May 30 2012

Holographic Reality and Bose-Einstein Condensate

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First, some background. I’m particularly intrigued by the Holographic Paradigm, as proposed by David Bohm and Karl Pribram. Basically, reality, and the mind are holographic in nature. That’s not to say we’re living in the Holodeck on the Enterprise, but that matter, manifestation, form, are all created by interference patterns from various fields of energy colliding with each other. A hologram is basically formed in this manner, using lasers. The cool thing about holograms, is that if you remove any piece of a hologram, you can recreate the whole, with information stored in each part. The whole is in the parts, and the parts make the whole. Everything is interconnected. This gets particularly fun if you start thinking metaphysically about the whole thing, and start tossing around ideas such as “as above, so below”, “the light is within each of you”, and “every man and every woman is a star”, etc.

As far as how this relates to the mind, the basic idea is that while the brain certainly controls any number of biological processes, there’s no real physical location of “consciousness”. A great introduction to this whole mess, as I’ve recommended countless times before, is The Holographic Universe, by Michael Talbot, and I’m sure you can find any number of websites that discuss the whole thing, and give a much better idea than I just did. For the purpose of this post, I’m really only giving the barest of essentials as background.

Another background concept I’m going to attempt to oversimplify for purpose of background is Bose-Einstein Condensate.

Bose-Einstein Condensate works a little like this (which I link, because it describes it far better than I can).

For our purposes, we will assume that a Bose-Einstein Condensate is a very highly organized quantum system.

One of the books I’m reading for Paradigms Of Consciousness is Danah Zohar’s The Quantum Society, which tries to take the ideas of quantum physics, and apply them to how we can build a better society.

Zohar doesn’t entirely buy into the Holographic Paradigm, but she does make an interesting adaptation of it, that I’m curious to explore a little bit.

Zohar thinks that lasers are a form of Bose-Einstein Condensate. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard this comparison before, so I’m going to take it at face value, for now.

She also seems to think that in addition to mechanistic models of brain processes (which work fine for brain functions such as habit forming, and biological processes), there must also be a simultaneous quantum level of activity in the brain, as well. This isn’t entirely impossible, and I would argue that both operate on different frequencies within the same construct, much as a DSL signal and your regular voice signal can travel simultaneously over the same phone line.

First, she provides a number of interesting analogies between thought process and quantum reality.

  • Quantum Reality and some features of human language / human nature are “situational” or context dependent (think the wave/particle problem in describing light. Sometimes its a wave, sometimes its a particle, depending on how you measure it. For language, think of homonyms, like the words “lead”, “minute”, or “spring”, which have different meanings depending on their context. Once you define its context, you collapse the wave-function, and reduce it to particle. Its potential has manifested in a particluar way.)
  • Indeterminate quantum systems and human imagination both involve/utilize superimpositions. They contain several possible realities, all juxtaposed that are simultaneously explored to determine future courses of action (when an atom becomes unstable, electrons try to figure out what sort of orbit to switch to, and will appear to be all places in the universe at once, until it settles on a place. The electron seems to be “exploring its options”, as it were, and making a decision. Since it is everywhere at once, this is called superimposition in quantum physics. When we are trying to decide whether or not to do something, we often play out various scenarios in our heads, trying to decide the most beneficial course of action. At this point, again, all realities are valid and simultaneous. By deciding on a course of action, we collapse the wave function.)
  • Parallel between constraints on a physicist’s dialogue with quantum reality, and our own choices. A physicist must choose between an exact description of the system’s position (particle) or its momentum (wave). Both cannot be known at once (welcome to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle!). In any given situation, we must often choose between getting the “feel” of a situation (wave) or giving an exact factual report (particle). In our thought processes, we must choose between a vague train of thought, and concentrating on a focused idea.

Along with her analogies, she also gives these reasons why there must be a quantum element to brain processes.

  • There is a unity of conscious experience, and (she says) Bose-Einstein Condensates possess that kind of unity exclusively.
  • The speed with which the brain forms its coherent oscillations. It has to decide which of the myriad sensory data go together to form distinct objects. If the brain were a serial or parallel computer, it would take the age of the universe to process one perceptual event. As a quantum system, it can do this much more quickly utilizing superimpositions.
  • The results of a 1992 experiment at Southampton University in England (and I think this is interesting):EEG electrodes were attached to the right and left brain hemispheres of dozens of subjects. Subjects were not told if the electrodes were on or off. The goal was to see if switching the electrodes on (observation) had any impact on conscious task performance. If the brain’s electrical fields were non-quantum, there should be no effect. Without going into the gory details, it would appear that there was an effect, and the subjects had different abilities to perform tasks when the electrodes were switched on, than when they were switched off, even though they didn’t know when they were on or off. Work is being done to duplicate this experiment, but Zohar believes its very promising in proving that EEG fields are quantum in nature.

I don’t know if this all conclusively means there’s a quantum level to mind function, but I’m willing to play along.

So, let’s play along:

Zohar says: If the EEG field turns out to be a form of “body temperature Bose-Einstein Condensate”, we might view it as background consciousness, or the blackboard that experience is written on. Another way of looking at it, is as a pond, where the contents of consciousness – thoughts, images, emotions, memories, etc. – act as ripples.

If we want to get all Holographic about it, we could look at this Bose-Einstein Condensate as playing the same role that a laser (which again, she claims is also a Bose-Einstein Condensate) in constructing a hologram, and the ripples on the condensate would produce thoughts and perceptions akin to the hologram itself. (I may have this backwards, or I may believe that the thoughts and perceptions cause the ripples, not the other way around).

A hologram is a “ripple” on, or a modulation of, the laser light’s underlying uniform field. Such modulation generates the information that then gets represented in the holographic image. Similarly, the mind’s thoughts and perceptions would be information “written” on the brain’s condensate. By contrast, we know that in a state commonly produced by various forms of meditation, the mind seems to return to a state of pure, background consciousness, which is also verified by the waveforms read by EEG devices.

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