The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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

Ontological interpretation

The US physicist David Bohm believed in an "undivided whole" even before John Bell's theorem. His idea was that the whole universe is entangled in one gigantic wave.

One of Quantum Theory's most direct consequences is indeterminism: one cannot know at the same time the value of both the position and the momentum of a particle.  One only knows a probability for each of the possible values, and the whole set of probabilities constitute the "wave" associated with the particle.  Only when one does observe the particle, does one particular value occur; only then does the wave of probabilities "collapse" to one specific value.

Bohm’s "ontological" interpretation of Quantum Theory (“A Suggested Interpretation of the Quantum Theory in Terms of Hidden Variables”, 1952) almost resurrected determinism at the quantum level. Bohm’s bold assumption was that the quantum “wave” is a real wave, due to a real potential.

Bohm assumed that the wave function does not represent just a set of probabilities: it represents an actual field. A particle is always accompanied by such a field. This field is a real field and acts upon particles the same way a classical potential does. (Bohm resurrected an interpretation of Quantum Theory that de Broglie had abandoned, the theory of an ordinary wave guiding an ordinary particle).

The beauty of this assumption is that, with the introduction of this additional potential, something momentous happens to the equations of Quantum Mechanics: position and momentum of a particle are no longer incompatible, they can be measured precisely at the same time, and Heisenberg’s principle is defeated.

The behavior of the particle in Bohm’s theory is determined by the particle's position and momentum, by whatever force is acting on it, and by the quantum potential.

For Bohm, particles do exist and are always accompanied by a field. An electron is neither a particle nor a wave (field), it is a particle plus a wave (that cannot be separated). But Bohm's wave is not Born's wave: Born's wave is only a function of probabilities that helps compute the particle's position, whereas Bohm's wave is a real wave that guides the particle (therefore also referred to as the “pilot-wave”).

Everything is both a particle and a wave, and is acted upon by both a classical potential and a quantum potential (the "pilot wave"). Basically, the wave-function provides an additional potential that, once inserted in the traditional Hamiltonian of classical Physics, yields a well-determined trajectory for each particle (but since the initial position cannot be known, we still can't predict the path of a particle, only notice that there exists a well-determined path prescribed by nature).

Bohm had found an interpretation of Quantum Theory in terms of particles with well-defined position and momentum.  What Bohm had done with his assumption was, basically, to add some "hidden variables" (the quantum potential) to the equations, precisely what Einstein had suggested to restore determinism in Physics. (Bohm, incidentally, was dismissed equally by Bohr, who did not believe in hidden variables, and by Einstein, who believed in hidden variables).


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