Time, Entanglement & Consciousness
Over the past year [2011-2012] a number of new, potentially momentous, discoveries have been made in the realms of quantum and particle physics. On the one hand, they stand to rock the very foundations of modern physics and the common-sense reality that most people live their everyday lives by. On the other hand, these same discoveries lend further support to the reality of both paranormal phenomena and the literal veracity of ancient wisdom. In particular, I am here referring to three recent announcements:
1) In late April 2012 a research team from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology reported on an experiment involving the generation of light pulses travelling faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. This work involved forcing a wave peak on a pulse of light to move from back to front along the light beam as the light itself was travelling at the standard speed of light, such that the pulse travelled faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.1 If refined, such a technique could possibly allow information to be sent faster than the speed of light. This work follows on the heels of a major brouhaha over another alleged instance of faster than light speeds.
A consortium of scientists reported in September and November 2011 that subatomic particles known as neutrinos had been measured travelling faster than the speed of light while passing through 730 kilometres of rock from the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research, formerly known as the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, to the OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) particle detector in the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, Italy.2
Standard modern mainstream physics theories, many based in large part on Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity (first proposed in 1905), have long assumed that the speed of light in a vacuum is the upper limit of how fast anything can travel, and therefore if these experimental results are correct, some of the most basic assumptions in modern physics will need to be reevaluated.
For months the debate raged over whether the neutrinos really were travelling faster than the speed of light; the consensus view held that there was some flaw in the apparatus, calculations, and/or analysis. Ultimately, based on carrying out further experiments, including at other labs, it was announced that “the original OPERA measurement can be attributed to a faulty element of the experiment’s fibre optic timing system.”3 Still, given the apparently solid work on light pulses mentioned above, I personally wonder if, just perhaps, OPERA did indeed capture some superluminal (faster than the speed of light) neutrinos, even if not all neutrinos travel so fast.
A major objection to the possibility of superluminal travel of any form is that it will upset cherished notions of time and temporal ordering (conventional thinking asserts that the past must occur before the present which must occur before the future). From our perspective, particles (including particles of light, or ‘particles’ of information) travelling faster than light might be viewed as travelling backwards in time (arriving one place before they depart from another place), or through other dimensions, and open the possibility of effects occurring before causes (although exactly what ‘before’ means in this new notion of time is open to debate). That is, the concept of retrocausality (the future influencing the present and the past), which many people (including many theoretical physicists) instinctively reject, would have to be taken seriously.
2) In quantum mechanics, the concept of entanglement occurs when particles interact and are then separated, but they are still somehow correlated (or more accurately, anti-correlated) in terms of their characteristics. Acting on one particle will result in an effect or outcome on the other particle, even if a considerable distance physically separates the particles and there is no direct conventional physical or energetic link between them. To use a crude analogy, if two different roulette wheels in two different casinos are entangled in a quantum mechanical sense, whenever one roulette wheel comes up red the other will come up black.
Einstein referred to quantum entanglement as “spukhafte Fernwirkung” (spooky action at a distance), but it has been demonstrated experimentally numerous times, and the effects of entanglement seem to propagate either instantaneously or at a speed thousands of times faster than the speed of light (which is highly perplexing). Up until now quantum entanglement has generally been limited to very small microscopic objects, such as subatomic particles, atoms, isolated molecules, and microscopic crystalline structures. In December 2011 a group of physicists from the University of Oxford, the National Research Council of Canada, and the National University of Singapore announced the successful quantum entanglement of two macroscopic (approximately 3 mm in size) diamonds at room temperature and separated by a distance of about 15 cm.4
3) The wave function in quantum mechanics can be viewed as a mathematical or statistical way to describe the probabilities that certain properties will occur in a system of quantum particles (and ultimately, one can argue, everything – all of the known universe – can be reduced to a system or systems of quantum particles). And ‘quantum collapse’ (collapse of the state vector) can be viewed as the ‘freezing’ of this set of probabilities into one possibility or outcome, the one observed or measured, in the ‘real world’. But is the wave function simply, or truly, just a mathematical and statistical convention describing our limited knowledge of reality (perhaps with some currently unknown ‘reality’ underlying it)? Is the wave function to be understood as a description of the state of our knowledge? Or is the wave function itself a ‘real’ entity, a distinct state of reality – that is, is there a tangible, physically real, wave? Is the quantum state a real physical property of a system and not just a statistical description of our knowledge, and does ‘quantum collapse’ correspond to a real physical process?
In November 2011 researchers M. F. Pusey, J. Barrett, and T. Rudolph (MFP and TR are in the Department of Physics at the Imperial College London, and JB is in the Department of Mathematics at the University of London) presented a new analysis and theorem as to the meaning of the wave function in quantum mechanics.5According to their analysis, given some basic assumptions, the wave function must have a physical reality. However, in my opinion, they have not ultimately ‘proven’ that the wave function is objectively real. Rather, they have logically limited the possible interpretations of the wave function. By my view, their analysis appears to demonstrate that unless all quantum particles (that is, in effect, all entities in the universe) are somehow related or connected to each other through both space and time, then the wave function must be a real physical object. They seem to reject the notion that everything in the universe could be connected in some manner, for it is generally assumed that although quantum entanglement occurs in some cases, not everything is entangled with everything else. Furthermore, it appears to me that one of the assumptions underlying the analysis of Pusey, Barrett, and Rudolph is that retrocausality (the possibility of the future affecting the past) is impossible.
Each of these three developments in physics is important, and fundamentally paradigm shattering. The least controversial of the three is the quantum entanglement of the diamonds, for the experimental results are clear and definitive. But the entanglement of macroscopic diamonds at ordinary room temperature under ordinary conditions demonstrates, I believe, that those who have long argued that quantum entanglement (and other ‘mysterious’ quantum effects as well) is limited to the microscopic world and can have no real consequences in our everyday lives are wrong.
Quantum Entanglement & Telepathy
Indeed, in a general (and, I would add, rather unconvincing) way, there has long been talk in some circles that certain psychic or paranormal phenomena such as telepathy (direct mind-to-mind communication) could be due to quantum entanglement.6 Now the entangled diamonds appear to provide strong evidence that such entanglement and correlation of information is possible. In my experience telepathy tends to work best when one is in a mental state decoupled from the immediate surrounding environment, which allows the mind of one individual to couple or entangle with the mind of another individual (or individuals). Like minds in telepathic rapport, diamonds best maintain their quantum entanglement when they can be decoupled from ‘distractions’ or the entanglement is stronger than the ‘distractions’ (in the case of the diamonds, ‘distractions’ might include such phenomena as being ‘excited’ by environmental changes, like temperature or physical movement). Of course most hardcore physicists tend to dismiss telepathy as nonsense even though they accept the quantum entanglement of diamonds.
Solid Support for Retrocausality
The issue of anything with the ability to carry information travelling faster than the speed of light, be it particles or light pulses, is highly controversial. As the edifice of modern physics has been constructed, with so many fundamental equations dependent on the speed of light as a constant and upper limit for temporal relationships, superluminal transfer of information breaks down the conventional concept of time, the future and past become confused, and the spectre of retrocausality raises its ugly head (well, ugly for status quo thinkers!).
Yet there is solid support for retrocausality on several fronts. A group centred in Vienna, Austria, headed by Anton Zeilinger, has experimentally demonstrated that the decision as to whether or not two particles at a quantum level are entangled or in separate quantum states can be made after the particles have been measured (and may no longer exist).7 This means that at a quantum level actions in the present or future can reach back into the past!
However, actions reaching back into the past are not limited to a quantum level. There is now strong parapsychological support for retroactive influences on the human mind. As I briefly mentioned in a previous edition of New Dawn,8 Dr. Daryl J. Bem of Cornell University has carried out a successful series of “retroactive facilitation of recall” experiments demonstrating that the future can influence the present and the past (in the case of the studies by Dr. Bem, students studying for a test after the fact improved their performances on a test already taken – that is, classic retrocausality, or effects occurring before their causes, was demonstrated).9
As in the case of the entangled diamonds, the experimental physical evidence – in this case light pulses travelling at superluminal speeds and actions at a quantum level reaching back into the past – helps supply a theoretical foundation for psychic or paranormal phenomena that, although well attested to by competent researchers, are generally dismissed by mainstream scientists.
The theoretical work on the wave function of quantum mechanics dovetails, in my assessment, with that which many mystics and psychics have been espousing since ancient times: In a fundamental way we, the entire universe, all entities, are interconnected at some level (the level of interconnectedness differing among various entities) and time is not what it superficially appears to be. In my opinion the work of Pusey, Barrett, and Rudolph opens, at the level of quantum mechanics, the age-old argument between the ‘physicalists-materialists’ who fundamentally believe there is nothing more to reality than matter and energy, and those who believe ‘ultimate reality’ involves something more and beyond matter-like and energy-like entities as generally construed by classical physics.
Consciousness is Fundamental
But what could be beyond matter and energy? One possibility is consciousness, and I believe that consciousness can be equated with thought, mind, mental constructs, information, and ultimately knowledge. And rather than being a secondary phenomenon that arises from matter and energy, at the most fundamental level consciousness may be independent of matter and energy. Max Planck (1858-1947), the originator of quantum theory and winner of the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics, stated in a 1931 interview:
I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.10
This is a very interesting, and powerful, statement. In these terms, the statistical or probabilistic interpretation of the quantum wave function can be viewed as a genuine description of a system in a ‘pre-matter’ and ‘pre-energy’ state that only takes on a physical reality when affected by consciousness (and simple observation will affect any quantum system).
Returning to the analysis of Pusey, Barrett, and Rudolph, I believe they conclude that the quantum state and wave function are ‘real’ in a physical-material-energy sense based on several assumptions. They assume that a quantum system can be isolated from the rest of the universe, both spatially and temporally – and in particular they assume that the future will not influence the past, so an apparatus or system separated by “a sufficient time period” will not affect an earlier apparatus or system. They also assume that measuring devices respond only to the physical properties of the entities that they are measuring. If the assumptions of Pusey, Barrett, and Rudolph can be shown to be wrong, their work can then be interpreted to demonstrate that rather than the wave function and quantum state being physically real, there must be something more to the universe and cosmos beyond simple matter and energy.
I interpret various lines of experimental evidence, ranging from modern physics (such as the work on faster-than-light particles and quantum effects that may be interpreted as going backwards in time) to parapsychological studies (demonstrating that the future can influence the past), as clearly falsifying the assumptions of Pusey, Barrett, and Rudolph. At a most fundamental level it appears there are connections throughout space and time. Just as diamonds can be entangled, nothing is truly isolated. Ultimate reality lies beyond the physical and material. What is this ultimate reality? Our best conception may be encoded in what we think of as consciousness. The mystics and sages of the ages, as well as Max Planck, were right. Consciousness is fundamental. Consciousness underlies and is the source of everything else, including all that we regard as the material universe.
- Ryan T. Glasser, Ulrich Vogl, and Paul D. Lett, “Stimulated Generation of Superluminal Light Pulses via Four-Wave Mixing”, Physical Review Letters, PRL 108, 173902, 5 pages, 26 April 2012.
- T. Adam, N. Agafonova, A. Aleksandrov, O. Altinok, P. Alvarez Sanchez, A. Anokhina, S. Aoki, A. Ariga, et al, “Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam”, article dated 17 November 2011, available from arxiv.org/abs/1109.4897 and arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1109/1109.4897.pdf (Accessed 18 November 2011). See also: Adrian Cho, “Where Does the Time Go? One experiment sees neutrinos traveling faster than light. If the result can’t be replicated, it may never be explained away”, Science, vol. 334, 1200-1201 (2 December 2011); Alex Knapp, “New Evidence Casts Doubt On Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos”, article dated 28 December 2011, available from www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2011/12/28/new-evidence-casts-doubt-on-faster-than-light-neutrinos/ (Accessed 20 January 2012); Clara Moskowitz, “Warped Physics: 10 Effects of Faster-Than-Light Discovery”, article dated 24 September 2011, available from www.livescience.com/16214-implications-faster-light-neutrinos.html (Accessed 20 November 2011); Jason Palmer, “Light speed: Flying into fantasy”, article dated 23 September 2011, available from www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15034414 (Accessed 18 November 2011); Jason Palmer, “Neutrino experiment repeat at Cern finds same result”, article dated 18 November 2011, available from www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15791236 (Accessed 18 November 2011); Jason Palmer, “Speed-of-light results under scrutiny at Cern finds same result”, article dated 23 September 2011, available from www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15017484 (Accessed 18 November 2011); Natalie Wolchover, “What Would It Be Like to Travel Faster than the Speed of Light?”, article dated 23 September 2011, available from www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/neutrinos-faster-speed-light-2044/ (Accessed 20 November 2011).
- Sergio Bertolucci, “Neutrinos sent from CERN to Gran Sasso respect the cosmic speed limit”, article dated 8 June 2012, available from press.web.cern.ch/Press/PressReleases/Releases2011/PR19.11E.html (Accessed 19 June 2012).
- K. C. Lee, M. R. Sprague, B. J. Sussman, J. Nunn, N. K. Langford, X.-M. Jin, T. Champion, P. Michelberger, K. F. Reim, D. England, D. Jaksch, and I. A. Walmsley. “Entangling Macroscopic Diamonds at Room Temperature”, Science, vol. 334 no. 6060, 1253-1256 (2 December 2011).
- Matthew F. Pusey, Jonathan Barrett, and Terry Rudolph, “The quantum state cannot be interpreted statistically”, article dated 14 Nov 2011, available from arxiv.org/abs/1111.3328 and arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1111/1111.3328v1.pdf (Accessed 19 January 20120).
- Note that phenomena generally regarded as “telepathic” may include a mixture of phenomena due to different causal mechanisms; thus some forms of telepathy may be the result of quantum entanglement and other forms of telepathy may be due to electromagnetic radiation, particularly in the extremely long wavelength and extremely low frequency range.
- Xiao-song Ma, Stefan Zotter, Johannes Kofler, Rupert Ursin, Thomas Jennewein, Caslav Brukner, and Anton Zeilinger, “Experimental delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, Nature Physics,www.nature.com/naturephysics, DOI: 10.1038/NPHYS2294, 6 pages, published online 22 April 2012; Caslav Brukner, “Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past”, press release date 23 April 2012, available from www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-04/uov-qpm042312.php (Accessed 8 May 2012).
- Robert M. Schoch, “Thoughts Have Wings”, New Dawn, January-February 2011, 11.
- Daryl J. Bem, “Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 100, no. 3, 407-425 (March 2011); abstract available from psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/100/3/407/ (Accessed 20 August 2011); author’s typescript version of the paper available from dbem.ws/FeelingFuture.pdf (Accessed 20 August 2011).
- Max Planck, [Interview comments] The Observer (London), 25 January 1931; quoted in Joseph H. Fussell, “Review and Comment” on the book Where is Science Going? by Max Planck (1933), The Theosophical Path, vol. 43, no. 2, 198-213 (October 1933).
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