[LINK] Consciousness, and the real world
stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Sat Nov 12 15:47:41 AEDT 2011
The quantum-mind approach, "in looking for consciousness, we might be
better to work upwards from the real basis of the physical world .."
A good read: http://www.quantum-mind.co.uk/introduction-1-c32.html
CONSCIOUSNESS AND FUNDAMENTAL REALITY
In trying to discover the physical basis of consciousness, it may first
be helpful to consider the physical structure of the universe from which
consciousness somehow arises.
Everything that we see, or otherwise perceive, is comprised of quanta
that are best described as energy waves oscillating as excitations or
disturbances of the quantum vacuum.
In terms of modern physics nothing else exists, there are no things,
there is no colour green, although it is not usually put quite as bluntly
as that, perhaps for fear of frightening the horses.
In the view of some physicists, it is the vacuum that is fundamental
rather than the quanta. These waves of energy are seen as excitations of
the more fundamental vacuum.
The quantum vacuum is not a void or nothingness, but could better be
described as a plenum, as being full of virtual particles or photons that
leap in and out of existence, and whose existence can be made permanent
by the presence of energy, such as the energy of an extreme gravitational
field or equivalent acceleration.
The quantum vacuum permeates the whole universe, and in that respect can
be identified with the spacetime of special and general relativity.
The speed of the light quanta or photons is fundamental in special
relativity, and this relates to the proposition that there is no fixed
background frame of spatial or temporal reference for the quanta and
their interactions, but that each point or event has its own frame of
Further, spacetime, or the vacuum, are curved by the presence of massive
objects, and the energy of their gravitational curvature, if sufficiently
great, can produce the same hot particles that we see from our
accelerating spaceship, gravity and acceleration being equivalent in
This again points to the physical reality of the quantum vacuum.
Unfortunately the two main theories of modern physics, quantum theory and
relativity, although individually tested to a very high degree of
accuracy, are incompatible with one another.
This reflects the essential conflict between quantum theory, which sees
energy as discrete units, and the smooth continuous curvature of
spacetime in general relativity.
Physicists have tended towards the view that spacetime like energy will
have to be viewed not as a continuum, but as forming some kind of web or
network. The significant thing is that once we move away from the concept
of a continuum towards something more discrete, the possibility that the
network itself contains pattern or information emerges, and with it the
possibility that this information could be related to consciousness.
This all seems very far from the world that we see around us containing
land, water, buildings, motor cars, people and animals. Strictly
speaking, these do not exist as brain states. All that physics shows to
exist are the quanta as disturbances of the vacuum. To take the example
of vision, photons (light quanta) reach the retina and are converted into
electrical and chemical signals in the brain. Neuroscience traditionally
describes this process as a representation of the external world. In fact
this term rather exaggerates the likeness between brain state and the
external world, and it might be more helpful to talk about mapping.
If we think of a very abstract map, such as the map of an urban metro or
underground railway system, we might get the right analogy. The two-
dimensional coloured lines on a piece of paper have no resemblance to
cavernous concrete tunnels, steel rails or metal coaches. However, in
evolutionary terms, the map is adaptive once we understand the
correlation between lines on paper and a system that can take us to
preferred destinations. Likewise, a brain state based on signals from
the external world has no resemblance to energy waves oscillating in the
vacuum, but the correlation between the two may be advantageous to the
survival of an organism.
Where is all this leading in terms of consciousness? It is really to
suggest that approaches that start from the old Newtonian physics
assumptions of massive objects in the external world bumping into one
another, or even of neurons as massive objects projecting chemical at one
another, may mislead. Certainly, theories that have proceeded from this
basis have failed to produce a satisfying explanatory consensus. This
lack of success at least suggests that *in looking for consciousness, we
might be better to work upwards from the real basis of the physical world*
WHAT THIS SITE PROVIDES
The site provides summaries and reviews of books, academic papers,
articles and other material relevant to theories of consciousness related
to fundamental physics.
One section deals with evidence related to quantum consciousness ideas.
An area of recent interest has been a spate of papers relating to quantum
coherence in photosynthetic proteins (Engel et al, 2007, Lee et al 2007,
Sarovar et al, 2009, Collini et al, 2009). The most recent and possibly
the most important paper is Collini et al, 2010, which demonstrates long-
lived quantum coherence in proteins at room temperature, something which
had previously been considered impossible. The work of Engels and Collini
mentioned above tends to bring the significance of proteins centre stage.
Proteins whether in microtubules or elsewhere in the neuron that emerges
as a quantum engine even in conventional theory, and is also the most
likely mechanism for any form of quantum consciousness/computing in the
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