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Does the Human Brain Operate Outside of the Laws of Physics?
Some scientists posit that our brains are actually quantum computers.
It was the eminent French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes who first suggested that the human mind may operate outside of the physical realm. He called it his mind-matter duality theory. The idea was that the human brain was above the physical world and could use its power to influence it. The “father of modern philosophy,” may have been more prescient than he’d ever realize.
Currently, a theoretical physicist is gearing up to test this theory in modern form. Lucien Hardy of the Perimeter Institute in Canada, will use an EEG machine, to see if the mind operates on the quantum level or outside of it. The results could have vast implications for our understanding of consciousness and free will.
The experiment centers on the concept of quantum entanglement. Here, particles influence each other, even when far apart. Photons are light particles. Say using a laser, you shoot them through a crystal. Two photons suddenly become entangled. Afterwards, they’re move quite a distance apart. If you interact with one photon it affects the other, instantaneously, no matter their distance from one another.
A laser experiment. By melissa.meister from Atlanta, USA (Beam splitter - Thorlabs logo) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
In the 1930’s, Einstein—puzzled by this, called it a “spooky action at a distance.” One problem is that acting upon one particle causes changes in the other faster than the speed of light, something relativity states is impossible.
Another weird effect, when we measure the spin of one entangled particle, the other always has the opposite spin, be it just around the corner from its partner or across the galaxy. This is as if measuring one influences the spin of the other at a rate faster than the speed of light. Is it true or is something else going on? This is one of the greatest mysteries of quantum physics.
In 1964, famed physicist John Bell developed an experiment to test the spin of entangled particles, to find out if they held some kind of hidden information, as Einstein thought, or if the particles actually communicated with each other at a rate faster than the speed of light. He developed the Bell test to evaluate the spin of entangled particles. Here, particles are separated. One goes to location A and the other to location B.
The spin of each is evaluated at each station. Since the angle of the measurement is taken at random, it isn’t possible to know the settings at any location beforehand. Each time particles are measured like this, when one registers a certain spin, say clockwise, the other always comes up its opposite.
According to Dr. Lucien, an experiment based off of the Bell test should be able to tell us if the human brain operates within quantum mechanics or outside of it. He’s recruiting 100 participants. Each will have their brain attached to an EEG machine through a skull cap covered with sensors. These record brainwaves.
An EEG. Getty Images.
Hardy wrote, “The radical possibility we wish to investigate is that, when humans are used to decide the settings (rather than various types of random number generators), we might then expect to see a violation of Quantum Theory in agreement with the relevant Bell inequality.” Participants will be 100 km. (approx. 62 mi.) apart. The signals from these caps will be used to change the settings on a measuring device.
If the measurements don’t match up as expected, it could challenge our current understanding of physics. “[If] you only saw a violation of quantum theory when you had systems that might be regarded as conscious, humans or other animals,” Hardy writes, it could mean that the consciousness is able to supersede natural law.
This would give a tremendous boost in the notion of free will, as a person’s will would literally defy the laws of physics. Yet, “It wouldn’t settle the question,” according to Hardy. Prevailing physics and neuroscience theories have favored predeterminism in recent decades. This experiment may also offer insight into human consciousness, where it stems from inside the brain, and even what it might be.
What are the implications if we find out the human mind operates outside of quantum physics? Pixababy.
The study fits into the fledgling field of quantum biology, which is shaking up our understanding of traditional biology in quite a number of ways. For instance, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and at Washington University, in St. Louis, have found quantum effects operating within photosynthesis.
Biophysicist Luca Turin has a theory, based on quantum physics, to explain how our sense of smell works. Others in quantum biology theorize about how antioxidants and enzymes work, among other processes.
Splintering off of this is quantum neuroscience. Researchers here are looking at how quantum mechanics might explain the processes of the brain. Stuart Hameroff is a practicing anesthesiologist, and the director of the Center for Consciousness Studies, at the University of Arizona. He's offered a theory using quantum mechanics to explain how anesthesia works.
According to Dr. Hameroff, consciousness may also be born on the quantum level. Physicist Matthew Fisher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has proposed a way in which the brain might operate as a quantum computer. Hardy’s experiment could support Hameroff and even Fisher's conclusions.
Others have doubted the claim. Since a quantum computer is very volatile system, any interference can cause decoherence, where the particles form a giant lump and no longer perform calculations. Critics argue that the human brain is awash in a host of different biochemicals and processes. So how could a quantum computer-like system operate there?
To find out how a quantum computer works, click here:
Scientists used CT scanning and 3D-printing technology to re-create the voice of Nesyamun, an ancient Egyptian priest.
- Scientists printed a 3D replica of the vocal tract of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest whose mummified corpse has been on display in the UK for two centuries.
- With the help of an electronic device, the reproduced voice is able to "speak" a vowel noise.
- The team behind the "Voices of the Past" project suggest reproducing ancient voices could make museum experiences more dynamic.
Howard et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"While this approach has wide implications for heritage management/museum display, its relevance conforms exactly to the ancient Egyptians' fundamental belief that 'to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again'," they wrote in a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56316-y#Fig3" target="_blank">paper</a> published in Nature Scientific Reports. "Given Nesyamun's stated desire to have his voice heard in the afterlife in order to live forever, the fulfilment of his beliefs through the synthesis of his vocal function allows us to make direct contact with ancient Egypt by listening to a sound from a vocal tract that has not been heard for over 3000 years, preserved through mummification and now restored through this new technique."</p>
Connecting modern people with history<p>It's not the first time scientists have "re-created" an ancient human's voice. In 2016, for example, Italian researchers used software to <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/hear-recreated-voice-otzi-iceman-180960570/" target="_blank">reconstruct the voice of Ötzi,</a> an iceman who was discovered in 1991 and is thought to have died more than 5,000 years ago. But the "Voices of the Past" project is different, the researchers note, because Nesyamun's mummified corpse is especially well preserved.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was particularly suited, given its age and preservation [of its soft tissues], which is unusual," Howard told <em><a href="https://www.livescience.com/amp/ancient-egypt-mummy-voice-reconstructed.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>.</em></p><p>As to whether Nesyamun's reconstructed voice will ever be able to speak complete sentences, Howard told <em><a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Weird/wireStory/ancient-voice-scientists-recreate-sound-egyptian-mummy-68482015" target="_blank">The Associated Press</a>, </em>that it's "something that is being worked on, so it will be possible one day."</p><p>John Schofield, an archaeologist at the University of York, said that reproducing voices from history can make museum experiences "more multidimensional."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is nothing more personal than someone's voice," he told <em>The Associated Press.</em> "So we think that hearing a voice from so long ago will be an unforgettable experience, making heritage places like Karnak, Nesyamun's temple, come alive."</p>
Inequality in wealth, gender, and race grew to unprecedented levels across the world, according to OxFam report.
- A new report by global poverty nonprofit OxFam finds inequality has increased in every country in the world.
- The alarming trend is made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, which strained most systems and governments.
- The gap in wealth, race and gender treatment will increase until governments step in with changes.
People wait in line to receive food at a food bank on April 28, 2020 in Brooklyn.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Credit: Oxfam International
A supernova exploded near Earth about 2.5 million years ago, possibly causing an extinction event.
- Researchers from the University of Munich find evidence of a supernova near Earth.
- A star exploded close to our planet about 2.5 million years ago.
- The scientists deduced this by finding unusual concentrations of isotopes, created by a supernova.
This Manganese crust started to form about 20 million years ago. Growing layer by layer, it resulted in minerals precipitated out of seawater. The presence of elevated concentrations of 60 Fe and 56 Mn in layers from 2.5 million years ago hints at a nearby supernova explosion around that time.
Credit: Dominik Koll/ TUM