The Quantum Mind | Psychology Today

Waves and Particles

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Having given much thought to the subject of the mind, I have concluded that the only way to approach it is by gaining at least a rudimentary understanding of quantum physics, also called quantum mechanics (QM).

Quantum Physics and Entangled Particles

Quantum physics deals with the study of particles at the atomic and subatomic levels. Max Born coined the term in 1924. Quantum physics is complex, paradoxical, and hard to fathom if one is tethered too closely to classical Newtonian physics. The theory sets fundamental limitations on how accurately we can measure particle locations and velocity, replacing classical certainty with probabilistic uncertainty.

So, dear reader, jettison your attachments to high school physics and take a walk on the wild side. A bit of historical background: During the 1920s and early 1930s, physicists discovered what has been called the wave-particle duality, a fundamental concept of quantum mechanics which proposes that elementary particles, such as photons and electrons, possess the properties of both particles and waves. What’s even stranger is that the particle and wave aspects cannot be separated; rather, they complement one another. Niels Bohr saw this complementarity as the inevitable result of the interaction between a phenomenon and the apparatus used to measure it.

Quantum physics or quantum mechanics (QM) has confirmed that atoms and subatomic particles are not really solid objects; they do not exist with certainty at definite spatial locations and definite times. Matter is not solid in the way that had been thought.

Today, we know that the atom is almost entirely empty, but for a swirling cloud of moving subatomic particles such as photons, electrons, neutrinos, quarks, etc.

Remarkably, researchers discovered that particles such as electrons are linked to the observer – the physicist, the apparatus, and the method used for observation. The hypothesized scientists that the consciousness of the observer affects the physical events being observed and that mental phenomena influence the material world. Recent studies support this interpretation and suggest that the physical world is no longer the primary or sole component of reality, nor can it be fully understood without referring to the mind.

The Language of QM

Subatomic particles, atoms, or even entire molecules, can exhibit interference, a classical property of waves in which two peaks reinforce each other when they overlap. Quantum effects such as interference rely on the wave functions of different entities being coordinated (they are said to be coherent) with one another. If one quantum particle interacts with another, they connect and become linked into a composite superposition. The two objects are then said to be entangled.

Enangled particles are intimately joined since the day they were created. No matter what distance separates them, be it the width of a lab bench or the breadth of the universe, they mirror each other. Astonishingly, whatever happens to one instantaneously affects the other and vice versa.

Jian-Wei Pan, a physicist at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai, demonstrated this in a new study. Pan and his team produced entangled photons on a satellite orbiting 300 miles above the earth and beamed these particles to two different ground-based labs 750 miles apart, all without losing the particles’ strange linkage. The previous distance for what’s known as quantum teleportation or sending information via entangled particles was about 140 kilometers, or 86 miles.

At this time, scientists still can’t explain how the particles are separate but connected. Einstein, no friend of quantum mechanics, referred to entanglement as “spooky action at a distance.” And spooky it is.

Being in two states at once is not an unknown phenomenon in human psychology. Who has not had the experience of debating in their minds two contrary options such as, “Shall I write this letter of complaint or not?” One part of you says, “Give them hell!” and advocates in favor of writing the letter; the other cautions you, “Think of the consequences.” This discussion can last a few seconds, minutes, or hours. Finally, you decide on a course of action. We often say, “I was of two minds,” to describe this kind of situation.

You may have heard of lucid dreaming. In Eastern thought, cultivating the dreamer’s ability to be aware that he or she is dreaming is central to both the Tibetan Buddhist practice of dream yoga and the ancient Indian Hindu practice of yoga nidra. For those unfamiliar with the term, a lucid dream is having a dream while asleep and developing the ability to control the dream in some way.

The dreamer must let the dream continue but be conscious enough to remember that it is a dream. This can be achieved with preparation and practice. Many psychotherapists use lucid dreaming as an integral part of therapy. The individual who practices lucid dreaming is, at the time, really two persons with two minds. One is doing the dreaming while the other questions or directs the action in the dream.

And, of course, you have seen or, at least heard of, the classic 1957 film about multiple personalities, The Three Faces of Eve. Suffering from headaches and inexplicable blackouts, timid housewife Eve White (Joanne Woodward) begins seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Luther (Lee J. Cobb). He’s stunned when she transforms before his eyes into the lascivious Eve Black and diagnoses her as having multiple personalities. It’s not long before a third, calling herself Jane, also appears. The film was based on the true story of Chris Costner Sizemore, also known as Eve White.

Cases of multiple personalities are rare today, but they are not unknown. They are listed in DSM-5 of the American Psychiatric Association (2013) under Dissociative Identity Disorders and defined as “Disruption of identity defined by two or more distinct personality states.” Once again, we are confronted by an enigma for which traditional science offers no plausible explanation.

At this time, scientists still can’t explain how the particles are separate but connected.

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