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The Quantum Diaries

The Quantum Diaries were written as I began my theoretical research into quantum
physics (Mathematically, only a handful of specialists are able to understand the complexity
of it and I am not one of them).
These notes were written in the back and forth movement that occupied my mind between
philosophy, neurobiology and theoretical quantum physics, and it is understood, will be of no
use to these three disciplines. The layman that I am on the subject describes in these pages
-and this is, I think, their only value- the path of a curious mind before his own awakening. It
all started with a question: is there an objective reality? Is there something outside our skull?
In the first third of the last century, the extraordinary discoveries of quantum physics
relaunched the great debate about the existence of matter that had animated the century of
Newton, and on which the sceptical philosophy seemed to have the last word. However, the
extravagant views on the subject of numerous Nobel Prize in physics, very serious people,
relaunched a debate which is nowadays very much alive.

My notes are at the crossroads of these thoughts, assumptions and theories; half way between
the problems and mysteries that, a simple soul like mine, can just grasp.

June 6 - Departure from Trondhein (Norway) - Train 7:12


When I draw the consequences of what I like in art forms that I can understand, I
always come to the same conclusion: life, my life, everyones life, must necessarily be
discontinuous. One could retort that consciousness is continuity; that from morning to night
our existence takes place without interruption; a second follows another; the minutes pass and
turn into hours, etc., and at every moment, we retain the intuition of being continuous
ourselves.
To this I reply that this feeling of continuity is a mirage; it is nothing other than the
effect of the "Self" in the sense understood by neurobiologists. The self; a system that
predicts; it is the centre of prediction says Rodolfo R. Llins 1. To simplify to the point of
caricature, this prediction of the "Self" is essential to our sense of orientation in space; it
allows us to anticipate obstacles. The "self" often operates below consciousness and can be
completely foreign to oneself... This is what helps give us that feeling of continuity. Time is
just a construct of the mind.
And if that is not enough, I would continue my argument by relying on the
discontinuous nature of brain activity as a whole. But why bother anyway? With whom could
I share this type of conjecture? I'm not neurobiologist and I have no one with whom to share
the fruit of my literary research. These are some ideas to reiterate the uselessness of a
narrative with a beginning, middle and end. We dont need it to understand the world. This is

1 Llins, A (2002). i of the vortex; from Neurons to Self. MIT Press Paperback Edition, pX
2

most often the means by which they are lying to us. I firmly believe that Aristotle on this
point is now completely unnecessary.
Getting closer to the ultimate reality today, is understanding how the brain works.
Poets reached this understanding long before any scientist bore the conviction of this
discontinuity of existence. This is what I am working on recently. Damn narration!
We are travelling on the Nordland Line, the icy waters of the Fjord -they say here:
"Tronddheimsfjorder"- undulate peacefully on the ballast and the railway; at least that is the
impression they give me. We are so close to the shore! In the spring, yet it seems to be a
subarctic climate. It's exhausting... Long tunnel (Stjordal)... I should feel excitement at the
idea of discovering a new culture but it is useless; I can find no trace of it in me; what can we
see from the window of a train... The outside world is helping so little...
My philosophical research led me to consider man as the source of his own
environment. Consciousness would create matter; not the opposite. Quantum physics (I refer
to physicists who recognize themselves in the conclusions of the Copenhagen interpretation),
argue that if biological life were to disappear from the universe, it will literally cease to exist.
Roger Penrose, meanwhile, cant accept the idea that vast confines of the Cosmos, too
inclement for biological life, can be thrown into a state of uncertainty for lack of biological
life. These assumptions seem so extravagant that some would consider the whole thing a
hoax. Einstein and Heisenberg still took these questions very seriously.
As for me, I returned to reading Kant and Berkeley, on the lookout for anything that might
help me understand these shifts of the senses into matter, in which no one is still never to
doubt the existence. Do we not feel our fingers on that table, the chair on which we sit?

Is our intuition of reality completely wrong? After long hours of reflection, I come to
convince myself that we apply false intuitions to totally subjective representations of the
outside world. Is it possible to be more wrong? The educational work necessary to a scientific
paradigm shift is huge.

14 May 14 - London - Spitafield Market - London


I am discovering surprising character traits of Einstein; i.e. his stubbornness to see the
Copenhagen Interpretation as an incomplete theory. Mocking Niels Bohr, he said: It seems
hard to look into the cards of the almighty but I wont for one minute believe that he throws
dice or uses telepathic devices (as he is credited with by the present quantum
theory) (Kumar, 2009)2
Indeed, Einstein could not accept the idea of a universe where two particles separated
by thousands of light years might hold a "snapshot" contact (Non-Locality problem); in other
words, acting on one of them causes an instantaneous reaction on the other, regardless of their
distance in the cosmos; hence the term "telepathic devices" used by Einstein.
By changing the first one, you instantly change the second. This behaviour of matter,
as long as you subscribe to it, implied the presence of forces moving faster than light. For
Einstein, this was a heresy; the annihilation of the theory of relativity. In response to these
mathematical nonsenses, he asserted that quantum theory was incomplete and that these
mysterious links between subatomic particles could be justified only if there was a "base" (an
objective reality) extending below our perception. He said I still believe in the possibility of
a model of reality that is to say, of a theory that represents things themselves and not merely

2 Kumar, M (2009). Quantum, Einstein, Bohr and the great debate about the nature of reality. Icon Books
LTD.

the probability of their occurrence (Bohr, 1963)3. He tried to prove that hypothesis but it
held him in check. This is actually the bottom of the great debate that opposed him to Niels
Bohr and survives today within the scientific community. The existence of an objective
reality independent of any observer still has many defenders, and these, like Einstein, say that
quantum theory is incomplete.
Like Nietzsche lamenting the disarray created by Christianity in the mind of the great
French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal, I cannot suppress a similar feeling to
Einstein in his deist error. I shudder to his distress when he argued against the advice of the
young guard of physics of the 30s that there was an objective reality independent of any
observer. To many of his colleagues, it was extremely painful to witness the twilight of a
great intelligence. Nothing, either, gave indication that he could slightly agree with the great
mathematicians of the time who, by their equations, gave reasons to the tenors of the
Copenhagen interpretation.
Their assumptions broke the structures of the understanding. Those, like John
Archibald Wheeler and Pascual Jordan, fascinated me. The former stated that an elementary
phenomenon (the existence of an electron, for example) become a real phenomenon only
when it is an observed phenomenon. Matter can only exist when the consciousness of an
observer is at work; without consciousness, without measurement, matter falls into a state of
indeterminacy. Jordan, meanwhile, opened to me incredible horizons. Pushing to the limits
the reasoning defended by Wheeler and the supporters of the Copenhagen interpretation, he
said: "We ourselves produce the result of measurement" (Jammer, 1966)4

3 Bohr, N (1963). Essays 1958-1962 on Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge. (New York: John
Wiley)
4 Max Jammer (1966). The conceptual development of Quantum Mechanics (New York: McGraw
Hill), p.161
5

The philosophical implications of such a judgement seem priceless to me. Since we


are, as observers, the cause of the collapse of the wave function, we produce the result of an
observation. The matter we see is the result of our consciousness at work. Our senses, our
cognitive functions, are the instruments that shape matter or rather, indeterminacy, which
appears as matter after the collapse of the wave function. Matter could be of an entirely
different nature but what we know is, alas, determined by our senses and their extensions; our
machines and mathematics. Beyond them, we can know nothing; we are plunged into
darkness. These thoughts echo those of Robert Lanza and John Wheeler Archibald who
themselves are quick to say that when we look at the stars, we create the past, we create the
Cosmos.
Quantum physics is in this, paradoxical; it allows us to draw a number of analogies
between the infinitely small and the infinitely large. In the subatomic world of quantum
mechanics we are interested in waves and elementary particles. In the universe, into the
macro world, it is the light that interests us as it sometimes travels for billions of years. By
pushing the argument to the extreme, if man had nothing but that light, if he were to travel to
the heart of infinite spaces, there he would be the most creative, the most demiurgic; by his
consciousness, he would beget the Cosmos; he would then naturally and instantly become
the creator of worlds. He would live in a state of permanent creation...
These ideas are so attractive!

May 23, 2014 - Spitafield Market - London


Another problem raised by quantum mechanics is that of the limit and the extent of
the real world; what is the boundary between this world and the subatomic universe? Nobody
knows where the subatomic level stops and where the macro world of everyday life becomes
such. It seems inconceivable that at a concrete point of the physical world, the laws of matter
6

fall over without further factors than the size of the elements considered. Lanza's book
(Lanza, 2010)5 seems much less objective than that of Kumar (Kumar, 2009)6 on the subject.
Along with the study of quantum mechanics, I read books about neurobiology, and the
most surprising of them is that of Rodolfo Llins (Llinas, 2002). First discovery, Llins is an
internalist: The brain does not depend on continuous input from the external world to
generate perceptions (See the Last hippie, by Oliver Sacks), but only to modulate them
contextually (Llins, 2002:6). And further down: We can look to the world of neurology for
support of the concept that the brain operates as a closed system, a system in which the role
of sensory input appears to be weighted more toward the specification of ongoing cognitive
states than towards the supply of information. Context over content (Llins, 2002:6)
These are quite bold statements for non-generative linguists for whom language is
communication and the result of intensive work of social interaction. These people are
primarily externalist. Noam Chomsky meanwhile, says that the primary use of language is
not communication. What I found in him, in his linguistic or philosophical works, is the
"context over content" I quoted in Llins. The more I advance in my research, the more I
convince myself of the need to focus on internalist views. But that is another debate which I
will return to.
I received last night Tim Maudlin's book: Quantum Relativity and Non-locality7.
Big undertaking: The problem that will concern us here is easily stated. Bell showed that
observable correlations between particles could not be accounted for by any theory which
attributes only locally defined states to them. The particles appear to remain connected or
5 Lanza, R (2010). Biocentrism. Benbella Books Inc. Paperback Edition Dallas
6 Kumar, M (2009). Quantum, Einstein, Bohr and the great debate about the nature of reality. Icon
Books LTD
7 Maudlin, Tim (1994). Quantum Non-locality and Relativity. Metaphysical intimations of modern
physics. Blackwell Publishers Inc.
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in communication no matter how distantly separated they may become.(Maudlin,


1994:2)
Do these particles communicate faster than the speed of light? As noted by Maudlin,
the problem is quite easily identifiable and reading a couple of good books on the subject is
enough to identify and understand the issues that opposed Einstein and Bohr's supporters. To
assert or prove that subatomic particles or any other object could move faster than light
would shake the Theory of Relativity to its foundations and our representation of the
universe. Some scientists are already in a kind of post-relativity period, such as Robert
Lanza whom, with his theory (Biocentrism), rejects categorically the existence of an
objective reality, independent of any observer. An assertion that was challenged by the early
discoveries on non-locality states of quantum particles. Einstein, as I said earlier, refuted
these results as voodoo forces" and spooky interactions. Here we are in the heart of the
problem. Is there an objective reality independent of any observer or, should we be resolved
to define consciousness Lanzas Thesis- as the essential element of the existence of matter
and ultimate reality?
(To be continued)

Translated by Philippe Nadouce - Proof reading Emma Passmore