Quantum Technology: Research Developments Toward Quantum Consciousness
Quantum Consciousness Dispatch #2
Among many theories of developmental psychology (Maslow, Graves et al), the creation of a similar theory by Timothy Leary was mostly lost in the noise of his phases as a guru in the 60’s, and then a criminal fugitive in the early 70’s.
But Leary and his partner Robert Anton Wilson wrote up a considerable body of work laying out what is sometimes known as the Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness. The first 6 stages pretty well match up with other developmental theories, but the 7th neurogenetic and 8th neuroatomic stages were unique to Leary and Wilson. Those stages seemed highly speculative in the 1970’s, but were at least theoretically supported. Elsewhere, I’ve been exploring current events in genetics, especially gene editing a la CRISPR, as they support Leary and Wilson’s prophetic premise that “the Seventh [circuit] Brain learns to control, integrate, organize Neuro-genetic signals and manipulate Chromosomes.” For circuit 8, Leary’s characterization — “The Cyber-atomic stage imprints sub-nuclear quantum-physical and gravitational signals, thus transcending biological existence. Quantum Consciousness” — may be a heavier lift.
As I wrote in New Trajectories, which I’ll now reference as Quantum Consciousness Dispatch #1,
Prepped by Cosmic Trigger, I was primed to read the Tao of Physics, the Dancing Wu Li Masters et al, and my standard talking points, adopted from RAW, were that Bell’s theorem in physics (non-locality) allowed in theory lots of psi phenomena like precognition or remote viewing…
RAW references Isaac Asimov in both The Starseed Signals and Cosmic Trigger. Asimov observed a 60 year lag between first understanding of new scientific principles and applications that transform the world.  He expected genetics would follow that trajectory — starting from 1944, then 2004 would see biological breakthroughs based on DNA structure. Hmmm.
And so, it turns out that, similar to genetics with gene editing, contemporary physics is demonstrating significant ability to control matter at the quantum level. As if to remind us of the Asimov arc of scientific development, the 2022 Nobel prizein physics was awarded to John Clauser, Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger for their work which experimentally validated Bell’s Theorem. As we are now about 60 years after Bell’s Theorem in 1964, it appears that the application of our best understanding of quantum physics is starting to validate an ability to manipulate quantum reality at not just the sub-atomic but also the macro world where we live.
This article will present a survey of some recent examples of advances in quantum technology as applied to Computing, Manufacturing, Sensors, and some examples of experimental verification of the ability to measure Quantum Effects at the Macro Level, then close with some questions on quantum physics as a tool for 8 Circuit realization, to be further covered in Dispatch #3.
Dispatch 3 will be speculations on how to use quantum technology to activate Circuit 8 (similar exercise in progress on how to use technology (gene editing) to activate Circuit 7)
QUANTUM EFFECTS AT THE MACRO LEVEL
I happen to live (well, chose to live) in Boulder, Colorado, a community receptive to explorations of the outer reaches of human nature. It’s gotten a little too prosperous and sedate lately, sending the hippies further up into the mountains, but meanwhile the local University of Colorado (CU) has gotten weird in interesting ways. Speaking of Nobel Prizes, three physicists from CU (Eric A. Cornell — whose daughter went to high school with my daughter — Wolfgang Ketterle and Carl E. Wieman) were awarded the physics prize in 2001 “for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates.” This work followed Einstein and Indian mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose predicted in the 1920’s (and the condensates were first created in 1995, so again, this is the Asimov rule) that such a theoretical quantum state of matter could form under conditions of very low temperatures, and undergo quantum mechanical phenomena at macroscopic levels.
After several more years of work, Cornell and Wieman helped form ColdQuanta, a company created to work on “the use of cold atoms to make practical things.”
The company revealed that it has been able to trap and address 100 qubits in a large, dense 2D cold atom array. This means, that the company’s quantum computer (named Hilbert) will be among the most powerful in the world and will be deployed across a variety of verticals, including financial services, logistics and pharmaceutical drug discovery. “Our Cold Atom Method stands out among other modalities by demonstrating the potential for unmatched qubit scalability. We are on the brink of delivering a compelling platform and on the doorstep of commercialization,” said Paul Lipman, president of Quantum Computing at ColdQuanta.
After this milestone, and some significant Series B funding ($110 million), the company spun off a for-profit company called Infleqtion. Infleqtion’s product lines include
Albert — The only quantum design platform of its kind, Albert lets anyone access and manipulate atoms cooled to a billionth of 1 degree above absolute zero, from their own computer. With this technology, once accessible only to professional scientists but now free to all, researchers can remotely use Cold-Quanta’s quantum-matter machine to design potentially transformative innovations. One possibility: autonomous vehicles that never lose their GPS signal. (See QUANTUM NETWORKS section below.)
SupercheQ — a quantum protocol that achieves practical and proven advantages for distributed data. RF systems built on the protocol have a smaller physical footprint and at the same time can handle wider band of frequencies. (See QUANTUM NETWORKS section below.)
Won 5-year subcontract in response to an Office of Naval Research Broad Area Announcement (BAA) to develop portable atomic clocks.
QuantumX Finance — Announced a collaboration with Morningstar to integrate SuperstaQ, Infleqtion’s flagship quantum software, into Morningstar Direct, Morningstar’s investment and portfolio analysis platform.
I heard an Infleqtion exec describe the advantage of their technology this way — “we can remove all the extraneous particles and electromagnetic noise around the clock so that the only thing affecting the clock is time.” (Insert here sound of my mind blowing.) Also, note the retail price of $100,000 per unit — consumer priced quantum technology!
If the QuantumX Finance product feels like a cheapening of this epochal arrival of applied quantum mechanics, consider this RAW-related development.
Jim O’Shaughnessy, the Wall Street investor and investment guru, often mentions RAW on his Twitter account. He has announced the first two O’Shaughnessy Fellowships awarded by O’Shaughnessy Ventures, LLC.
“Dr. William Zeng will use the O’Shaughnessy Fellowship $100,000 grant to pursue open-source quantum computing,” a press release says. “Nat & Martha Sharpe will use the $100,000 O’Shaughnessy Fellowship grant to study and make documentary films of alternative childhood education schools.”
Zeng’s research sounds as if it might be of interest to RAW fans.
“Dr. Zeng will use his fellowship period to study how emerging quantum technologies can explore foundational questions in quantum mechanics. For example, this next generation of experimental tests will probe fundamental aspects of nature by considering what it means for something to be an observation / some-being to be an observer.”
What fuses the sacred and profane, for me anyway, is Will Zeng’s current job title: Head of Quantum Research, Goldman Sachs.
To summarize the quantum basis of some of the above products, the ability to operate at the quantum level of matter enables computer engineers to leverage a couple of features of quantum mechanics, superposition and entanglement. One is superposition, a property of solutions to the Schrodinger equations. As opposed to conventional computers where a bit is either a zero or one, a quantum bit (qubit) can be zero, one, or a superposition with many different options. Combinations of qubits effectively vastly increase the amount of information that may be represented in a quantum computer. The additional property of entanglement allows quantum computers to change the state of many entangled cubits simultaneously, resulting in higher operational speeds at lower energy consumption levels. Qubits may be engineered in several ways, including using superconductors (supercooled to have zero resistance to electricity) or semiconductor nanocrystals called quantum dots.
The MIT Technology Review provided a recent summary of “What’s Next for Quantum Computing?” Among the trends to look for:
- Modular Quantum Computers — IBM is expected to announce a processor, called Heron, that will have just 133 qubits, but the qubits will be of the highest quality and each chip will be able to connect directly to other Heron processors. This move towards “modular” quantum computers built from multiple processors connected together is expected to help quantum computers scale up significantly. [Coherent linkage of such connections] could be in the same room, but it could also be across campus, or across cities… in March 2022, an international group of academic and industrial researchers demonstrated a quantum repeater that effectively relayed quantum information over 600 kilometers of fiber optics/
Approaches to Noise Reduction — Maryland-based IonQ, which is building trapped-ion quantum computers, is doing something similar. “The majority of our errors are imposed by us as we poke at the ions and run programs,” says Chris Monroe, chief scientist at IonQ. “That noise is knowable, and different types of mitigation have allowed us to really push our numbers.”
- Software Improvements — Helsinki-based Algorithmiq is also innovating in the programming space. “We need nonstandard frameworks to program current quantum devices,” says CEO Sabrina Maniscalco. Algorithmiq’s newly launched drug discovery platform, Aurora, combines the results of a quantum computation with classical algorithms. Such “hybrid” quantum computing is a growing area, and it’s widely acknowledged as the way the field is likely to function in the long term. The company says it expects to achieve a useful quantum advantage — a demonstration that a quantum system can outperform a classical computer on real-world, relevant calculations — in 2023.
Building on the Nobel Prize work of Cornell et al, other researchers are pursuing efforts to create condensates.
In a groundbreaking study published in Physical Review Research, a group of University of Chicago scientists announced they were able to turn IBM’s largest quantum computer into a quantum material itself.
“The reason this is so exciting is that it shows you can use quantum computers as programmable experiments themselves,” said paper co-author David Mazziotti, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, the James Franck Institute and the Chicago Quantum Exchange, and an expert in molecular electronic structure. “This could serve as a workshop for building potentially useful quantum materials.”
This is an early step on the way to room-temperature, practical applications.
Though exciton condensates had been predicted half a century ago, until recently, no one had been able to actually make one work in the lab without having to use extremely strong magnetic fields. But they intrigue scientists because they can transport energy without any loss at all — something which no other material we know of can do. If physicists understood them better, it’s possible they could eventually form the basis of incredibly energy-efficient materials.
Infleqtion’s SupercheQ product mentioned above is one of several applications of quantum technology focused on improvements in sensor technology.
Quantum sensors can take many forms; they’re essentially systems in which some particles are in such a delicately balanced state that they are affected by even tiny variations in the fields they are exposed to. These can take the form of neutral atoms, trapped ions, and solid-state spins.
And like other quantum technologies, they utilize properties of quantum mechanics like entanglement.
In solid-state physics, a quantum sensor is a quantum device that responds to a stimulus. Usually this refers to a sensor that, which has quantized energy levels, uses quantum coherence to measure a physical quantity, or uses entanglement to improve measurements beyond what can be done with classical sensors. There are 4 criteria for solid-state quantum sensors:
1. The system has to have discrete, resolvable energy levels.
2. You can initialize the sensor and you can perform readout (turn on and get answer).
3. You can coherently manipulate the sensor.
4. The sensor interacts with a physical quantity and has some response to that quantity.
It’s that hands-on, “manipulate the sensor” element that suggests 8 Circuit-style intervention. Quantum sensors are further along in development than quantum computers, and have applications in a wide variety of fields including microscopy, positioning systems, communication technology, electric and magnetic field sensors, as well as geophysical areas of research such as mineral prospecting and seismology. Applications include:
Geopositioning — Radio frequency (RF) devices leveraging quantum technology can derive significant benefits from quantum sensing, as the increased accuracy helps cut through busy RF signal zones. GPS is easy to distort or spoof, and so “The United States judges quantum sensing to be the most mature of quantum technologies for military use, theoretically replacing GPS in areas without coverage, or possibly acting with [intelligence/surveillance] capabilities or detecting submarine or subterranean structures and vehicles.“ Hmm.
Medical — “The development of highly sensitive and rapid biosensing tools targeted to the highly contagious virus SARS-VoV-2 is critical to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Quantum sensors can play and important role because of their superior sensitivity and fast improvements in recent years.”
Imaging — Several methods are in place to improve photonic sensors such quantum illumination of targets which has been used to improve detection of weak signals by the use of quantum correlation.
Microscopy — University of Queensland researchers have created a quantum microscope that can be used to see biological structures that are otherwise difficult to discern. “A major success of the team’s quantum microscope was its ability to catapult over a ‘hard barrier’ in traditional light-based microscopy. ‘The best light microscopes use bright lasers that are billions of times brighter than the sun,’ Professor Bowen said. ‘Fragile biological systems like a human cell can only survive a short time in them and this is a major roadblock. The quantum entanglement in our microscope provides 35 percent improved clarity without destroying the cell, allowing us to see minute biological structures that would otherwise be invisible.’
Most exciting in terms of the 8 Circuit model, this news item especially caught my eye.
The new system the team devised, which they call a quantum mixer, injects a second frequency into the detector using a beam of microwaves. This converts the frequency of the field being studied into a different frequency — the difference between the original frequency and that of the added signal — which is tuned to the specific frequency that the detector is most sensitive to. This simple process enables the detector to home in on any desired frequency at all, with no loss in the nanoscale spatial resolution of the sensor.
The system may open up new applications in biomedical fields, according to Cappellaro, because it can make accessible a range of frequencies of electrical or magnetic activity at the level of a single cell. It would be very difficult to get useful resolution of such signals using current quantum sensing systems, she says. It may be possible using this system to detect output signals from a single neuron (emphasis mine) in response to some stimulus, for example, which typically include a great deal of noise, making such signals hard to isolate.
I plan to riff more on this in Quantum Consciousness Dispatch #3.
Speaking of quantum consciousness, many have popularized (and sold) the idea that quantum entanglement proves telepathy, remote viewing and many other paranormal phenomena. The word “proves” in that sentence has, unfortunately, been meaningless I believe until recently.
In recent years, communication between qubits could only happen across very short distances, in the same or adjacent machines. In 2021, researchers at Fermilab and at the University of Delft were able to manipulate entanglement(emphasis mine) and send information between locations in a phenomenon known as quantum teleportation (emphasis mine). Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” is accomplished by transferring information between locations without actually moving the physical matter that holds it. Manipulating entanglement is described by the researchers as follows:
Here we realize quantum teleportation between remote, non-neighbouring nodes in a quantum network. The network uses three optically connected nodes based on solid-state spin qubits. The teleporter is prepared by establishing remote entanglement on the two links, followed by entanglement swapping on the middle node and storage in a memory qubit. We demonstrate that, once successful preparation of the teleporter is heralded, arbitrary qubit states can be teleported with fidelity above the classical bound, even with unit efficiency. These results are enabled by key innovations in the qubit readout procedure, active memory qubit protection during entanglement generation and tailored heralding that reduces remote entanglement infidelities. Our work demonstrates a prime building block for future quantum networks and opens the door to exploring teleportation-based multi-node protocols and applications.
Part of the methodology requires employs engineering of difficult-to-manage photons, says the Amazon Web Services Center for Quantum Networking (Amazon??)
Quantum networks will leverage some technologies already deployed for modern optical communications, such as lasers, fibers, and detectors. However, instead of strong laser beams, quantum networks require single photons — smallest building blocks of light — to connect quantum devices together. Single photons enable many of the special capabilities of quantum networks and simultaneously pose the great challenge: quantum mechanics prohibits their amplification limiting the network range.
Cybersecurity has been an arms race for more than twenty years. Now some experts watching the development of quantum computers thing they could break the most secure encryption algorithms now extant. Thus, the search is on for quantum resistant algorithms. But now companies are seeking to use quantum forms of encryption.
Many encryption systems depend on the generation of random numbers. But most existing random number generators offer only an approximation of randomness — if an attacker knows the algorithm used to generate them, they can be easily reverse-engineered.
In contrast, random numbers produced using principles from quantum physics — such as observing the spin of a subatomic particle that is in a quantum state — guarantees true randomness. There is no way to predict what the spin of the particle will be, for instance, before the instant at which the particle is observed.
I am happy to report that Colorado figures into this application of quantum technology — Broomfield, CO based Honeywell Quantum Solutions merged with U.K.’s Cambridge Quantum to form Quantinuum, as good a name as it gets in the corporate world. The company boasts:
Quantinuum is the anchor of a quantum computing ecosystem that is already developing in the Colorado area. The University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado School of Mines and University of Denver all have quantum-related programs, and Colorado-based federal research facilities under both the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) are working in parts of quantum computing.
Quantinuum is also involved in creating a new phase of matter in a quantum computer that “acts like it has two time dimensions.”
By shining a particular laser pulse sequence inside a quantum computer, physicists created a phase of matter that has the benefits of two time dimensions despite there still being only one singular flow of time.
This mind-bending property offers a sought-after benefit: Information stored in the phase is far more protected against errors than with alternative setups currently used in quantum computers.
“Even if you keep all the atoms under tight control, they can lose their quantumness by talking to their environment, heating up or interacting with things in ways you didn’t plan,” Dumitrescu says. “In practice, experimental devices have many sources of error that can degrade coherence after just a few laser pulses.”
The challenge, therefore, is to make qubits more robust. To do that, physicists can use “symmetries,” essentially properties that hold up to change. (A snowflake, for instance, has rotational symmetry because it looks the same when rotated by 60 degrees.) One method is adding time symmetry by blasting the atoms with rhythmic laser pulses. This approach helps, but Dumitrescu and his collaborators wondered if they could go further. So instead of just one time symmetry, they aimed to add two by using ordered but non-repeating laser pulses
This arrangement is a 2D pattern squashed into a single dimension. That dimensional flattening theoretically results in two time symmetries instead of just one: The system essentially gets a bonus symmetry from a nonexistent extra time dimension…The findings demonstrate that the new phase of matter can act as long-term quantum information storage.
At this point I feel a little high just trying to keep this together in my head.
QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT AT THE MACRO LEVEL
OK, yet another Boulder guy. This time affiliated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a major facility of which is located in Boulder (including the official national atomic clock.) There have been other successful experiments in this direction since 2018, but in this case, the experiment involved “two tiny aluminum drums one-fifth the width of a human hair” — huge by quantum standards, weighing 70 picograms (1 gram = 100,0000,000,000 picograms) — and supercooled in a cryogenically chilled enclosure.
“If you analyze the position and momentum data for the two drums independently, they each simply look hot,” said physicist John Teufel, from NIST. “But looking at them together, we can see that what looks like random motion of one drum is highly correlated with the other, in a way that is only possible through quantum entanglement.” While there’s nothing to say that quantum entanglement can’t happen with macroscopic objects, before this it was thought that the effects weren’t noticeable at larger scales — or perhaps that the macroscopic scale was governed by another set of rules.
The practical challenges of entanglement work are illustrated in another example.
Although it was theoretically possible to entangle at a macro level, it proved to be a huge challenge in practice. That’s because objects larger than a single atom or light particle suffer from vibrating atoms around the object. A stray atom is very likely to cause the vibrational level of one object to be just slightly different to that of the other, destroying the entanglement.
To prevent this, researchers (from Delft University of Technology and Australia’s University of New South Wales) had to keep all disturbances away from the objects. This required cooling the test area to 0.1 Kelvin (-273.05°C). The physicists then used electromagnetic radiation (microwaves) to achieve entanglement.
In both experiments, the entangled objects were relatively large in comparison with a single atom or light particle: a couple of micrometres in size, and comprising billions of atoms. The experimental results now open the door to experiments with even larger entangled objects, triggering all sorts of new (physics) questions: how does entanglement react, for example, to the gravitational forces that influence objects?
So now let’s follow that thread to where Wilson and Leary assumed it would go.
And here we are in the vicinity of the quantum human. A 2021 experiment was conducted using a microscopic organism called the tardigrade.
A 2018 paper claimed to find that some photosynthetic bacteria were capable of becoming entangled with light photons. This group took several tardigrades (known sometimes as a “moss piglet”) and froze them to close to absolute zero degrees, a temperature from which they had previously shown they could revive.
The team placed each frozen tardigrade between two capacitor plates of a superconductor circuit that formed a quantum bit, or “qubit” — a unit of information used in quantum computing. When the tardigrade came into contact with the qubit (named Qubit B), it shifted the qubit’s resonant frequency. That tardigrade-qubit-hybrid was then coupled to a second nearby circuit (Qubit A), so that the two qubits became entangled. Over several tests that followed, the researchers saw that the frequency of both qubits and the tardigrade changed in tandem, resembling a three-part entangled system.
Upon rewarming the tardigrades, only one survived, which researchers claimed to be “the first quantum entangled animal in history.”
Alas, this claim was quickly challenged on methodological grounds, that the tardigrade was not “maximally entangled”, i.e., the effect of the contact with the qubit could be explained by conventional electromagnetism, and subsequent review seems to bear this out. But the article also placed the work in this context: “Our experiments could be classified within the field of quantum biology which studies the possibility of quantum effects in biologically-relevant processes such as photosynthesis, olfaction or animal navigation, but is also concerned with quantum features of entire organisms.”
Indeed, the field of quantum biology has grown in the last ten years, but researchers make the point that “quantum concepts, such as superposition states, entanglement, ‘spooky action at a distance’ and tunnelling through insulating walls, being somewhat counterintuitive, they are no doubt extremely useful constructs in theoretical and experimental physics. More uncertain, however, is whether or not these concepts are fundamental to biology and living processes. Of course, at the fundamental level all things are quantum, because all things are built from the quantized states and rules that govern atoms.”
Several areas where quantum effects may be manifesting in the macro world of living organisms include:
In photosynthesis research, the development of femtosecond (ultra-fast) spectroscopy…in probing photosynthetic complexes has been a major breakthrough in the field ‘quantum effects in biology’. It shows the first instance of observing quantum superposition and coherence dynamics in vital biological systems.
in bird migration, which appears to be directed by sensory clues sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field…there are two dominant theories currently in the field. One is essentially classical, based on ferrimagnetic iron oxide particles in the bird’s body…an alternative hypothesis which conjectures quantum processes in photoinitiated radical reactions: a radical pair mechanism (RPM). This is because the classical picture of a moving compass does not explain key observations that are clearly light and wavelength dependent.
photon-assisted electron, or quantum tunneling (as a signaling mechanism) may be present in animal olfaction…and perhaps in other systems in biology that rely upon ligand–receptor activation.
Tunneling has also been cited as an effect observed in DNA research.
The team, part of Surrey’s research programme in the exciting new field of quantum biology, have shown that this modification in the bonds between the DNA strands is far more prevalent than has hitherto been thought. The protons can easily jump from their usual site on one side of an energy barrier to land on the other side. If this happens just before the two strands are unzipped in the first step of the copying process, then the error can pass through the replication machinery in the cell, leading to what is called a DNA mismatch and, potentially, a mutation.
In a paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications Physics, the Surrey team based in the Leverhulme Quantum Biology Doctoral Training Centre used an approach called open quantum systems to determine the physical mechanisms that might cause the protons to jump across between the DNA strands. But, most intriguingly, it is thanks to a well-known yet almost magical quantum mechanism called tunnelling — akin to a phantom passing through a solid wall — that they manage to get across.
It had previously been thought that such quantum behaviour could not occur inside a living cell’s warm, wet and complex environment. However, the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger had suggested in his 1944 book What is Life? that quantum mechanics can play a role in living systems since they behave rather differently from inanimate matter. This latest work seems to confirm Schrödinger’s theory.
A University of Chicago Institute for Quantum Sensing in Biophysics and Bioengineering is trying to emulate some of the engineering progress that has happened in computing and networking, described earlier, within the room temperature environment of living systems.
The go-to tool for controlling single molecules or particles are optical tweezers, which use highly focused laser beams to manipulate their targets. “But they can’t really trap anything smaller than a micron, unless you go to very low temperatures,” says UChicago molecular engineering professor Allison Squires. “That doesn’t really work for biology. Biology happens at room temperature, so these nanoscale processes take place in a wet and messy environment. To see those processes in action, we have to be able to work in that setting.”
Squires’ research lab is developing tools to manipulate and control quantum sensors in a biological system, including a technique that uses electric potentials as “walls” to keep the quantum sensor floating in one place without touching it. Squires expects this “arsenal” of nanoscale biophysical tools to provide new kinds of information.
Quantum sensors could measure the electric fields in a neuronal synapse, track a single ion moving through a cell membrane, or record the transfer of proteins between the smaller organelles inside a cell: all processes that are challenging to directly observe. Technology at the intersection of these two fields — quantum engineering and biology — has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of medical science at the smallest possible levels.
And then it’s a short step (or actually another great leap) from biological systems to neurological systems.
From an overview article,
Quantum cognition is a new research program that uses mathematical principles from quantum theory as a framework to explain human cognition, including judgment and decision making, concepts, reasoning, memory, and perception. This research is not concerned with whether the brain is a quantum computer. Instead, it uses quantum theory as a fresh conceptual framework and a coherent set of formal tools for explaining puzzling empirical findings in psychology.
This again is where quantum biology started, with quantum principles functioning as metaphor.
In this introduction, we focus on two quantum principles as examples to show why quantum cognition is an appealing new theoretical direction for psychology: complementarity, which suggests that some psychological measures have to be made sequentially and that the context generated by the first measure can influence responses to the next one, producing measurement order effects, and superposition, which suggests that some psychological states cannot be defined with respect to definite values but, instead, that all possible values within the superposition have some potential for being expressed…
But then, several researchers have started moving from metaphor in the direction of a literal view that maybe consciousness is, in itself, a quantum phenomenon. In a 2021 article in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, Shan Go writes:
Quantum cognition is a new theoretical framework for constructing cognitive models based on the mathematical principles of quantum theory. Due to its increasing empirical success, one wonders what it tells us about the underlying process of cognition. Does it imply that we have quantum minds and there is some sort of quantum structure in the brain? In this paper, I address this important issue by using a new result in the research of quantum foundations. Based on the PBR theorem about the reality of the wave function, I show, given certain assumptions, that the wave function assigned to a cognitive system such as our brain, which is used to calculate probabilities of thoughts/judgment outcomes in quantum cognition, is a real representation of the cognitive state of the system, not a mere representation of incomplete knowledge about the state of the system. This result supports a realist interpretation of quantum cognition, according to which the cognitive state of our brain and its dynamics are not classical but quantum in quantum cognition. In short, quantum cognition implies quantum minds. However, this result does not mean that we have quantum minds and our brain is a quantum computer, since quantum cognition by its standard formulation has not been fully confirmed by experiments. The hope is that more crucial experiments can be done in the near future to determine whether or not quantum cognition is real.
And just last year, New York researchers reported on the following experimental test.
A proposal of quantum cognition advances the hypothesis that quantum entanglement between 31P nuclei could serve as a means of information storage in the brain. Testing this hypothesis requires an understanding of how long-lived these quantum effects may be. We used NMR spectroscopy and molecular dynamics simulations to study the mechanisms that limit these quantum processes in 18O-enriched molecules of pyrophosphate, the simplest biomolecule that can sustain quantum-entangled 31P nuclear spin singlet states. We confirmed that chemical shift anisotropy limits the singlet magnetization order lifetimes in high magnetic fields, and we discovered that rapid rotation of the phosphate groups limits the lifetime in low magnetic fields. These findings represent an important starting point in studying whether quantum cognition can be a true biological phenomenon.
And finally, a review article in Physics World in 2021 connected some of this contemporary experimental work with the Penrose/Hameroff theory cited in my Quantum Dispatch #1, and which dates back to the 1990’s.
What is interesting in the context of quantum consciousness is that nerve cells contain structures such as microtubules and mitochondria that might support coherent energy transfer in a manner similar to that in photosynthesis. Microtubules form part of the cytoskeleton of eukaryotic cells (those with a nucleus enclosed in an envelope, found in plants and animals) and some prokaryotic cells (those with no nucleus envelope, which archaea and bacteria are made of). They provide shape and structure, and are instrumental in cell division as well as the movement of motor proteins. They are made up of polymers of tubulin proteins and within these are chromophores similar to those found in photosynthetic networks. Chromophores are also found in mitochondria, the power stations of the cell. This had led some researchers to suggest that anaesthetics work by disrupting coherent energy processes and in turn disrupting consciousness.
While the weirdness of quantum theory has lent itself to some unhelpful pseudoscientific interpretations of consciousness, there has been resistance from scientists to yoke the two together. Just because both subjects are difficult to understand, does not mean that they necessarily inform each other. Despite this, the first detailed theory of quantum consciousness emerged in the 1990s from the Nobel-prize winning University of Oxford physicist Roger Penrose and anaesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff from the University of Arizona. Their “orchestrated objective reduction” (Orch OR) theory has undergone a number of revisions since its inception, but generally it posits that quantum computations in cellular structures known as microtubules have an effect on the firing of neurons and, by extension, consciousness.
Early critiques of Orch OR, such as — “As calculated by physicist Max Tegmark at Princeton University in 2000, quantum effects would not survive long enough to have any influence on the much slower rates at which neurons fire” — are being undermined by advances in both theory and engineering. For example,
Matthew Fisher, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, [has suggested] that spin-entangled molecules known as Posner molecules might lead to nerves firing in a correlated fashion. This happens through a number of steps. Cellular processes run on energy that is provided by the chemical compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When this compound is broken down, it releases phosphates, which are made up of phosphorus (spin-half nuclei) and oxygen (zero nuclear spin). Fisher contends that the spins of the phosphorus nuclei are entangled and that, furthermore, if this quantum entanglement can somehow be isolated from other quantum interactions it might last long enough to have an effect on cognition processes.
QUANTUM ENGINEERING AS A TOOL FOR 8TH CIRCUIT DEVELOPMENT — QUANTUM CONSCIOUSNESS DISPATCH #3
So, as I now return to Robert Anton Wilson’s world and community, I find this article to have been a very cool journey. It’s been some heavy lifting as a layman to make sense of quantum computing, quantum engineering, et al, and learning of effects manifesting at the macro level rather than the sub-atomic theory that drove much of Wilson’s speculations. Now perhaps there can be some better proofs for remote viewing, telepathy and other phenomena that Wilson and quantum theory predicted (even as I’ve grown skeptical of those claims over the years.) Even more challenging, maybe there’s a way to parse how all this plays into some way to intervene in, or accelerate, personal growth to an 8th circuit consciousness.
The third Dispatch in this Quantum Consciousness series will attempt to address a series of questions.
- How does one manipulate atoms in the brain, where temperatures close to absolute zero might be a little too cold?
- Can we extrapolate potential further developments, extending into the human body and brain, in the quantum engineering approaches summarized in this article?
- What evidence have Hameroff and Penrose presented as potentially confirming their theory?
- Is there a CRISPR-type of product emerging from the physics community?
- How could neuronal information relevant to an organism be delivered to the microtubules without being destroyed by synaptic processes?
- What did RAW write in the 1980’s and 90’s based on any physics updates to his thinking about the 8th Circuit?
- Are there alternative interpretations for Circuit 8 than neuroatomic interventions, for example, contemporary approaches utilizing particular pharmaceutics or ritual approaches a la Antero Alli?
- Are Roger Penrose’s attempts at reconciling gravity and quantum theory relevant to potential neuroscience applications?
- What are the Nobel prize winning “hippies who saved physics” working on these days?
- Do cultural/life conditions affect organisms at the quantum level?
Please stay tuned — or entangled.
Quantum Consciousness Archive