Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shri Nick Predicts: 2014

Shri Nick Predicts: 2014

As we approach the Longest Night of the Year, it is customary for pundits, psychics and raving lunatics to formulate predictions that might guide our actions in the coming New Year. Here direct from the Quantum Tantric Ashram in Boulder Creek are Shri Nick Herbert's hopes and insights concerning events likely to occur in the coming year. Adjust your investment portfolio accordingly.

1. Apple Computer will introduce two new upgrades of system OS X--Domestic Cat and Street Cat which will continue to steal market share from Windows.

2. As physicists unanimously recognize its deep kinship with the mystical Slavic soul, Dark Matter will henceforth be known as Ukrainium.

3. For his imaginative Schopenhaurer-inspired performance of Urge: a Short Opera About Reality, Nick Herbert will be awarded a special Oscar for "the best metamusical of 2014".

4. Scott Hulan Jones's film Supernature: Esalen and the Human Potential is released in 2014 and subsequently breaks all box office records as the Year's Most Popular Documentary.

5. Peace is achieved in the Middle East following implementation of Doctor Jabir's two-state solution. For his essential role in these negotiations, President Obama shares his second Nobel Peace Prize with Jabir abd al Khaliq.

6. The Periodic Table gains several new members--fractionally charged elements collectively known as  "Inbetweenia."

7. Alien starships fail to make an appearance. The reason? All really smart aliens travel from mind to mind. Aliens call Earth "Planet of the Hates". And who would wish telepathic contact with a world of whiners?

8. The Best Book of the Year is Michael Muhammad Knight's "Tripping With Allah", a roller-coaster ride through the illuminated mosque-mind of "the Hunter S. Thompson of Islam". Thanks, Max.

9. An accidental discovery in a remote part of the world gives us the first hint of a breakthru into the universe of quantum tantra--a brand new way of interacting with Nature more intimate than physics. Magicians, illusionists, and makers of gold from common stuff proliferate. New and exciting forms of union are experienced daily. The human world is changed forever--in a direction no one had ever guessed to exist, tho Jabir's Epistle to the Greeks caught a tiny corner of it.

10. Sales of "Harlot Nature" soar as people seek to understand and participate in the Grand Opening Night of the human species.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

He Did Not Die


(For Jack--If you love Hitler 
so much, Nick, 
then why don't you write a poem 
about him?--Sarfatti.)

"Who is closer to you, Sir"
                        a monk asked Buddha,
"He who loves you, or he who hates you?"
"He who hates me," replied the Buddha.
"Because he thinks of me more often."

Mighty King Lucifer
Who was brought low
Who died by his own hand
In a Berlin bunker
Who rose again.

By the power of hate
Is Our Satan kept alive
His deeds in state museums immortalized.
In our hearts we hold Him closer
Than any Christian holds his Lord.

By the power of our hatred
We made places on Earth
Where Satan's so sacred
No man dares display His Mark
Except in secret.

So long as there remains
Just one of us who hates him
He will live on.
His soul is immortal.
Der Führer did not die.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Joy of Jazz

Joy Rush singing at Scopazzi's
Shortly after the California Gold Rush, Boulder Creek was born as home for gangs of lumberjacks cutting and milling redwood trees to build houses in boom-town San Francisco. Now the loggers are mostly gone, having been displaced by wine-makers, commuters to Silicon Valley and mad geniuses in the hills, but the redwoods still remain, and chain saws are still as common in Boulder Creek as computers. Some of the early settlers were Italian: people with names like Locatelli, Robustelli and Scopazzi. And Italians love to eat.

Boulder Creek's finest restaurant is Scopazzi's, located a few blocks west of Johnnie's Market. And Scopazzi's has recently been hosting a remarkable music group called Joy of Jazz -- named after its leader and singer, the amazing Joy Rush.

Joy Rush (yes, that's her real name) not only sings, but had previously established a reputation in town as a dancer,  teaching her own brand of low-impact dance exercise called Joyrush Fitness Systems. Joy's dance training really shows: when Joy sings, every part of her body moves, not just her lips. Before putting together Joy of Jazz, Joy sang with various other local groups, as in this TV clip of Joy singing and swaying with the Jazzamanders. As its name suggests, Joy's group performs jazz standards and she is sometimes joined on stage by local singers Bonnie Bell and Vicki Coffis.

In addition to their swaying songstress, Joy of Jazz consists of Jack Bowers on piano, George Galt on harmonica, David Nordgren on upright bass, with regular guest appearances by Paul Einzinger on saxophone. Here's a video clip of Joy's back-up crew.
Jack Bowers on keyboard
In the early '70s, Jack Bowers made his fame in the San Lorenzo Valley as pianist and song writer for the Valley's notorious hippy band Oganookie, which regularly played at the Town & Country in Ben Lomond-- now a big rambling antique shop but "in the day" the T&C was our local version of San Francisco's Fillmore dance hall, complete with light shows, crazy costumes and outrageous behavior. "We performed over a thousand gigs from Petaluma to San Diego," Jack says, "and recorded an album." Jack also played piano with the Golden State Gamblers and with Jill Croston, a local girl who made good in Nashville as Lacey J Dalton. Jack's longest lasting gig was at Soledad Prison where he managed the Arts in Corrections program for more than 25 years. When First Unto This Country is a good example of Jack's work as performer and arranger.
George Galt on harmonica
George Galt is one of Boulder Creek's behind-the-scenes community leaders. As an elected member of the Parks and Recs Department, he plans the details of our annual Fourth of July Parades -- one of the 2 1/2 holidays we celebrate in Boulder Creek, the others being Hallowe'en and -- sometimes -- April Fools Day. George handles the musical aspects of these events and is currently at the center of a project to establish a radio station in BC. George is also on the board of Vajrapani, our local Buddhist center, and has even recorded a few original Buddhist songs including the show-stopping Don't Know Much About Emptiness. George has played and sung with many music groups including running harmonica riffs for Jazzamanders, Fairport Convention and the psychedelic band Ant Trip Ceremony. George repairs cars in his (fixed and mobile) garage in Boulder Creek where he recently replaced the back brakes on my Subaru -- affording a rare opportunity for a tantric quantum mechanic to share vibes with a Buddhist auto mechanic.
David Nordgren on stand-up bass
David Nordgren has been playing stand-up bass for numerous jazz groups and theater performances in the Santa Cruz area for more than a decade. He's a regular participant in the weekly jazz jams at Santa Cruz's Bocci's Cellar. David both bows and strums his instrument according to the mood of the song and in this short clip (with Bowers and Enzinger) shows off a style both solid and witty.
Paul Einzinger on saxophone
Paul Einzinger is a saxophone player now living in Felton who, like Dave Nordgren, also jams at Bocci's Cellar. To me Paul's performances seem so smooth and effortless that I was not surprised to hear from him that he had gained a lot of experience by playing in big bands. "Where did you play?" I asked, guessing maybe San Francisco, Chicago or New York. "Oh, in Idaho." Paul replied.

Here's a video clip of Joy of Jazz performing "Young at Heart" on Scopazzi's outside deck.

Nick Herbert is one of this band's biggest fans: I love Joy of Jazz. This group is! Whether at Scopazzi's or at one of their other musical venues, don't pass up the chance to experience Joy of Jazz. As Joy Rush likes to proclaim: "It's more fun if YOU are there."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Local God

Local God

There stands a man in Round Rock
Can grasp the rattlers behind the head
And snap them like a whip
Cracking their coiling bodies.

He is the God of these hissing snakes;
Milks the venom out of their mouths
And wraps them round his arms like bracelets.

He is our chief scientist: savage and delicate.

--William Burford (1927 -- 2004)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Dinner with John and Mary Bell

Dinner Party chez Pierre and Mary Noyes: March 1988
In his best-selling book How the Hippies Saved Physics, MIT professor David Kaiser describes how the members of an informal, outside-the-mainstream research group in Berkeley (Elizabeth Rauscher's Fundamental Fyziks Group) were able to make significant advances in a then-unfashionable field (quantum foundations) which has since become a respectable and flourishing part of physics.

However, Kaiser failed to mention that along with Berkeley's FFG, a like-minded group at Stanford (ANPA West, founded by Stanford professor Pierre Noyes), was also enthusiastically exploring the once disreputable field of quantum foundations. ANPA (an acronym for Alternative Natural Philosophy Association) was organized by Cambridge physicist Ted Bastin and his friends. The "bible" of ANPA was a collection of essays edited by Bastin Quantum Theory and Beyond which featured papers by David Bohm, Yakir Aharonov, Geoffrey Chew as well as lesser-known quantum-edge explorers). ANPA East was centered in Cambridge while its Western focus was Pierre's group at Stanford.

ANPA West meetings took place mainly in buildings in and around Stanford with an occasional trip into the redwoods to David McGoveran's house in Boulder Creek. The main focus of ANPA West was "bit-string physics"-- the world viewed as a computer program -- and attempting to calculate the value of fundamental constants via a technique called "combinatorial hierarchy". But a glance at the ANPA West Journal (a kitchen-table-top production by Tom Etter and Suzanne Bristol) shows that ANPA West members were also interested in other foundational topics including new quantum logics and Bell's Theorem. [Computer graphics wizard Dick Shoup has scanned and posted all these journals here.]

Physicist Henry Stapp (a prominent FFG member) has called Bell's Theorem "the most profound discovery in science". But despite its alleged profundity, this theorem was dismissed by the majority of physicists as "mere philosophy" and research into its implications was considered to be a "career breaker". For instance, John Clauser's advisor warned him, in effect, that he would never achieve an academic physics position if he persisted in doing a Bell's theorem experiment regarded at the time as an exercise in "mere philosophy".

Clauser's advisor was right -- John never did get an academic post -- but when Bell's theorem finally became fashionable in wider venues than Big Sur's Esalen Institute, Stanford's ANPA West and Berkeley's Fundamental Fyziks Group, John Clauser's trail-blazing work was belatedly recognized with one of the physics profession's highest honors.

Although I had corresponded with John Bell at CERN while writing Quantum Reality, I had never met the author of "the most profound discovery in science". I had one chance to meet Bell in 1982 when Saul-Paul Sirag and I invited him to Esalen Institute in Big Sur to receive (along with John Clauser), The Reality Prize, funded by Charles Brandon, one of the founders of FEDEX. It pleases me no end that of all the awards John Bell has since received (including a Nobel Prize nomination shortly before his untimely death in 1990 at age 62) our Esalen Reality Prize was the very first to publicly honor this extraordinary man. John Bell, however, did not come to Big Sur but instead sent a colleague, Bernard D'Espagnat, to accept the Reality Prize.

John Stewart Bell was my hero. I had spent a lot of time reading his papers, arguing with colleagues about his work and even developing my own bare-bones, stripped-down version of Bell's famous theorem. So you can imagine my delight when Pierre Noyes invited me to his home in the Stanford foothills for a seminar by John Bell and a few days later to a dinner party with John and his wife Mary Ross Bell, also a physicist. (This was in March 1988, only a few years before Bell's death.)

I recall very few details of that dinner in '88, except that for me it felt like sitting in an extra chair at Jesus's Last Supper. In John Bell's presence, I felt that close to holiness. One of the most charming aspects of John and Mary Bell was their Irish accents which lent a particular sparkle to their speech. Both John and Mary were brilliant, witty and entertaining. Our table talk was further enhanced by many many glasses of fine wine produced by Pierre's son David (proprietor of David Noyes Wines in Sonoma). Thank you, Pierre and Mary Noyes, for greatly enriching Nick and Betsy Herbert's lives.

Here's my favorite Bell story from those meetings. It took place in Pierre's living room in Bell's seminar a few days before the luminous dinner. In front of the black board, John Bell was arguing a particular point when a Stanford physicist loudly objected:

"But how can that be, John? Isn't such-and-such true?"

To which Bell replied (and you've got to imagine this delivered in a sparkling Irish accent):

"So ye believe such-and-such, do ye? Well. in three minutes, I'll have ye believin' the opposite."

And then, in less than three minutes,  John Bell proceeded to make good his boast.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hanger for the Cloak of Night

Location of the Coathanger asterism-- from APOD

All praise to Allah the Maker
of the Sky, the Desert and Sea.
For tonight in the Fox
with seven/fifty binocs
I first saw the Cluster
of abd al-Rahman al-Sufi.

Ibn al-Haltham -- contemporary of abd al-Rahman al-Sufi

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Coathanger Club

The al-Sufi Cluster resembles a clothes hanger
During these warm summer nights Nick has been sleeping out doors in his tree house and taking this opportunity to get acquainted with the night sky. Surrounded by redwood trees I am limited to observing one slice of the Southern sky: every two hours another sign of the Zodiac appears, beginning (in early September at latitude 35 degrees North) with Sagittarius at 9 PM, Capricorn at 11 PM and Aquarius at 1 AM. But in addition to spotting prominent landmarks such as the signs of the Zodiac I am learning a lot (from both books and observation) about arcane features of the night sky that are known and appreciated by only a few deep sky fanatics.

For instance, in the year 964, the Persian astronomer Abd al Rahman al-Sufi (known as al-Sufi) published a new map of the heavens that improved on the classic Ptolemaic picture. Al-Sufi was the first to record galaxies outside the Milky Way--the Large Magellanic Cloud (visible from Yemen) and the Andromeda Galaxy which is the most distant object (2 million light years) visible to the naked eye.

He also recorded a tiny asterism known today as al-Sufi's cluster or Brocchi's cluster (after an amateur astronomer who studied it 1000 years later than al-Sufi). It is also called the Coat Hanger--well--because it looks like a coat hanger.

Get out your binoculars for a small but memorable non-drug experience under the night sky.

From the wonderful Astronomy Picture of the Day site, here's a picture of the Coathanger.

Which of you will be the first to spot the "Coathanger Asterism"?  initially discovered 1000 years ago by a Muslim astronomer living in Isfahan in what is now called Iran?

The easiest way to spot the al-Sufi Cluster is to locate the Summer Triangle, which is almost directly overhead in the early fall and consists of the three bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair (all named, like so many other stars in the sky, by words derived from Arabic). The Coathanger lies about 1/3 of the way along a straight line from Altair to Vega, appearing as a bright patch in the Milky Way. Binoculars will be needed to resolve its coathangerish nature.

The al-Sufi Cluster lies in the minor constellation Vulpecula (Latin for Little Fox).

The world is divided into two categories of people, those few who have seen the Coathanger (al-Sufi's Cluster) with their own eyes (pictures don't count) and the majority who will never experience this little star thrill.

Members of the elite Coathanger Club are rumored to greet one another by exchanging the esoteric gesture that identifies a Viewer of the al-Sufi Cluster--a closed fist placed above the back of an out-stretched palm.

Nick has not yet joined the secret society of Coathangers. It's cloudy right now in Boulder Creek. But on the next clear night he intends to leave the rabble behind and to become a member of the society of "Those Who Have Seen the al-Sufi Asterism."

Will you join me in the Coathanger Club? Or will you choose to remain an Outsider?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Letter to St. Charles

St. Charles Borromeo (1538 - 1584), Bishop of Milan
To Louis Fabro, Director of Alumni Affairs, St. Charles Borromeo Preparatory School, Columbus, Ohio.

As a 1954 St. Charles Borromeo alumnus who moved to California in the 60s, I have been enjoying reading in your newsletters about the changes taking place at my old high school.  After all the new construction, I'm sure I would not recognize the place. A lot of changes have occurred in 60 years including the new pedestrian bridge across Alum Creek near the site of the Mary Grotto where some of us--not me--would sneak behind to smoke cigarettes. Is there still a seminary on the grounds where boarding-school students would steal beer from the novitiate's refrigerators? I remember assisting as an altar boy at morning mass in the chapel when I came early to school. And being castigated by Monsignor Galen in math class which was not so unusual: Msgr. Galen's standards were high and few of us escaped this brilliant man's good-natured criticism.

Responding to your request for material for your Alumni News, here's what's been happening to Nick.

After graduating from St. Charles, I got a BA in physics from Ohio State and a PhD in Physics from Stanford.

I held various jobs in industry during the 60s and 70s, then dropped out of the mainstream to home school my son Khola and do physics at home--a decision which introduced me to many other independent researchers working at the edges of conventional science. During this time I wrote three books, the best-selling Quantum Reality, still in print and ebook, Faster Than Light, and Elemental Mind, a book about consciousness. In the late 70s, I was invited to teach and lead seminars at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA on the implications of Bell's Theorem, a new mathematical proof by Irish physicist John Stewart Bell, concerned not merely with experiments, nor with theories but with "reality itself". Two of my achievements in this area were the shortest proof of Bell's theorem and a thought experiment (called FLASH) which led directly to the discovery of the quantum No-Cloning Rule, a fundamental fact of nature that sets limits on the behavior of quantum computers. My work was recently publicized in MIT professor David Kaiser's popular book How the Hippies Saved Physics and in Supernature, a soon-to-be-released feature-length film by Jeffrey Kripal and Scott Hulan Jones dramatizing the 50-year history of Esalen Institute. I live in Boulder Creek, CA with my cat Onyx, work out twice a week, have published two books of quantum-erotic poetry and am learning to play the Irish whistle. Not such a bad life for a boy both of whose grandfathers were immigrants from the Ukraine who worked as coal miners in South-eastern Ohio. See what a difference a St Charles education can make!

Nick Herbert, St Charles Borromeo, Class of 1954

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Father-and-Son Quantum Text Book

Samarkand, Uzbekistan by Richard-Karl Karlovitch Zommer
Samarkand, one of the world's oldest inhabited cities, once prospered as a trading post on the Silk Road between China and Europe. During the Islamic Golden Age (750 AD -- 1258 AD) the city became a famous focus of Arab scholarship in astronomy, medicine and mathematics. In more modern times, there graduated from the State University of Samarkand a physicist Moses Fayngold, who with his son Vadim, also a physicist, has written a new text book on quantum mechanics, intended for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students. I found this book rich and unpredictable and, like the romantic Silk Road metropolis, offering something fresh and exotic around every corner.

Why does the world need yet another book about quantum mechanics? This question was raised by the father. "[The father], who by his own admission, used to think of himself as something of an expert in QM, was not initially impressed by the idea, citing a huge number of excellent contemporary presentations of the subject. Gradually, however, as he grew involved in discussing the issues brought up by his younger colleague, he found it hard to explain some of them even to himself. Moreover, to his surprise, in many instances he could not find satisfactory explanations even in those texts he had previously considered to contain authoritative accounts on the subject." (from the Preface).

Unlike most conventional quantum physics texts which merely explain things, this book also focuses on many of the loopholes, exceptions, imperfections, misunderstandings, man traps and pitfalls that exist in this complex field.

When you buy a new car, you will find an Owner's Manual in the glove compartment that tells you how to change the oil and how to replace the light bulbs. But if you are handy with tools you will also want to purchase the Mechanic's Manual to learn how to do things that only professionals should attempt. And, in particular, to learn things that YOU SHOULD NOT DO. (Never unscrew part A before releasing part B.)

This new quantum text book is the equivalent of a Mechanic's Manual that makes previous text books seem mere Owner's Manuals.

Most quantum text books tell you how to do things, but I have never run across a text book like Moses and Vadim's which tells you WHAT NOT TO DO. Over and over again in this text, I ran across comments to the effect that "The naive way to do this is B, but B will give you the wrong answer. Here's how to do things right." The authors seem to have anticipated many pitfalls that lie in wait for the quantum neophyte and have posted the appropriate warnings. My guess is that these pitfalls are those into which Moses and Vadim have themselves fallen. Niels Bohr once claimed that the definition of an "expert" in a field is a person who has made all the mistakes in that field. In this unusual book Moses and Vadim give you the advantage of that kind of street-smart expertise.

Their book begins by describing some major phenomena that classical physics could not explain (black-body radiation, photoelectric effect, low-temperature specific heats and atomic spectra), then show how one simple concept--the quantization of energy--could correctly reproduce these results.

Moses and Vadim then describe the origin of Louis DeBroglie's hypothesis--that matter possesses a wave-like nature whose wavelength DeBroglie could calculate. Altho this textbook confines itself to non-relativistic quantum mechanics, I was surprised (one surprise of many) to discover that DeBroglie's calculation was motivated by special relativity which means that his discovery is deeper than necessary and transcends its non-relativistic buddies such as the Schrödinger equation.

Using the DB hypothesis to physically justify energy quantization (similar to the way that resonance modes quantize the notes of stringed instruments), Moses and Vadim then use the Superposition Principle for waves to construct an "embryonic quantum mechanics" from which much more good physics can be derived without yet mentioning the Schrödinger Equation.

This book includes in-depth discussions (always accompanied by Moses and Vadim's dependable pitfall warning signs) of most of the conventional topics in quantum theory including Hilbert space, Dirac notation, angular momentum, scattering theory, band structure, quantum tunneling, density matrices, Kaon and neutrino oscillations, quantum entanglement, CHSH, POVMs, CNOT and XOR gates, the Bloch sphere, Zeno's paradox, Schrödinger's Cat, and much much more.

Moses and Vadim also introduce a novel topic they call "submissive quantum mechanics" in which they show how to manipulate potentials to create customized wave functions never before realized in nature--a useful skill that may prove profitable in the emerging field of nanotechnology.

Again and again while reading this book I got the feeling of a wise adviser at my side. The ratio of explanatory text to equations is large--resulting in a lucidity reminiscent of the classic Feynman Lectures as well as Quantum Theory by David Bohm.

Besides devising the shortest proof of Bell's theorem, Nick Herbert's main claim to physics fame is his FLASH (First Laser-Amplified Superluminal Hookup) proposal which purported to send signals faster-than-light using a "laser-like device" to clone single photons. The FLASH proposal was refuted by Wooters and Zurek who proved that "a single (unknown) photon cannot be cloned", a result which crucially limits what quantum computers can do--for instance, when quantum hard drives or quantum DVDs are built, the no-cloning theorem provides automatic copy protection courtesy of the laws of physics.

Naturally I was curious about how Moses and Vadim would deal with my FLASH proposal in their hyper-informative "Mechanic's Manual" style. In this I was not disappointed.

The authors agree that the W&Z "no perfect cloning of unknown states" proof definitively refutes my FLASH proposal. But what about "imperfect cloning"?, they ask. And what about the cloning of states that are not completely unknown but part of a small prearranged set of known states? Moses and Vadim carefully consider these loopholes (and a few more) to the standard FLASH refutation and definitively decide that FLASH won't work. But in the course of their detailed refutation the reader learns a lot about quantum cloning machines.

This book is a wonderful Mechanic's Manual crammed full of intimate details about the operation of one of the most elegant intellectual sports cars we possess--the theory of non-relativistic quantum mechanics. But in addition to this Mechanic's Manual, I urge you to also purchase an Owner's Manual of your choice, a book that you can use to solve everyday problems in simple ways. (My own favorite Owner's Manual is the classic text by Leonard Schiff from which I learned QM in those bygone days when the world's largest particle accelerator was the Berkeley Bevatron.)

But next to your trusted Owner's Manual, be sure to include this helpful Mechanic's Manual on your book shelf, both to deepen your knowledge of quantum mechanics and to help you avoid some of its more obvious pitfalls.

This book is perfect for those quantum mechanics who know how to fix Volkswagons and now want to go to work on Porsches.

New father-and-son quantum text book

Friday, July 26, 2013

Kalamidas Refuted

The three refuters of Demetrios Kalamidas
Recently Demetrios Kalamidas proposed a clever Bob-to-Alice FTL communication scheme involving a pair of path-entangled photons that passed peer review and was published in an esteemed American optics journal.

DK's scheme involved erasing Bob's which-path information by adding a number-uncertain (weak coherent) state to Bob's paths that produced an essential ambiguity as to which path the photon took. Kalamidas claimed that when this ambiguity was present at Bob's detectors, interference fringes would appear at Alice's distant detectors, without the need for a coincidence signal triggered by Bob's detector outputs. Kalamidas's scheme was not exact but involved two plausible approximations.

Several kinds of refutation were mounted to challenge the Kalamidas claim. Nick Herbert constructed a Kalamidas-inspired ambiguation scheme (2 MB pdf) involving Gray Light (x|0> + y|1>) instead of coherent states |A> which involved NO APPROXIMATIONS. Simple calculation of the EXACT Gray-Light scheme produced no FTL signals.

A different refutation by GianCarlo Ghirardi showed that if all photon operations are unitary, then an EXACT calculation shows that no FTL signaling is possible. However Ghirardi's proof is quite general and does not come to grips with the actual details of the Kalamidas scheme.

Next John Howell at University of Rochester examined a version of the Kalamidas scheme that involves adding a coherent state |A> to a single-photon Fock state |1> to create a displaced Fock state (DFS). Howell showed that an EXACT calculation of this DFS scheme leads to no FTL signaling.

However, Kalamidas's proposal is subtly different from the scheme that Howell refuted. Kalamidas's proposal adds the Fock state |1> and coherent state |A> in reverse order from Howell to produce a photon-added coherent state (PACS) rather than a DFS. Because these operations (photon addition) and (coherent state addition) do not commute, the PACS state is not the same as a DFS state.

So now a question arises: what is the correct output state (DFS or PACS) that emerges from a beam splitter when a coherent state |A> enters at one port and a Fock state |1> enters at the other?

This question was answered by Martin Suda at Austrian Institute of Technology who showed that BOTH OUTPUTS ARE CORRECT. The output of a beam splitter can be correctly described as an entanglement of DFS or of PACS states--a result I have dubbed the Martin Suda Equality. Even tho the relevant Boson operators do not commute, the Stokes relation for beam splitters "magically cancels" out the commutator and leads to this remarkable result.

So Kalamidas is correct in using PACS in his FTL proposal and Howell is also correct in using DCS in his disproof. Kalamidas uses an approximate PACS scheme; Howell's refutation uses an EXACT DCS scheme. Not yet a perfect match between proposal and refutation.

Then Christopher Gerry of Lehman College, CUNY, enters the fray with an EXACT refutation based on PACS states, concluding that "Clearly, if the exact calculation shows no interference, but the approximate calculation does, there is something wrong with the approximate calculation."

That would seem to have settled the matter, Gerry's calculation uses the same PACS states as Kalamidas and shows no FTL signaling. But, at least in my mind, one stumbling block remained: if Kalamidas's approximate calculation is wrong, then where is his mistake? Many of us have searched for this mistake (including myself, Howell, Suda and Gerry) without success.

Now I believe I have found it--not a mistake, but a way of looking at the Kalamidas proposal that exposes its crucial flaw.

Suppose (since none of us can refute it), that Kalamidas's calculation is correct. He has found an approximation scheme that yields true FTL signaling. What this means is that, if you coincidence-trigger on all Bob's terms of the Kalamidas approximation, you will generate interference in Alice's detectors.

But, even assuming Kalamidas's calculation is correct, he still loses the game, because for his scheme to work (since it is only approximate) it necessarily requires coincidence triggering. Because we know from the results of Ghirardi, Howell and Gerry, that the EXACT calculations show no sign of FTL signaling.

Therefore, using his own criterion (no coincidence triggering), the Kalamidas scheme must fail.

Besides the excitement generated by his clever new FTL signaling scheme, and a renewed excuse to delve into the details of Boson calculus, the most notable outcome of the Kalamidas affair seems to have been the discovery of the surprising "Martin Suda Equality".

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Three by Kenneth Patchen

Who are you

Who are you
Watching out of the water lily
Watching out of the oak tree
Daughter of the linnet's waking
Draughtsman of the tempest's oath
Who are you
Watching out of the wounded fawn
Watching out of the frolicking hare
O designer of what awesome tidings

Alan Ginsberg & Kenneth Patchen

The artist's duty

So it is the duty of the artist to discourage 

all traces of shame

To extend all boundaries

To fog them in right over the plate

To kill only what is ridiculous

To establish problems

To ignore solutions

To listen to no one

To omit nothing

To contradict everything

To generate the free brain

To bear no cross

To take part in no crucifixion

To tinkle a warning when mankind strays

To explode upon all parties

To wound deeper than the soldier

To heal this poor obstinate monkey 
once and for all

To verify the irrational

To exaggerate all things

To inhabit everyone

To lubricate each proportion

To experience only experience

To set a flame in the high air

To expose himself to every ridicule
To have kids with pretty angels
To display his dancing seed

To exclaim at the commonplace alone

To cause the unseen eyes to open

To admire only the absurd

To be concerned with every profession 
save his own

To raise a fortuitous stink 
on the boulevards of truth and beauty

To desire an electrifiable intercourse 
with a female alligator

To lift the flesh above the suffering

To forgive the beautiful its disconsolate deceit

To flash his vengeful badge at every abyss


It is the artist’s duty to be alive

To drag people into glittering occupations

To blush perpetually in gaping innocence

To drift happily 
through the ruined race-intelligence

To burrow beneath the subconscious

To defend the unreal at the cost of his reason

To obey each outrageous impulse

To commit his company to all enchantments. 

Booker Ervin & Kenneth Patchen

The sea is awash with roses

The sea is awash with roses O they blow
Upon the land

The still hills fill with their scent
O the hills flow on their sweetness
As on God's hand

O love, it is so little we know of pleasure
Pleasure that lasts as the snow

But the sea is awash with roses O they blow
Upon the land

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fifth Anniversary

Nick Herbert June 2013 (photo by Reno De Caro)
This month marks the fifth year of my Quantum Tantra blog -- five years of posting things that piqued my curiosity enough to respond in print. See here for the Quantum Tantra Blog origin story.

Quantum tantra is Nick's project to connect with nature in a brand-new way--direct, unmediated and sensual--using techniques informed by quantum physics. I am looking for hints, handholds, shortcuts to begin my ascent, but have been confronted so far with a sheer face, so up till now have been just singing around the campfire with good companions waiting for that one flash of inspiration that will nudge humanity into beginning its next big climb (or will it be a descent?).

Some of this year's top campfire songs include Just Ask Isaac, Seven Reconfigured Sacraments, Quantum Theology, Happy YIDD, Kiss my Bare Art and Greatest Pleasure by Nick plus Applesauce for Eve by Marge Piercy and What You Should Know by Gary Snyder.

And while we are waiting, we also write books. I recently published a second collection of my songs in Harlot Nature. Richard Grossinger produced Dark Pool of Light his splendid three-volume magnum opus on consciousness. Rudy Rucker republished a too-little-appreciated first person account of the early days of the psychedelic era, William Craddock's Be Not Content. Ethnobotonist Dale Pendell wrote a book of verse celebrating the magical runes of physics Equations of Power. And just yesterday, too soon for review, Dennis McKenna gave me a copy of Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss, Dennis's account of his and his more famous sibling's encounters with mind-altering molecules.

2013 saw the death of Bruce Eisner, a psychedelic pioneer and author of a book on MDMA, and the tenth anniversary of the death of my wife Betsy Rose Rasumny, one of the most extraordinary creatures I have ever met.

This year Lynden Stone, an artist in Queensland, Australia revived my Metaphase Spirit Typewriter as an art project both in Australia and Philadelphia. I also rigged a makeshift observatory on my Boulder Creek deck to photograph a rare Transit of Venus and was filmed on the same deck for a new movie Supernature about the history of Esalen Institute. On the performance side of things, my Irish band Blarney made a few appearances in Santa Cruz and my Urge: a Short Opera about Reality topped 1000 viewers on YouTube.

This year's most exciting project by far was working with Demetrios Kalamidas who proposed a novel scheme using pairs of path-entangled photons to signal faster-than light. See here, here and here. Kalamidas's clever FTL signaling scheme passed peer review and was published in a major American journal of optical physics. Several physicists, including myself, have scrutinized his scheme and constructed disproofs of various sorts. Now we know for certain that the Kalamidas scheme can't possibly work. However, all the various disproofs are either very general or disprove schemes that are not precisely what Kalamidas has proposed.

So the quantum optics community is faced with a peculiar challenge. "Since you are certain I am wrong," says Kalamidas, "it should be 'easy pickins' for one of you to find my mistake."

And there the situation remains. Everyone (including Demetrios himself) knows he is wrong, but no one can yet show exactly where his physics or his math goes off the tracks.

Kalamidas has done the impossible
Refutation should be precise, swift, and strong
We physicists know this can't happen
So where is Demetrios wrong?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Just Ask Isaac

Isaac Newton
(for Ruth Kastner)

And where lies the Source of Gravity--
That draws to Earth both Moon and dingo?
"Beats me," spake the smartest man alive:
"Hypotheses non fingo."

Now Vicar Sacks is here to ask:
Sir, does your mother cheat at Bingo?
The Master of the Mint just scowled:
"Hypotheses non fingo."

Tell us, Lord, which is thy fave:
John or George or Paul or Ringo?
The Principia's author merely sneered:
"Hypotheses non fingo."

Professor, what do women want?
Can you uncrypt their alien lingo?
Newt pulled his cowl across his face:
"Hypotheses non fingo."

Friday, June 7, 2013


PROWESS June 14, 2013 Santa Crux, CA
For more INFO and BUZZ

Thursday, May 2, 2013

FTL Signaling Made Easy

Demetrios Kalamidas: Prove me wrong or turn in your PhDs
When I was getting my undergraduate degree at Ohio State University, physics and math classes took up a lot of my time. But when preposterous claims were brought to our attention, me and my friends always seemed to find time to check them out. Two such claims stand out in my memory. The first was a curious explanation for why trees can grow taller than 30 ft. If trees raise water by pulling a vacuum by evaporating water from their leaves, then atmospheric pressure (15 lbs/square inch) is insufficient to push a column of water higher than thirty feet. Yet outside my door there are redwoods effortlessly growing to five times that height. The explanation offered to "explain trees" was that thin water columns could support "negative" pressure and hence surpass the "natural limit to growth". This could be checked by trying to lift a mercury column to a greater height than 760 mm by placing water on top of the mercury and evaporating it thru a sintered-glass funnel. We had all these thing in the physics lab, so a few of us built an "artificial tree" and were surprised to see that after a few days of evaporization, the mercury column was indeed much higher than the "natural limit" suggested by  naive arguments based on air pressure.

At about the same time Edmund Land, the inventor of polaroid film and the Polaroid camera, announced that he could produce full-color images with only two colors rather than the three colors required by the conventional models of color vision. Land had his best results with the color yellow and white. So, following Land's recipe, we made black and white transparencies thru the appropriate filters, then projected these two negatives thru two slide projectors one of whose lenses we covered with a yellow filter. And sure enough we found that, contrary to received belief, yellow and white light could produce blue, green and red sensations on our retinas. The colors were not faithful, but, by Zeus they were there!

That was in the 50s at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

A few years ago I was talking to a physics professor at a California university, which shall remain unnamed, about a preposterous parapsychology experiment called "autonomic presentiment" and wondered if any of the students in his school had tried to reproduce its results which seemed to show that certain physiological measures such as skin resistance or heart beat changed a few seconds before an emotional picture appeared on a computer but not when a calm picture appeared. Surely someone in the psychology department or the physics department would possess the intellectual curiosity, I guessed, to check out these preposterous claims.

"Intellectual curiosity?" my friend replied. "What's that? The only thing these students are looking for are good jobs."

Recently another preposterous claim appeared on the physics radar and attracted my attention. Demetrios Kalamidas, who graduated from CCNY and worked in laser labs, came up with a faster-than-light signaling scheme based on quantum optics. Kalamidas's scheme passed peer review and was published in the May 2013 issue of the Journal of the Optical Society of America B (an arXiv preprint is available here.) His proposal was received with a deafening silence.

Since I have some experience with FTL signaling schemes, I supposed that I could easily refute the Kalamidas proposal. I devised my own version of his scheme and after some effort was able to establish that (my version of the) Kalamidas scheme would not work. So far so good.

Armed with this comforting result, I reformulated the original Kalamidas scheme using my own notation and confidently proceeded to disprove it--without success. In fact I actually discovered a way to improve Kalamidas's scheme that raises his original fringe visibility from 9% to 22%. My paper (with the new improved FTL signaling scheme) is available here.

The Kalamidas experiment uses hardware found in every modern optics lab and every process Kalamidas cites has been achieved tho never in the combination he envisions. However before any hardware is actually assembled to test his claims, it is important to remember that a thought experiment is less expensive than a real experiment. And the conceptual elements needed to test Kalamidas's scheme inside the mind are available to most every physics graduate student, are openly published in every modern optics book and are present in extremely high concentration in the minds of hundreds of scientists working in modern optics labs around the world.

But months have gone by without a peep from the professionals.

The Kalamidas scheme is begging to be refuted. And thousands of people exist who are intellectually over-equipped to do so. But, if my unnamed professor of physics is right, then Demetrios Kalamidas need not worry. The one factor today's generation of physicists seems to be missing is this: sheer intellectual curiosity.

Prove me wrong, punk. Make my day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Equations of Power

Equations of Power Exiled-in-America Press 2013
The alchemists and old magicians believed that certain words and symbols had power over nature. And in their secret books they inscribed runes, spells, charms which when spoken aloud in the proper circumstances could influence both matter and mind.

Today's scientists also possess (not-so-secret) books written in the special language of mathematics. The spells and charms in these books exert their power not by being spoken aloud but by providing detailed maps of the physical world that can take us places we would otherwise never be able to go.

The "magic" of modern physics resides in a few basic equations which are usually confined to scientific circles. Now psychobotanist Dale Pendell breaks these equations out of their scientific contexts and turns them into verse. Pendell is best known for his Pharmako Trilogy, a deep and original study of mind-altering plant-based substances from coffee, thru cannabis, to Ecstasy and LSD. His work includes a novel The Great Bay, a book about Burning Man (Inspired Madness) and several other books and essays some of which can be found on his website.  Pendell has a clear and distinctive poetic voice which has been likened to William Blake, Gary Snyder and Robinson Jeffers.

The big stars of Equations of Power are Schrödinger's and Maxwell's equations from physics. But Pendell's widely cast net also hauls up the chemistry of gunpowder (The Fire Drug) and of bronze (The Bronze Sword), the natural forces that form serpentine rock and the nautilus shell, nuclear physics, the equivalence of energy and mass and Consciousness Explained. Here are some excerpts from Pendell's new book plus the short poem The Wave Collapse, in which Pendell ponders the central mystery of quantum theory--how do quantum possibility waves "collapse" to form the world's actual facts?

Schrödinger's Wave Equation
Erwin Schrödinger spent the night
in adulterous fornication
with his mistress.
By morning he was thinking
about waves
Wave being wife, or,
on that night, close enough,
the good physicist assumed 
that the energy of the whole thing
was conserved--that a push here
created an equal and opposite
pull there.
The Fire Drug
The violence of the mixture was noted--
some burned faces and a burned-down house.
It took another century or two of experiment,
continually increasing the proportion of nitre--
it seemed impossible to add too much.
At three-quarters, the mixture exploded.

This was new.  They called it huo yao: the fire-drug,
In a bamboo tube, fire shot from the end--
they were strapped to the tips of spears,
launched as rockets, or sealed as bombs.
The Wave Collapse
On the beach where I grew up
     long shore break--
the huge combers breaking
     all at once--
sometime with
     a loud crack
the water
     pulled and stretched
the hollow tube like a
     tunnel of light
barely a foot of water, the
     sand sucked skyward
for one extended and suspended
     moment, different
from the crash of the water
     against the beach sand,
which, at night,
     would shake the house.
One wonders
     how chlorophyll
can be so quiet
     snatching fire
from the sun.

Dale Pendell, the psychobotany guy

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Seven Reconfigured Sacraments

Et introibo ad altare Dei.

1. The Sacrament of Reality
There is no God but Unnamable Mystery;
Any other god is nothing before This.

2. The Sacrament of Baptism
When I first realized
That I was going to die.

3. The Sacrament of Confirmation
The times I recognize
Another of my tribe.

4. The Sacrament of Confession
I did it
And I'm glad.

5. The Sacrament of Thankfulness
This impulse of gratitude
For the complex living paradox
Of my own existence

And the existence of everything else.

And for wonderful companions.

6. The Sacrament of Communion
The times I spent
Alone and naked
With one of the opposite sex.

And everything that came from this.

7. The Sacrament of Love
I will love the Unnamable Mystery
And all of Her lesser Mysteries.

With my whole heart
I will love every part.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Nick Gets a Spiral CAT Scan

Nick after release from Dominican Hospital

The Friday before Good Friday 2013, I was bringing up my laundry from under the deck, a vertical distance of less than 30 feet, when suddenly I felt like I was back on Mt Shasta--I could hardly breathe, and my heart was racing. I put down the laundry and rested. Back to normal, I did what anyone else would do--I hoped it would just go away. But it didn't. So I decided to see my doctor a few days later on Monday. He checked me out, advised a few blood tests and chest X-ray in Santa Cruz. I returned in the evening from Santa Cruz to my doctor's phone message (he had received the blood results) to call him immediately. I decided to wait till morning but in his second phone call he advised me in person to go to Dominican Hospital immediately. I called my friend Reno who drove me (about 10 PM Monday) to the Emergency Room at Dominican.

We signed in. And waited. And waited. Due to the large numbers of Americans who lack Health Insurance, all hospital Emergency Rooms in the USA have become doctor's offices of last resort. And consequently Dominican Hospital's ER is not a swift emergency treatment center but a de facto doctor's waiting room.

Reno and I waited some more and finally (around midnight) were instructed to fill out forms and wait some more--this time inside a large room to which nurses and doctors had access. I was tagged with an orange wrist band with name, number and bar code. A nurse's aide arrived with a machine on wheels to take my "vital signs"--blood pressure, pulse rate, temperature and blood-oxygen level. As long as I stayed at the hospital, I could count on some woman with a vital-signs cart arriving every few hours to take these measurements. The numbers showed up on her cart in great big digital displays. I noticed that my blood pressure was unusually high, mostly I guessed, because I was scared because I didn't yet know "what was wrong" with me.

Nick wrist-tagged at Space Station Dominic

Now it was early Tuesday morning, in a dimly lit room somewhere in the bowels of Dominican hospital. Except for my birth and a few outpatient experiences, I have never spent time as a patient inside a hospital so I decided to open my sensors and pay attention.

The first thing I noticed was that no one wore uniforms. The doctors, nurses and nurse's aides wore clothes that ranged from somewhat glamorous, to causal, to individualized, veri-colored, fashion-trimmed variations on traditional nurse's uniforms. The only white lab coats I saw at Dominican were worn by the men and women in the pharmacies.

Everyone seemed to be wearing clothes of their choice. But the official people were separated from the patients by the cluster of security cards they wore pinned to their bodies. These costumes reminded me of my times in physics labs like Los Alamos where the staff wore whatever they pleased but everyone without exception wore some sort of photo ID. I felt right at home (at the St. Dominic's Linear Accelerator Center). The only difference was that at St Dominic's, there were more women with badges than at Los Alamos.

Because of my symptoms and blood results, the docs had scheduled me for a Spiral CAT scan of my lungs. But that required a lot of waiting in the basement of the "accelerator center." Now it was long after midnight, and the "night people" began to emerge from their warrens. A nurse wearing a tight black gown, flashy jewelry and a surgical mask stopped by to chat with us waiters. My vitals were taken again as well as some blood samples.

More nurses in different outfits (one an intern, working for zero$$ on a 12-hour shift) arrived and prepared me for the CAT scan. This involved fitting my right arm with an IV shunt through which various liquids could be conveniently inserted into Nick's circulatory system.

We waited some more. Finally (around 3AM) I was loaded onto a gurney, shot up thru my IV shunt with an X-ray contrast liquid (probably sodium iodide) and wheeled into the CAT scan room.

Which looked like something out of Star Trek--a white doughnut-shaped ring (made by Siemens) into which my body was transported on a motor-driven bed. The entire scan took only a few minutes.

The results came just as fast but I was returned to the dim-lit waiting room to await a doctor who was qualified to interpret the scan. When Doctor "Matthew" finally arrived, Reno and I asked to see the pictures. They showed up on a gigantic screen but were indeed as incomprehensible to a layman as the pictures from a particle accelerator.

My stay at Dominican taught me the meaning of two new medical terms--"thrombosis" and "embolism". "Thrombosis" means the formation of a blood clot. And "embolism" means "blockage",
from the Greek word for "insertion". Nick's Spiral CAT scan showed that he had a blood clot (thrombus) in his lungs--a condition known as PE (pulmonary embolism).

But not just one clot. Dr Matthew used the word "bilateral" which means I had at least one clot in each lung. When we looked at the scan, Dr Matthew pointed out some of the embolisms on that cross-section, then shifted to another cross-section and pointed out other embolisms. "What about this?" I asked, pointing to a gray part of the picture. "O yes, that's an embolism too." Reno used the term "shotgun" to describe his layman's impression of the condition of my lungs.

On the basis of this CAT scan image, Dr Matthew admitted me to Dominican Hospital for further observation. And Reno left to catch a few hours sleep before he had to to get up and take his son to school.

Map of human circulatory system
After Reno left,  I waited for awhile until I was assigned a room (1222) in a part of the hospital called "the Overflow". I was wheeled to my room but by now it was dawn and the hospital was going into day shift.

Nick's diagnosis was Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Somewhere in my body, blood clots (thombi) had formed, and were carried to my lungs (see "pulmonary arteries" above) where they were forming blockages (embolisms) to my normal breathing. Barring drastic measures, these embolisms could not be removed. However my body's normal processes, over a time scale of several months, would remove them naturally.

The obvious next step was to determine the source (or sources) of the blood clots. The usual suspects are wounds to the lower legs.

Before I had had a chance to sleep, I was probed by a new series of Star-Trek-like machines. Wheeled into a room where an enthusiastic redhead named "Melody", applied a combination of ultrasound and deep Esalen massage to my bare legs. She would locate a vein on her imaging device, then press down till that image disappeared. If the vein's image failed to disappear no matter how hard she pushed, then the probable cause was the presence of a blood clot inside the vein. The best part was that I could watch all this on the screen while it was happening. Melody conscientiously probed both my legs with her sonic massage tool but found only one blood clot--inside my left knee. She and her machine found no probable cause for my bilateral pulmonary embolisms.

Back in Room 1222, I was given "blood thinners" both oral (xarelto?) and via shots in my stomach (lovenox?) to prevent the further formation of clots. Six electrodes were placed on my chest and hooked via an electrode harness to a heart-lung monitor over my bed which was in turn linked to the nurse's station in Overflow. Suffering from lack of sleep, isolated in an unfamiliar, high-tech couch, hooked to an electro-sensing machine, I felt (except for the high gravity and good air) that I was floating inside Space Station Dominic high above the Earth.

After breakfast (pancakes and bacon), a nice dark-haired lady arrived with an echo-cardiogram machine. With this device we both could see into my living heart (!!!). From many angles. I was fascinated. On the screen of nice lady's echo machine, my heart looked less like the pictures in an anatomy book, and more like the cross-section of some intricate marine creature pulsing with the rhythm of the sea. Via this method of imaging, my heart did not appear tough and robust, but delicate and vulnerable, able to be swept away at any moment into the depths.

After viewing my heart from many directions, both in black-and-white and color (Doppler-imaging), the echo tech informed me that she found no serious abnormalities. Most notably she saw no blood clots inside the little sea creature that moves Nick's blood.

I spent the rest of the day (Tuesday) having blood drawn and vital signs taken, being interviewed by a doctor from India and finally getting my first night's sleep in two days.

After breakfast (omelet) and more tests of blood and vitals, I was visited by a nurse's aide around noon who tested my vital signs while we briskly walked the hospital's halls. This test suggested that despite my embolisms I could function normally without stressing my system. Later that day I was given a prescription for a blood thinner (xarelto by Bayer) and discharged around 6 PM.

Although I was happy to exit Space Station Dominic, I was pleased with the careful attention of the staff and their cheerful and friendly attitude under stressful conditions. In my haste to get back home as soon as possible I neglected to obtain a copy of my CAT scan. Instead I am posting an image from a website that publishes nothing but pictures of cats cavorting on flat-bed scanners.

From ""

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Quantum Theology

The Holy Trinity: Three Persons in One God
The early Catholic church taught that there were two paths to discovering the Nature of God--Revelation and the study of nature. Revelation includes the teachings of the church itself which include such mysteries as the Holy Trinity--the notion that God (Deus) was one being consisting of three separate Persons: Father (Pater), Son (Filius) and Holy Spirit (Spiritus). The figure above, which appears in most Catholic catechisms, declares that the Father is not (non est) the Son, and the Son is not (non est) the Spirit. But both the Son and the Father are (est) God. Various analogies have been used to illustrate this Mystery, from the union of three candle flames to Saint Patrick holding up a shamrock. When I went to school I was told that the Trinity was a mystery no human could understand-- an intellectual tactic similar to the popular "shut up and calculate" "explanation" of Quantum Reality.

Revelation also includes the direct experience of God by individual mystics. But this Path was not encouraged by the Church both because it threatened the Church's teaching monopoly and because such personal revelations could be contaminated by human frailties and desires. Although I spent four years studying theology and other topics at a Catholic prep school, we never once discussed the revelations of any mystic. However in the St Charles Borromeo library I discovered the classic mystical text "Dark Night of the Soul" by St John of the Cross. After reading this book cover to cover, I decided that if this was what it meant to be a mystic, then mysticism was not for Nick. Much later in life I experimented with psychedelics--following Blessed Terence McKenna's dictum: "Now even bad people can see God."--and directly experienced many of the paradoxes of consciousness that up till then I had only read about. Not only are the mysteries of Body, Mind and God intellectually complex, I concluded, they are often flat-out terrifying.

The second Path to God is through the study of the world. If God indeed created everything like an artist creates a painting, song or sculpture, then one might hope to learn about the psychology of the artist by looking as deeply as possible at the details of that artist's work--an endeavor called Natural Theology. Albert Einstein when he said: "I am not interested in this phenomenon or that phenomenon. I want to know God's thoughts--the rest are mere details." was speaking as a Natural Theologian.

Today the practice of Natural Theology has taken a peculiar turn. Physicists have discovered the Secret of the Universe. We now possess the equations that accurately predict the results of every phenomenon we are able to observe in the laboratory--equations that are only beginning to change our world through classically-impossible new technologies such as lasers and computer chips. The Secret of the Universe is called Quantum Theory which gives us unprecedented control of the Quantum Facts. However the price physicists pay for this triumph is steep--we must give up Quantum Reality. We are no longer able to tell a plausible story about WHAT IS HAPPENING when a Quantum Fact appears. And the world we see is made of nothing but Quantum Facts. Werner Heisenberg expressed this awkward situation thus: "Our conception of the objective reality of elementary particles has evaporated in a curious way--not into the fog of some new, obscure or not yet understood reality concept but into the transparent clarity of a new mathematics."

When I was eight years old, I was initiated into another way to experience God--by taking Him directly into my body--by swallowing at Mass a piece of bread whose "substance" had been changed by the words of the priest into the substance of God. This Church explained this miracle in terms of a Medieval physics in which all matter consists of an invisible "substance" to which are attached visible and palpable "accidents"--accidents such as "white, thin, two inches around, etc". When the priest says his magic words the bread's accidents remain the same but the bread's invisible substance is changed into the substance of God--hence the term "transubstantiation" that refers to the physics of the Eucharist.

Priest in Philadelphia turning bread into the Body of God

What an odd concept, that God might not dwell in a far-away heaven, but might take residence in a piece of bread. And bending the doctrine a bit, God might not just invisibly inhabit the substance of the consecrated Host, but the substance of all matter, however lowly. God, or some aspect of God, might be invisibly present beneath everything. God, or some foretaste of God, might be teasing us by appearing to physicists as Quantum Reality.

If it's God who's running the quantum theater, He/She certainly behaves like a showoff. Almost every sort of contradiction we can think of, God (or nature) effortlessly combines without anything exploding. The quantum world is both analog and digital, both fully deterministic and utterly random, combines both wave and particle in a single phenomenon. And lately God's showing off Her chops in the hot new arena of quantum entanglement. If you're keen to explore the quantum entanglement chapter of Natural Theology, then get thee to a modern optics lab.
Quantum optics experiment: Can the bizarre behavior of light reveal the hidden nature of God?
One of the most beautiful examples of quantum entanglement is the GHZ experiment--named after three physicists, Goldberger, Horne and Zeilinger. In the GHZ setup three photons A, B, and C are emitted from a common source (labeled GHZ in the picture below). These photons travel in three different directions (oriented somewhat like a Mercedes symbol) to three distant lab stations where Alice, Bob and Charlie are prepared to measure the spin direction of their particular A, B or C photon. This being quantum mechanics, Alice cannot just "measure" the pre-existing spin of her A photon. Alice must chose a direction and the photon will respond with spin pointing entirely along that direction ("spin-up") or entirely opposite that direction ("spin-down"). Although before being measured, Alice's photon could have pointed in any direction on a sphere (an analog quantity), Alice's action forces that photon to make a digital choice. The Quantum Reality dilemma consists of the fact that although we can perfectly predict the results of the GHZ experiment, we are unable to formulate a plausible story about WHAT'S REALLY HAPPENING at Alice's photon detector. We are equally ignorant about WHAT'S REALLY HAPPENING at all photon detectors anywhere in the Universe including the photon detectors in your eyes that make it possible for you to read this page.

A photon is said to be in a spin "eigenstate" if there is a direction Alice can choose where that photon will register spin-up 100% of the time. When a photon is in a eigenstate, it makes sense to say that photon A is spinning in a definite direction. It is easy to put photons in spin eigenstates. A pair of polarized sunglasses can do the job.

However the three GHZ photons are not produced in eigenstates but in a state of spin entanglement. "Quantum Entanglement" is impossible to describe in classical terms. The three GHZ photon no longer possess the property "spin" on their own. The only entity that possesses a definite spin is the entire three-photon system all at once. Thus photon A is "not spinning", photon B is "not spinning",
photon C is "not spinning". But the system as a whole has a definite spin. The GHZ arrangement bears a vague resemblance to the mystery of the Holy Trinity--it's completely incomprehensible to the human mind, what nature is doing with these three photons. However the GHZ mystery differs from the mystery of the Trinity in that the GHZ mystery is not just words in a book--it's the sort of thing that ordinary light does every day. Today's physicists are only at the beginning of our exploration of Quantum Reality. Likewise today's natural theologians have only begun to appreciate the handiwork of the Universe's inhumanly eccentric artist.

At the beginning of the 21st Century, our knowledge of matter is deep and sophisticated--our knowledge of mind and of God shallow and primitive. When experiments and theories about mind, when experiments and theories about God begin to match the sophistication of our experiments and theories about matter, only then will we be able to enjoy the fruits of a true quantum theology.


Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and Jew,
Bacterium, bobcat, skunk, kangaroo,
Photon, electron, spins even and odd
Is what lies under this the Substance of God?

Most old-fashioned concepts of God 

were not so astute--
Story-book Yahwehs and Wotans 

for Richard Dawkins to refute.
Now science has shown us that Nature deep down
Turns human ideas of reason and logic around.

If Quantum Reality gives us glimpse of Divine
Then Her everyday acts defy human design.
Each quantum event in the Universe grand
Hides a magnificent miracle we don't understand.

Holy Trinity is kid's play compared to GHZ
A common ho-hum triple-photon mystery.
If Nature works marvels in stuff deaf and blind
How is She handling the Mystery of Mind?

Perhaps God's not a Goon who holds all the Aces
But a mystery inside our most intimate places.
Maybe Her Mind & yours are as close as a shave
Mad, goofy-entangled--like particle/wave.

The GHZ experiment: Three photons in one entanglement