- May 12, 1998 Tucson, Ariz. -- The nascent
field of "mind-matter interaction"--which may hold both short-
and long-term promise for the scientific and engineering communities
--appears to be coming into its own.
- A recent gathering of 1000-plus attendees
at a respected "consciousness" conference here; the impending
release of a commercial mind-matter device; and increasing commercial and
governmental interest in a technical Web project focused on building a
"conscious chip" are all indications that the hard-to-believe
convergence of psychokinesis (known to physicists as "psi") and
quantum-physics research is moving into the traditional empirical science
and engineering space.
- Sponsored by the Fetzer Institute and
the Institute of Noetic Sciences, "Tucson III: Toward a Science of
Consciousness 1998" <http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu/t3.htm
saw dozens of technical workshops hosted by the top thinkers in this burgeoning
field. And while the topics at first appear to be straight out of the "X-Files,"
many of the leading universities and organizations sent representatives
to discuss the advanced physics and correlative engineering of consciousness.
- In fact, nearly 40 speakers from the
likes of MIT, Oxford and Princeton presented at the gathering, including
Jack Sarfatti, noted independent quantum researcher and author, who provided
an in-depth examination of his team's ongoing three-year project: the Q-chip
(Quantum chip). While theoretical at present, according to Sarfatti, some
version of the Q-chip--if, indeed, it can be made to work--is already within
the range of micro-fabrication techniques currently available.
- Hardware is here
- Far less theoretical, however, is the
imminent release of a series of mind-matter interaction devices from startup
Mindsong Inc. <http://www.mindsonginc.com (St. Paul, Minn.). The company
claims its wares can be used to turn lights and radios on and off simply
by tapping the power of the user's mind.
- "We recognize that, for most people--including
the technically and scientifically trained--the concept of a nonlocal field
[the character of a quantum field not located in a given region of space
and time] created by intentions, which alters information states and effects
physical reality, is mind boggling," said John Haaland, president
and CEO of Mindsong.
- But Mindsong claims its products are
backed up with significant statistical results: they do, indeed, work,
according to Haaland. "We're getting 15 to 30 percent results over
chance," he said.
- Mindsong's enabling technology is called
"ShifterCell," which is described by the company as "a patented
technology that permits a physical system, such as a computer or free-standing
electronic device, to be actuated by intentions alone, without any physical
or electromagnetic intermediary." Mindsong is preparing both a consumer
device and a more sophisticated version for the research community.
- ShifterCell is described to work by creating
a sensitive random event that is susceptible to, or able to be altered
by, the mind's conscious intention alone. When it senses a deviation from
randomness that goes above or below what can be expected by chance, it
produces an output that can be used to activate, via the company's "Mind
Switch" accessory, any number of devices, such as lights, sounds,
or specific scenarios designed into a computer game.
- These are not the first products of this
kind from Mindsong. A gaming/learning software product, called "ShapeChanger,"
is said to allow users to influence the mixing of two images on a computer
monitor. Through mind power alone, clains the company, people are able
to influence pixels far beyond what could be expected by chance.
- While Haaland admitted that Mindsong's
products are rudimentary, he also noted that the firm's line could lead
to further applications--possibly in the processing used by builders of
nanocomputers, where micro-miniaturization and cycle speeds may require
shielding from these kinds of nonlocal influences.
- Engineering anomalies
- To back up his claims, Haaland cited
more than 20 years of research in human/machine interfaces and remote perception
[the ability to perceive remote objects] ongoing at the Princeton Engineering
Anomalies Research (Pear) laboratory <http://www.princeton.edu/~pear.
Spearheaded by Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne, the lab's director and manager
respectively, Pear--along with the Consciousness Research Lab at the University
of Nevada and others (there are at least 10 other research labs worldwide
employing nearly 100 hundred scientists and engineers doing related work)--has
yielded a huge database of statistical data and meta-analysis.
- Utilizing a combination of random event
generators (REGs) and field trials for remote mental sensing, the Pear
lab alone has produced literally thousands of experiments encompassing
billions of trials.
- Begun specifically to focus on the possible
vulnerabilities of engineering systems to mind phenomenon, the Pear lab
claims its data has conclusively and consistently proven that the mind
has a direct affect on random physical systems. The work has also yielded
serious attention from the engineering community-it was featured in an
IEEE proceedings paper, and has also been cited in dozens of major scientific
- "When you look at it from the meta-analytical
perspective," said Dunne, "even though these effects on our equipment
are marginally significant in some cases, over many replications, these
effects are robustly significant." Dunne said that the data produced
for the remote perception trials is even more significant. "In that
area we're getting about 15 percent more [positive results] than you'd
expect by chance. All of the evidence says incontrovertibly that something's
- Some experts, however, say that a mere
15 percent won't cut it in the empirical scientific arena. A leading skeptic,
Victor Stenger, author and professor of physics at the University of Hawaii,
curtly dismissed Pear's research: "Nobody has replicated what they've
done, and it's such a small effect, that, if you want to see the effect,
you can make it come out that way."
- Low tolerance
- Despite the criticisms, Pear lab's principles
say even small but consistent stats could have serious ramifications for
the engineering community, in particular. While the scale of the effects
come to something on the order of a couple of bits in 10,000, explained
Dunne, "that result actually exceeds the tolerance levels of many
engineering systems--particularly those that have some random component."
- Dunne and Jahn cite modern information-processing
equipment as particularly vulnerable. "Especially if you're running
some very sensitive microprocessing technology--radar, computers, telephone
lines--where a couple of bits off, especially if repeated often enough,
can mess up your systems," said Dunne.
- "That's when you start worrying
about the pilot in the high-performance jet aircraft," she added,
"where someone's dealing with wall-to-wall microelectronics. Or what
about the guy in a missile silo, watching the output of a radar detector
hour after hour?"
- In fact, one of Pear's earliest sponsors
was James McDonnell, the late patriarch of McDonnell-Douglas. Jahn recounts:
"He used to say to me, 'When there is a 19-year old in an F-15 in
a combat environment, can I be perfectly sure that all of the microelectronics
controlling that equipment is behaving nominally in the presence of what
must be severe emotional radiation of the consciousness of the crew.' "
- The Pear group is currently moving into
more sophisticated experiments, involving "group consciousness."
There have been recent collaborative tests with four related labs in the
U.S. and Europe, and all involved hope this work can translate into business-productivity
tools, according to Jahn.
- In fact, he imagines the evolution of
a technology that is capable of assessing degrees of coherence--and the
creativity or validity--of particular concepts that emerge from, say, a
- Quantum chip
- On the theoretical front, serious discussion
is underway on a sentient microprocessor, also called a "conscious
chip." Dozens of the world's leading physicists and engineers from
NASA Ames Research Center, the National Science Foundation, the CalTech
Jet Propulsion Lab, the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley Lab, among others,
are logging onto the Web-based "Stardrive" site < http://www.stardrive.org
with input concerning this device <http://www.qedcorp.com/qedtheory.html.
- A virtual think-tank, Stardrive is funded
primarily by the San Francisco-based Internet Science Education Project
(ISEP), whose mission is to come up with "outrageous ideas that may
actually work and revolutionize high technology," according to Jack
Sarfatti, independent quantum physicist-consultant and unofficial moderator
of the Q-chip project.
- In it's third year of theoretical conception,
the Q-chip group is beginning to see interest from "every major high-technology
firm in the world," said Sarfatti, and a slew of other academic and
- Sarfatti sees future application for
the Q-chip in "conscious robots" and intelligent interstellar
probes. In the same vein, NASA has recently launched a related program,
called "Breakthrough Propulsion Physics," <http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/bpp
which seeks to find new answers for propelling vehicles without propellant
mass, attaining maximum transit speeds and creating the energy-production
methods necessary to power such devices.
- Quantum computers could completely transform
computer technology, making possible systems that are millions or trillions
times faster than the best we have today, explained Creon Levit, a director
at NASA Ames Research Center's Numerical Aerodynamics Simulation Division,
and who is working closely with Sarfatti on the theoretical chip.
- Sarfatti explained that the Q-chip, in
theory, is a fully sentient [aware] or "conscious" computing
chip at the nanometer level (at the 10-to-100 nanometer level), and is
based largely on David Bohm's version of quantum mechanics. Bohm is considered
one of the major thinkers in quantum physics' roughly 100-year history.
- Sarfatti worked personally with Bohm
in the 1970s, and began to apply to real-world applications the visionary
physicist's notion that the quantum wave-like properties of matter--and
the quantum particle-like properties of classical electromagnetic and gravitational
fields--represent a "thought-like" field.
- This field goes to the core of quantum
physics theory. Classical physics states that two objects can never effect
each other instantaneously in space and time because everything must travel
through space with a maximum speed limit (the speed-of-light of Einstein's
relativity theory) and in a finite time, called "locality." But
quantum mechanics is showing that measurements made at one point in space
can instantaneously affect the outcome of measurements at another point.
This notion is termed "nonlocality," and implies some sort of
superluminal (faster than the speed of light) signaling, which is in violation
of Einstein's assertion.
- Sarfatti and Bohm's quantum notions take
these ideas just one step further, however. Their thought-like "Q-field"
supposedly acts directly in a higher-dimensional nonlocal state space,
known to advanced physicists as the state where "fractal strange attractors"
reside. These attractors also appear in neural-net theory, as well as in
the so-called "new biology of spontaneous self-organization"
professed by researchers at the Santa Fe Institute of Complexity and elsewhere.
- Simply put, the concept behind the Q-chip
is basically a unique combination of David Bohm's Q-field theory and this
- Quantum biology
- Much of this biology is centered on another
concept, which states that the brain itself is a quantum device. Many now
theorize that the seat of quantum effects in the brain lies in "microtubules"--the
hollow parts of the cytoskeletons of most of the cells of animal and human
bodies--and not just in brain cells. Some physicists suggest that they
could be, in fact, the cell's own "nervous system."
- In effect, the Q-chip will be emulating
the human microtubule infrastructure which, when activated--with suitable
I/O devices and sensors--could be capable of something akin to "experience."
- Sarfatti conceded that "we won't
know what the Q-chip can really do until we build the damn thing."
- "A Q-chip would put Intel out of
business if they ignored it and someone else developed it before them,"
he said. He explained that, while Intel and similar current chips are based
on serial classical Turing machines, the Q-chip could surpass them because
of its potential for infinite parallel-processing capacity. Said Sarfatti,
it would also have the "ability to correctly decode future states
of itself in a self-consistent, highly reliable way because of nonlocal
- Of course, much of the Sarfatti team's
Q-chip research hinges on the theory that nonlocal fields are indeed "aware,"
- The other side
- Ask Jack Sarfatti if we live in conscious
universe, and you get a resounding "yes," but after 20 years
of hard stats, even Pear is hard-pressed to explain the phenomenon of mind-matter
interaction. And several physicists offer stiff skepticism, even regarding
some of the basics of quantum theory.
- "There's a lot of quantum 'metaphysics'
going on," said Victor Stenger, a professor of physics and astronomy
at the University of Hawaii. He insists that even the oft-cited quantum
mechanical term "nonlocality" exists only as a theoretical concept.
He further asked: "And is this thing we call the wave function: real
or not?--or is it just an abstract mathematical concept that we [physicists]
use to describe things?"
- There appears to be evidence, however,
that quantum mechanical theories are proving to be much more than theory.
Several advanced physics labs are moving beyond mathematical-thought experiments
to actually conducting physical ones. Most recently, the Weizmann Institute,
in Rehovot, Israel, demonstrated that a beam of electrons is affected by
the act of being observed--an underlying theme of quantum mechanics <http://www.sightings.com/ufo/quantum.htm.
- Still, Stenger noted that even Einstein
objected to the idea of wave-function collapse, calling it "spooky
action-at-a-distance." Stenger is no admirer of Pear's research either.
Though he admits to not studying their research for the past several years,
he said: "Pear can't provide a real empirical basis for their claims,
and they've refused to change their protocols, which are suspect."
- Force in physics
- Still some are intrigued with the possibilities.
"One of the things that has struck us over the years," said Pear's
Brenda Dunne, "is that our results show no dependencies on distance--people
get results that are just as good when they're doing mind-matter interaction
or remote perception from a thousand miles away or when they're sitting
directly in front of the machine. There's just no known force in physics--in
terms of an energy or a kinetic influence--that would not fall off with
time and, certainly, with distance."
- "The only way I can possibly explain
the phenomenon," said Mindsong's Haaland, "is that it's occurring
nonlocally-outside of space and time."
- He also explained that another area of
quantum physics-"quantum entanglement"--seems to be involved.
Quantum entanglement is an aspect of nonlocality that establishes a connection
between two particles in such a way that the "quantum essence"
of a particle can be passed from one to the other. Physicists at IBM researching
quantum physics have already utilized quantum entanglement to demonstrate
what they term "quantum teleportation" <http://www.research.ibm.com/quantuminfo/teleportation.
- This work has Sarfatti's Q-chip group
abuzz about the possibilities of "advanced quantum transmissions of
information moving backward in time," which, according to Sarfatti,
is what IBM shows is happening in the act of teleporting a particle. IBM's
theory was recently proven in a lab experiment by physicists the University
of Innsbruck, in Austria, <http://www.sciam.com/explorations/122297teleport/index.html
and researchers are still examining the results.
- In agreement with the notion that quantum
entanglement deserves the attention of next-wave physics research is Amit
Goswami, a professor of physics at the Institute of Theoretical Sciences
at the University of Oregon. A self-professed Eastern theologian, who researches
and writes extensively on the science of spirituality, Goswami's physics
theory, "monistic idealism," seeks to unite both world. "My
theory--which I've proved experimentally--states that consciousness is
the ground of all being."
- Still, other physicists are deeply skeptical
about quantum physics being applied to explain psi--or anything else, for
that matter. "It's complete hogwash," said Charles Bennett, a
Fellow at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, and who spearheaded
the quantum teleportation research. He agrees with Stenger that much of
the speculation falls more inside metaphysical territory, adding, "What
do we even mean that we have consciousness--other than the functioning
of the laws of nature as they govern the matter we're made of?"
- Whatever the results of the next wave
for quantum research, it appears that mind-matter interaction and consciousness
research--and any systems or chips that result from that research--could
seep deeper into next-generation science and engineering technology.
- But this doesn't come without a price.
Pear's Brenda Dunne likes to remind herself and her peers of what it takes
to be a leading-edge scientist and engineer as the decade hurtles toward
the millennium: "We must be prepared to say two very difficult things:
I don't know, and I was wrong."
- The "Tao of Engineering?"
- When Fritjof Capra's book, "The
Tao of Physics," hit the racks in the mid-'70s, it signaled the beginning
of new ways of interpreting quantum mechanics, while further explaining
that psychokinesis, and even ancient mystical beliefs, could actually be
grounded in scientific fact.
- "Tao's" influence is still
being felt. A cursory check at the local bookstore reveals myriad related
titles: "The Self-Aware Universe," "The Conscious Universe,"
even "The Physics of Angels," all written by professional scientists.
Capra himself is a veteran particle physicist at the University of California
- The view that human consciousness is
unified and connected has largely been considered anathema, since science
began its ascendancy three centuries ago. But the idea of our "separation
is an illusion" has been the core premise of religious teachings as
far back as the Buddha, 2500 years ago. Even the early Christian mystics
held this view.
- Basically, all of these new wave of physics-meet-mysticism
books arrive at the conclusion that there is a "field" we all
plug into--connecting us to each other and the world at large--that allows
us to describe, experience and influence activities anywhere in space and
time. They assert that, in quantum physics, this field is called a "nonlocal"
one, further suggesting that it moots the mechanistic Newtonian physics
centered around the universe as a "great machine."
- The University of Oregon theoretical
physicist and lecturer Amit Goswami cites the influential "Aspect's
Experiment" (from 1982) as the paradigm changer for next-wave physics
research--an experiment that Goswami claims "proved that quantum effects
are not just philosophy--they're real. Action-at-a-distance takes place,
and the unbelievable is real." He adds that, "I think if Einstein
were alive at the time of that experiment all of his resistance to quantum
physics would have evaporated in a moment."
- Indeed, Aspect's Experiment is seen as
an important one in the physics community, in that it proved 1964's "Bell's
Theorem," which itself showed that Einstein's long-touted "hidden
variables" didn't exist, but that still as-yet undetected forces were
at work in the universe. Bell's Theorem is now considered a fundamental
cornerstone of quantum physics theory.
- Even leading psi skeptic Victor Stenger
notes: "If these still undetected forces operate on particles to determine
their quantum mechanical motion, these forces must necessarily be nonlocal,
according to the implications of Bell's Theorem, and it would appear inescapable
that the universe is one and we are one with it." Accordingly, Stenger
is calling for physicists to find a local interpretation of quantum mechanics,
steadfastly refusing to discard long-held classical beliefs.
- But Charles Bennett--the IBM physicist
responsible for the recent groundbreaking quantum teleportation theory--insists
that mysticism is not necessary for inclusion in physics research. "I
would be more sympathetic to the idea that our own consciousness is a somewhat
self-congratulatory illusion of something which is also a machine, but
is also functioning in too complicated a way to understand itself."
- Even "Tao's" Capra agrees to
a point: "Science does not need mysticism, and mysticism does not
need science, but we do need a dynamic interplay between mystical intuition
and scientific analysis."
- But, apparently, even long-time critic
of quantum physics--Einstein himself--waffled on this point, for he wrote
in later life: "The world of our sense experiences is comprehensible.
The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle."
- Larry Lange <email@example.com EE Times
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