Creating Reality – Can Quantum Physics Help?

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Uncategorized

Creating Reality: Evidence from the Principles of Quantum Physics

The view of the mind as an entity that can be entirely explained by being reduced to physical matter developed against the background of classic physics.  Although the principles of classic physics are used to describe the movement and “behaviour” of inanimate objects and large celestial bodies, the insight that they provided into our physical Universe was also applied to the living world. This application resulted in a somewhat dark view on the concept of the human mind that is being reconsidered today in light of what has been referred to as ‘the quantum revolution’.

I. Classic Physics and the Deterministic View of the Mind

The rules of classic physics are based on Newton’s laws of motion. These are a set of principles used to describe the relationship between an object and the forces that act upon it, as well as the movement of the object as a result of these forces. They describe the movement of many systems, including planetary systems and those comprised of macroscopic objects with great success. According to classic physics, the state of the world at one moment is completely dependent on (determined by) its state at a previous moment. This means that the universe and our world within it were set into motion many years ago. Consequently, our thoughts do not determine our future since the future is predetermined by a long gone past that we hold no control over.

When interpreted as laws of nature, Newton’s laws hold a wide range of implications for our lives. The world as causal, predictable, logical and governed by mathematical rules has room for only one ultimate reality, which can be viewed objectively by the scientist and cannot be distorted. Therefore, the concept of free will is rendered an illusion, as are all other psychological qualities, effectively reducing the person to a biological machine. More specifically, if all causality in the world comes from the interactions of its building blocks, the human brain and consciousness are nothing more than the product of neurons, molecules, atoms and their interactions.

This fatalistic view was widely regarded as correct (and still is by some) and the discipline of physics virtually complete, only to be inadvertently challenged when scientists discovered that Newton’s laws do not apply to the elusive domain of energy, light and subatomic particles.

II. The Quantum Revolution

Towards the end of the 19th century, while examining the relationship between electromagnetic radiation intensity, frequency and temperature, physicist Max Planck gathered a large amount of experimental data that could not be explained by any theory of classical physics. In order to make the numbers work, he created a formula where energy is radiated not as a continuous wave, but as a series of discrete portions (energy quanta). As the first working formulation in discordance with classic physics theory, this quantum hypothesis was later interpreted by Einstein and used to explain the photoelectric effect, and is considered the birth of quantum physics.

Technological advancements in the 20th century enabled scientists to examine subatomic particles more closely, and as they did, they found that the laws of classical physics consistently failed to explain their measurements. They could not explain why atoms are stable or why light can behave as both a particle and a wave. Quantum mechanics were able to explain these submicroscopic phenomena, and differed greatly from the classical laws of physics in that they were probabilistic rather than deterministic.  In other words, classical physics can tell us exactly where an object will be at a certain point in time, while quantum physics can only provide us with the probability that an object ought to appear in a few possible places when we observe it, without providing a definitive answer. Before we measure a quantum object it has superposition (it exists in every possible state), but by using the laws of quantum physics we can calculate the probabilities and possibilities linked to each individual possibility of where it will appear when observed (Goswami, 2001). Before we make a measurement, the quantum object exists in all possible states, but when we measure its position, it must “choose” one state. This discontinuation is a collapse of the electron’s superposition, and the act of our measurement or observation is what causes it.

III. Quantum Physics and the Subjective Nature of Reality

In quantum experiments, the observer demonstrates some level of ability to influence the particles that constitute reality, and the classical view of the person as a passive observer of an objective and predetermined reality suffers a blow. The notion of exclusive objectivity central to the scientific method evidently reaches a limit, even in the hard sciences. In an experiment known as the double slit experiment, electrons behave as particles when they are being observed and as waves when they are not being observed. Their motion is also characterized by demonstrable randomness. Any attempt by us to figure out exactly what is going on in experiments with subatomic particles causes random changes to the system via the uncertainty principle and even performing exactly the same quantum experiment more than once does not yield consistent results. This strongly suggests that the physical laws of the natural world appear intrinsically random at a fundamental level, limiting the power of scientific theory at this level to probabilistic estimation (Feynman, Leighton and Sands, 2011).

The deterministic aspect of classical physics is inconsistent with quantum physics. According to the philosophy of determinism it is possible to determine the movement (speed/location) of every object using the laws of physics. This is not possible with submicroscopic particles.  Furthermore, the finding that an observer causes a collapse of an electron’s superposition, together with other findings in which different results are recorded based on whether or not they are being measured (e.g. the double slit experiment) are not consistent with the materialistic aspect of classical physics that is characterized by upward causation. By the rules of upward causation human behavior can only be influenced by the behavior of subatomic particles (because atoms make up molecules, molecules make up cells, cells make up the brain), and not vice versa. The downward causation apparent in quantum experiments demonstrates that our involvement in the subatomic world changes it’s properties, and indicates that we are directly able to influence the particles that compose matter.

Many researchers have recognized that there is greater similarity between the submicroscopic world and aspects of the brain, mind and consciousness than there is between mental processes and macroscopic objects that adhere to Newton’s laws. There has also been some acknowledgement of the subjective nature of physics implied by discoveries of the quantum realm. However, subjectivity is often considered a flaw of psychology, philosophy and other humanistic disciplines, while objectivity is considered a virtue of the hard sciences. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are interpretations of experimental quantum findings that avoid the acknowledgement of subjectivity. The mathematician Arthur M. Young argues that contemporary physics ignore the implications of quantum physics, such as the change of state that characterizes time (by treating it as symmetrical rather than asymmetrical). He also contends that the fact that no two individuals can ever view the same photon is proof of the non-objective nature of science, a point still ignored by physicists to preserve an exclusively objective view of the world. It is in part this subjective aspect of quantum reality that parallels the reality we experience through mental processes, as well as the failure of brain mechanics alone to account for all psychological processes that has lead many to apply the principles of quantum physics to psychology. Nevertheless, the application of quantum principles to the mind in a strictly scientific manner is challenging, partly because the relationship between brain mechanics and consciousness is still a mystery from a scientific point of view, just as the nature of consciousness itself is.

IV Quantum Physics in Neurobiology and Psychology

The downward causation demonstrated by experiments conducted in quantum physics supports the notion of free will to an extent, while the observer effect has blurred the lines between physical and psychological reality to an extent. However, simply transferring quantum law to psychological and neurobiological processes alone is not sufficient to explain human psychology. According to Barr (2003) the probabilistic nature of quantum events indicates that even if we have a complete set of information about the state of a physical system for time A., we cannot predict the behavior of the system at time B. This appears similar to the probabilistic nature of human behavior, suggesting that the absence of deterministic processes in the quantum could mean that human will is free. The problem with this reasoning is that it only implies that choice, as well as other psychological processes and their manifestation in behavior are random without offering further explanation. So it would seem that indeterminacy is necessary for free will to exist, but it is not entirely sufficient. This is why it is necessary to examine evidence from neurobiology and psychology to gain insight into the role that quantum physics has in the brain, and the effect of these processes on consciousness.

The finding that directed mental effort in the form of cognitive reattribution and attentional reconceptualization of conscious experience causes changes in brain activity is central to the argument that more than biological brain mechanisms (and classical physics principles) are required to explain thought processes and consciousness.  The term “self-directed neuroplasticity” is commonly used to describe the use of mental effort to alter brain function (Schwartz, Stapp and Beauregard, 2005). According to Schwartz and colleagues, contemporary physical theory allows for the findings in this field to be interpreted in a more logical and scientifically sound way than was possible with classical physical theory. They argue that it is absolutely necessary to apply the principles of quantum physics in order to examine the connection between the brain and conscious experience (particularly when a person is using mental effort), and that the residual materialistic bias from classical physics is still preventing the appropriate interpretation of contemporary neuroscientific findings.

There are a number of points outlined in their paper that support the application of quantum theory to psychological phenomena as well as the notion that individuals are capable of shaping their own reality:

1.1 The causal efficacy of conscious effort as a primary variable can be explained by quantum physics, and therefore conscious effort can be used as a primary variable even though its origins may not be traceable.

In above-mentioned 2005 journal article, the authors use the term ‘primary variable’ in the context of neuroscientific studies and the redirection of the brains resources towards the prefrontal cortex and away from the limbic area of the brain during self-directed neuroplastic development. However, if conscious effort as a primary variable is capable of causing changes in thought patterns and the activation of specific brain areas, the changes in behavior and ultimately reality that result from these changes are also attributable to it.

1. 2. Our willful choices represent fundamental causal elements.

Considering that we have evidence for the efficacy of self-directed psychological techniques and their effect on the brain, it quite safe to assume that we also have the free will required to apply them. Given this, free will and the consequent freedom to create one’s own reality can be justifiably regarded as a combination of the indeterminate nature of reality and conscious effort.

1. 3. The physical system does not determine choices and decisions made by    the observer during the selection between possible options – they ultimately depend on the observer’s stream of consciousness.

This is part of John Neumanns interpretation of quantum theory, one that grants primary causation to conscious free will.

1.4. Both human life and experimental science are based on corresponding realities that are built upon action and response systems.

This means that we draw conclusions by making conscious efforts in order to receive feedback in the same way in science as in everyday life. This feedback shapes our expectations, which in turn shape our beliefs.

1.5. In classical physics, the human was considered a passive observer of the laws of nature. In quantum physics, the observer directly influences the physical system in a way that is dependent on the conscious choices made by the observer.

This means that we cannot observe a system without altering it and that the state of a physical system is dependent on our choices (and free will), not the other way around.  One interpretation of this finding that is in line with the laws of contemporary physics is that we are free to create our own reality.

The definition of subjectivity is a “characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind”. If objectivity is no longer possible, even in the hard sciences, then subjectivity becomes an inherent property of reality (no reality is independent of mind), lending further support to the argument of reality as an individual construct. The ‘real world’ of an individual is made up of his or her current perception, understanding and beliefs. The differences between these experiences of existence are apparent between individuals, members of different cultures, followers of different religions, members of different age groups, fans of different sports and so on. There is a colossal amount of information available to us at every moment in our lives, and we select (inadvertently or advertently) what we pay attention to and how we interpret the information available to us. These processes are easily observable in individuals suffering from conditions such as anxiety disorder who perceive danger in a wide range of very different situations and form beliefs, behaviors and even physical symptoms based on their perception.

V. More on Self-Directed Neuroplasticity

There are many examples of willful mental activity by which immaterial mental activity becomes materialized. For example, scientific studies have shown that mental practice for playing musical instruments results in physical changes in the brain in almost the same way as physical practice does (Begley, 2007). In self-directed neuroplasticity, the critical aspect of this willful mental activity is what has become known as mindfulness.

Mindfulness is based on a concept used in Buddhist meditative techniques and is characterized by an enhanced awareness of one’s present. The nature of this awareness should be open, receptive and non-judgmental. The practice of mindfulness does not require any specific practice, but does require the conscious application of effort to sustain, particularly during very stressful events. There are psychological studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of mindfulness based stress reduction techniques both in the general population, as well as in clinical practice for anxiety, depression, addiction and eating disorders.

There are also studies that examine prayer as a method of self-directed mental action. A recent study found that participants maintained their improvement of anxiety and depression one year after partaking in a prayer intervention that involved prayer for stressful issues, childhood traumas and repentance (Boelens et. al., 2012).

Self-directed neuroplasticity appears to happen through contemplative practices that include (but are not limited to) techniques such as mindfulness training and prayer. Formal contemplative practices are found in almost all religions, but there are ways to practice contemplative activity outside the scope of religion. MRI scans of individuals who routinely meditate show that their pre-frontal cortex area is thicker compared to that of individuals who don’t meditate. This area is heavily involved in attention control. Many self-help books stress the importance of focusing your attention on what you are doing and what you hope to achieve in order to align your thoughts, feelings and behavior with your preferred outcome. This is usually achieved through the utilization of techniques such as meditation, contemplation, visualization, reflection, and/or prayer. Since all of these techniques are characterized by mindfulness, it is quite likely that they all have the same effect on the brain regardless of whether they are practiced independently using self-help literature as a guide or within the frame of religion, a psychological study or clinical treatment. As the prefrontal cortex is involved in the executive control of attentional processes, as well as in the modulation of planning and the selection of self-initiated responses, it signifies a likely path of action for the measurable success of contemplative techniques through both self-directed action and clinical practice. However, it is important to remember that belief in the efficacy of this technique is necessary in order to sustain practice of the technique, and in order for this practice to display results (Schwartz, Stapp and Beauregard, 2005).

It is important to distinguish between what the results of experiments conducted in quantum physics reveal about the nature of the universe and the application of the principles of quantum physics directly to the processes of consciousness. Conscious cognition is a very specific brain phenomenon for which even modern neuroscience lacks a solid theory (Baars and Edelman, 2012). Even current quantum theories of consciousness do not fully explain the empirical features of consciousness, although scientists active in the field acknowledge the possibility of discovering a theory that does so in the future. However, the insight we have gained from experimental quantum physics taken together with the demonstrable results of self-directed neuroplasticity lend support to the inherently subjective nature of reality, as well as individual free will and responsibility in creating reality.

VI. Conclusions

The premise that individuals create their own reality has gone from seemingly absurd in the context of classical physics to virtually inescapable with the discovery of the quantum realm. The psychophysical structure of reality as a world of possibility, together with the demonstrable power of intentional effort and conscious choice make conscious thought a primary variable in the order of human experience. Thus, based on the evidence reviewed in this paper, it is our thoughts that influence our behaviour, which influences our social experience and ultimately our entire physical reality, which is then sustained by our thoughts In other words, the reality of every individual is inherently subjective and shaped by their thoughts.

It may seem that a person can be influenced by other factors such as their social or family pressures, but their conformity to these pressures can be considered a free choice, because it can be reversed at any time – something that many people have successfully accomplished. Psychological studies have shown that in order to make a large change in an individuals thought patterns (and subsequent behavior and reality), the individual must believe in the efficacy of the method used and put conscious effort into it’s application. They must also be mindful and open to their current situation in order to perceive it with calmness and clarity rather than with judgment and negative emotion. We can therefore conclude that the perceived reality of an individual cannot be a mirror of an objective reality independent of them, but is defined and shaped by the individual in ways that the individual is free to alter.  If an individual is free to alter reality, it is difficult to argue that he or she is limited by anything other than the decision not to – a free choice in itself.

The nature of the quantum is intrinsically and fundamentally random and open to possibility. Because the human mind bears a greater resemblance to the quantum than it does to the terrestrial and celestial objects that adhere to the laws of classical physics, it is probable that consciousness is more related to the quantum realm than to the physical. It has also become clear that the psyche is somehow involved in the determination of the visible properties of matter, which is how it entered the domain of scientific enquiry. Although the exact nature of observation in quantum theory is still not known, psychological research supports the premise that consciousness and choice have a transcendental ability to not only influence the behaviour of quantum physical systems but also the structure of the brain – physical reality.

The notion that thoughts cause behaviour that then has a direct impact on physical reality is well established in psychology, and is used successfully in cognitive behavioral therapy to help individuals change certain aspects of their lives. It is also used in political, war, media and marketing strategies such as advertising, hoaxing, political campaigning, propagandizing and many more. Successful manipulation strategies that start with a thought can have devastating and enormous implications in the real world, and this is not a new discovery. The novel discovery is that one individual can influence his or her own thoughts, behaviour and reality with the same impact, and it is this discovery that lends support to the premise that Everything we are, will be and in fact have been is therefore self-created.

Aknowedgement
This paper is the result of collaboration between myself (Michael) and Kristina.  I put forward the ideas and the structure and after many discussions Kristina undertook the bulk of the research and wrote the final version of the paper. Without her deep understanding of the workings of the mind and her outstanding research ability the paper would be nothing more than thoughts floating around in my head.

References

Baars, B. J., & Edelman, D. E. (2012). Consciousness, biology and quantum hypotheses. Physics of Life Reviews.Barr, S. M. (2003). Retelling the Story of Science. First Things, 16-25.
Begley, S. (2007). The Brain: How The Brain Rewires Itself. Time Magazine.
Boelens, P. A., Reeves, R. R., Replogle, W. H., & Koenig, H. G. (2012). The effect of prayer on depression and anxiety: Maintenance of positive influence one year after prayer intervention. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 43(1), 85-98.
Feynman, R. P., Leighton, R. B., & Sands, M. L. (2011). The Feynman lectures on physics: Mainly mechanics, radiation, and heat (Vol. 1). Basic Books.
Goswami, A. (2001). The Gifts of Quantum Physics. In The Physicists’ View of Nature (pp. 197-206).
Springer US.Schwartz, J. M., Stapp, H. P., & Beauregard, M. (2005). Quantum physics in neuroscience and psychology: a neurophysical model of mind–brain interaction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 360(1458), 1309-1327.
Young, A.M. (1996) Has There Ever Been a Paradigm Shift? Online essay:http://www.arthuryoung.com/paradigm.html

ESP – Yes Or No?

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Uncategorized

Defining Extra-Sensory Perception 
In talking about Extra-Sensory Perception, it is helpful to begin with some definitions.  The term Extra-Sensory Perception is a broad term used to describe the ability of some individuals to perceive things that would normally be thought to be imperceptible to the five senses.  Those describing this phenomenon generally divide this broader category into three more specific categories.  There is telepathy that involves knowing someone else’s thoughts or feelings—mind reading, if you will.  This is contrasted with clairvoyance, which knowing information about a physical object without subjecting it to the five senses.  Most often, this takes the form of someone being able to describe the contents of a sealed container without having seen them being deposited.  The best picture for this is probably superman’s x-ray vision.  Then there is precognition, which relates to knowledge about the future—the realm of fortunetellers and prophets.  These powers of mental perception are distinguished from other mental powers like telekinesis, which refers to the ability to manipulate objects with one’s mind, like bending spoons.  In 2002, the National Science Foundation reported that 60% of adult Americans believe that “some people possess psychic powers or ESP.”

            This distinction between ESP and other powers of the mind is actually quite important.  In cases of the latter, there have been no scientifically controlled studies that would lend credence to the existence of such abilities.  This is not to say that researchers have not tried.  As recently as the 1980’s a researcher at the University of Edinburgh was studying a psychic named Tim who seemed to have extraordinary abilities.  This 17-year-old claimed that he had possessed the ability to bend metal with his mind since the age of 4.  The researcher described him as cooperative and willing to submit to any controls that she might suggest and even suggested further controls of his own.  After multiple experiments, the researcher finally decided to install a hidden camera during a session.  It was this instrument that Tim was not made aware of, that revealed his blatant manipulation of the test.  When confronted with the video evidence, Tim finally confessed that he had been engaged in this type of deception for years and had recently moved on to parapsychologists to test his wits, so to speak. 

Early Studies of Telepathy
But the situation with ESP is quite different.  In the 1930’s, when Australia was in the throws of the Great Depression, popular attention turned to the work of a researcher at Duke University named Joseph B. Rhine, who published a book entitled Extra-Sensory Perception.  Until this point, while people were familiar with psychics and mindreading from their own experiences at carnivals and the like, no reputable university had discussed the phenomenon as anything other than a hoax.  Rhine made a splash in the popular press because here was a professor from a well-known and respected university claiming that ESP is “an actual and demonstrable occurrence.”  One English professor at Columbia compared Rhine to Copernicus and another reviewer compared him to Darwin.  The New York Times ran articles by Kaempffert that could not praise Rhine enough.

            As we will see, there was something to Rhine’s experiments and his work, but he received very mixed reviews from his contemporaries.  Researchers at Columbia and a handful of other universities published studies confirming Rhine’s results.  On the other hand, researchers at Princeton, the University of Minnesota and Brown published studies contradicting Rhine’s results. 

            When Dr. Rhine was talking about ESP, he was not talking about the type of mindreading that you might see a magician perform on stage or the kind described in science fiction novels and movies.  For Rhine, ESP was demonstrated in the statistics.  He invented a group of ESP cards that he later marketed and sold for mass consumption.  These decks contained a stack of 25 cards with 5 different shapes represented: a circle, a cross, wavy lines, a square, and a star.  He would shuffle the deck and then hold up one card at a time with its back to the subject.  The subject would then call out the answer and Rhine would right the call and the actual card next to it.  He would proceed through the deck in this way.  Statistically subjects should get an average of 5 right calls per deck.  Rhine’s best subjects had 10-15 correct calls per deck.  When Rhine found a promising test subject, who scored particularly high, he would repeat the test over and over again with the same subject and often would get higher results in later tests.

            There were certain elements of the test that Rhine insisted on.  He first insisted on this set of symbols as opposed to numbers or other random sequences.  He also insisted on scoring the test in front of the subject.  It is also important to note that Rhine was not studying individuals who claimed special abilities.  He was studying normal people to determine if they possessed special abilities.  No matter how much credence one affords to Rhine’s work, it is important to acknowledge that his data cannot be explained by probability and chance.  Rhine did indeed find something in his studies that warrants further elaboration. 

 Explaining Telepathy through Microexpressions 
 The question remains as to what it was that Professor Rhine was measuring and finding in his lab at Duke University.  To understand this, reference to the television show “Lie to me” is in order.  In this television drama, Tim Roth plays Dr. Cal Lightman, an expert in human body language, where he spends a great deal of time explaining to his colleagues, his clients and random strangers he meets about microexpressions.  As Dr. Lightman explains, microexpressions are involuntary twitches or expressions that express emotion.  These microexpressions are not tied to thought, but tied to emotions.  Many of the episodes in this show dealt with identifying emotions that contradicted what an individual was saying as a means of lie detection.  It would seem that the best explanation of what Dr. Rhine identified was this ability that some individuals possess to identify and read such microexpressions.  Dr. Rhine himself was entirely unaware of these microexpressions that would not be identified by the scientific community until the 1960’s.  Such an explanation fits with all of the parameters Professor Rhine set for his test and why his results were both validated and invalidated by others. 

            First, consider the choice of symbols, rather than numbers or some other arbitrary item.  For many individuals the symbols of a star, a cross or wavy lines evoke connections with broader realities that have an emotional impact on the individual.  The deck of ESP cards that Rhine sold included instructions for the person conducting the experiment to look at the card and think about it deeply while the subject tried to guess the shape.  One researcher might start thinking star and then remember the stargazing he used to engage in with his father as a child.  Another researcher looking at the same image might and remember a bad experience with an astrologer a few years prior.  A series of numbers 1-5 would have worked statistically just as well, but the researchers administering the test would not be as prone to have any emotional connections to these numbers.  The lack of any emotional connection would prevent the appearance of any microexpression from the researcher that the subject could note and then identify with the object. 

            Another element was the scoring method.  Later researchers critiqued Rhine for his scoring system that was so subject to error.  His critics suggested that the most neutral way to do the scoring would be for the subject to record his own calls, while the researcher recorded the cards without sharing them with the subject.  But in this case, a researcher’s emotional connection with these symbols is completely arbitrary.  The subjects must be able to make a connection between the microexpression and the card that evokes it.  More controlled scoring methods would not allow subjects to make such a connection.  This point goes along with the proximity of the subject to the researcher.  Rhine argued that ESP grew proportionally stronger as the distance between researcher and subject decreased.  This is why the radio version of Rhine’s test conducted by researchers from the University of Washington failed to validate Rhine’s conclusions.  Subjects that could not see the researcher could not see the involuntary microexpressions that researcher might be making. 

            A third element to factor into the equation is the repetition of the experiment.  One of the rules that stage magicians follow is “never repeat an illusion.”  The same rule might be important for psychologists.  In one 25-card deck, a subject must see the same microexpression repeated for the same card image in order to make the connection between the microexpression and the image.  Moreover, each researcher may only have one or two cards in the deck that produce a microexpression from them.  It is unlikely that other researchers engaged in Rhine’s habit of repeating his experiment with his most promising subjects.  This is why even those universities that confirmed Rhine’s results only averaged 7-8 correct calls out of 24 for the best subjects, compared with the 10-15 correct calls that Rhine’s best subjects averaged. 

            This suggestion is also corroborated by the Wizard’s project that Dr. Paul Eckman conducted with Maureen O’Sullivan.  After studying 20,000 people for their ability to detect liars, they identified 50 individuals, whom they named “truth wizards.”  These truth wizards are those individuals who have learned to identify microexpressions.  Such numbers would correspond to the numbers of gifted individuals Rhine found.     

 More Modern Experiments Studying Telepathy 
Another set of experiments that do not have this same problem is called the ganzfeld telepathy experiment.  From 1974 to 2008 close to 5,000 such experiments were conducted.  One subject, the receiver, sits in a comfortable recliner with red filtered light on his eyes and white noise filling his ears.  He then speaks into a microphone whatever images and hallucinations pop into head.  The sender is in a separate room with a video image playing repeatedly at set intervals.  The researcher instructs her to concentrate on this image and send it to the receiver.  At the conclusion of the session, the researcher, without knowledge of which clip the sender viewed, enters the receiver’s room and shows him four different film clips.  After they review his auditory recording of his images together, he is to choose the clip he believes most closely reflects what he described. 

             The expected rate is 1 in 4 or 25%.  The aggregate statistics show a 31.8% rate, which is statistically significant.  One glaring absence in these studies and in Rhine’s older studies is the presence of any control group.  In most laboratory research studies, the comparison is not between a test group and expected averages, but rather, a test group and a control group subjected to the same environmental and psychological factors as the test group.  It would be very easy to conceive of what such a control group would like.  In the case of the experiments by Rhine, the researcher could explain the 5 shapes and then use a blank deck for conducting the experiment.  In the case of the ganzfeld telepathy experiments, the researcher could have no sender in the room next door, or have the sender engage in some completely unrelated task like filling out a survey or the like.  Such control groups could serve to bring to light some unforeseen placebo effects involved in these studies. 

 Explaining Telepathy with Quantum Mechanics
Researchers immersed in this field appeal to quantum mechanics and more recently, string theory, in an effort to explain extrasensory perception.  Quantum mechanics is in essence the study of subatomic particles.  The importance of quantum mechanics for extrasensory perception appears in wave-particle duality and the associated Heisenberg uncertainty principle.  According to the wave-particle duality, a researcher can either view light as a particle or as a wave, but not as both.  This is made particularly clear with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.  According to this principle, if a researcher measures the position of a particle closely, the momentum or wavelength of that particle will elude any attempts at precise measurement.  In the same way, if a researcher measures precisely the momentum of a particle and its wavelength, there is then no way to measure and identify its position. 

            The question that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle begs is what process is taking place in this dichotomy.  One of the several possible answers has been that measurement is a mental process, which has a direct effect on matter.  In the case of telepathy specifically, quantum mechanics has a concept called “entanglement” which Einstein referred to as the “spooky action at a distance” that takes place after two particles interact where they continue to behave as a system regardless of how far apart they travel.  This nonlocal effect takes place in macroscopic living systems just as much as it does at the microscopic level.  According to proponents of this theory, extrasensory perception may be one manifestation of such a nonlocal connection between individuals. 

Alternative Explanations 
 Two neuroscientists in India have been studying a chemical released into the brain by the hypothalamus called digoxin.  This chemical regulates the transmission of neurons in the brain.  What these neuroscientists discovered in a study they published in 2003 was that creative, right-brained individuals had much higher levels of this chemical in their brain.  They hypothesize that it is this chemical that allows for extra-sensory perception and present a very complicated description of the process whereby this chemical functions on a quantum mechanical level to enable extrasensory perception.  But a warning is in order here since they also make connections between this chemical and spirituality, addictive behavior, Alzheimer’s disease, and speech and language dysfunction.  For these two neuroscientists it would seem that their studies of this chemical now explain any phenomenon that we have yet to fully understand.   

            While a connection between right-brain hemisphere dominance and ESP has not necessarily been demonstrated, there is certainly a correlation between right-brain hemisphere dominance and the belief in ESP.  The right brain is not the seat of skeptical and critical thinking, so this correlation should not come as a surprise.  

Conclusion
Extrasensory Perception continues to fascinate individuals within and without the scientific community.  In thinking about the phenomenon it is interesting to reflect on your own hemisphere dominance and thinking style and how that impacts your own perception of ESP.  It certainly can neither be dismissed easily with a wave of the hand, nor accepted uncritically as having been proven beyond reasonable doubt. 

My thanks to Brad for a great job in undertaking the background research.

If you would like to contact me please send an email to support@brainrap.com

Is Your Quantum Entangled?

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Uncategorized

 When two quantum particles (electrons, photons, atoms) are joined together, in a special way called “entanglement”,  and are then separated, they retain the interconnectivity that has been created , even if separated by distance and time.  So are you entangled? Read more…

Oh No!… Not The “Bringers Of The Dawn”

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

Dear Barbara, we agree on a couple of fundamental things (at least, I think we do!):

  • There is a universal creative intelligence that orchestrates the Universe; and
  • There are enlightened beings amongst us.

But here’s where we part ways… Read more…

Even Ants Do It – Travel The Road Less Travelled!

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

“Life is the unknown and the unknowable, except that we are put into the world to eat, to stay alive as long as we possibly can.”
Students of Richard Bach’s Jonathon Livingston Seagull will recognise that quote as part of the admonition of Jonathon by the Elder of the Council gathering.

Wondering what that’s got to do with ‘the road less travelled’? Well, I’ll return to that later when we will find out what Jonathon had to say in response to his chastisement.

In the meantime we should recognise that Richard Bach was by no means the first to introduce the concept of the ‘road less travelled’. The 6th century Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching, ch. 53) wrote:

“With but a small understanding
One may follow the Way like a main road,
Fearing only to leave it;
Following a main road is easy,
Yet people delight in difficult paths”.

But perhaps Lao Tzu had been watching ants!

You see, early one morning while I was outside sitting on a chair to put on my trainers there was a procession of ants marching by. Curious to see what might happen I disrupted the procession with my hand. Most of the ants stopped and appeared confused until they grouped up and followed each other around my hand (the easy way). A few brave ants took a risk and decided to go over by climbing up my hand (the difficult way). So are we really any different? Faced with a challenge most of us will wait and then follow the crowd, a few individuals will take the difficult and challenging way, go out into the wilderness, the unknown –will take ’ the road less travelled’!

The concept is also raised in the Bible… here’s what St Matthew had to say… “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7: 13-14). But maybe he had read the Tao Te Ching and been watching ants!

Then there’s Richard Frost who raised the same concept in his poem “The Road Not Taken”.
“Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”.

 And what about M Scott Peck who tackles the same issues in his popular books “The Road Less Traveled” and “Further Along The Road Less Traveled”. He writes “Life is complex. Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another…The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness. ”

And again he counsels “It is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.”

There are many other references to the concept of ‘the road less travelled’. Here are a just a few of them:

 “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey”.
John Hope Franklin

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it”. Rosalia de Castro

“The path to spirituality is the road less traveled. Because it is less traveled it is covered with underbrush, brambles, thistles, and thorns. The way is painful and lonely. Yet, because it is less traveled, it is also the path that leads to discovery, adventure, and joy. It is the way of the warrior. It may very well be the path you were meant to follow.”  Chuck Gallozzi 

 “Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” Jerry Seinfeld

So what does ‘the road less travelled mean’? Here’s part of what Jonathon had to say… “We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free!” “Who is more responsible than a gull who finds and follows a meaning, a higher purpose for life….now we have a reason to live – to learn, to discover, to be free.”

 I’m with Jonathon all the way. I see setting out on ‘the road less travelled’ as an attempt to assert my individuality… as an integral part of my bid for intellectual and spiritual freedom. It’s a long and exciting journey of self-discovery.

What about you?

Critical Thinking Isn’t What You Think – Part 5

Posted by: michael  :  Category: DIY Brain Health

This series of posts attempts to break down the critical thinking process into a number of steps that build upon each other. So far we’ve looked at:

  •  Improving the organisation of information stored in the brain
  • Analysing information in order to identify aids to critical thinking such          as possible relationships and/or recognise patterns within sequences.
  • The critical thinking component itself
  • Identifying good questions to ask yourself and others about what you are reading or hearing.

In this post I want to go into a little more detail so that you have a guide or checklist, if you like, to aid you get more out of your reading. It is based on tips that are generally available from a number of sources. So here’s something with which to work:

  • Where is the author coming from – what’s the approach or perspective?
  • What other approaches could have been used?
  • Is the author directly involved in the subject or writing as an outsider?
  • What are main points and do you agree with them? Is the argument being promoted in logical steps?
  • What sorts of evidence are presented and are the well-research, logical and non–emotive?
  • Does the author use valid reasoning
  • Does the author use facts or unsupported generalisation?
  • What inferences are made ad do you agree with them?
  • If the author presents or interprets the ideas of others? Do you it was done fairly?
  • Does the author show bias r provide a balanced of the subject?

Try the guide and see what you think

Critical Thinking Isn’t What You Think – Part 4

Posted by: michael  :  Category: DIY Brain Health

This series of posts attempts to break down the critical thinking process into a number of steps that build upon each other. So far we’ve looked at:
* Improving the organisation of information stored in the brain,
* Analysing information in order to identify aids to critical thinking such  as possible relationships and/or recognise patterns within sequences.
* The critical thinking component itself.

We concluded the last post by saying that one secret to being a good critical thinker .is being able to identify good questions to ask yourself and others about what you are reading or hearing. Read more…

Critical Thinking Isn’t What You Think! – Part 3

Posted by: michael  :  Category: DIY Brain Health

This series of posts attempts to break down the critical thinking process into a number of steps that build upon each other. So far we’ve looked at:

* Improving the organisation of information stored in the brain,
* Analysing information in order to identify aids to critical thinking such as possible relationships and/or recognise patterns within sequences.

In this post we look in more detail at the critical thinking component itself. Read more…

Critical Thinking Isn’t What You Think! – Part 2

Posted by: michael  :  Category: DIY Brain Health

In the first post in this series we said that critical thinking is all about “thinking for yourself” and that simply being critical is letting others think for you. I’m sure you don’t like the sound of that – imagine someone else controlling your mind! Fortunately it doesn’t have to be that way. Read more…

Critical Thinking Isn’t What You Think! – Part 1

Posted by: michael  :  Category: DIY Brain Health

Critical thinking isn’t about what you think – it’s about how you think! Let me try to explain what I mean. Read more…

Aristotle And Plato – The Nature Of Man

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Uncategorized

Plato believed in the existence of inner man. His perception of man has a body and soul with the spirit outside – external to man. In Plato’s view the soul existed before the body and was independent of it.

Aristotle’s philosophy moves away from the emphasis on the spirit as being external to man. Aristotle saw the spirit as the immortal soul of man. In fact, Aristotle considered there were two aspects to the soul:
                                    – the mortal aspect which belonged to the physical body and
                                    – the immortal aspect which belonged to the spirit.

If you are interested in digging further into Greek philosophy, both Plato and Aristotle held what are now totally unacceptable views on the status of women.  In Greek society a woman’s main function was considered to be the reproduction of children

Metaphysics And The Nature Of Man

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Uncategorized

So what is metaphysics and what do we mean by the nature of man? Well, let’s start with a look at metaphysics…

The main tradition has been to use ‘metaphysics’ as a title for philosophical as distinct from scientific or experimental inquiries. Read more…

If You Want To Get Healthy – Circulate!

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

About a week ago I experienced nausea, loss of balance and hot ‘flushes’ – all in the pursuit of health!  But it’s not bad news at all. You see there’s a particular practice in which such symptoms are a sign of progress. Read more…

Honesty – The Shortcut To Unpopularity!

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

Here’s an invitation to take a scary journey – it’s a journey to a little known state called honesty and you’ll have to travel alone through hostile territory. Read more…

Women, Careers, Glass Ceilings And DNA

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

Women often refer to ‘glass ceilings’ as a barrier to a successful career and rightly so. However, I suggest there is a powerful yet overlooked factor that makes the journey even more stressful. Read more…

In The “National Interest” – So No Questions Please!

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Uncategorized

In the “National Interest” is a term much favoured by politicians to invoke support for policy implementation.  But what does it really mean – in fact, does it have meaning at all and why it is so effective? Read more…

Are You Too Stupid To Be Trusted?

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

While there is much focus, and rightly so, on the efforts of various governments to control the flow of information on the Internet there are other and perhaps more sneaky restrictions on your freedom to choose that are often overlooked. Read more…

Internet Censorship – Yippee!

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Uncategorized

People often complain about governments always taking. But governments can be benevolent too! Just look at how readily governments around the world are acting to protect us from information overload Read more…

Do Angry Chefs Create Angry Food?

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Uncategorized

TV presentations of celebrity chefs seem to be in vogue. And it seems obligatory for celebrity chefs to be bad tempered. So I ask myself how can angry chefs produce good food… they must do because most of them own restaurants that have been awarded Michelin hats.   Read more…

Leaders – Who Needs Them!

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

In this post I’m going to explore the potential for a world without leaders. I’m going to argue that, whether or not it is intentional, leaders act like parasites in that they suck the life-force and value out of followers. Read more…

Using Your Nose To Turn Negatives Into Positives!

Posted by: michael  :  Category: DIY Brain Health

Negatives can be positives and, no, I’m not about to announce an astounding new breakthrough in psychotherapy. Instead, it’s high-fives time for your nose! Read more…

Is Your God Inside Or Out?

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

I felt the urge to start with the theme of a popular TV advertisement and say “my god isn’t like your god” – so I have!

You see, my god is inside not outside. If your god is outside you’ll probably, and quite rightly, want to dismiss the following discussion – I’m certainly not out to change anyone’s belief. – it’s none of my business. Read more…

Brain Health: There’s A Gauss In The House!

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

I just recently moved to another house. I’d placed my furniture and appliances just where I wanted them. Now I’ve decided to move things around… for my brain’s sake! Read more…

Beyond The Dinner Plate – The Metaphysics Of Food

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

How would you like to join me on a journey – a journey that goes “beyond the dinner plate”? It’s an exploration of food alchemy.

By food alchemy I mean the transformation of food into energy that the body can use. You see, food is not what it seems. In fact, food is very secretive and keeps its inner mysteries well hidden from view. Read more…

The Magic And Power Of Darkness – Part 2

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

So what is it about darkness that makes it both magic and powerful? Read more…