Saturday, August 1, 2020

Quantum Tantra: One Hint More

Nick with coyote skull: Rio del Mar beach.


For more than fifty years
I have been trying to discover
some brand new quantum way
to "fuck the Universe".

O, sweet Nick,
When will you realize
that you are actually
fucking the Universe right now?

Only in this present moment
have I spread Myself open.
Only in this moment
Only in this moment
Please give Me your All.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Does Consciousness Create Reality?

Mandrake the Magician

When David Kaiser charted the history of a small group of independent scholars exploring the foundations of quantum mechanics outside the usual channels (How the Hippies Saved Physics, 2011) he said not a word about the AMY Project which focused on a particular physics experiment that looked like it might be able to answer the important question: "Does consciousness create reality?"

Erwin Schrödinger started it all with his famous cat in a box. Unlike the classical objects of everyday life, a quantum object can exist in a superposition of states, can be,  for instance, in two places at once. Schrödinger assumed that quantum mechanics applies to everything, not just the very small, and devised a clever thought experiment in which a cat-in-a-box is both alive and dead at the same time until someone opens the box and looks. Observation destroys the superposition and the experimenter will see either a dead cat or a live cat.

Schrödinger's thought experiment which is totally impractical to carry out, is suggestive of the notion that consciousness might act on the quantum level to bring reality into existence.

Recently in 1976, a pair of physicists from Durban, South Africa, Donald Bedford and Derek Wang, proposed a practical experiment they called An Interfering Schrödinger Cat (D. Bedford and D. Wang, Il Nuovo Cimento 32B, 243 (1976))

Bedford and Wang's experiment is a simple variation on the familiar double-slit experiment, in which a beam of light goes through two slits at once and creates an interference pattern of alternating dark and light regions on a screen behind the slit.

Instead of a single pair of slits, Bedford and Wang introduce a two-component superposition of single slits that modulate the light beam. Small objects like atoms are easy to superimpose; whether large objects like metal plates with holes in them can be made to coexist in a Schrödinger Cat-like state is problematic. For this reason any macroscopic superposition whether theoretical or actual has come to be known as a "cat state". When the objects being superposed are tiny, one sometimes hears physicists describe such situations as "kitten states"

Two Experiments: 1. Double Slit and 2. Two-Slit Superposition

One way of looking at the Bedford and Wang proposal is that as long as the superposition of two slits is not looked at, the light will go through both slits and form an interference pattern. However if someone looks at the slits, the superposition will collapse into a mixture of single slits and the interference will vanish. Thus, on the face of it, this experiment looks as though it might be able to test the conjecture that observation changes reality. The Bedford and Wang experiment seems to offer the potential to demonstrate a concrete difference between the world unlooked at and the world observed.

The notion that mind creates reality has a long history, most famously exemplified by the Irishman  George Berkeley (1685 - 1753), Bishop of Cloyne in County Cork, whom his fellow countryman, William Butler Yeats, eulogized thus:

And God-appointed Berkeley that proved all things a dream
That this pragmatical preposterous pig of a world
its farrow that so solid seem
Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme.

More recently, this idealist philosophy (the world is not made of things but of ideas) has been championed by the Dutchman Bernardo Kastrup, expressed in such books as The Idea of the World and Why Materialism is Baloney.

The belief that matter can exist on its own without reference to mind might be called "independent material existence." The opposite belief is then "anti-independent material existence" abbreviated AIME which we shortened to AMY. The aim of our AMY Project was to examine the exciting possibility that there might exist a physics experiment that could refute the materialist hypothesis and perhaps establish the truth of Bishop Berkeley's exhortation:

All the choir of heaven and furniture of earth
in a word, all those bodies which compose the frame of the world
have not any substance without a mind.

The AMY Project involved about a dozen people, including myself and Saul-Paul Sirag, as well as philosopher Abner Shimony, physicists Bruce Rosenblum, Henry Stapp, John Cramer, Casey Blood, Beverly Rubik, Evan Harris Walker plus Erwin Schrödinger's last graduate student in Dublin, Ludvik Bass. At the invitation of physicist Amit Goswami, back in 1991, Nick Herbert spent two days at the University of Oregon in Eugene presenting the original B&W experiment and some of its variations.

In their original paper, Bedford and Wang argued that the superposed slits would cause no interference whether observed or not. This conclusion was independently verified by the calculations of Casey Blood at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ. In retrospect one can now recognize that the two light paths and the two superposed slits are quantum-entangled (unlike the simple double-slit experiment) and it is easy to show that entangled particles do not show interference effects.

So, in the B&W experiment, there is no interference on the screen before looking. And no interference after looking. Nothing happens when someone looks at the superposed slits.

So all that excitement was for nothing. The Amy Project failed in the sense that the B&W experiment does not test the idealist hypothesis. But there do exist quantum experiments where looked at and unlooked at systems gave different results, such as those cited by Bruce Rosenblum & Fred Kuttner in their Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness. However, despite these authors' contentions, such experiments do not reveal a hidden power of mind.

Why not? Because "looked at" in physics means deploying some sort of physical instrument. Just paying attention is not enough. The action of mind in physics experiments is simply to select which machine to deploy to ask nature a particular question. Different questions require different machines. So, in my opinion, consciousness, even in quantum physics, seems to play the same indirect role in creating reality as choosing which gear to put your car in when climbing a hill.

Bedford and Wang not only proposed a theory, they actually carried out an experiment. However there is some doubt whether B&W were actually able to superpose two macroscopic slits. Recently an elegant experiment by Kim et al has succeeded in achieving exactly the B&W configuration using the resources of modern optics. All sorts of variations that Bedford and Wang never dreamed of can now be carried out on this sophisticated platform. Needless to say, none of these experiments can be used to support or refute the idealist hypothesis. All is not lost, however. There are other paths to reality besides quantum physics.

OK, we were wrong. But can you imagine how exciting it felt to believe for a while that you were working on an actual physics experiment that might prove this world is a dream?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Nick Attacks Another iPad

Morning meditation--Apple iPad tablet computer: friend or foe?

After one failed attempt three years ago to replace a failing touch screen in a iPad 3 (see Nick Destroys an iPad), a tech friend gave me another iPad 3 with a cracked screen so I could try again. Since the crack was small (and localized in the bottom left) most of the touch screen worked, I added a screen protector and case and happily used this slightly defective tablet for several years. But over time the defective area of the touch screen gradually widened till I realized that if I did not replace it soon, my tablet would become fully unusable.

Replacing an iPad touch screen is no easy matter; the experts at Boulder Creek Computer refuse to handle this kind of repair. But I had already experienced one such take-apart and so was prepared for some of the difficulties I might encounter. Before anything else, I copied all my photos and text onto a laptop and made a complete backup of the rest of the data. Now I was ready to begin to remove and replace the defective touch screen.

Preparing to open the iPad
Sunday morning, I cleaned off my kitchen table and gathered some specialized tools. The touch screen is not held on by screws but is glued to an aluminum base with a rather strong adhesive. To open up the case, one heat-softens the adhesive (with a hair dryer and/or a microwave-heated hot pad cleverly called an iOpener) and then gently and slowly pries up the glass using various prying tools. To prevent the successfully pried-open sections from re-adhering, guitar picks are inserted around the separated periphery.

On my first attempt to remove a touch screen, I was able to remove the old screen without breaking it, but this time, despite my carefulness, the screen cracked along the edges in several places. That adhesive was really strong! Since the touch screen was broken anyway, cracking the edges of this old screen would not affect the repair but it did damage my ego a bit that I was not able to effect a perfect tear down.

Old touch screen: most of the shattered edges happened during removal
After removing the touch screen, the next step was to prepare the aluminum case for a clean installation of the new touch screen. This step requires the removal of all previous adhesive. And all pieces of broken glass, of course,

For efficient adhesive removal, I found Adhesive Tape Remover Pads, of the kind used by medical workers to remove sticky bandages from human skin, to be very useful. These pads do not dissolve the adhesive but make it tacky enough so it can be rolled up with an Exacto knife, similar to the way one can remove rubber cement by forming it into a self-sticky ball.

Clean and open iPad on the right; brand new touch screen on the left.
Now that the iPad case is clean, it's time to install the new touch screen. The screen connects to the computer via a ribbon cable that plugs into something called a Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) connector. Instead of pushing the cable's pins into a socket, the ZIF connector works like a mouth, you open the mouth by flipping up a latch, then you insert the cable. Flipping down the latch closes the mouth and its "teeth" grip the ribbon cable tightly in all the right places.

In my last attack on an iPad, my repair was frustrated by bad ZIF connectors. No matter how carefully I worked the latches and the cables, the connector's gold teeth just shattered and short of major surgery, replacing the touch screen was impossible.

This time I found that all ZIF connectors were working properly so that it was relatively easy to remove the old and insert the new ribbon cables in their proper places and successfully latch them down.

I clamped the new screen in place. But before heating the adhesive for final assembly, I tried to start up the iPad. Everything seemed to work except the new touch screen.  Perhaps the connections were misaligned. I once again dissembled the gadget, carefully plugged the ribbon cables into the ZIF connectors and clamped the touch screen back in place. Same result: no touch sensitivity. I also tried a "soft reset" with the same result.

iPad with non-functioning touch screen
So Nick's second attack on an iPad resulted in another defeat. I don't have any idea why the new touch screen didn't work but I've done the best I could with this project. In any case I learned a lot in this iPod take down and got three years of good use out of this gadget before I now consign it to the dust bin of history.

And now for something completely different: the funniest commentary I've run across yet on the bat flu virus:

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Secret Body

Secret Body (2017) by Jeffrey Kripal

(for Jeffrey Kripal)

I was a Hidden Treasure
And desired to be known
Nearer to you
Than your pubic bone.

Every flower flaunts it
Every photon hides a clue
What She showed to crowds at Fatima
She's poised to show to me and you.

You want to make love to the Cosmic Beauty?
You yearn to do so right now?
Well, the Universe is telling you all that She needs
In the only way She knows how.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Happiness in the Mouth


The Chinese characters for "Coca Cola" 
spell "happiness in the mouth"
which we Americans find quaint
and a bit risque'.

We say: all day my legs, my back, 
                                     my shoulders hurt
We never say: all night my knees, my neck, 
                                      my wrists were blissful.

We suffer head aches, ear aches and belly aches.
And how many heartaches have we felt? A lot.

But seldom are we gladdened by head joy, 
                                       by ear joy or belly joy.
And how often do we feel heart joy? 
Not often enough.

We are a nation of whiners!
Our language gives us away:

You make me sick
You hurt my feelings
You are a pain in the neck
You are a thorn in my side
You are a royal pain in the ass.

I say: get off my aching back!
Your constant bitching makes me sick!

You make me wonderfully well
You gladden my feelings
You are a happiness in my throat, 
             a merriment in my bones
You are a delight in my pancreas
You are my blissful urethra
You are a royal joy in the ass

You are my body's felicity
You are my heart's delight
You are the bliss in my juices
You are a pleasure in every vertebrae
You are a happiness in the mouth.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Death Angel

        (Good Friday 2020)

When I meet the angel of death
Will She be lovely and voluptuous? 
When She catch my wary eye
Will I see reflected in Her face
Everything I've ever loved?
When I meet the angel of death
Will She be lovely and voluptuous?
When She take my hand in Hers
Will it feel like stumbling back
        into a piece of music?
Will death be like falling
        into dreamless sleep?
Will death be like dissolving into the elements?
        back into Carbon, Nitrogen and Phosphorus?

        back into the Earth?
        back into the Air?
        back into the Fire, the Water?
        back into the luminiferous Ether?
Will dying resemble tumbling into black vacuum?
Will dying remind me of falling in love?

When I meet the angel of death
Will She be lovely and voluptuous?
When She kiss me with Her promiscuous mouth
Will Her kisses drive me out of this world?
        out of this body?
        out of this mind?

When I meet the angel of death
Will She be lovely and voluptuous?
When She take me in Her ancient arms
Will Her beauty take my breath away?
Will Her beauty blind me, dazzling my senses?

When I meet the angel of death
Will She be lovely and voluptuous?
When She strip the clothes from my body
Will Her eagerness make me out of breath
        out of sight?
        out of hearing?
        out of here?

When I meet the angel of death
Will She be lovely and voluptuous?
When She press Her irresistable body to mine
How will Her angelic skin feel to my touch?
What will death smell like?
How will She taste?

When I meet the angel of death
Will She be lovely and voluptuous?
Will She be That One Woman
I have been seeking my whole life
In the arms of others?

When I meet the angel of death
Will She be lovely and voluptuous?
Will She be That One Woman
I have been dying to meet?

Vienna angel sculpture

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

First Physics-based Restriction on Local Psychic Powers

Nick Herbert devises an important new restriction on local psychic powers.

Personal experience, scientific research and the occasional spectacular phenomenon (a flying monk from Cupertino, for instance) seem to demonstrate the real existence of psychic powers, but our theoretical understanding and extension of such powers seems not to have advanced at all. Most limiting is the fact that we possess no confident scientific understanding of ordinary consciousness let alone its paranormal extensions. Much to be desired would be the application of the methods of our dazzlingly successful physical sciences to some of the problems of mind. That is what I have done, in a small way, in an article soon to appear in the journal Activitas Nervosa Superior (online version here) as part of a Festschrift in honor of Berkeley physicist Henry Pierce Stapp.

On the other hand, the moderators of the Cornell University Physics arXiv, which I scan daily, looking for innovations in quantum physics, have declined to list this article on the grounds that "your submission is not of plausible interest for arXiv." My guess is that the mere mention of "psychic powers" in a physics paper caused some old fuddy duddy at arXiv to lose his lunch.

From the great variety of possible psychic powers I chose extrasensory perception, the alleged ability of a psychically gifted human being to correctly guess, with odds better than chance, the outcome of a sequence of symbols generated by a random process. To simplify the discussion, I limit the choice of target symbols to two, which could be zero/one, black/red, heads/tails or even/odd. And the random process is designed to make each of these two symbols appear with 50/50 probability. The "power" of a psychic faced with such a task is defined by the percentage of correct guesses that consistently exceed 50%. On this scale a perfect score would be "50".

Once we find a high-scoring psychic let's now confront him or her with two different kinds of tasks which I will describe as classical ignorance and quantum ignorance.

Classical ignorance; result exists before guess and is governed by classical randomness
 In the case of classical ignorance, the target symbol exists before the psychic makes his guess. As in the turning over of a top card -- the card was definitely"black" or "red" but its value was hidden from ordinary perception.

Quantum ignorance: result does not exist before guess and is governed by quantum randomness
 In the case of quantum ignorance, the target symbol is produced only after the guess and is governed by quantum randomness -- the basic uncertainty that governs every quantum transition in the Universe. In the example above, the blue cylinder shoots a single photon at a half-silvered mirror. Whether the mirror deflects the photon forward into red photon detector #1 or sideways into red photon detector #2 is determined by an uncertainty so fundamental that some physicists have joked that not even God can say which path that single photon will take.

Now the question I ask about psychic powers is this: Which kind of ignorance does the psychic find easier for his extrasensory powers to overcome -- classical or quantum uncertainty?

Since we know absolutely nothing about how psychic powers operate, we are free to let our imaginations run wild. Perhaps, for instance, quantum uncertainty is somehow "softer" and more "mindlike" than classical uncertainty so the psychic will score higher on the quantum task. On the other hand, if it is true that not even God can predict the outcome of a quantum-random event, then the psychic must necessarily score higher on the classical task.

Via a digression into the topic of faster-than-light (FTL) signaling schemes, I answer the question of whether a psychic can score better against classical or against quantum ignorance.

For longer than I can remember, I have been curious about superluminal signaling schemes and have invented several devices tagged with unusual acronyms: QUIK, FLASH, ETCALLHOME and many others, and I was much involved in the refutation of Demetrios Kalamidas's ingenious KISS scheme. The detailed refutation of each of these proposals led to a slightly deeper understanding of the foundations of quantum theory. And in the case of the refutation of FLASH, resulted in the discovery of the quantum no-cloning rule. 

Each of these proposed FTL signaling devices invokes the strange situation of quantum entanglement in which two photons A and B, separated by a great distance, nonetheless appear to act as though they were a single entity. In the usual setup, photon A is sent to Alice and photon B is sent to Bob. In the math it looks as though what Alice chooses to measure on her photon A seems to instantly affect what Bob will measure on his photon B. Irish physicist John Bell proved in 1964 that any model of reality that correctly describes quantum entanglement must necessarily be non-local, that is, something must be going on that is faster than light. Bell's theorem proves that deep reality must be faster than light. But we humans cannot observe deep reality, only its surface consequences; and these surface consequences always appear to obey the Einstein speed limit.

Indeed, a result proved by Philippe Eberhard, a colleague of Henry Stapp's at Berkeley, shows that any ordinary measurements performed by Alice will have no measurable effect at Bob's receiving site. Eberhard's Proof demonstrates that superluminal signaling using Alice/Bob quantum entanglement is impossible.

Alice and Bob each receive one member of a pair of entangled photons. Is there anything they can do that would allow Alice to send an FTL message that Bob could decode?

To get around the roadblock of Eberhard's Proof, one might consider using a clever and subtle measurement process that evades the proof's assumptions. The hope of devising some unconventional measurement scheme lies behind the KISS, FLASH, QUIK, etc. schemes mentioned above. None of these measurement schemes, however, is bizarre enough to evade Eberhard's sturdy proof of the impossibility of using quantum entanglement for superluminal signaling.

But what about going beyond physics into the realm of psychic powers?

That's what I have done in my recent paper. In my setup, Alice sends Bob a Morse Code signal which he receives as two kinds of ignorance. a dot is encoded as a situation of classical ignorance. And a dash is encoded as a situation of quantum ignorance. Alice sends each symbol as a bunch of N photons that appear at Bob's site to possess the same kind of ignorance, that is, all N photons in a bunch are either all classically or all quantum uncertain.

Upon receiving Alice's message, Bob applies his psychic powers to try to guess the outcome of his measuring a particular bunch of N photons. If Bob's psychic power works better for one kind of ignorance rather than another, then Bob can successfully decode Alice's message as a series of dots and dashes.

This method of signaling faster than light evades Eberhard's Proof because it does not use conventional physical measurements, but measurements of an entirely non-physical kind.

The acronym for my scheme, by the way, is GUESS = Going Unphysical Enables Superluminal Signaling.

However, an easy way to outlaw superluminal signaling of the GUESS kind is to demand that a psychic's ability to guess a quantum random sequence must be exactly equal to his ability to guess a classical random sequence.

This result I call "Nick's restriction". The journal referees made me call it something else but in my blog I can call it anything I want. And so can you.

One beauty of Nick's restriction is that it can be experimentally tested. All one needs to do is find a reliable psychic and to devise a robust on-demand source of quantum randomness.

A further beauty of Nick's restriction is that it cannot fail. If measurement does show the expected result: that a psychic possesses identical powers of guessing quantum or classical random sequences, then Nick's restriction will take its rightful place as one of the solid cornerstone truths of a modern psychic science.

But what if Nick's restriction is false? What if psychic researchers measure a consistent difference between a psychic's ability to fathom one kind of ignorance rather than another?

Why that's even better. For then we will be able to use quantum entanglement to send signals faster than light.

A basic new law of psychic phenomena? Or an easy FTL communication scheme?

On the question of the practical usefulness of Nick's restriction, we simply can't lose.

Does Doc Brown's psychic power amplifier obey Nick's restriction or not?

Monday, March 16, 2020

Happy St Paddy's Day 2020

I'm reposting this St Paddy's Day greeting from
August O'Connor (bodhran) and
Nick Herbert (tin whistle).

with apologies to Joanie Madden

Sure, it's a holy instrument
Like everything that comes from God
You must learn to hold her reverently
Like Father Kelly's Holy Wafer
Or a patch of Irish sod.

Close your lips around her fipple
And thru her narrow airway
Blow a prayer across that tilted floor
Called "labium" when there's one of them
And "labia" when there's more.

Now the noise she makes is frightful
Like a pack o' banshees wailin'
The men are rising from their seats
And now your life depends
On the music you can coax from her
With your fancy fingerin'

Sure breathin' (and tonguin') have to be mastered
But they're just a part o' the thing
For it's how ye move yer flesh
Across the openings, laddie,
That makes the Irish whistle sing.

You may play in a grove
You may play in a pub
You may play with a maid in the spring
But playing the Irish whistle
You must mind your fingering
For it's how ye move yer flesh
Across the openings
That makes the Irish whistle sing.

Sure, it's how ye move yer flesh
Across the openings
That makes the Irish whistle sing.