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'The Conscious Universe' -- "The Universe Exists Because We Are Here" (VIEW VIDEO)




The question that intrigued the great American physicist John Archibald Wheeler in the last decades of his life was: “Are life and mind irrelevant to the structure of the universe, or are they central to it?” He suggested that the nature of reality was revealed by the bizarre laws of quantum mechanics. According to the quantum theory, before the observation is made, a subatomic particle exists in several states, called a superposition (or, as Wheeler called it, a ‘smoky dragon’). Once the particle is observed, it instantaneously collapses into a single position.

“If you want an observer around, and if you want life, you need heavy elements. To make heavy elements out of hydrogen, you need thermonuclear combustion. To have thermonuclear combustion, you need a time of cooking in a star of several billion years. In order to stretch out several billion years in its time dimension, the universe, according to general relativity, must be several years across in its space dimensions. So why is the universe as big as it is? Because we are here!”


Wheeler was a scientist-philosopher who introduced the concept of wormholes and coined the term “black hole”. He pioneered the theory of nuclear fission with Niels Bohr and introduced the S-matrix (the scattering matrix used in quantum mechanics). Wheeler devised a concept of quantum foam; a theory of “virtual particles” popping in and out of existence in space (similarly, he conceptualized foam as the foundation of the fabric of the universe).

Wheeler inspired many aspiring young scientists, including some of the greats of the 20th century. Among his doctoral students were Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize laureate, with whom he coauthored the “Wheeler-Feynman absorber theory”; Hugh Everett, who proposed the many worlds interpretation; Kip Thorne, who predicted the existence of red supergiant stars with neutron-star cores; Jacob Bekenstein, who formulated black hole thermodynamics; Charles Misner, who discovered a mathematical spacetime called Misner space; Arthur Wightman, the originator of Wightman axioms; and Benjamin Schumacher, who invented the term “qubit” and is known for the “Schumacher compression”.

Wheeler suggested that reality is created by observers and that: “no phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.” He coined the term “Participatory Anthropic Principle” (PAP) from the Greek “anthropos”, or human. He went further to suggest that “we are participants in bringing into being not only the near and here, but the far away and long ago.”

This claim was considered rather outlandish until his thought experiment, known as the “delayed-choice experiment,” was tested in a laboratory in 1984. This experiment was a variation on the famous “double-slit experiment” in which the dual nature of light was exposed (depending on how the experiment was measured and observed, the light behaved like a particle (a photon) or like a wave).

The results of this experiment, as well as another conducted in 2007, proved what Wheeler had always suspected – observers’ consciousness is required to bring the universe into existence. This means that a pre-life Earth would have existed in an undetermined state, and a pre-life universe could only exist retroactively.

Now it appears that Wheeler was a major influence on New York Times bestselling author Deepak Chopra who joined forces with physicist Menas Kafatos to explore some of the most important and baffling questions about human existence. What happens when modern science reaches a crucial turning point that challenges everything we know about reality? In the coming era, the universe will be completely redefined as a "human universe" radically unlike the cold, empty void where human life and our planet is a mere mote of dust in the cosmos.

You Are the Universe literally means what it says--each of us is a co-creator of reality extending to the vastest reaches of time and space. This seemingly impossible proposition follows from the current state of science, where outside the public eye, some key mysteries cannot be solved, even though they are the very issues that define reality itself:

What Came Before the Big Bang?
Why Does the Universe Fit Together So Perfectly?
Where Did Time Come From?
What Is the Universe Made Of?
Is the Quantum World Linked to Everyday Life?
Do We Live in a Conscious Universe?
How Did Life First Begin?

“The shift into a new paradigm is happening,” the duo writes. “All of us live in a participatory universe. Once you decide that you want to participate fully with mind, body, and soul, the paradigm shift becomes personal. The reality you inhabit will be yours either to embrace or to change.”

What these two great minds offer is a bold, new understanding of who we are and how we can transform the world for the better while reaching our greatest potential.

The most distant galaxies billions of light years away, have no reality without you, because everything that makes any galaxy real— with the multitude of stars with their heat, emitted light, and masses, the positions of the distant galaxies in space and the velocity that carries each distant galaxy away at enormous speed—requires a human observer with a human nervous system. If no one existed to experience heat, light, mass, and so on, nothing could be real as we know it. If the qualities of Nature are a human construct arising from human experiences, the existence of the physical universe "out there" must be seriously questioned--and along with it, our participation in such a universe.



Physics has had decades to process the insight of Wheeler, the eminent American physicist, general relativist and quantum physicist, who originated the notion of a participatory universe, A cosmos in which all of us are embedded as co-creators, replacing the accepted universe "out there," which is separate from us. Wheeler used the image of children with their noses pressed against a bakery window to describe the view that kept the observer separate from the thing being observed. But in a fully participatory universe, the observer and the thing observed are one.

The brain isn't the seat of consciousness but acts more like a radio receiver, and perhaps emitter, translating conscious activity into physical correlates. (The radio receiver metaphor describes the feedback loop between mind and brain, which are actually not separate but part of the same complementary activity in consciousness.) To understand our true participation in the universe, we must learn much more about awareness and how it turns mind into matter and vice versa.

These are difficult truths for mainstream scientists to accept, and some would react to them with skepticism, disbelief, or anger. But following the other track of explanation, beginning with physical objects "out there," fails utterly to explain how we are conscious to begin with.

That's why in scattered pockets, some physicists are beginning to talk about a conscious universe, where consciousness is a given throughout Nature. In fact, the founders of quantum mechanics a century ago agreed more with this view, having understood that quantum mechanics implies observation and agency of mind.

In their upcoming book You Are the Universe, they call it the human universe, emphasizing where the whole construct comes from. 

The Daily Galaxy via futurism.com and sfgate.com

Image at top of page: Galaxy cluster MACS J0717, one of the most complex and distorted galaxy clusters known, is the site of a collision between four clusters. It is located about 5.4 billion light years away from Earth. X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/van Weeren et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA


So what does it mean if there is a minimum of one intelligent species per galaxy resulting in at least 2 trillion intelligent alien cultures spread across the universe. Only humans are the important ones?

What makes the human consciousness so special about collapsing the superstate to observe one outcome? Isn't any conscious capable of doing that (animal ...)?

Also What is so special about the eye or the brain that collapses the superstate? If we have a light detector connected to a computer, that will collapse the superstate too.... So isn't it more correct to say if anything touches (like light photon) something it collapses it superstate? In which case has nothing to do with consciousness, just with the fact that something interacted with that and collapsed to whatever state it was most probable to collapse in at that time.

Consciousness may exist within other physical forms than human form.

We would not be able to tell what a light detector connected to a computer detected or not unless a consciousness looked at that computer. In fact we wouldn't know if that computer existed at all. All detections and measurements, no matter how complicated, at the very end, are received by consciousness. Matter and energy, etc. are only intermediary.

I think the biggest barrier to this viewpoint is an unwillingness to accept because it means we are the ones who did it!

Mehdi - near the point, very mindful of you.

Perhaps there is an original creator who is the constant observer. Each of us and all intelligent life forms being an integral part of that creator now also observe and create. Thus reality becomes what we create and observe individually and collectively.

It could be that the reality created by the observer is collapsed into a definite state only relative to that observer.

Imagine Schrodinger's famous cat in the box with the poison gas. To an observer outside the box who has no information from within the box, the cat is in a superposition. If there was an observer with a gas mask inside the box too, the cat would be in a collapsed state relative to that observer, but to the observer outside both the living and dead cat, as well as a man who saw either a living or dead cat would remain in the superposition until the box is opened.

Thus aliens in a distant galaxy outside of our ability to get information present no problem. Things in their galaxy have collapsed into defined states, for them. When we can see them, both the galaxy and the aliens in it will collapse for us and we will see only aliens which share our perceptions.

Wishful thinking...

The wave collapse because of a high level of entanglement with particles at rest (aka the detectors) in the observer frame. With weak measurements, the wave collapse only partially because the particles observed is only lightly entangled with the detector.

In the Spiritualist Church we spend some time sending thoughts out, recognising thoughts as living things. Thoughts between those on this side of life and between the other side of life and this side of life. I believe the mind boggling theology that we have always been here. I don't think I necessarily believe any Hymn or Religious reading that says we did not make ourselves. If we are all Spiritual energy we could have all played some part in the way this side of life is. However versions there are of the sort of lives we experience,

The "Many Worlds" interpretation of quantum theory -- the Copenhagen school -- can be real IF time passes quickly enough to eliminate the unstable solutions. Compare the Planck length and the speed of light and you obtain a 'quantum of time': some 10 to the -43rd seconds. Ten-to-the-43rd seconds have not yet elapsed since the Big Bang, there is plenty of time for all the possibilities to play out, leaving us in the macro-world with the residual stable state which we observe.

Just an idea. Perhaps a correct quantization of time can unite relativity and quant.

Wheeler is not the first physicist to fall off the deep end later in life. Even Newton had some quirky and completely nonsensical notions about gold. Wheeler has no credibility as a philosopher, and Deepak Chopra's world view is no more scientific than the Pope's.

A most interesting article. Texas is a state of mind also.

This kind of hubris exists when scientists start believing math defines reality instead of just describing it. We didn't have the values of all those intricately perfect constants of reality and then found them to be true, they were there and we ferreted them out by examining reality.

"If there was an observer with a gas mask inside the box too, the cat would be in a collapsed state relative to that observer, but to the observer outside both the living and dead cat, as well as a man who saw either a living or dead cat would remain in the superposition until the box is opened. "

The cat is not in a superposition and nothing about the cat "collapses" when you open the box. Superposition is a description of self, the observer's knowledge. If you open the box to a dead cat, it was dead before you opened the box, internal observer or not.

How far we've come and yet many still believe in an egocentric universe.

Layman's question: What if the universe has already been observed by some other intelligent life that was conscious before humans, and we're just living on a rock that's already been "seen?" Wouldn't that mean the whole "human observation experience" is moot?

"...The results of this experiment, as well as another conducted in 2007, proved what Wheeler had always suspected – observers’ consciousness is required to bring the universe into existence. This means that a pre-life Earth would have existed in an undetermined state, and a pre-life universe could only exist retroactively...."

"Proved" it with a thought experiment? That's a bold and nonsensical statement. This is quantum mysticism, not science. Only dualists who believe that there is something special about consciousness which transcends the physical world can swallow this nonsense.

In non-mystical QM interpretations, dumb matter suffices as a wave-function collapsing "observer." That is, the particle detector in a double slit experiment or Schrödinger's Cat's box will collapse a particle's wave function before a conscious experimenter observes the results.

This article leads to more questions than answers???

Also, I understand the fundamental aspects of ab observational universe and I'm a fan of the original Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (Many Worlds theory has become too convoluted and existential) but until we can get more qualitative science on the consciousness aspect of the universe, stop making it seem like humans are the only reason the universe exists! It's funny, we use the word "racism" like we're not one race but when it comes the UNIVERSE humans are the only ONES to create it! Talk about HUMAN ego...

Wave functions exist until an observer causes them to collapse into a discrete particle, true. But "observer" is not defined in quantum physics. The observer can be animate or inanimate; human or scientific measuring instrument, for instance. The observer must simply be "aware" of its surroundings to some degree.

The universe as a whole first exists as an enormous wave function. Which begs the question: Who or what was the Original Observer?

Interesting, even if a bit ascientific. Until we get to Deepak Chopra.

Vance said:
"If we have a light detector connected to a computer, that will collapse the superstate too".

How do you know this? How do you know it's not consciousness that "collapses" the wave function?

"In non-mystical QM interpretations, dumb matter suffices as a wave-function collapsing "observer." That is, the particle detector in a double slit experiment or Schrödinger's Cat's box will collapse a particle's wave function before a conscious experimenter observes the results".

This is not something that could ever possibly be proved. How could we ever *know* that something non-conscious collapses a wave-function? Indeed, how could we ever know a non-conscious reality exists since we *by definition* can never perceive an unperceived reality?

To my mind it makes perfect sense that it is actually consciousness which defines reality; that a non-conscious reality is at best a superfluous hypothesis, and at worse nonsensical.

Neither humans nor aliens are important observers , the Universe itself is the most important observer . Containing and "creating" conscious beings it can act as an ultimate gigantic quantum computer . We are only local observers , we don't change laws of physics and we have only limited influence on reality.

Well… A very interesting, educated and sophisticated approach of a totally anti-scientific view of consciousness and reality. Not that Deepak Chopra is wrong in stating that our understanding of reality is the result of a construct coming out of a “biochemecialy-electromagneticaly-muldimensionaly” organized conscious process (which give reality different senses depending of brain structure and of what information or sensations had previously fed the “brain”), but he is attacking the universal logic and the causal adequacy principle (“Nothing comes from nothing”) even though our still primitive and speculative view of reality is challenged by the hypothesis (wrongly understood) that universe comes from nothing (Nothing is not nothing!), when he lets our mind infer that objective reality does not exist without something being aware that it exists or by almost negating that the “moon is still there even if no one is looking at it.”
On the other side of this reasoning, there is what could be called “cosmic consciousness,” the “demonstrated capacity” of energy, space, time and matter (originating from “nothing”) to be aware of itself by finally “producing” number of diversified biological organs that are able to make some understanding of it or, at least, a certain apprehension of what going on in the reality. Awareness of reality adjust the behavior of the organic entities of which survival (or other behaviors) depends on.
I preferred to stay on that side of the reasoning. It is a lot more comfortable. Surely, Deepak Chopra is not shocked by a “scientist view” of causality, time non-locality, entropy and thermodynamic processes because this reasoning still pauses a fundamental question: Is awareness a component of the universe that play a role in its (objective) organization? Locally we know the answer to this question … animal and vegetal “awareness” establish ecosystem structures and human awareness is destroying them.

The first paragraph assumes the Copenhagen Interpretation as a quantum mechanical "fact", ignoring other interpretations such as Bohmian Mechanics.

But this is nonetheless a very interesting article, and Capra is a trip not to be missed!

Bohm's vision seems quite relevant. The Pilot Wave of a particle, while closely related to its Schrödinger wave, operates by information, which, unlike force, does not attenuate with distance. The particle receives the information and acts upon it, suggesting some awareness at the level of particles. And nonlocality is of the essence.

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