Quantum mechanics suggests that particles can be in a state of superposition - in two states at the same time - until a measurement take place. Only then does the wavefunction describing the particle collapses into one of the two states. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, the collapse of the wave function takes place when a conscious observer is involved. But according to Roger Penrose, it’s the other way around. Instead of consciousness causing the collapse, Penrose suggested that wavefunctions collapse spontaneously and in the process give rise to consciousness. Despite the strangeness of this hypothesis, recent experimental results suggest that such a process takes place within microtubules in the brain. This could mean that consciousness is a fundamental feature of reality, arising first in primitive bio-structures, in individual neurons, cascading upwards to networks of neurons, argues Roger Penrose collaborator Stuart Hameroff.
Consciousness defines our existence. It is, in a sense, all we really have, all we really are, The nature of consciousness has been pondered in many ways, in many cultures, for many years. But we still can’t quite fathom it.
SUGGESTED READINGWhat physicists get wrong about consciousness By Philip Goff Consciousness is, some say, all-encompassing, comprising reality itself, the material world a mere illusion. Others say consciousness is the illusion, without any real sense of phenomenal experience, or conscious control. According to this view we are, as TH Huxley bleakly said, ‘merely helpless spectators, along for the ride’. Then, there are those who see the brain as a computer. Brain functions have historically been compared to contemporary information technologies, from the ancient Greek idea of memory as a ‘seal ring’ in wax, to telegraph switching circuits, holograms and computers. Neuroscientists, philosophers, and artificial intelligence (AI) proponents liken the brain to a complex computer of simple algorithmic neurons, connected by variable strength synapses. These processes may be suitable for non-conscious ‘auto-pilot’ functions, but can’t account for consciousness.
Finally there are those who take consciousness as fundamental, as connected somehow to the fine scale structure and physics of the universe. This includes, for example Roger Penrose’s view that consciousness is linked to the Objective Reduction process - the ‘collapse of the quantum wavefunction’ – an activity on the edge between quantum and classical realms. Some see such connections to fundamental physics as spiritual, as a connection to others, and to the universe, others see it as proof that consciousness is a fundamental feature of reality, one that developed long before life itself.
Penrose turned the conscious observer around. Instead of consciousness causing collapse, wavefunctions collapsed spontaneously, causing a moment – a ‘quantum – of consciousness.
Penrose was suggesting Objective Reduction not only as a scientific basis for consciousness, but also as a solution to the ‘measurement problem’ in quantum mechanics. Since the early 20th century, it has been known that quantum particles can exist in superposition of multiple possible states and/or locations simultaneously, described mathematically as a wavefunction according to the Schrödinger equation. But we don’t see such superpositions because, it appeared to early quantum researchers, the very act of measurement, or of conscious observation, seemed to ‘collapse’ the wavefunction to definite states and location - the conscious observer effect - consciousness collapsed the wavefunction. But this view put consciousness outside the purview of science. Another proposal is ‘Many Worlds’ in which there is no collapse, and each possibility evolves its own universe.
Penrose turned the conscious observer around. Instead of consciousness causing collapse, wavefunctions collapsed spontaneously, causing a moment – a ‘quantum – of consciousness. Collapse, or quantum state reduction, occurred at an objective threshold in the fine scale structure of spacetime geometry.
While the wave-function is viewed by many as pure mathematics in an abstract space, Penrose characterized it as a process in the fine scale structure of the universe.
Penrose first likened quantum particles to tiny curvatures in spacetime geometry (as Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity had done for large objects like the sun). Superposition states of multiple possibilities, or of delocalized particles, could then be viewed as opposing curvatures, and hence separations in the fine scale structure of the universe, spacetime geometry. Were such separations to continue, ‘Many Worlds’ would result.
But such separations would be unstable, and reduce, or ‘collapse’ to definite states, selected neither randomly, nor algorithmically, but ‘non-computably’, perhaps reflecting ‘Platonicvalues’ embedded in spacetime geometry. Thus while the wave-function is viewed by many as pure mathematics in an abstract space, Penrose characterized it as a process in the fine scale structure of the universe.
And each Objective Reduction event would entail a moment of ‘proto-conscious’ experience in a random microenvironment, without memory, or context. But occasionally, at least, a feeling of pleasure would arise, e.g. from quantum optical effects leading to Objective Reduction in a micelle, providing a feedback fitness function to to optimize pleasure. Virtually all human and animal behavior is in some way related to the pursuit of pleasure in its various forms.
In the mid 1990s I teamed with Roger Penrose to suggest that quantum vibrations in microtubules in brain neurons were ‘orchestrated’. Consciousness was somewhat like music in the structure of spacetime.
Proto-conscious moments would lack memory, meaning and context, but have phenomenal ‘qualia’ – a primitive form of conscious experience. They may be like the unharmonious tones, notes and sounds of an orchestra tuning up. In the mid 1990s I teamed with Roger Penrose to suggest that quantum vibrations in microtubules in brain neurons were ‘orchestrated’, hence ‘Orchestrated Objective Reduction’. Consciousness was somewhat like music in the structure of spacetime.
Our Orchestrated Objective Reduction theory was viewed skeptically. Technological quantum computers were operated near absolute zero temperatures to avoid thermal decoherence, so quantum prospects in the ‘warm, wet and noisy’ brain seemed unlikely. But we knew quantum optical activity could occur within non-polar regions in microtubule proteins, where anesthetics appeared to act to selectively block consciousness. Recently we were proven right: a quantum optical state of superradiance has been shown in microtubules, and preliminary evidence suggests it is inhibited by anesthetics. How do quantum activities at this level affect brain-wide functions and consciousness?
It is becoming apparent that consciousness may occur in single brain neurons extending upward into networks of neurons, but also downward and deeper, to terahertz quantum optical processes, e.g. ‘superradiance’ in microtubules, and further still to fundamental spacetime geometry (Figure 1). I agree that consciousness is fundamental, and concur with Roger Penrose that it involves self-collapse of the quantum wavefunction, a rippling in the fine scale structure of the universe.
Organic light per se isn’t consciousness. But organic light could be the interface between the brain and conscious processes in the fine scale structure of the universe.
Figure 1. A scale-invariant hierarchy extending downward from a cortical pyramidal neuron (left) into microtubules, tubulin dipoles, organic ring dipoles and spacetime geometry curvatures. Self-similar dynamics recur every three orders of magnitude.
Impossible to directly measure or observe, consciousness might reveal itself in the brain by significant deviation from mere algorithmic non-conscious processes, like reflexive, auto-pilot behaviors. Such deviation is found in cortical Layer V pyramidal neurons (see Figure 1) in awake animals, without changes in external membrane potentials. This suggests ‘conscious’ modulation may arise inside neurons, from deeper, faster quantum processes in cytoskeletal microtubules (see Figure 1). These could include Penrose Objective Reduction connecting to fundamental spacetime geometry.
Light is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be seen by the eyes of humans and animals – visible light. Each point on the spectrum corresponds with a photon of a particular wavelength, and inverse frequency. Each wavelength is seen by the eye and brain as a differentcolor. In addition to wavelength/frequency, photons have other properties including intensity, polarization, phase and orbital angular momentum.
Ancient traditions characterized consciousness as light. Religious figures were often depicted with luminous ‘halos’, and/or auras. Hindu deities are portrayed with luminous blue skin. And people who have ‘near death’ and ‘out of body’ experiences described being attracted toward a ‘white light’. In many cultures, those who have ‘awakened to the truth about reality’ are ‘enlightened.’
Organic light per se isn’t consciousness. But organic light could be the interface between the brain and conscious processes in the fine scale structure of the universe.
In recent years, biophotons have been determined to occur in brain neurons, e.g. in ultraviolet, visible and infra-red wavelengths from oxidative metabolism in mitochondria.
Light was prevalent in the early universe, e.g. for a period beginning 10 seconds after the Big Bang, when photons dominated the energy landscape and briefly illuminated reality. However photons, protons and electrons then fused into a hot, opaque plasma, obscuring reality for 350,000 years until the universe cooled, enabling electrons and protons to form neutral atoms, and build matter and structure. Photons became free to roam a mostly transparent universe, and upon meeting matter, reflect, scatter or be absorbed, generally without significant chemical interaction. However compounds containing organic carbon rings, essential molecules in living systems, are notable exceptions.
18th century chemists knew of linear chains of carbon atoms with extra hydrogens – ‘hydrocarbons’, like methane, propane etc. They also knew of an oily, highly flammable molecule with 6 carbons they called benzene, but didn’t understand its structure. One night the German chemist August Kekule had a dream, that linear hydrocarbons were snakes, and one swallowed its tail – the mythical ‘Ourobouros’. He awoke to proclaim (correctly, it turned out) “benzene is a ring”!
Each hexagonal carbon benzene ring has 3 extra electrons which extend as ‘electron clouds’ above and below the ring, comprised of what later became known as ‘pi’ electron resonance’ orbitals. Within these clouds, electrons can switch between specific orbitals and energy levels by first absorbing a photon, and then subsequently emitting a lower energy photon. This is the basis for quantum optical effects including fluorescence, phosphorescence, excitons and superradiance.
Hexagonal organic rings with quantum optical properties may fuse, and include 5-sided rings to form ‘indole’ rings found in psychoactive molecules, living systems, and throughout the universe, e.g. in interstellar dust.
The hot plasma of the early universe had led to formation of poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), fused organic (‘aromatic’) complexes of benzene and indole rings. Ice-encrusted in inter-stellar dust, PAHs are still quantum optically active, e.g. fluorescent, and emitting photons seen on earth. This ‘organic light’ may play a key role in the origin and development of life and consciousness.
Life on earth is said to have begun in a simmering mix of aqueous and oily compounds, sunlight and lightning, called the ‘Primordial soup’, as proposed by Oparin and Haldane in the early 20th century. In the 1950s Miller and Urey simulated a version of the primordial soup and found ‘amphipathic’ biomolecules with a non-polar, benzene-like pi resonance organic ring on one end, and a polar, charged tail on the other. Such molecules are prevalent in biology, e.g. aromatic amino acids tryptophan (indole ring), phenylalanine and tyrosine in proteins, components of membranes and nucleic acids, and psychoactive molecules like dopamine, serotonin, LSD and DMT .
Oparin and Haldane proposed the non-polar, ‘hydrophobic’ pi resonance electron clouds coalesced to avoid the aqueous environment (‘oil and water don’t mix’). The polar, water soluble tails would stick outwardly, forming a water soluble ‘micelle’ with a non-polar interior. These micelles somehow developed into functional cells, and then multi-cellular organisms, long before genes. But why would inanimate creatures self-organize to perform purposeful complex functions, grow and evolve behaviors? And then, presumably, at some point, develop consciousness? Or was consciousness ‘there all along’?
Mainstream science and philosophy assume that consciousness emerged at some point in the course of evolution, possibly fairly recently, with the advent of the brain and nervous systems. But Eastern spiritual traditions, panpsychism, and the Objective Reduction theory of Roger Penrose suggest that consciousness preceded life.
Back in the Primordial soup, could light-induced proto-conscious moments have occurred by Penrose Obejtive Reduction in micelles in the primordial soup? Did such moments provide a feedback fitness function to optimize primitive pleasure, sparking the origin of life and driving its evolution? Are similar events occurring in PAHs and organic rings throughout the universe?
In the 1960s, Eugene Wigner reformulated the "Schrödinger's cat" thought experiment as "Wigner's friend" and proposed that the consciousness of an observer is the demarcation line that precipitates collapse of the wave function, independent of any realist interpretation.What is the Penrose Hameroff theory of quantum consciousness? ›
The Penrose-Hameroff theory of quantum consciousness argues that microtubules are structured in a fractal pattern which would enable quantum processes to occur. Fractals are structures that are neither two-dimensional nor three-dimensional, but are instead some fractional value in between.What does the collapse of a wavefunction refer to? ›
Wavefunction collapse is the mechanism in which a system, by interacting with its environ- ment (which includes a measuring apparatus), is transformed from a superposition of states into a definite (classical) state with a well-defined value of a given measurable quantity.What is the Copenhagen interpretation of consciousness? ›
We can sum up the Copenhagen interpretation, which said that quite literally that a quantum object was simultaneously in several distinct states, until a conscious observer looked at the object. At the moment of observation, the wave function collapsed to a single possibility, the thing that was actually observed.Does consciousness come from quantum? ›
Brain experiment suggests that consciousness relies on quantum entanglement. Most neuroscientists believe that the brain operates in a classical manner. However, if brain processes rely on quantum mechanics, it could explain why our brains are so powerful.What did Einstein say about quantum entanglement? ›
In a 1935 paper, Einstein argued that the quantum theory was illogical pointing out the entanglement as, 'Measurement of one particle could instantaneously affect the measurement of another particle, no matter the distance of separation between them. 'What is the quantum explanation of consciousness? ›
The quantum mind or quantum consciousness is a group of hypotheses proposing that classical mechanics alone cannot explain consciousness, positing instead that quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as entanglement and superposition, may play an important part in the brain's function and could explain critical aspects of ...What is the hard problem of consciousness quantum? ›
The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than nonconscious. It is the problem of explaining why there is “something it is like” for a subject in conscious experience, why conscious mental states “light up” and directly appear to the subject.Is consciousness a fractal? ›
In both plants and animals consciousness is fractal. Since fractals can only pass information in one direction it is impossible to extrapolate backward to find the rule that governs the fractal.How long does it take for a wavefunction to collapse? ›
The minimum duration for a measurement to trigger wave function collapse ranged from 0.1 billionth to 0.1 sextillionth of a second – less time than it takes a single particle of light to cross a molecule comprising two hydrogen atoms.
Since then, we have confirmed that entanglement is possible and have attempted to measure the speed with which the wave function collapse travels between entangled particles. The answer is: it's fast. Much faster than the speed of light (or neutrinos).What is the quantum collapse process? ›
The Quantum Collapse Process™ is a systematic pre-determined series of questions and actions directed toward the objective of bringing to your conscious mind the states of presence and certainty and to your heart the feelings of gratitude and love.What are the 4 theories of consciousness? ›
To clarify this complicated landscape, we review four prominent theoretical approaches to consciousness: higher-order theories, global workspace theories, re-entry and predictive processing theories and integrated information theory.What is the argument from consciousness simplified? ›
The argument from consciousness is an argument for the existence of God that claims that human consciousness cannot be explained by the physical mechanisms of the human body and brain, therefore asserting that there must be non-physical aspects to human consciousness.What is the best explanation of consciousness? ›
Consciousness is your awareness of yourself and the world around you. This awareness is subjective and unique to you.What is consciousness in the Bible? ›
Although it was briefly shown that consciousness is seemingly a slippery term, its short meaning is the 'ability to be consciously aware', and here, most would agree. So when one is aware of something, like a spiritual awakening, it means that they are aware of a higher power or a divine being.What is God's consciousness? ›
With God Consciousness, we are able to be centered and sensitive, think clearly, and have a balanced excellence in our thoughts, speech, and action that moves us toward more virtuous behavior.Can consciousness ever be explained? ›
Many scholars, like Chalmers (Chalmers 1996), have argued that no scientific theory can truly explain consciousness.What is spooky quantum? ›
Instead, the phenomenon comes from a genuine association in which manipulating one quantum object affects another far away. German physicist Albert Einstein famously called the phenomenon 'spooky action at a distance' — it is now known as quantum entanglement.Why did Einstein dislike quantum theory? ›
Einstein saw Quantum Theory as a means to describe Nature on an atomic level, but he doubted that it upheld "a useful basis for the whole of physics." He thought that describing reality required firm predictions followed by direct observations.
Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon in which entangled systems exhibit correlations that cannot be explained by classical physics. It has recently been suggested that a similar process occurs between people and explains anomalous phenomena such as healing.Is consciousness a state of matter? ›
We examine the hypothesis that consciousness can be understood as a state of matter, “perceptronium”, with distinctive information processing abilities.What did Schrodinger say about consciousness? ›
Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger is known for the phrase “The total number of minds in the universe is one. In fact, consciousness is a singularity phasing within all beings.” which best summarizes his philosophical outlook on the nature of reality.What is quantum theory in spirituality? ›
Quantum mysticism, sometimes referred pejoratively to as quantum quackery or quantum woo, is a set of metaphysical beliefs and associated practices that seek to relate consciousness, intelligence, spirituality, or mystical worldviews to the ideas of quantum mechanics and its interpretations.What is the meta problem of consciousness? ›
The meta-problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why we (or at least many of us) say and think that there is a hard problem of consciousness: why we say and think that consciousness is particularly hard to explain, and puzzling in various ways.Can the hard problem of consciousness be solved? ›
Thus consciousness as a whole can be seen as a complex neural pattern that misperceives some of its own highly complex structural properties as monadic and qualitative. Such neural pattern is analyzable in fully structural terms and thereby the hard problem is solved.Does the universe have consciousness? ›
In our standard view of things, consciousness exists only in the brains of highly evolved organisms, and hence it exists only in a tiny part of the universe and only in very recent history. According to panpsychism, consciousness pervades the universe and is a fundamental feature of it.Does consciousness have frequency? ›
Mocombe posits that consciousness is a channel of, or on, a frequency wavelength, which is both local and nonlocal.Is consciousness is an illusion? ›
Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. Consciousness is no exception—it seems nonphysical, but is very much a biological phenomenon.Is consciousness a brain wave? ›
The level of wakefulness and consciousness can be shown through the frequency of brain's electrical activity; therefore, high levels of consciousness are recorded as rapid waves, especially the beta rhythm, while slow waves (theta and delta) can be recorded during sleep and low brain activity (Fig. 3).
All the algorithm guarantees is that there is a consistent path or arc between all of the values. The wave function is shown in (d). If we select the 1 label in the bottom right corner, the algorithm will fail.Is wave function collapse irreversible? ›
Wavefunction “collapse” is irreversible, in the thermodynamic sense, and, yes, decoherence is the mechanism behind the 'appearance' of wavefunction collapse.Is quantum decoherence the same as wave function collapse? ›
Decoherence has been used to understand the possibility of the collapse of the wave function in quantum mechanics. Decoherence does not generate actual wave-function collapse. It only provides a framework for apparent wave-function collapse, as the quantum nature of the system "leaks" into the environment.Does quantum tunneling break causality? ›
Some physicists have claimed that it is possible for spin-zero particles to travel faster than the speed of light when tunnelling. This appears to violate the principle of causality, since a frame of reference then exists in which the particle arrives before it has left.Is quantum collapse real? ›
It's still too early to say definitively that physical collapse does not occur. Some researchers believe that the models could yet be modified to escape the constraints placed on them by the experiments' null results.How fast is quantum tunneling? ›
Quantum tunneling seems to happen instantaneously – or at least, so incredibly quickly that it's essentially instantaneous. According to the researchers, it takes less than 1.8 attoseconds, which is a billionth of a billionth of a second.Does free will exist at the quantum level? ›
(2) Quantum mechanics allows for randomness in the outcomes of experiments, but we have no control over those outcomes. There is no free will in randomness.Is quantum time reversible? ›
Quantum Mechanics is reversible and this is what we observe when we study the evolution of quantum states and see that information is not lost and that there are no 2 input states that will evolve to the same output state given a particular Hamiltonian.Is there such thing as quantum void? ›
According to present-day understanding of what is called the vacuum state or the quantum vacuum, it is "by no means a simple empty space". According to quantum mechanics, the vacuum state is not truly empty but instead contains fleeting electromagnetic waves and particles that pop into and out of the quantum field.Where does consciousness come from? ›
Neuroscientists believe that, in humans and mammals, the cerebral cortex is the “seat of consciousness,” while the midbrain reticular formation and certain thalamic nuclei may provide gating and other necessary functions of the cortex (12).
The seven states of consciousness are: waking, dreaming, sleeping, transcendental consciousness, cosmic consciousness, God consciousness and unity consciousness.
Among such terms are: clouding of consciousness, confusional state, delirium, lethargy, obtundation, stupor, dementia, hypersomnia, vegetative state, akinetic mutism, locked-in syndrome, coma, and brain death.What are the three main concepts of consciousness? ›
A simplified, reductionistic and easily definable concept of consciousness is proposed; consciousness is proposed to consist of three main components: vigilance, mental contents, and selective attention.What is the consciousness causes collapse theory? ›
Consciousness causes collapse is the claim that observation by a conscious observer is responsible for the wavefunction collapse in quantum mechanics. It is an attempt to solve the Wigner's friend paradox by asserting that collapse occurs at the first "conscious" observer.Who came up with the idea of consciousness? ›
The first influential writer to propose such an idea explicitly was Julien Offray de La Mettrie, in his book Man a Machine (L'homme machine). His arguments, however, were very abstract. The most influential modern physical theories of consciousness are based on psychology and neuroscience.What is the highest form of consciousness? ›
lucid dreaming; out-of-body experience; near-death experience; mystical experience (sometimes regarded as the highest of all higher states of consciousness)Can consciousness exist without a brain? ›
The prevailing consensus in neuroscience is that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain and its metabolism. When the brain dies, the mind and consciousness of the being to whom that brain belonged cease to exist. In other words, without a brain, there can be no consciousness.What is the main purpose of consciousness? ›
Consciousness is associated with a flexible response mechanism (FRM) for decision-making, planning, and generally responding in nonautomatic ways. The FRM generates responses by manipulating information and, to function effectively, its data input must be restricted to task-relevant information.Is consciousness a singularity Schrodinger? ›
Schrödinger thought this is supported by “the empirical fact that consciousness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular. Not only has none of us ever experienced more than one consciousness, but there is also no trace of circumstantial evidence of this ever happening anywhere in the world.” [How does consciousness affect quantum mechanics? ›
A wild theory suggests that consciousness may explain quantum mechanics, by forcing the subatomic particles to choose one concrete outcome. One of the most perplexing aspects of quantum mechanics is that tiny subatomic particles don't seem to "choose" a state until an outside observer measures it.
There are four main types of brainwaves that correlate with different states of consciousness—alpha, beta, delta, and theta. These brainwaves (or “neural oscillations”) vary depending on what level of activity we are engaged in, with the spectrum generally ranging from wakeful alertness to fully asleep.Is consciousness just electrical signals? ›
Consciousness arises from the electrical activity of the nerve cells, which, in turn, is generated by ion channels.What frequencies are consciousness? ›
The raw EEG has usually been described in terms of frequency bands: Gamma greater than 30(Hz) BETA (13-30Hz), ALPHA (8-12 Hz), THETA (4-8 Hz), and DELTA(less than 4 Hz). For example: Our brain uses 13Hz (high alpha or low beta) for “active” intelligence.Is consciousness a entropy? ›
Consciousness and entropy. The QBIT theory suggests that consciousness is the result of extreme uncertainty-reduction or entropy-minimization.Is consciousness a form of intelligence? ›
Intelligence and consciousness are not the same thing.What is God consciousness? ›
With God Consciousness, we are able to be centered and sensitive, think clearly, and have a balanced excellence in our thoughts, speech, and action that moves us toward more virtuous behavior. Therefore we live with greater meaning and purpose.Is consciousness a matter or an energy? ›
Consciousness, for the panpsychist, is the intrinsic nature of matter. There's nothing supernatural or spiritual, but matter can be described from two perspectives. Physical science describes matter from the outside in terms of its behavior.What do neuroscientists think about consciousness? ›
Neuroscience has furnished evidence that neurons are fundamental to consciousness; at the fine and gross scale, aspects of our conscious experience depend on specific patterns of neural activity – in some way, the connectivity of neurons computes the features of our experience.What are the 5 altered states of consciousness? ›
- Pharmacological. ...
- Psychological. ...
- Physical and physiological. ...
- Pathological. ...
These five levels of consciousness are primal, reactive, willful, intellectual and intuitive. Conscious or not, you've likely evolved through at least a few of these levels over the years. It's part of growing and maturing.