The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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

What Creates Reality

John Wheeler believes that the collapse can be caused by anything that (aware or unaware) makes a "record" of the observation. An observer is anything in Nature that causes the observation to become public and irreversible. An observer could be a crystal.

Roger Penrose, inspired by work done and initiated by the Hungarian physicist Frigyes Karolyhazy ("Gravitation and Quantum Mechanics of Macroscopic Bodies", 1966), invoked gravity to justify that special immunity: in the case of large objects, the space-time curvature affects the system's wave function, causing it to collapse spontaneously into one of the possibilities. Precisely, Penrose believes that different space-time curvatures cannot overlap, because each curvature implies a metric and only one metric can be the metric of the universe at a certain point at a certain time. If two systems engage in some interaction, Nature must choose which metric prevails. Therefore, he concludes, the coupling of a field with a gravitational field of some strength must cause the wave function of the system to collapse. This kind of self-collapse is called "objective" reduction to distinguish it from the traditional reduction of Quantum Theory which is caused by environmental interaction (such as a measurement). Self-collapse occurs to everything, but the mass of the system determines how quickly it occurs: large bodies self-collapse very quickly, elementary particles would not for millions or even billions of years. That is why the collapse of wave functions for elementary particles in practice occurs only when caused by environmental interaction.

In practice, the collapse of the wave, which is the fundamental way in which Quantum Theory can relate to our perceptions, is still a puzzle, a mathematical accident that still has no definite explanation.

It is not clear to anybody whether this "collapse" corresponds to an actual change in the state of the particle, or whether it just represents a change in the observer's amount of knowledge or what. It is not even clear if "observation" is the only operation that can cause the collapse. And whether it has to be "human" (as in "conscious") observation: does a cat collapse the wave of a particle? Does a rock?

What attributes must an object possess to collapse a wave? Is it something that only humans have? If not, what is the smallest object that can collapse a wave? Can another particle collapse the wave of a particle? (In which case the problem wouldn't exist because each particle's wave would be collapsed by the surrounding particles).

What is the measuring apparatus in Quantum Physics? Is it the platform that supports the experiment? Is it the pushing of a button? Is it a lens in the microscope? Is it the light beam that reaches the eye of the observer? Is it the eye of the observer? Is it the visual process in the mind?

It is also a mystery how Nature knows which of the two systems is the measurement system and which one is the measured system: the one that collapses is the measured one, but the two systems are just systems, and it is not clear how Nature can discriminate the measuring one from the measured one and let only the latter collapse.


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