Even by my odd standards of sudden, intellectual preoccupations, it is rather unusual to be so taken over by a subject as esoteric as wave function collapse. It happened sometime last evening. I thought the interregnum caused by overnight sleep might distract me but quite to the contrary I woke up even more preoccupied with it.
Someone with my existential challenges should hardly have the room in my mind for such esoterica. In simple terms—simple is relative in the context of quantum mechanics—wave function collapse is about a system at the quantum level resolving to a single state from the superposition of multi-states by an act of observation. I am sure I made it even harder in simplifying it. Let me try that again. When one looks at the tiniest of worlds in the universe, that act of looking ensures that you see only a single aspect of that world at any given time.Until you looked that system of quantum particles was in all conceivable states simultaneously (superposition) but merely because you looked it offered you one. We cannot tell what quantum particles do when we are not looking at them. They could be doing everything and nothing at once. What is revealed to us as a result of our observation is just a miniscule part of a infinitesimally small world.
When you read that rather complex description you realize how weird it is to be suddenly thinking of it. For me though that is a normal state of affairs. It may have some tangential connection to the movie ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ about the life of the genius mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan that I was watching on YouTube. Perhaps my mind was primed by that experience.
Of the many posts I have written about quantum physics over the years, I find the one I wrote on February 17, this year rather stimulating:
Here is a fundamental problem with structures bigger than the quantum scale, which includes us humans and everything that we can see. While our mind/consciousness works at the quantum scale, the corporeal case it resides in, namely our body, does not. There is a fundamental disconnect between the two. So while mind/consciousness can assume superposition, our bodies cannot.
That we are able to harbor several contradictory thoughts simultaneously and even able to express them—a fresh case in point being President Donald Trump’s news conference yesterday—is a manifestation of the superposition that our mind/consciousness can assume like quantum particles.
Of course, the serious scientific community looks at the idea of quantum style functioning of the neurons in our brain with considerable skepticism. However,there are also those serious scientists who think that the human brain can sustain quantum superposition. I am coming around to the idea that the human mind/consciousness operates at the quantum scale. Its difficulty is that it is cased inside a body that operates at the macro, everyday scale. Our mind/consciousness can drift away to places where the body will never make it.
In a somewhat related context, I am also beginning to think that consciousness is not individual but cosmic and we are merely receivers who catch bits of it depending on where we are pointed. The idea of consciousness wafting around across the universe as a colorless, odorless, formless, limitless force that merely passes through us automatons and animates us is rather appealing to me.
If that is indeed the case, then we have to view every moment as if it was one that we just made up. In a sense we are all in a continual process of making up our experiences. This is one with my old proposition that we all carry our own personal universe in our brain. When my universe matches with yours we have concord and when it does not we have discord.
It is possible that at this point the reader is seriously concerned about my mental well-being. Objectively, I would too but subjectively it makes complete sense to me. But since it is essential that as a race we humans collectively agree on a set of common facts/truths/experiences I go along without much outward resistance. Internally though, the question of my mind/consciousness’s superposition remains active all the time.
I am not sure if you have ever felt that but there are many moments at any given time that I feel my mind/consciousness actually oscillating. It is as if the receiver in my brain is catching some signals from a distant source. One can also feel some heat radiating off one’s head.
While watching President Trump’s news conference yesterday I employed an intellectual vantage point which I always do—look at all human activity as a result of invisible quantum scale mind/consciousness residing inside an identifiable corporeal structure. From his individual standpoint, everything he was saying made perfect sense to him. To our collective experience he may have seemed disengaged from reality but to him it was perfectly normal. I say this not just of the president but all of us. He was in concord with those with a similar standpoint and discord with those with a divergent standpoint.
The best we can strive for as a species is agree on a reasonable number of commonly felt truths, facts and realities. If we cannot achieve that, we will remain a discordant world.
Coming back to wave function collapse, I think it is applicable to humans as well. When a person is not interacting with or observing another person, the latter could be in any number of unknowable positions simultaneously or superposition. However, the act of interaction reveals a particular state. Considering that residing inside the corporeal case we call the human body is another mind which operates at the quantum scale things get rather complicated.
I think it is best to abruptly conclude this post here before it goes out of hand.
* The painting has nothing to do with the theme of the post.