Your Genes (Part 3)


By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Jordan Flesher, MA Psychology

Two views of the universe have been contending with each other to explain why human beings exist. The first view holds that human beings are not special in any way. We evolved through random events that have accumulated over time, taking 13.7 billion years since the big Bang to arrive at the most complex structure in creation, the human brain. This view, long established in physics and biology, constructs evolution in the absence of mind. Matter came first, and mind emerged very late in the game.

The contending view, held by every wisdom tradition, holds that mind came first. The universe is a field of consciousness, which made it inevitable that conscious creatures would evolve over time. Using our self-awareness, humans recognize order, harmony, beauty, truth, love, balance, equanimity, creativity, and the other qualities essential to consciousness. Over the course of our evolution as a species, we have come to embody these qualities. Therefore, the link between humanity and the universe is intimate, to the extent that the only creation we experience is the human cosmos.  Continue reading

The Science of Consciousness – With Deepak Chopra and Stuart Hameroff

Consciousness, thought, and the mind are often referred to as “hard problems” in science, but does that mean they are beyond analysis? In this conversation on The Chopra Well, doctors Deepak Chopra and Stuart Hameroff discuss the science of consciousness and the directions the study of consciousness may go in the near future.

As you probably know, Deepak is a physician, author, and explorer of consciousness. Finding ground between science and spirituality, medicine and consciousness, is one of the top priorities of his work.

Stuart Hameroff is similarly inclined. He is a physician, Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychology, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson. In medical school, Hameroff became interested in intelligent behavior of microtubules, protein lattices within brain neurons and other living cells. He developed theories of microtubules as self-organizing molecular computers, and teamed with Sir Roger Penrose on the controversial Penrose-Hameroff “Orch OR” model of consciousness.

Based on quantum computing in brain microtubules, Orch OR connects brain activities to the most basic level of the universe — fundamental spacetime geometry at the Planck scale. At that level, Penrose has proposed Platonic information guiding or influencing conscious choices and perceptions. Orch OR could be seen as providing a plausibility argument for non-locality and spirituality. Hameroff also co-organizes the biennial interdisciplinary conference ‘Toward a Science of Consciousness.’

With such experienced, dedicated doctors and scientists working on the “hard problem” of consciousness, we are bound to discover more and more in the years to come!

What are your thoughts on the science of consciousness? Let us know and subscribe to The Chopra Well!

Hawking’s Grand Book, But Where Is the Design? (Part 2)

 By Deepak Chopra and Menas Kafatos, Fletcher Jones Professor of Computational Physics, Dean College of Science ,Chapman University

In the first part of our review of The Grand Design we offered a response from the viewpoint of the general reader. But given the scientific esteem of Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, we wanted to address their theory of creation, known as M-theory, in more technical terms. This is such an important debate that the interested reader will find much to ponder.

 The authors of The Grand Design have tackled an age-old  subject – the origins of the cosmos – which more recently became a public controversy with the whole intelligent design debate. They go even farther, claiming that M-theory will bring to an end the quest for a unified theory of physics. (They concede that “no one seems to know what the “M” stands for, but it may be “master”, “miracle”, or “mystery,”’ rather a letdown when you propose to explain all that exists.)  These are bold goals were they to be realized—M-theory would constitute a major revolution in humanity’s search for the meaning of cosmos (if any) and our role in it.  However, it is our view that the book doesn’t add enough to resolve these grander issues. The basic reason is that Hawking and Mlodinow place their faith in physics to resolve ancient metaphysical questions, such as the need for a Creator, the existence of free will, and the relationship between mind and matter. But aside from that, what can be said about the science presented in The Grand Design?

Let’s look first at the foundation of their thesis. Hawking and Mlodinow implicitly accept the External Reality Hypothesis (ERH), which, according to Max Tegmark of M.I.T., states that there exists an external physical reality, completely independent of us humans. This is in reality a metaphysical statement since it relates to the nature of existence (being). The adherents of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics would reject the ERH on the grounds that there is no reality without observation. In other words, a human observer is woven into the fabric of science and perhaps of anything we can know about existence. We are not like children with our noses pressed against a bake shop window staring at what is behind the glass. We are part of the cosmic scenery, inseparable from what we see.

 Quantum physics makes us focus not just on data but also on the way that we study the physical world, an interaction that forms an undivided whole.  Actually, Hawking and Mlodinow seem to favor this view as well (as do most quantum physicists). They state, “The universe itself has no single history (our note, following Richard Feynman’s sum over histories approach in quantum field theory) nor even an independent existence.” This adheres to what John Wheeler of Princeton termed the role of observer-participant, the foundation of the Copenhagen interpretation. At the same time, however, The Grand Design supposes the independent existence of reality, or being. What is the role of observation, then? After decades of debate involving the greatest quantum physicists from Einstein on, the verdict is in:  quantum mechanics is incompatible with local, realistic theories. Non-locality reigns supreme, and it holds that quantum events are connected across the cosmos, events that are realized through an observer. Space and time create local events, but non-locality defies our common sense notion that anything can be isolated in one place at a given time.  The universe is stranger than that: if you tickle it here, it laughs over there.

Non-locality, as many physicists hold, may be the most profound discovery of modern physics, more so than M-theory. Non-locality is testable and has been tested in the laboratory; M-theory remains a speculation of cosmologists.  It would have been good if Hawking and Mlodinow told us where they stand with respect to this issue. They do not say much about it although non-local reality is implied if one accepts many universes, as they do.  What is the connection of non-locality to M-theory? For them to be silent on the most fundamental aspect of the quantum world, in a theory that purports to be the theory of everything, is a serious shortcoming.

In modern quantum theory, the building blocks of Nature are not static "things", like pebbles or little billiard balls, but dynamic, dancing interactions of possibility waves.  If that is correct, as it is generally agreed it is, then one can assert a transcendent realm. To call something a possibility wave is to call it a "potential.” A potential does not exist in space-time, it is actually the source of space-time. As such, the infinite transcendent presence from which space-time and all waves arise is the immeasurable potential of all that was, is and will be. As such, these waves of possibility allow an infinitely complex set of actualities to emerge. Hawking and Mlodinow remain ambiguous on an issue that could be the very crux of the matter.

Many physicists are puzzled by the value of the so-called “constants” of nature and the fine tuning required (not just in cosmology) to have the present universe as it is. Staggering fine tuning from 1 part in 10 to the power 50 are required to account for the current, observable universe, such as the homogeneity of the universe (i.e. having a more or less constant density at early times) and the isotropy (i.e. looking the same in all directions, as for example indicated by the cosmic background radiation), as well as the cosmological constant, which was formulated and then rejected by Einstein but now is back in vogue.

Hawking and Mlodinow, in keeping with the vast majority of physicists, want to preserve the constancy of physical laws as well as the fundamental principle that randomness rather than design prevails in Nature. Cosmologists have thus devised the multiverse theory that Hawking and Mlodinow favor.  It proposes other universes to explain why our universe came to be perfectly fine-tuned for conscious life to exist. The reasoning goes like this: if there were a very, very large number of different physical laws and/or physical constants in all these universes, some of them would have laws that were suitable for stars, planets and life developing on these planets to exist.

Our particular universe would then seem unique when in fact it wasn’t. Human life would still be random, even though fine-tuning makes it mathematically improbable—to say the least—that random swirling gases gave rise to life with such precision. But if you can afford to throw out billions upon billions of universes, improbabilities don’t matter. On the other side is the theory that human beings cannot help but be the focus and end result of cosmic evolution. This theory is based on the so-called anthropic principle, which comes in two varieties, the weak and the strong. The weak anthropic principle holds that conscious beings (us) exist only in those universes which are finely-tuned for such conscious existence. The strong anthropic principle, on the other hand, “suggests that the fact that we exist imposes constraints not just on our environment (e.g. the existence of the right stable planetary orbits around a star) but on the possible form and content of the laws of nature themselves.” 

One would thus get around the question of fine tuning, which points strongly to  intelligent design, by having a vast number of universes, most of them “still-born” (i.e. not supporting life and consciousness) but with a few allowing life to develop, including the cosmos we live in. Hawking and Mlodinow accept the strong anthropic principle but only in the context of the multiverse. We will return to this issue later. 

The Grand Design also makes a bold and we believe unjustifiable claim that M-theory puts an end to the quest for a unified field theory, that is, a complete explanation for all physical processes. Reducing all the laws of nature to a single mathematical framework is the holy grail of physics. M-theory resulted from several decades of advances in unifying the weak and  strong forces, leaving only gravity to be included. What Hawking and Mlodinow offer is essentially a multi-dimensional extension of string theory, which is also a candidate for unifying particle interactions.  It adopts 11 or perhaps as many as 26 dimensions to comprise the multiverse. Objects are confined to that universe but may be able to interact with other universes via gravity, a force which is not restricted to a particular universe.

It is this property of gravity, according to the authors, which necessitates the spontaneous creation of multitude of universes. Gravity has no physical attributes; it is abstract and impalpable. Thus it becomes the transcendent creator, operating out of a void.  “M-theory predicts that a great many universe were created out of nothing.” Moreover, since gravity exists beyond all the billions of universes that spring up, creation can’t be tied down to any single formulation: "there seems to be no simple mathematical model or theory that can describe every aspect of the universe. Instead there seems to be the network of theories called M-theory (or what we may term a “theory of theories”). Each theory in the M-theory network is good at describing phenomena within a certain range. Whenever their ranges overlap, the various theories in the network agree, so they can be said to be parts of the same theory.”

The ensembles of universes are generically known as the multiverse (but there are actually different types of multiverses that scientists are exploring). "M-theory has solutions that allow for many different internal spaces, perhaps as many as 10 to the power of 500, which means it allows for 10 to the power of 500 different universes, each with its own laws. To get an idea of how many that is think about this. If some being could analyze the laws predicted for each of those universes in just one millisecond and had started working on it at the big bang, at present that being would have studied just 10 to the power of 20 of them.”

This seems like sleight of hand, however. Their theory of everything posits that there is actually no theory of everything. Instead, we have short-range explanations, each plausibly woven into the other. Armed with M-theory, Hawking and Mlodinow can now challenge the concept of creation by design:

“… creation does not require the intervention of a supernatural being or god. Rather, these multiple universes arise from physical law. They are a prediction of science. Each universe has many possible histories and many possible states at later times, that is, at times like the present, long after their creation. Most of these states will be quite unlike the universe we observe, and quite unsuitable for the existence of any form of life. Only a few would allow creatures like us to exist. Thus our presence selects out from this vast array only those universes only those universes that are compatible with our existence. Although we are puny and insignificant on the scale of the cosmos, this makes us in a sense lords of creation."

For hard-nose scientists of the kind they claim to be, this is metaphysics to the nth degree. We would agree that human beings are lords of creation, in the context of quantum participatory universe. But the statement that “our presence selects…compatible with our existence” is vague and has no formal mathematics, which is inconsistent with the author’s stated goal. They are talking about being, all the time.

Let’s look more closely at the concept of the multiverse. In fact, different classes of multiverses exist. A great taxonomy of universes (forming different types of multiverses) has been provided by Max Tegmark. Each one successively encompasses the previous types: Level I, would be the multiverse containing universes with all possible initial conditions, but still similar to ours, all with the same physical laws and the same physical constants (such as the speed of light). This prediction follows from the theory of chaotic inflation. These universes would be located beyond the horizon of our own universe. Most of them would be different in size but some, similar to ours, would be far, far, far away, more than a googolplex meters away (or 10 to the power  of 10 to the power of 100!).  Level II, are universes with different physical constants, or “bubble universes.” They occur in the chaotic inflation theory, and they are embryonic level I multiverses. Cosmologists estimate their number to be 10 to the power 10 to the power 10 to the power 7, a number that for all practical purposes is infinite, we cannot even expand it in writing! Different bubbles would experience spontaneous symmetry breaking resulting in myriads of universe with different constants, i.e. different laws of nature.

Level III type of multiverse follows the many worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics first formulated by Hugh Everett and others, among them Wheeler. In quantum mechanics, certain observations cannot be predicted with absolute certainty; there is a range of possible observations, each with a different probability. According to the MWI, each of these possible observations corresponds to a different outcome in a single universe, but each outcome splits and cannot communicate with the others.

As Tegmark remarks, Level I and Level III are somewhat similar, although one resides in regular space-time, while Level III reside in probability space. The MWI comes with so much metaphysical baggage that Wheeler himself abandoned it. The problem, pointed out in the Conscious Universe by one of us, is that MWI assumes the absolute reality of the wave function which is used to describe the state of a quantum mechanics system. We should keep this in mind since MWI, although not the same as the M-theory with its multiverses, is closely related to it. Related to M-theory is Richard Feynman’s multiple histories interpretation of quantum mechanics, which Hawking and Mlodinow embrace. 

Level IV is the one that Hawking and Mlodinow adopt (although they did not discuss the other types). Having been developed by Tegmark, Level IV considers real all universes that are defined by specific mathematical structures, including universes that have different physical laws from ours. In this most general case, any Theory of Everything must have a mathematical structure. Therefore, mathematics is what counts in the end: multitudes of universes exist because different mathematics exist. We may even assume that this is the case. But then what is the origin of mathematics? 

The fallacy here is that Hawking, Mlodinow, and many other theorists assume that mathematics exists outside of the mind that creates theories. A profound metaphysical assumption is being swept under the rug.  For example, is the Hilbert space, which allows the formalism of quantum mechanics to work, real in itself? If the answer is yes, then we should, e.g., all follow Plato as this was precisely his view, namely that mathematics resides in a transcendent realm. But then there are only two choices:  a) Mathematics and us, the minds who develop mathematics, are in a transcendent realm. If not, then b) Mathematics is an external agent, operating independently of human observers. How is that different from an external God operating outside of human observers?

We prefer the former view, and upon serious consideration, we believe this view may actually be more compatible with science. The Copenhagen school would insist that we should always consider the mathematical formalism as the means to interact with nature, the language we use to communicate with nature. We are part of the whole structure, or more correct the whole process, the mathematics, the physical system or universe, and us.

What we need is a dialogue between science and metaphysics, recognizing both as valid but complementary aspects of one reality. To refute one or try to merge both goes against the efforts of dialogue, the only way out of many problems.  By the same token, metaphysics cannot substitute for physics. It cannot work from the premise that there is a creator God, for example, and then force science to conform to it.  This is what the proponents of intelligent design attempt to do.  The debate will go on, and few people will have their minds changed by this book alone.  Perhaps, irrespective of the metaphysical arguments it makes against any need for a Creator, The Grand Design will help the argument to be made more cogent.  We will be walking the shadowy line between physics and metaphysics for a long time to come.

(To be cont.)

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Stephen Hawking’s Grand Book, But Where Is the Design?

 by Deepak Chopra and Menas Kafatos

Fletcher Jones Professor of Computational Physics, Dean College of Science Chapman University

Stephen Hawking occupies a position in popular culture comparable only to
Einstein’s eminence sixty years ago: he is our last wise man speaking with the total authority of advanced science. Until his new book, The Grand Design, appeared, co-authored with Caltech physics professor (and adept writer) Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking had left open the whisper of a possibility that God might be allowed to survive scientific scrutiny. Einstein had a strong feeling for the presence of awe and wonder at the far horizon of the cosmos and saw evidence for the existence of a unifying, rational presence in the mathematical order of the cosmos. But since then the universe of theoretical physics has become random, complex, paradoxical, and barren of divine presence. Therefore, when Hawking made worldwide news recently by declaring that  "it is not necessary to invoke God…to set the Universe going," a blow was struck for the noisy camp of atheists while the world of devout believers had one more reason–this time a crushing one –to consider science as the enemy of religion.

Yet when you read the new book, it becomes clear that Hawking and Mlodinow are leading us on a journey to the very edge of  "nothing," the underlying source of all space, time, matter, and energy, and the closer they get, the more their findings lend no contradiction to a universal presence, often referred to as God. The ultimate basis of material existence which physicists dub as this nothingness is the ground zero of creation. It is imbued with the pure order that generates mathematics; it gives rise to the laws of nature that govern and balance the universe; and it remains mysteriously above its own creation, monitoring quantum interactions beyond the speed of light. If that sounds a lot like God, it must be said that the richness of this pre-quantum realm is the best model physics has devised for the unknowable–and that leads Hawking into a paradox. If "nothing" gives rise to the human desire for meaning, how can it be meaningless? If the universe operates randomly, and this randomness created human brains that do all kinds of non-random things (such as writing Shakespeare and saying "I love you"), how can the purposeless give birth to the purposeful?

The Grand Design surveys, with considerable brilliance and sovereign impartiality, the latest "network of theories," termed M-theory, about how the universe came to be. The public for popular science has heard about a proposed "theory of everything" and identified it with Hawking’s name. In their new book, he and Mlodinow promote M-theory as “a fundamental theory of physics that is a candidate for a theory of everything,” Yet in place of a single overarching explanation, we get a sort of heffalump. ”There seems to be no single mathematical model or theory that can describe every aspect of the universe… Each theory in the M-theory network is good at describing phenomenon within a certain range." Perhaps the most striking piece of the network is the theory of multiple universes, a hypothesis that Hawking and Mlodinow favor. Yet what is more important for culture at large is that the "design" of their title is not what believers in God might hope for. Rather, it is a strictly mathematical possibility for explaining as much as can be explained.

They fail to address Gödel’s incompleteness theorem that categorically implies that no mathematical model of cosmos can ever be complete. Ultimately, Hawking contends that our source cannot be fully known by the rational mind, and his version of M-theory offers so many alternate universes — far more than the stars in the known universe — that it must be out of reach of the rational mind — it’s like explaining glass by counting every grain of sand on the beach. Humans are trapped in one universe alone out of billions upon billions upon billions, confined by the particular laws of nature that created us. Our minds are unable to conceive of a reality beyond these laws of nature; therefore, the only design admissible to physics has no purpose, meaning, goal, or creator. It is pure, seamless mathematical possibilities arranged in superposition with an escape clause that there are other species of mathematics that fit other universes. Effectively, even if God does exist, we’ll never know for sure since our minds can see only their own reflection–a new twist on St. Paul’s seeing through a glass darkly. One can hear the window to God’s mind that was opened by Einstein being firmly, sternly slammed shut.

In Part 2 of this post we will address the possible holes in the science that Hawking and Mlodinow call upon to support their contentions. The Grand Design is spare and elegantly sketched, yet dozens of important concepts lay hidden between the threads. More important for our culture is the authority that Hawking the icon brings to his brand of hyper-materialism. The multiverse that he describes is self-generating millions of past, present, and future scenarios entirely according to mathematical probability, and he blithely dismisses the all-too-human need for the cosmos to be a meaningful home, a nurturing place for love, truth, compassion, hope, morality, beauty, ethics, and every other value once ascribed to God. Since these qualities have no mathematical validity, the hyper-materialist feels free to banish them from his model. However, it’s one thing to say, as most scientists will, that metaphysics isn’t part of physics, since metaphysics concerns itself beyond space and time, while physics and science in general operate within space and time. It’s quite another to claim that physics has demolished metaphysics. Hawking and Mlodinow avoid the cynical breeziness of some atheists and their understanding of the field is impeccable. But is there a way of viewing the universe that they entirely ignore that isn’t religious yet retains the transcendence that is essential to spiritual experience? Just because you can’t quantify compassion within present-day science doesn’t make Buddha a fraud or an illusion.

The Grand Design is an intellectually delightful read with many insights, and yet it devastates hope. In an interview, Hawking says that "because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist." This sounds like philosophical naïveté. In Nature there are sounds self-generated by dividing one frequency in half, then half again and again–following pure rules of mathematics–but we don’t say that sounds are why music exists. Photons aren’t the reason that art exists. The missing ingredients of music and art — intelligence and creativity, inspiration and invention — can’t be whisked up out of random swirls of gases subject to the law of gravity. There must be a point at which these ingredients are either created or, alternatively, a point where humans looked at the world and realized that intelligence and consciousness are primary to creation. A neat argument has been made by Sir Roger Penrose, the renowned Oxford physicist and often-time colleague to Hawking, that the seeds of consciousness are imbedded in the universe at the quantum level. Penrose speaks of mathematical truths, for example, as being a Platonic value. After all, mathematics is more than numbers: it is orderliness, balance, harmony, logic, and abstract beauty. You can’t strip the numbers out and leave the rest behind.

Since Hawking and Mlodinow admit the pre-eminence of mathematics in their scheme, it’s hard to see how they can get away with rejecting the qualities that go with it. And once you have imbedded harmony, logic, balance, etc. into the quantum fabric of the cosmos, there is no reason to exclude consciousness itself.

Hawking has lent his enormous fame to a blind chase, where countless invisible, totally hypothetical universes, springing up at every millisecond and extending in infinite dimensions, exist solely to keep consciousness out. For once you admit that the universe might be self-aware — a theory that has its own credentialed supporters — there is no mystery to why humans are intelligent, creative, and conscious. It’s in the air we breathe; it’s the scenery of the neighborhood where we grew up. Hawking and Mlodinow argue against an external God and on this we would agree with them. But their work actually may give credence to a unifying and creative principle that is part of the universe, not separate from it. The term God is loaded and doesn’t have to be part of the argument here. We can settle with their “nothingness”, which is far more mysterious and beyond the mind than the God of most religious thought.

 Indeed, in the ancient Vedic tradition, the universe is self-generated, just as Hawking theorizes, and there is no end to how many creations unfold from nothingness. But that mysterious source, devoid of any measurable quality, is not unknowable. It is the closest thing to us, being intelligent, self-conscious, and creative. Otherwise, all of the world’s creation stories, up to and including Hawking’s, must invent a totally hypothetical process out of which the orderliness and creativity that surrounds us came into being. In an old Jewish punch line, God creates the world and says, "Let’s hope it works." In Hawking’s creation myth, nothing creates the world and has no idea what it’s doing.

 For many, The Grand Design will reach a disappointing conclusion by denying God through such a limiting understanding of the divine. Just as our concept of reality needs to be revised constantly, so also our understanding of God needs to be revised to keep in step. Ironically, by invalidating a superhuman, and external, Judeo-Christian God, M-theory may simply engender an immensely more complex God. If the old God can hide out of sight beyond the blue sky above, what keeps the new God from hiding behind a million multi-colored skies in other dimensions?

We’d like to be more specific in our challenges, offered with respect and an open mind. The authors of The Grand Design write that the theories in their book are based on “model-dependent realism.” Model-dependent realism is the idea that a physical theory contains a set of rules that connects the elements of the model to observation. For example, a theory of gravity must match how an apple falls from the tree. This is common sense materialism. Quantum physics offers the possibility that an apple may fly upward rather than falling to the ground, but that model is based on observations, too, not of apples but of photons and electrons as the wave function collapses to create visible events. However, common sense materialism ignores a basic fact: models exist only in consciousness. There are no pictures or theories imprinted into the neurons and synapses of our brain. If there were, we’d all accept the same world picture and assign the same explanation to what we see. Everyone would agree on what is beautiful, and art would never change. If it did change, art would follow predictable rules. Obviously we do not agree on thousands of things. This is not a trivial deviation from mathematical purity. It is consciousness unfolding in a creative way.

Science is also in consciousness; it is an activity of conscious beings and doesn’t exist independently of conscious beings. Hawking and Mlodinow bypass this fact, which is true for all arch materialists. Ignoring some of the trickier discoveries about the observer effect in quantum physics, their book goes on to say, “Both observer and observed are parts of a world that have an objective existence, and any distinction between them has no meaningful existence.” They never define the observer, however. Is the observer material or nonmaterial? How can the observer have material existence without a mind, and if the observer has a mind (unlike a Geiger counter or digital camera) then it must share the same objectivity as the observer. The mindless observer who supposedly records data like a machine obviously doesn’t exist. Mind, then, must be counted as a basic property of observer and observed along with atoms and quarks.

The authors go on as if subjectivity is included in their scheme: “There is no way to remove the observer –us– from our perception of the world, which is created through our sensory processing and through the way we think and reason. Our perception–and hence the observations upon which our theories are based– is not direct, but rather is shaped by a kind of lens, the interpretive structure of our brains.” Let’s assume that this somewhat contorted sentence isn’t simply saying that the world looks pink if you wear rose-colored glasses. What could this “interpretive structure of the brain” possibly be? The brain is not a fixed structure like a lens but a living, evolving process that is shaped by experiences in consciousness. It would seem that by a sleight of hand Hawking and Mlodinow want to give us something quite strange: objective subjectivity.  They are more or less forced into this position, since otherwise they would have to admit the shifting subjectivity we all experience as the world in here."

They continue: “The brain, in other words, builds a picture or model.”  But there are no pictures in the brain, which is filled only with electrochemical signals. Merely stating that the brain builds pictures, without telling us how that is possible, does not explain the basis of model-dependent realism. What strikes us is that by rigidly excluding consciousness, turning it into the elephant in the room that must never be noticed, The Grand Design distorts ordinary experience.  We are told, for example, that free will is an illusion. ”Recent experiments in neuroscience support the view that it is our physical brain, following the known laws of science, that determine our actions, and not some agency that exists outside those laws. For example, a study of patients undergoing awake brain surgery found that by electrically stimulating the appropriate regions of the brain, one could create in the patient the desire to move the hand, arm or foot, or to move the lips and talk. It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behaviour is determined by physical law. So it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.“ 

This is the only reference to neuroscience in the entire book, and with that one experiment free will is dismissed. How about doing the same experiment and asking the patient to resist the desire? There is no capacity in lower animals to resist the offer of food if they are hungry. But human beings, fast, diet, gorge, pick at their vegetables, form weird tastes (ketchup milk shakes? fried alligator tail?), so that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. How can the same physical law create A and the opposite of A? In the earliest seminal studies of brain stimulation done by the pioneering neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, he explicitly refutes the experiment that Hawking cites. Patients in open-brain surgery had their motor cortex stimulated, causing their arms to rise upward. They were then asked to raise their arms, and all could tell the difference between a reflex and a movement they wanted to perform. "My arm just went up" is not the same as "I just raised my arm."

In any case, by so cavalierly dismissing free will, by implication they dismiss insight, intuition, creativity, inspiration, imagination, intention, self-reflection, conscious choice-making, and even model-making on which their entire theory depends. How can a deterministic universe create creatures that believe in free will? And in the glossary, quantum theory is defined as a “theory in which objects do not have a single definite history.” Given that they see this theory as compatible with quantum mechanics, doesn’t this definition in itself violate the principle of determinism?

Or to address the issue on a grand scale: “The laws of M-theory therefore allow for different universes with different apparent laws, depending upon how the internal space is curled. M-theory has solutions that allow for many internal spaces, perhaps as many as 10 to the power of 500, which means it allows for 10 to the power of 500 different universes each with its own laws. To get an idea of how many this is, think about this: if some being could analyze the laws predicted for each of those universes in just one millisecond and had started working on it at the big bang, at present that being would have studied just 10 to the power of 20 of them.“ To disallow meaning, purpose, intelligence, free will, and creativity, this version of M-theory must create isolated, totally deterministic universes for every event that deviates from established mechanical explanations. This is rather like deciding that every new thought must enter its own cosmos, because otherwise, you’d have to state that they all came from one thinker who happens to have lots of whims, moods, wishes, and dreams. Yet such a thinker exists; Hawking and Mlodinow are two good examples, as are all the great physicists from Newton, to Einstein, to Heisenberg, Bohr, Dirac and the other great scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould, who do more than mechanically repeat what has been fed into their brains. Part of the evaluation of physical theories is their elegance and simplicity. Doesn’t the hypothetical existence of a zillion zillion universes, none of them every to be observed, violate both? Occam’s’ razor is turned into a bludgeon. 

Yet one keeps coming back to the complementary ways that The Grand Design rings true with the world’s wisdom traditions, as if peering over the edge into the mystery and drawing back at the last moment. Although Stephen Hawking caught the world’s attention espousing a universe that "can and will continue to create itself out of nothing,” he cannot exclude through observation or mathematics the nothing (no-thing) of the Vedic seers, which is not an empty void but the womb of creation. In the Upanishads it is called Brahman and described as both the field and the knower of the field. In the Bhagavad-Gita, God as Krishna says, "By curving back on myself I create again and again." Seven hundred years ago the Sufi mystic Rumi said, “We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust” and “Look at these worlds spinning out of nothingness. That is within your power.” Rumi not only understood creation from nothingness, but had the deeper insight to connect nothingness to consciousness.

In various guises the same transcendent source of creation is called Shunyata , Allah, Yahweh, Einsoff, or simply universal consciousness. Stripped of every shred of spiritual connotation, science is baked into the transcendent by mathematics itself, whose formulas seem to exist beyond the visible world, to be uncovered by minds that transcend appearance to delve into a realm beyond observation and data. In what way is this kind of transcendence different from religious transcendence? When Einstein spoke of the laws of physics existing in the mind of God, he was showing astuteness about mind, God, and science at the same time.

            To expand our concept of God, it helps to look at the three main ideas that all religions are based on:

         1. A transcendent reality.

         2. The interconnectedness of all that exists.

         3. Embedded values of truth, love, compassion, and the other virtues that are experienced by human beings as handed down from a higher domain.

If anything, today’s most inventive speculative science supports all three premises including the idea that Platonic values are embedded in spacetime geometry at the Planck scale. It is no surprise that we don’t need to invoke an external God, to explain creation, if God is already the reality from which the universe creates itself. The Grand Design is at its most intriguing when it denies God yet posits the existence of all the ingredients, either explicitly or by implication, that an almighty creator would draw upon to create itself.

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What Is the Brain’s Future?

It’s time for the human brain to look to the future, but what will that future be? There’s a lot of updating going on already. The brain is making bigger news than genes, which wasn’t so twenty years ago. The standard model of the brain was a stable, porrridgy gray mass that couldn’t heal itself or even grow new brain cells.  A standard way to warn about the damage done by alcohol was to point out how many million brain cells were killed off by heavy drinking, cells that would never be replaced. But this old brain model has proved to be either wrong or incomplete. 

The latest model reverses most of the accepted beliefs from the past. We now see the brain as dynamic, not fixed. Its processes are so “soft-wired” that new pathways are formed by everyday behavior, habits, and conditioning. Stem cells exist in the brain, allowing for newborn neurons at every stage of life. And the injured brain can regenerate and heal itself, shifting a lost function to a new, undamaged area of itself. None of these things are disputed anymore. Everyone in the field is excited about the next big breakthroughs in neurology, whatever they may be. 

My bet is on quantum biology, which hopes to link the brain as we know it to a completely new world, where physics has defined reality in terms of uncertainty, wave and particle duality, and relativity. “Quantum” has become a cliché, but not when it comes to the brain, because only in the quantum field can we hope to  unravel the brain’s most profound mysteries, such as where thoughts come from and why we are conscious in the first place.   Let me outline a few basics so that the next revolution won’t come as a shock — lots of work on the quantum brain has already been done, and it’s stirring up considerable controversy.

Right now, if you want to explain how the brain thinks, the ruling theory comes from computer science. It seems like a natural fit. Computers process information, and so does the brain. Digital language is based on two letters (0 and 1), while neurons use positive and negative, the opposite charges of chemical ions. Computers have hardware and software, which seems to fit the brain’s billions of neurons (the hardware) that support language, sensations, memories,  and so on (the software).  Because we know a great deal more about computers than we do about the brain, science finds itself in a strange reversal. Instead of looking at the brain to tell us how computers work, it uses computers to teach the brain how it is functioning.

Quantum biology doesn’t agree with this approach. The noted British physicist Roger Penrose started tearing down the accepted explanations when he declared that the brain can’t be reduced to mechanical formulas. There is no mathematics that can infallibly program a brain cell.  Penrose didn’t mean that the math got too complex, even though the brain’s hundred billion neurons would certainly need a mammoth supercomputer to be duplicated. Penrose had a far more crushing point to make. The brain is working through quantum calculations, he said, because until a brain cell picks which process to favor, both choices exist simultaneously.  Such “indeterminacy” has long existed in the way physics explains the nature of light, which can be either a particle or a wave in its behavior. Until a photon “decides” which way to behave, the possibility of wave and particle exist together.

I know this sounds complicated, but consider your own thoughts. At any given moment you don’t know what your next thought will be.  Thoughts come out of the blue, and yet once they arrive, they are definite. You can’t think “blue” and “red” at the same instant. It’s one or the other. Yet before you make that choice, both colors are possibilities. This example simplifies the argument, but it doesn’t falsify it. When you get down to the smallest structures in the brain, the so-called microtubules that allow only one ion of sodium to pass through them (like a fat person who can barely make it through the door), simple pictures won’t work. You must envision thousands of potential ions waiting to carry “blue,” and thousands waiting to carry “red.” they are poised to jump on stage, but until that happens, both sets of ions must wait offstage in the wings.

How can two complete sets of ions occupy a tiny space that barely holds one? They can’t, which is why Penrose’s argument for a quantum brain has proved powerful, if highly controversial. Only if the two sets of ions are in a quantum state — that is, existing as shadows of possibility — can we explain how a single thought emerges from two potential thoughts. Of course, there are a lot more colors than red and blue, and a lot more thoughts than thinking about colors — an infinite number of potential thoughts. Once you see the logic, you realize that the computer=brain equation never worked very well.  Computers are capable of infinite computations, but they are all based on a set program. The brain is unpredictable and therefore creative. (If one scene of a Shakespeare play was absent, no computer could write a genuine replacement, but Shakespeare himself would have no trouble.)

There’s a lot more to be said about the brain’s future, but here is an intriguing insight. Experimenters working with rats have discovered the pleasure centers in their brains. When this center is stimulated, the rat is “happy.” There is no need for a more complex explanation. If you feed a rat, its pleasure center lights up. But to add a twist, if you put the rat near its feed bowl or fill its cage with the smell of food, the pleasure center will light up in expectation of eating. So the rat can be happy even before the food shows up. Human beings can relate. When we think about taking a beach vacation next summer, our pleasure centers light up as well (in fact, one key to happiness, we are told, is to plan long-range pleasures like vacations rather than short-range ones like a candy bar ten minutes from now. The short range pleasure has no lasting effect, while planning a vacation can keep you in a pleasant state for months.)

Human beings cannot be made happy by pleasure, however. We have a quality known as perverseness. Someone can offer you your favorite chocolate, and instead of having your brain light up like a rat’s, you can say no. Maybe you are mad at that person or depressed about your life. Maybe you are bored with chocolate, or just maybe you are feeling perverse. Computers are incapable of perversity. If you program them a certain way, they won’t do the reverse, they won’t be arbitrary or fickle, and most important of all, they won’t balance yes and no as equal possibilities at the same time.  

Perversity, it turns out, has a hidden genius inside. We feel free to think and act any way we want. That’s obvious to anyone who has dealt with a young child going through the terrible twos, a teenager, or the state of falling in love. It irks computer scientists that these anomalies mar their mathematical model, but these are not anomalies. Being free to do whatever you want is what makes us human. No machine can duplicate such a state, and according to quantum biology, the reason is rooted in the indeterminacy of the quantum state.  Indeed, we may be too creative to fit inside our brains. The prospect of eliminating the brain and going directly to the infinite field of consciousness, a field that permeates the entire universe, is looming larger and larger.

(To be cont.)

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Photo: CC Flickr//HurleyGurley

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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Michio Kaku Interview By Deepak Chopra

 Michio Kaku  interview on Deepak Chopra Wellness Radio-Sirius XM   September 19, 2009

Deepak Chopra:   My very special guest today is Dr. Michio Kaku and Dr. Kaku is a theoretical physicist and best-selling author and popular writer of science. He’s the co-founder of string field theory which is a co-branch of string theory and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified field theory. Dr. Kaku has popularized science as no one else that I know. He’s appeared on Discovery Channel, BBC, ABC, the Science Channel, CNN, just to name a few. He has many many publications, many books, he’s a professor here in New York. He holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics at the City College of New York where he has taught for over 25 years. He’s been a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton as well as New York University. Welcome Dr. Kaku!


MK: Deepak, it’s a real honor to be on your show.


DC: And you know we’re going to talk about the unified field theory and we’re also going to talk about of course your book towards the end of our show I want to ask you a few questions about the world of consciousness in nature. How does nature function with or without consciousness?   I was walking New York City one day and saw your book Physics of the Impossible in a window   and I was totally taken up with how you started that book. You said “To deny the impossible… you deny the impossible at your peril,” or something like that. What do you mean?


MK: That’s right. To a physicist we have the “I” word, the I-word is impossible. That’s dangerous. The New York Times once said that airplanes were impossible right before the Wright Brothers sailed into the sky at Kitty Hawk and the New York Times railed against rockets. Rockets cannot move in outer space, impossible said the New York Times and then when Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon the New York Times had to write a retraction saying that well “I guess rockets can move into outer space,” contrary to our previous belief.


DC: What the basis for your book is, that if it does not violate the laws of mathematics or physics then it is in the realm of possibility, really?


MK: That’s right. If it’s not forbidden by the laws of physics, it’s mandatory. So this means that if you take a look at the most fantastic schemes that are considered impossible: teleportation, warp drive, parallel universes, other dimensions, artificial intelligence, ray guns, you realize that they can be possible if we advance technology a little bit and that’s why in the book I begin to catalog the impossible and show that most of them are within the law of physics.


DC: And therefore will at some point become technologies.


MK: That’s right. If it’s not forbidden, it’s mandatory. And as Arthur C. Clark once said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and that’s what this book is about. Magic. The magic of science.


DC: (laughs) Okay. You talk about three levels of the impossible, so the first level is?


MK: The first level is class one, which are possible props within this century, in this ability, which we’re probably going to have very soon in the next few decades. Teleportation, not to mention the first star ships. Also, class two impossibilities will take a little bit longer, perhaps a few centuries, maybe a millennia.


DC: Do you claim to underestimate that you know? The Internet was started in 1996 and look where we are. The first IBM computer at the MIT occupied the whole building and now my Blackberry has more technology there. I believe technology is doubling exponentially, it doubles every year. So about ten years from now it’s going to be a million times more in its power than it is today. But, let’s get back to your level one because it fascinates me. In your book you start with force fields. First of all I think we’d like our audience to understand what are force fields? And then I want to ask you some questions.


MK: Okay.  A force field is basically an invisible shield. You push a button and all of a sudden a bubble forms around you which is impenetrable. It can stop bullets, it can stop ray gun blasts and we realized force fields are actually a little bit difficult to create. Ordinary electric fields, ordinary magnetic fields, they don’t obey the laws of force fields. However, with laser beams, nano technology, we think we can create a multi-layer force field that will do everything you see in Star Trek and everything you see in the movies.


DC: See the part that didn’t excite me is the war technology. You know, that we’ll have Star Wars technology and all that. But the part that did excite me is that the force fields could be engineered and given an architecture which would make it possible to press a button and create a city like New York instantly.


MK: Right. Think about this: if you were to push a button and the force field has knowledge of how to construct walls and floors and sidewalks, with a push of a button you could create an entire city.


DC: That’s amazing. Almost instantly. Almost instantly.


MK: Almost instantly. Right. At the speed of light you might be able to do this.


DC: That is magic.


MK: Yeah.


DC: That for certain is magic.


MK: (laughs) Yeah. It’s any sufficiently advanced technology.


DC: Any other technologies or any things, applications come to mind with force fields other than war?


MK: Well the military of course is funding most of this research but it would be great if we had our own personal force fields. Just imagine creating your own architecture in your room. Buildings. You wouldn’t have to spend all that time saving your money for that second house. You’d simply push a button and have as many houses as you want.


DC: Now you talk about force fields but in the book you also address the future of telepathy for example. Does telepathy, will telepathy employ force fields or will it be a non-local kind of communication.


MK: Well today using MRI scans and electro encephalographs we can actually pick up images of thoughts. So that if you think of a dog or a cat we can actually pick up the image of the dog or a cat. It doesn’t look like a dog or a cat of course, but then a computer analyzes it and then eventually you get a dictionary. One to one correspondence between dogs, cats, houses and certain brains images recorded on an MRI scan.


DC: When you say images I think, to me it’s a little perhaps misleading. The symbolic expressions of those, right?


MK: That’s right.


DC: They’re not real images. They’re squiggles.


MK: Squiggles right. Eventually we’ll able to use this as lie detectors. When you tell a lie that consumes a tremendous amount of brain power.  Because you have to know the truth, concoct a lie, make it consistent with all the other lies you’ve been telling all your life. That’s a lot of brain power, right? So your brain lights up like a Christmas tree when you tell a lie. And eventually we’ll able to perhaps control objects around us simply by thinking about it. In Japan they’ve actually connected a robot to this MRI scan. You think about something and this robot moves. It moves its arms and legs according to telepathy. And we might even be able to read people’s thoughts after a certain point.


DC: So telepathy in a sense does interact or express itself through these force fields, right?


MK: That’s right, through the force of electricity and magnetism.


DC: And electromagnetic fields. Now your theory or your quest for the unified field theory since we are talking about force fields, physicists recognize four forces: the strong and weak interactions, electromagnetism, and gravity. So the quest of the unified field theory is?


MK: It’s to unite all of the four forces into an equation perhaps no more than one inch long and Einstein thought it would allow him to quote “Read the mind of God.” So..


DC: He said once that I want to know how God thinks, everything else is a detail.


MK: Right. And this is what I do for living, working on something called string theory which we think may answer the fundamental question: Are there other universes?  Can you go through a black hole? Can you warp the fabric of space and time and meet your mother before you were born? These are all questions that in principle string theory should be able to answer. And it’s a very strange theory. It exists in hyper space, eleven-dimensional hyper space. Migrating strains create music and this music we see as sub-atomic particles.


DC: That’s why we call the U-N-I-verse the universe. UNI-VERSE. It’s a symphony.


MK: Right. So we think that subatomic particles like protons and neutrons are nothing but strings vibrating in a certain mode and that the physics is nothing but the harmonies and cords and you can create on strings. Chemistry is the melodies you can play on vibrating strings.


DC: That’s beautiful.


MK: The universe is a symphony of strings and the mind of God that Einstein eloquently wrote about for thirty years would be cosmic music resonating through eleven-dimensional hyper space.


DC: That’s beautiful. Absolutely stunning. Now you know a lot of people who are listening to us of course have heard of black holes. I just want to first phrase what I know in my language and then ask you to comment. So a black hole is something that happens when a giant star exhausts its thermonuclear energy and then disappears into lets say the heat death of absolute zero. And it has something around it called the Schwarzschild’s limit of the event horizon. Correct me if I’m wrong.


MK: That’s pretty good.


DC: Okay. If you throw a photon across the event horizon the laws of physics say that it might take eternity for the photon to travel from the Schwarzschild’s limit of the event horizon into the black hole. But the laws of mathematics also predict, I’m told, and you can correct me, that if you’re observing the same phenomenon from the other side, what half takes an eternity from one side takes a fraction of a fraction of a second on the other. The photon zips through that twelve kilometers or so, disappears into the black hole and possibly explodes through a worm hole into a different universe in space and time. Is that what you were talking about when you were talking about time warps and other dimensions?


MK: That’s right. If you want to see a black hole tonight, tonight just look in the direction of Sagittarius, the constellation. That’s the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and there’s a raging black hole at the very center of that constellation that hold’s the galaxy together. The Earth goes around the Sun, but the Sun goes around the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Now that black hole is spinning rapidly and we believe that spinning stars collapse to rings not dots. Dots are the old picture. We now believe that black holes collapse to rings hitting very fast. If you follow through the ring you don’t die. The mathematics says you fall straight through, perhaps to another universe.


DC: What do you think?


MK: Well we should do this experiment one day. Send a probe through a spinning black hole and see whether or not it winds up on the other side of forever. This is a looking glass of Alice so that on the other side of the ring there is Wonderland while you sit in the countryside of Oxford. It’s also the star gates, it’s the wormhole that you mentioned. So if I take a sheet of paper and I put two dots on it, you know a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.


DC: Mmm hmm.

MK: But that’s not right. If you fold the sheet of paper and bring the two points together you realize that a wormhole is the shortest distance between two points.


DC: I am given to think that you think there is life elsewhere in the universe.

MK: Right. So far we have discovered 350 or so planets orbiting other stars and just the other day the French had their Carreau Satellite that picked up a rocky planet. Not a gas giant, but a rocky planet orbiting in and of the star. So one day we’re going to have an existential shock looking at the night sky realizing that the constellations have rocky planets that are Earth-like twins orbiting other star systems.


DC: I am totally fascinated by the idea of quantum entanglement, by the idea of non-locality, by the idea of correlation, the idea that two entities can communicate across space and time without sending a signal, literally. That this correlation remains unmediated because there’s no signal that is mediating it. It’s unmitigated the robustness of the correlation doesn’t diminish with distance and space time and it’s instantaneous. What Einstein calls spooky action as a distance. Explain that.


MK: Well. Einstein anticipated most of twentieth and twenty-first century physics first of all. Wormholes were actually first proposed by Einstein in 1935 they’re called Einstein-Rosen bridges. Wormholes to other universes. And he also butted heads against the quantum theory.  And this is one sense where he actually blew it. He had reservations about the quantum theory because it was so bizarre. So fantastic. How can you be two places at the same time? How can you disappear, reappear somewhere else? How could things be non-local so that something here affects something on the other end of the galaxy faster than the speed of light?


DC: Is our conversation affecting something in another galaxy right now?


MK: In principle. What we’re talking about right is affecting another galaxy far, far beyond the Milky Way Galaxy. Now when the Big Bang took place we think that most of the matter probably was vibrating in unison.


DC: So it was already correlated?


MK: It was already correlated. We call this coherence or correlation. As the universe expanded, we’re still correlated, we’re still bound by these invisible webs. You can’t see them. The book Physics of the Impossible is being filmed for the Science Channel and we actually filmed this quantum entanglement.


DC: You actually demonstrated this?


MK: We actually demonstrated it right on TV cameras. We went to the University of Maryland outside Baltimore and we showed an atom being teleported right across the room. You can actually see two chambers, an atom in one being zapped across the room. A TV screen shows the blip whenever an atom is being teleported and this is non-local matter.


DC: That means going from here to there without the space in between?

MK: That’s right it just disappears and reappears to someplace else.

DC: Right.


MK. How can that be? You only see this on Star Trek with Scotty beaming people into outerspace, right? And we do it now regularly and we do it for the TV camera as a matter of fact for the Science Channel which will air it in December. All twelve episodes that I’m hosting aired on the Science Channel. This is called quantum entanglement so in principle our conversation is being mirrored in some sense on the other side of the galaxy.


DC: Here’s a very fundamental question I want to ask as a biologist, you know because when I look at biological systems: your body, my body, the human body has a hundred trillion cells. Each cell to some people’s approximation does 100,000 activities per second. Every cell is instantly correlated with every cell. A human body can think thoughts, play a piano, kill germs, remove toxins, make a baby all at once. Once it’s doing that your biological rhythms are actually mirroring the symphony of the universe because you have circadian rhythms, seasonal rhythms, tidal rhythms you know they mirror everything that is happening in the whole universe. To my mind the human body is an example or for that matter a leaf for any biological, of quantum entanglement. Everything is correlated with everything instantly. What would you say to that?


MK: Yes, things are entangled so in some sense messages can travel faster than light instantaneously, however the messages that go faster than light are random messages. You can’t send Morse code or information through these things and sometimes we de-cohere from matter so that we can no longer communicate with other forms of matter. For example: believe it or not, if parallel universes exist that means in the quantum realm, Elvis Presley could still be alive. He could be alive in a parallel universe that is vibrating out of phase with our universe. So that universe has de-cohered from our universe. We can no longer interact with the universe of dinosaurs and space aliens and universes where.


DC: But let’s come back to a biological system. That’s not random, that’s very coherent, you know this biological system or a system like say when you have morphogenesis and differentiation, when a cell divides, keeps dividing so that you know in first year applications it has become the hundred trillion cells which is more than all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. That requires some kind of non-local correlation to my mind, theoretically.


MK: Well these non-local correlations are going to be extremely important in the next few decades coming from the computer realm of things first of all, not the biological because computer power based on silicon will be exhausted in about ten, fifteen years. Silicon Valley could become a rust belt, we may have to go to quantum computers. And quantum computers computer on atoms, forget the transistors of silicon. When Silicon Valley becomes a rust belt we’ll have quantum computers computing on atoms. Then this discussion we’re having will determine the gross domestic product of the planet Earth. The world economy will hinge on correlation, decoherence, non-local effects.


DC: Do you think the brain is a quantum computer, that the human brain or any brain is a quantum computer because you know in brains neurons are entangled, they bind, they phase in frequency lock-in.


MK: Well Roger Penrose of Oxford believes so. He says that quantum effects affect the human brain and therefore he says “hum-bug” we’ll never be able to create a robot in the factory because robots are made out of silicon and steel and you have to have computations on atoms, he says in order to resolve the complexity of the mind.


DC: You know the more I hear about quantum entanglement it sounds like a mathematical description of omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence.


MK: Well actually there is a way that we physicists get into the whole question of an omnipotent being. The quantum theory says that an object exists in multiple states until you look at it. So, I’m looking at you but you exist in multiple states.


DC: Multiple probability clouds hovering around nuclei that are also probability clouds.


MK: Right. In one universe I have a twin brother, in another universe I have a sister, neither of which exist. In another I went to a different college, in another universe I’m a rock star, I’m not a physicist. Then we begin to ask…


DC: So in essence in the most fundamental state, you are a field of possibilities?


MK: Right. And…


DC: And infinite possibilities, right?


MK: So who determines whether I’m a bum, whether I’m homeless, whether I’m a professor of theoretical physics. Someone has to look at me says Neils Bohr. By looking at you, your wave function collapses and you exist in a definite state.


DC: So not only Neils Bohr, but I believe Eugene Wigner and John Wheeler. They all say…


MK: Many Nobel laureates.


DC: Are they saying the physical universe would not exist unless there were conscious sentient beings looking at it?


MK: That’s what it leads to. Their theory says that I exist because you look at me, somebody looks at you so you exist, so who looks at her? Who looks at us? Well, God. So Eugene Wigner who helped to build the Atomic Bomb, one of the founders of the quantum theory, in his autobiography said this is the proof of the existence of some kind of omniscient being i.e. God.


DC: What you’re saying is that physical matter is an expression of information and energy fields. Your string theory says and forgive me if I’m misinterpreting it, that these energy and information fields including gravity and space time are expressions of a single unified field and we go to that level and we have to invoke consciousness as actually something that perturbs that field in order to create what we call physicality.


MK: Right. Normally we would say that a rose is a rose is a rose. That’s called objective reality.


DC: To me a rose is rainbows and sunshine, earth, water, and wind, air, and the infinite void and the Big Bang all rolled into one.


MK: Mmm hmm. And Einstein was wrong in this one. We measured this every day in the laboratory. That electrons can dance in between multiple states and then the question is why can’t I dance between multiple states? Do I exist in multiple universes? This is called the many worlds theory, the theory that the universe constantly splits apart with multiple realities and that we have de-cohered. That is that we are no longer vibrating in unison with these other parallel universes and this has a direct impact on string theory. Because string theory has to take a position as to whether or not we have many worlds consciousness. Some people think that consciousness might be a part of string theory in the sense that if there are multiple realities, who determines this reality? Why am I here? Why am I physicist rather than a homeless bum? Right? That is that this universe has consciousness in it which may differentiate our universe from all the other possible universes.


DC: Or we’re not aware of all those other universes if they exist across these wormholes in different dimensions in space and time.


MK: Mmm hmm. For example, this would allow you to resolve the paradoxes of going back in time and meeting your teenage mother before you were born, she falls in love with you and then you’re in deep doo-doo. What do you do with this teenage girl who just fell in love with you, right? Well then you might exist to multiple realities. Your time line may fork into two rivers. The river of time may fork into rivers in which case you have a parallel reality and so then you can become a time traveler and not have to worry about causing a time paradox. Now this of course is for the future. Our descendants may one day have this technology. So one day if somebody knocks on your door and claims to be your great great great great great-granddaughter, don’t slam the door.


DC: (laughs)


MK: She could be correct.


DC: Yes. Now here’s… I have a question since quantum entanglement, non-local communion you might say, correlation exists across the seas of space and because space is another way of measuring time isn’t it?


MK: Mmm hmm.


DC: Does that mean that past, present, and future are also correlated?


MK: In fact, the answer is yes. Stephen Hawking for example used to say that time travel was impossible because where are the tourists from the future taking my picture? (laughs). He changed his mind precisely for that reason. The quantum theory has within it the possibility of time travel, so he changed his mind. Now he simply says that time machines are very hard to build but they may be possible. My personal attitude is, where are the tourists from the future? Maybe they’re invisible.


DC: Mmm hmm.


MK: We’re going to have invisibility very soon, within a few decades, so maybe they’re already here.

DC: So the technology for invisibility is already there? The technology for teleportation is already there? The technology for something, an object to go through a wall is already there? The technology to travel through time is already there and all these technologies come about as a result of mathematics which is an activity in consciousness. Where does mathematics exist?


MK: That’s a tough one. If you take a look at all these multiple universes that we talked about, all of them are solutions of a higher theory called string theory, that’s what I do for a living, that’s my day job. But then the question is well, where did string theory come from if it’s just pure mathematics? My personal attitude is that it is mathematical self-consistency. Once you start to postulate a universe in fifteen dimensions or seventeen dimensions the universe is mathematically unstable, it falls apart, it’s inconsistent. So, perhaps ultimately mathematical self-consistency that are metaphysics, that is string theory: the physics beyond ordinary, worldly physics is the only one possible. There are no other possible theories.

DC: Well we’ve been talking to Dr. Michio Kaku who is a very prominent world-renown theoretical physicist. His extraordinary book is called Physics of the Impossible and we’ve just touched the surface, we’ve talked about level one possibilities which are going to be possible. Let’s just mention level two and three because we’ll reserve them for another occasion. I hope you’ll come back and we’re going to do a television series on this. Good luck on your Science series, I think this is absolutely mind-shattering what you’re doing and bringing together the disciplines of consciousness and physics together. What are level two and three impossibilities, so-called impossibilities?


MK: Uh, the next level. Technologies that may be realized in centuries or millennium include: warp drive, traveling faster than the speed of light, parallel universes, are there other parallel dimensions and parallel realities? Time travel that we mentioned and going to the stars. So in the Science Channel series airing in Winter of this year we’re literally going to take you to the stars.


DC: Thank you Dr. Kaku for coming and being my guest.

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Quantum Consciousness



Since the recent debate at Caltech on the Future of God , many productive conversations have emerged and developed. During the debate I was often criticized for bringing   quantum physics into the discussion of consciousness. When I referenced the work of Sir Roger Penrose, Sam Harris dismissed it by saying I was quoting it out of context, and that the hall at Caltech could easily be filled with people who disagreed with Penrose’s theories.  During the questions phase of the debate, there was a moment of lively but friendly exchange  with Caltech physicist, Leonard Mlodinow.  A fuller account of the interaction can be found at this article at Digital Journal. However, here is a brief excerpt from our exchange about consciousness:


Moderator: What is it about Deepak’s use of quantum physics that bothers you?

Mlodinow: The term nonlocal, the use was not correct with the pacemaker and all the electrical…

Chopra: I happen to disagree by the way.

Mlodinow: I assume you did since you said that.

Chopra: I think consciousness is nonlocal.

Mlodinow: You know, I have never really come across a definition of consciousness that I understood, so maybe you can teach me something.

Chopra: a field, a superposition of possibilities.

Mlodinow: OK, well, all-right, I know what each of those words mean, I still don’t think that…

Chopra: Right now, I’m speaking to a conscious being.

Mlodinow: I hope so.


Since the debate, Leonard Mlodinow and I have corresponded at length about these ideas and have even become good friends. We are considering a collaborative work on these ideas.

After the debate, looking more deeply into the theories of Penrose on quantum physics and consciousness, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Stuart Hameroff,  quantumconsciousness.org,  who has worked extensively with Penrose in developing the Orchestrated Objective Reduction (ORCH-OR)  theory of consciousness. I interviewed Dr. Hameroff last week on my radio show Sirius/XM 102. I will publish that interview as soon as  the transcripts are complete.    Meanwhile here is a segment of an email from Stuart   about the relationship of quantum physics and consciousness that suggests I was not   wrong in my understanding of Penrose’s theories, or that Penrose isn’t a credible physicist.

Dear Deepak,

1) Penrose-Hameroff quantum theory of consciousness includes Penrose who was Stephen Hawkings thesis adviser.

2) The ORCH-OR definition of consciousness is a self-collapse of the wave function, including superposition and non-local entanglement.

3) Reductionists say near death and out-of-body experiences can be induced by brain stimulation. This is not true. What those experiments show is a distortion of body perception which is nothing like the
consistent reports of calm, white light, tunnel, and floating. And other comments that such states are caused by hypoxia are similarly flawed because hypoxia causes agitation and confusion, not clarity and peacefulness.

Your plans sound fantastic, I will do whatever I can to help.



 This is an exciting time in the development of the understanding of consciousness and the deepest knowledge of physics. I am delighted to be engaged in this discussion with such eminent minds.



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