Quantum mechanics: stranger than you can imagine

Albert Einstein (Library of Congress)

Is there a unity to all things? An inseparability?

A century ago, quantum mechanics answered “yes” to such inquiries. Experiments showed that particles of matter or light don’t independently exist except as probabilistic entities (whatever that means). The act of observation causes their mere probabilistic “wave function” to “collapse,” resulting in an object abruptly materializing as an actual entity in a real location.

With entanglement, two particles are born together and secretly share a wave function. If one is observed, its wave function and that of its twin simultaneously collapse. Two items then materialize at the same moment. And they do so regardless of the distance between them.

Even if the twins are separated by half the diameter of the universe, says quantum mechanics, the observation of one twin will cause both to become actual entities. During this process no time will elapse, no matter their distance apart. It’s as if there’s no space between them. They’re essentially two sides of the same coin, and separation between them is nonexistent even if, to us, it’s half the width of the cosmos.

Advertisement

Einstein hated this because he believed in locality: that an object can only be acted upon by something that’s right there in its neighborhood – meaning, a leaf in Saugerties could be stirred by a gust of wind, but it can’t be jostled by the air disturbances generated by a lively peasant revolt on a planet in the Andromeda galaxy.

In 1935, Einstein and two colleagues, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, wrote a now-famous paper in which they addressed this aspect of quantum theory. Examining the prediction that particles created together (“entangled”) can somehow know what the other is doing, the physicists argued that any such parallel behavior must be due to local effects, some contamination of the experiment, rather than some sort of “spooky action at a distance.” That “spooky action” line, often quoted for decades to come, was a putdown of this ridiculous idea that – on some fundamental level – there could be no space between objects, or no time lapse between events.

A lot hinged on this. That pre-World War II period was a pivotal time between clinging to classical deterministic physics that accepted “locality,” as Einstein insisted on doing, versus traversing the strange blurry quantum alleyways that, ironically, Einstein had helped create with his 1905 explanation of the photoelectric effect.

The classical viewpoint says that physical objects are real, regardless of whether they are being observed. Moreover, unless they’re in contact, or emit something like photons that can create contact, or at least are caught up by some sort of influence via an electric or magnetic field or through gravitation, individual objects cannot influence each other. And certainly they cannot if they are so widely separated that electromagnetic energy from one has not yet had enough time to reach the other. As for instantaneous influence involving no time at all, or influence that acts as if no intervening space exists between the objects: Forget about it, said Einstein and his colleagues.

But recent experiments, including additional ones from 2015, show that Einstein was wrong. Moreover, the “connectedness” implications of all this make perfect sense if the universe is actually a consciousness-based entity. If so, the matter-based, dead-stupid-random cosmos long assumed by the physical sciences may have to be revised in a major way. The actual underlying basis of the cosmos may be something akin to life/consciousness/intelligence, which is all-pervasive and is unconstrained by space or time.

This view, expressed by numerous philosophers for millennia, lies at the core of Buddhism and Hinduism. In recent times it has been scientifically advocated in biocentrism and explained in the books I co-authored with Robert Lanza, which have now been published globally in so many editions and languages that I’m starting to believe it may actually catch on.

I guess it’s okay to mention all this once or twice a decade. Stay tuned for more about it sometime around 2025. Meanwhile, I promise to remain totally silent when our new third book on biocentrism is published later this year.

Want to know more? To read Bob’s previous columns, click here. Check out Bob’s podcast, Astounding Universe, co-hosted by Pulse of the Planet’s Jim Metzner.

There is one comment

  1. Steven L. Fornal

    Bob Berman writes: “Meanwhile, I promise to remain totally silent when our new third book on biocentrism is published later this year.”

    Mr. Berman, don’t you dare!

Post Your Thoughts