The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Quantum Reality: Fuzzy or Incomplete?

Many conflicting interpretations of Quantum Theory were offered from the beginning.

Niels Bohr claimed that only phenomena (what appears to our senses, whether an object or the measurement of an instrument) are real, in the human sense of the word: particles that cannot be seen belong to a different kind of reality, which, circularly, cannot be perceived by humans; and the wave function is therefore not a real thing.  Reality is unknowable because it is inherently indeterminate, and we humans do not live in a world of indeterminate things, we live in a world of phenomena (where "phenomena" presumably includes also houses and trees, the effect of those elementary processes).

Werner Heisenberg, the man who discovered in 1925 the first complete theory of the quantum, believed that the world "is" made of possibility waves and not particles: particles are not real, they are merely "potentialities", something in between ideas and actualities. Our world, what we call "reality", is a sequence of collapses of wave of possibilities. De facto, Heisenberg started a metaphysical revolution by surrendering the concept of reality in favor of the concept of observables: we can’t know what really exists, we can only know what we can observe. The quantum wave talks about a new kind of reality, something in between classical possibility and classical reality. The quantum world and our world are bridged by the "measurement". Reality arises from quantum discontinuities (or "quantum jumps"): classical evolution of the Schroedinger equation builds up "propensities", then quantum discontinuities (the collapse of the wave function) select one of those propensities. Every time this happens, reality changes. Therefore reality "is" the sequence of such quantum discontinuities. What turns the unknowable world of particles into human-perceivable "phenomena" is the observation: the moment we observe something, we create a phenomenon. As John Wheeler put it, "no phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon". The universe had to wait for a conscious observer before it started existing for real. Furthermore, Heisenberg interpreted this reality as "knowledge”: the quantum state is a mathematical description of the state of the observer's knowledge rather than a description of the objective state of the physical system observed.

Heisenberg believed in a world of particles, Schroedinger believed in a world of waves. Heisenberg believed that quantum jumps “were” reality, whereas Schroedinger thought he had eliminated them.

The British physicist Paul Dirac, the man who in 1928 merged Quantum Physics and Special Relativity in Quantum Field Theory, pointed out that Quantum Physics is about our knowledge of a system. It does not describe reality but our knowledge of reality. A wave function represents our knowledge of a system before an experiment and the reduced wave function our more precise knowledge after the measurement.


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