Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness ~ Bruce Rosenblum & Fred Kuttne

In trying to understand the atom, physicists built quantum mechanics, the most successful theory in science and the basis of one-third of our economy. They found, to their embarrassment, that with their theory, physics encounters consciousness. Authors Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner explain all this in non-technical terms with help from some fanciful stories and anecdotes about the theory’s developers. They present the quantum mystery honestly, emphasizing what is and what is not speculation. Quantum Enigma’s description of the experimental quantum facts, and the quantum theory explaining them, is undisputed.

Interpreting what it all means, however, is heatedly controversial. But every interpretation of quantum physics involves consciousness. Rosenblum and Kuttner therefore turn to exploring consciousness itself–and encounter quantum mechanics. Free will and anthropic principles become crucial issues, and the connection of consciousness with the cosmos suggested by some leading quantum cosmologists is mind-blowing. Readers are brought to a boundary where the particular expertise of physicists is no longer the only sure guide. They will find, instead, the facts and hints provided by quantum mechanics and the ability to speculate for themselves.

In the few decades since the Bell’s theorem experiments established the existence of entanglement (Einstein’s “spooky action”), interest in the foundations, and the mysteries, of quantum mechanics has accelerated. In recent years, physicists, philosophers, computer engineers, and even biologists have expanded our realization of the significance of quantum phenomena. This second edition includes such advances. The authors have also drawn on many responses from readers and instructors to improve the clarity of the book’s explanations.

The Enigma in a Nutshell

All of physics is based on quantum theory. It’s the most battle-tested theory in all of science. And one-third of our economy involves products designed with it. Quantum theory works for fundamental science and for practical applications.

However, this reliable and useful physics challenges any reasonable worldview. It actually denies the existence of a physically real world independent of its observation. It also tells of a strange connectedness.

Demonstrating quantum strangeness is practical only for small objects, though as technology improves, it’s being displayed for larger and larger things. Quantum theory is presumed to be valid for everything. Quantum cosmologists apply it for the whole of the early universe.

Here are quantum theory’s reality and connectedness problems in a nutshell:

Reality: By your free choice you could demonstrate either of two contradictory physical realities. You can, for example, demonstrate an object to be someplace. But you could have chosen to demonstrate the opposite: that it was not in that place. Observation created the object’s position. Quantum theory has all properties created by their observation.

Connectedness: Quantum theory tells that any things that have ever interacted are forever connected, “entangled.” For example, your friend’s freely made decision of what to do in Moscow (or on Mars) can instantaneously (though randomly) influence what happens to you in Manhattan. And this happens without any physical force involved. Einstein called such influences “spooky actions.” They’ve now been demonstrated to exist.

Two more comments:

The quantum weirdness is not hard to “understand”–even with zero physics background. But it’s almost impossible to believe . When someone tells you something you can’t believe, you might well think you don’t understand. But believing might be the real problem. It’s best to approach the subject with an open mind. That’s not easy.

The experimental facts basic to the quantum enigma are undisputed. But talking of the encounter of physics with “non-physical” stuff like consciousness is controversial. It’s been called our “skeleton in the closet.” You can look at the undisputed facts, and ponder for yourself what they mean.

Fred Kuttner

Fred Kuttner is a Lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He devotes most of his time to teaching physics after a career in industry, including two technology startups, and a second career in academic administration. His research interests have included the low temperature propoerties o solids and the thermal properties of magnets. For the last several years he has worked on the foundations of quantum mechanics and the implications of the quantum theory.
This biography was provided by the author or their representative.

Bruce Rosenblum

Bruce Rosenblum is Professor of Physics and former Chairperson of the Physics Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
This biography was provided by the author or their representative.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Λιβάς Περικλής
    May 16, 2012 @ 16:36:21

  2. driuorno
    May 16, 2012 @ 03:32:43

    Reblogged this on BABAJI.


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