Friday, September 20, 2013

September 20

We were reconvened. 

“Good morning all.  First I want to confirm there has been no change in Mark.  Right?” 

Karen Romanofski, in charge of monitoring him, said “For the most part yes.  We had a stirring of what we thought was REM at one point last night, but it settled down.  Also, some of the basal markers seemed to show a less deep sleep but that too was pretty short lived.”

“Thank you.  And I also want to introduce, up on the screen Theodore Aristes, a particle physicist.  He is here to hopefully help us sort this thing out.”  Theodore nodded and a few people nodded back at the screen.

“Now yesterday when we met I gave you some initial thoughts I had but they weren’t all that well formed.  So let me just follow up on those for a minute or two.”

“The results in my experiment are different than the Jekyll and Hyde results.  And mice are different than us, as we know, but they have been used in experiments for a long time because of the many metabolic similarities between mice and us, and the ability to control the purity of many mouse characteristics.  But, inadvertently, we may have ignored one of the greatest differences and in the process made significant progress towards answering one of the greatest questions in science: What is human consciousness?   Unfortunately, though, the progress we’ve made involves a question that’s equally big:  entanglement.“

I saw light dawning on a couple of faces and total incomprehension on most of others.

“Now this isn’t really my area, and so I asked Theo to give us background and his analysis.  For those who don’t know him, which may be all of you, Theo is one of the most eminent scientists in the dark arts of quantum mechanics, and is an old friend of mine too.  He has very little background with our material specifically, but last  We have engaged him on an urgent basis to look at this situation and give us his point of view from a quantum viewpoint.  Which could lead to a Schroedinger joke here but won’t.”  I smile but thinly, because this situation was worrisome. 


 “I don’t have enough information to reach a conclusion, and I certainty can’t draw a conclusion regarding the consciousness issue, but as a first step let’s discuss how a possible entanglement problem might exist.  I’ve looked at the material from these experiments that I received late last night, and Mark and I talked this morning about some details.  Initially therefore, I’d like to state a brief précis of the facts as I understand them, so we all have the same context.”  He looked at me from the screen and I nodded.  He nodded too and turned back to the crowd in front of him. 

“Finally, since my review of this material has been very cursory because of time demands I may have missed some salient points.  If I have, and that becomes apparent, please let me know. “  We nodded and he nodded back and he began. 

“This is quite an intriguing problem because you have an example of a working prototype – the mouse – which to all intents and purposes has been successfully copied so that there is no entanglement issue – so that the copying of the particles has not led to any sort of opposites in the functioning organisms, the original and the copied.   That is correct right?” 

We all nodded.  He nodded.

“But with regard to the next experiment, a person, the results were not so successful.  While you have a functioning copy,” he nodded at me, and for a brief moment the words threw me, I didn’t nod back, I am a person dammit, “the original has been affected so that there is no apparent higher level cognitive functioning, however, basal functions continue.  In other words, the original is in a comatose like state, but with no need for breathing assistance.”  Nod.  Nod.

“Now, there are a number of things to consider.  The first are the differences between the organisms in the two experiments.  The mouse is no doubt a lower level cognitive organism.  And in fact, the shared basal functions – in the second experiment, the homo sapiens as I noted still possesses them, are functioning identically in both.  Therefore the experiment has successfully copied the attributes necessary for that level of functioning.   And that is in accord I think with entanglement, for reasons I will explain.”

“First, entanglement, for those who don’t know, is a subatomic phenomenon first identified by Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen in a 1935 paper.  It basically means that two particles paired at the quantum level and then separated, take on complimentary, that is opposite, characteristics.  And they do so just about instantaneously, even separated by thousands of miles.  If you change one, even when they are separated by thousands of miles, or we presume millions of miles or lights years, the other changes.  Faster than light.  Einstein called it ‘spooky action at a distance.’”

“Originally, the EPR paper postulated the existence of entanglement to show quantum mechanics was flawed.  As you may know Einstein was no fan of quantum mechanics, and the EPR paper was meant to show that quantum theory, when taken to conclusions that the math demanded, ran out of control, because it would violate the fundamental limit of c, the speed of light.” 

“But then a few years later, entanglement was shown to be a natural phenomenon, to actually exist in nature, in series of experiments by Alain Aspect(?).  And it’s been experimentally verified more than once, and by a number of scientists, so now it is accepted as an unexplained anomaly of quantum mechanics.”

“Entanglement, like most of quantum mechanics, has nothing to do with most of what happens into the world.  The fact that single, or small numbers of particles, act oppositely from each other, as is the case in an entanglement scenario, has nothing to do with the world in most instances because most of what happens in the world isn’t because of single particles, or small numbers of particles.  Rather, most of what happens in the world is because of numbers of particles, large numbers of particles.  After all, a human hair is about one million atoms wide – and each atom is comprised of many subatomic particles.  And so the interactions between all those particles average out.  And that is why the basal functions which are a result of many many particles still work, after copying, in the mouse and people.  They are averaged and entanglement cancels out because there are some many of them.”

There was a slight movement by one of the people in the room.  Carolyn Chen, a mathematician and one of the brightest in the room.  I nodded at her.

“So what you are saying,”  she said slowly, “is that you and Mark” and she looked at me a little uncertainly, cause I am Mark, “consist of paired, subatomic particles, that it isn’t an issue for autonomic particles, because otherwise we would have seen anomalous metabolic results, that otherwise in fact….” And she trailed off and I nodded to show her it was okay, “in fact,” she said, speaking less hesitantly now, “your systems would have failed and you never would have been biologically operative, nor Jekyll and Hyde, now the more primitive organisms, the planarian and the amoebas, etc. etc.  Because none of them have anomalies that we have observed.  Therefore, your cognitive processes, and one presumes, any human cognitive processes, that are affected here…” and she tapered off, lost in thought.

Theo nodded.  “Very good and that’s right.  Perhaps there is a quantum link to consciousness here, which is one of the big questions of life of course, and which has been explored by such as Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose.”

“In other words,” I got up and said, “Some of us may have, at times, wondered it we were anything more than a more complicated animal, that is our quote higher consciousness unquote is simply a function of having a bigger brain with more connections, etc. – a mechanical phenomenon.”

“Well, we may have, depending upon the outcome here, provided significant data to help resolve that issue.”

And I sat down but the impact of what I had said wasn’t lost on the team.  They sat thinking, some of them no doubt about there resume building that would result from this finding too.

“But before we get to the Nobel Prize for Physiology,” I called out from my seat, “we haven’t resolved the problem in front of us.” That helped some of them refocus, and on the screen Theo nodded.

“That’s right,” he said.  “And bringing this back to entanglement, as I mentioned a moment ago, these effect cancel out in the real world – things in the real world are just to big to be affected because quantum effects are so numerous, coming from so many small subatomic particles, that even something as dramatic as entanglement has no effect.”

“But that’s where human consciousness comes in.  To date, we have been unable to quantify consciousness – it is a non computable state.  In other words, and to simplify, we have no idea how to create my sensation of blue in your brain.  We can point to neurons that fire when blue is seen, but we have no idea how to get from there to blue.  Because it’s so far been seen as non-computable therefore, some theories have arisen, like the one from Hameroff and Penrose, that I mentioned before, which is that consciousness may occur through superposition of quantum coherent states until a specific threshold is reached, the states then collapse…”

I had looked around and noticed we were losing some people, even with the excitement in the room.  So I interrupted Theo.

“Theo, I appreciate the background, but I don’t think we can get too deeply into it right now.  Let’s assume for a moment, that whatever the mechanism, quantum effects occur in consciousness.  Could you give us a moment or two on entanglement?”

“Of course, of course.  Entanglement is a term for the situation where two of the same quantum particles are linked, as far as we can tell, permanently.  If you measure one of them, like a proton, you will fix its state.  That is fundamental quantum physics, based on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, because observations fixes qualities in the particle.   If you, at the same time as your measurement, look at the particle the measured particle is linked to, you will find out it is in the exact opposite state of the particle you have just measured.  Instantly.  Faster than the speed of light.

“Now, if entanglement has occurred here, and I cannot yet say it has, but it may have, because of the nature of the copying process, and consciousness itself is dependent upon a quantum process, then it would make sense that the conscious Mark’s quantum particles”  and he nodded at me, but I didn’t much feel like nodding back, “is determining the quantum state of the other Mark though entanglement, and so rendering unconscious Mark, well unconscious.” 

Theo sat back.

“How can you be so sure on such short notice?”  said Terence Moore,  a microbiologist who was almost as smart as Carolyn.  “You have hardly had any time to look at this.  And why is nano Mark” he didn’t bother looking at me, “the one who’s conscious?  And wouldn’t the averaging of quantum effects you spoke abut earlier mean that there wouldn’t be an effect on a big organism like a Mark’s brain?”

“Thank you,” I said, and there were a few chuckles, breaking the tension in the room a little.

“Of course, I can’t be sure at all,”  Theo said  Those are all good questions deserving of further study.”

I stood up.  “And that is a good place to end this,” I said.  “I want us to work on those questions and anything else that has occurred to us.  And I want to take a day or more to do that, and to nail down whether entanglement, and no offense Theo”  I nodded at him, he nodded back, “is truly at issue. “

I gave them a breakdown of assignment over the next two days, thanked Theo, who would be working with our team now too, and called the meeting over.  Everyone filed out, a little less tense it seemed than they were earlier. 

I turned to Jim, who had stayed behind.  “What do you think?” I asked.

He shook his head.  “I don’t know what to think. “

“Me neither,” I said, “but it’s a start.”

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