(ORDO NEWS) — Quantum mechanics and organic light of consciousness.
Quantum mechanics suggests that particles can be in a state of superposition – in two states at the same time – until a measurement occurs. Only then does the wave function describing the particle collapse into one of two states.
According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, the collapse of the wave function occurs in the presence of a conscious observer.
But according to Roger Penrose, the opposite is true. Instead of consciousness causing collapse, Penrose suggested that wave functions collapse spontaneously and give rise to consciousness in the process.
Despite the strangeness of this hypothesis, recent experimental results show that such a process occurs in the microtubules of the brain. This could mean that consciousness is a fundamental feature of reality,
Consciousness determines our existence. In a way, this is all we have, all we really are. The nature of consciousness has been thought about in many different ways, in many cultures, over the years. But we still cannot understand it.
Some say that consciousness is all-encompassing, that it includes reality itself, and that the material world is just an illusion. Others say consciousness is an illusion, with no real phenomenal experience or conscious control.
According to this point of view, we are, as T. Huxley said gloomily, “just helpless spectators who ride with us.” There are those who view the brain as a computer.
Brain function has historically been compared to modern information technology, from the ancient Greek idea of memory as a “ring with a seal” in wax, to telegraph switching circuits, holograms and computers.
Neurologists, philosophers and proponents of artificial intelligence (AI) compare the brain to a complex computer made up of simple algorithmic neurons, connected by synapses of variable strength. These processes may be suitable for unconscious “autopilot” functions, but cannot explain consciousness.
Finally, there are those who consider consciousness to be fundamental, related in some way to the fine-scale structure and physics of the universe.
These include, for example, the opinion of Roger Penrose that consciousness is associated with the process of objective reduction – the “collapse of the quantum wave function” – an activity on the verge between the quantum and classical spheres.
Some see such connections to fundamental physics as spiritual, connections to other people and to the universe, others see it as proof that consciousness is a fundamental feature of reality that evolved long before life itself existed.
Consciousness and Wave Function Collapse
Penrose proposed objective contraction not only as a scientific basis for consciousness, but also as a solution to the “problem of measurement” in quantum mechanics.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has been known that quantum particles can exist in a superposition of several possible states and/or places at the same time, which is mathematically described as a wave function according to the Schrödinger equation.
But we do not see such superpositions because, as it seemed to early quantum researchers, the very act of measurement or conscious observation seemed to “roll up” the wave function into certain states and locations – the effect of the conscious observer – consciousness rolls up the wave function.
But this point of view takes consciousness beyond the scope of science. Another suggestion is “many worlds” in which there is no collapse,
Penrose turned the concept of the conscious observer upside down. Instead of consciousness causing a collapse, the wave functions spontaneously collapsed, causing a moment – a “quantum” – of consciousness.
The collapse, or reduction of the quantum state, occurred at the objective threshold in the fine-scale structure of the space-time geometry.
Penrose was the first to liken quantum particles to tiny warps in the geometry of spacetime (as Einstein’s general theory of relativity did for large objects like the sun).
Superposition states of multiple possibilities or delocalized particles can be seen as opposing curvatures and hence separations in the fine-scale structure of the universe, the geometry of space-time. If such divisions continued, “many worlds” would arise.
But such divisions would be unstable, and would shrink or “collapse” into certain states chosen not randomly, not algorithmically, but “incomputably”, perhaps reflecting the “Platonic values” built into the geometry of space-time.
Thus, while the wave function is seen by many as pure mathematics in abstract space, Penrose characterizes it as a process in the fine-scale structure of the universe.
And every event of objective contraction entails a moment of “protoconscious” experience in a random microenvironment, with no memory or context.
But sometimes there would at least be a sense of pleasure, such as quantum optical effects leading to Objective Contraction in the micelle, providing a feedback function to optimize pleasure. Almost all human and animal behavior is somehow connected with the desire for pleasure in its various forms.
Protoconscious moments are devoid of memory, meaning, and context, but have a phenomenal “qualia” – a primitive form of conscious experience. They may look like inharmonious tones, notes, and the sounds of an orchestra that is being tuned.
In the mid-1990s, I proposed with Roger Penrose that the quantum oscillations of microtubules in brain neurons were “orchestrated,” hence the “orchestrated contraction of objects.” Consciousness was like music in the structure of space-time.
Our theory of “orchestrated objective contraction” has been looked upon with skepticism. Technological quantum computers operated at temperatures near absolute zero to avoid thermal decoherence, so quantum prospects in a “warm, wet, noisy” brain seemed unlikely.
But we knew that quantum optical activity could occur in non-polar regions of microtubule proteins, where anesthetics appeared to selectively block consciousness.
Recently, we were convinced that we were right: the quantum optical state of superradiance has been demonstrated in microtubules, and, according to preliminary data, it is suppressed by anesthetics. How does quantum activity at this level affect brain function in general and consciousness?
It becomes clear that consciousness can emerge in individual neurons of the brain, extending upward into networks of neurons, and down and deeper, to terahertz quantum optical processes, such as “superradiance” in microtubules, and even further, to the fundamental geometry of space-time ( Fig. 1).
I agree that consciousness is fundamental and I agree with Roger Penrose that it involves the self-collapse of the quantum wave function, a ripple in the fine-scale structure of the universe.
Organic light itself is not consciousness. But organic light may be the interface between the brain and conscious processes in the fine-scale structure of the universe.
Light and consciousness
Unable to be directly measured or observed, consciousness can manifest in the brain as a significant departure from simple algorithmic unconscious processes such as reflexive, autopilot behavior.
Such a deviation was found in pyramidal neurons of layer V of the cortex (see Fig. 1) in awake animals without changes in external membrane potentials.
This suggests that “conscious” modulation may occur within neurons, as a result of deeper and faster quantum processes in cytoskeletal microtubules (see Fig. 1). They may include the objective Penrose contraction associated with the fundamental geometry of spacetime.
Light is that part of the electromagnetic spectrum that the eyes of humans and animals can see – visible light. Each point of the spectrum corresponds to a photon of a certain wavelength and reciprocal frequency.
Each wavelength is perceived by the eye and brain as a different color. In addition to wavelength/frequency, photons have other properties, including intensity, polarization, phase, and orbital angular momentum.
Ancient traditions characterized consciousness as light. Religious figures were often depicted with glowing “halos” and/or auras.
Hindu deities are depicted with glowing blue skin. People who experienced “near death” and “out of body” experiences have described being drawn to “white light”. In many cultures, those who have “awakened to the truth about reality” are “enlightened”.
In recent years, it has been established that biophotons arise in brain neurons, for example, in the ultraviolet, visible and infrared wavelengths as a result of oxidative metabolism in mitochondria.
Light dominated the early universe, for example, during a period starting 10 seconds after the Big Bang, when photons dominated the energy landscape and briefly illuminated reality.
However, photons, protons, and electrons then merged into a hot, opaque plasma, blotting out reality for 350,000 years until the universe cooled, allowing the electrons and protons to form neutral atoms and build matter and structure.
Photons got the opportunity to roam freely through the transparent Universe and, when they meet with matter, are reflected, scattered or absorbed, as a rule, without significant chemical interaction. However, compounds containing organic carbon rings – important molecules in living systems – are notable exceptions.
18th century chemists knew about linear chains of carbon atoms with additional hydrogens – “hydrocarbons” such as methane, propane, etc. They also knew about an oily, flammable 6-carbon molecule called benzene, but did not understand its structure.
One night, the German chemist August Kekule had a dream that linear hydrocarbons were snakes, and one of them swallowed its tail – the mythical “Ouroburos”. Waking up, he proclaimed (correctly, as it turned out): “Benzene is a ring”!
Each hexagonal benzene carbon ring has 3 extra electrons that spread out as “electron clouds” above and below the ring, consisting of what later became known as “pi” electron resonant orbitals.
Within these clouds, electrons can switch between certain orbitals and energy levels, first absorbing a photon and then emitting a photon of lower energy. It is the basis of quantum optical effects, including fluorescence, phosphorescence, excitons, and superradiance.
Hexagonal organic rings with quantum optical properties can merge and include five-sided rings, forming “indole” rings, which are found in psychoactive molecules, living systems and throughout the Universe, for example, in interstellar dust.
The hot plasma of the early Universe led to the formation of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), fused organic (“aromatic”) complexes of benzene and indole rings.
Living in interstellar dust, PAHs are still optically active, such as fluorescing and emitting photons visible on Earth. This “organic light” may play a key role in the origin and development of life and consciousness.
Life or consciousness – which came first?
Life on Earth is believed to have originated in a seething mixture of water and oil compounds, sunlight and lightning, called “primordial soup”, as suggested by Oparin and Haldane in the early 20th century.
In the 1950s, Miller and Urey modeled a version of the primordial soup and discovered “amphipathic” biomolecules with a non-polar, benzene-like, pyro-resonant organic ring at one end and a polar, charged tail at the other.
Such molecules are common in biology, such as the aromatic amino acids tryptophan (indole ring), phenylalanine and tyrosine in proteins, membrane and nucleic acid components, and psychoactive molecules such as dopamine, serotonin, LSD and DMT.
Oparin and Haldane hypothesized that the non-polar, “hydrophobic” pi-resonance electron clouds coalesce to avoid an aqueous environment (“oil and water don’t mix”). The polar, water-soluble tails adhered to the outside, forming a water-soluble “micelle” with a non-polar interior.
These micelles somehow evolved into functional cells, and then into multicellular organisms, long before the advent of genes.
But why would inanimate beings organize themselves in order to perform purposeful complex functions, grow and develop behavior? And then, presumably, at some point they became conscious? Or was consciousness “there from the beginning”?
Mainstream science and philosophy suggests that consciousness emerged at some point in evolution, perhaps as recently as the advent of the brain and nervous system. But Eastern spiritual traditions, panpsychism, and Roger Penrose’s theory of objective reduction suggest that consciousness preceded life.
Could light-induced moments of proto-consciousness have arisen in Penrose’s primordial soup by objective contraction in micelles? Did such moments provide functional feedback for optimizing primitive pleasure that triggered the birth of life and its evolution? Do similar events occur in PAHs and organic rings throughout the universe?
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