Today we are going to talk about quantum physics and its relationship to consciousness, and about the word “quantum” itself.
People who want to promote themselves and their products and services love to use this word. It has literally become a marketing buzzword: Quantum Coaching, Quantum Marketing, even Quantum Performance Fishing Tackle! (I kid you not).
But what does this word really mean? How did the word quantum come into existence? What is quantum mechanics or quantum physics, where the word as we use it today came from? Why are people so fascinated with it?
I want to do a show on this today to give you guys a little history and background, and to eliminate confusion about it. And to clarify some of the concepts in my own mind. Understand that I am not a physicist, but an intelligent layman who has studied these concepts.
The word quantum comes from the Latin quantus, or quantity. In physics quantum has a specific meaning, but in general the word can be defined as, “a share or a portion,” as in, “every man has his quantum of compassion.” The word quantum in quantum physics originally became famous because of the work of Max Planck. Who was Max Planck?
According to Wikipedia, “Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, was a German theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. Planck made many contributions to theoretical physics, but his fame rests primarily on his role as originator of the quantum theory. This theory revolutionized human understanding of atomic and subatomic processes, just as Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity revolutionized the understanding of space and time. Together they constitute the fundamental theories of 20th-century physics.”
So how did the word quantum become defined in its modern meaning? How did Max Planck became involved with what was to be known as QM? By investigating the problem of black body radiation on a very practical level.
A blackbody in physics, to make it very simple, is a radiator of energy. It’s called a blackbody because when you paint something black it absorbs all of the radiation that comes into it. Blackbody is just a generic term that refers to something that absorbs energy and then radiates it. If you sit a box painted black outside it will heat up very quickly because it is absorbing the sun’s radiation. And it will also radiate energy, you can feel it. Well, anything that emits radiation (like a lightbulb) is to some extent a blackbody because it takes in energy (electricity) and outputs light (and heat).
Anyway, in 1894 Planck had been commissioned by electric companies to create a light bulb that emitted the maximum amount of light and the least amount of heat. A light bulb contains a filament, but these filaments radiate a lot of heat energy in addition to putting out light. But what if you could come up with a light bulb that could emit much less heat and much more light and use less energy to do it? Utility companies were interested in saving energy, so if Planck could come up with a really good light bulb (like the modern LED light), they could save lots of money.
But the problem was that nobody at the time could explain theoretically the various frequencies of the radiation that came out from the lightbulb. It was a big problem. The current theory at the time was that the energy from a radiator would theoretically go past the infrared (heat) and visible light, and also into the ultraviolet and even further into the higher ranges of the EM spectrum and become of very high intensity.
You know what happens when you get exposed to UV – your skin burns. But that isn’t what really happens of course. Lightbulbs and fires don’t burn your skin! The intensity of the radiation from the lightbulb (or any blackbody) reaches a certain point and then goes down.
But the science back then had no way to explain WHY. This problem was known in the day as the ultraviolet catastrophe. So this lightbulb problem of Planck’s, in physics, was a classic blackbody problem.
Well, in his investigations into this problem Planck became very frustrated, because he couldn’t figure it out. An article in Wikipedia says that eventually “his recourse was, as he later put it, ‘an act of despair ... I was ready to sacrifice any of my previous convictions about physics.’
“The central assumption behind Planck’s new [thinking], presented to the German Physical Society on 14 December 1900, was the supposition, now known as the Planck postulate, that electromagnetic energy (light, electricity, magnetism) could be emitted only in quantized form; in other words, energy could only be a multiple of an elementary unit. That elementary unit is called a quantum. This explained the blackbody problem because when physicists looked at the quantum they discovered that it limited the frequencies that came out of anything that radiated energy, and that solved the “ultraviolet catastrophe” problem very nicely. BUT, the idea of the quantum was revolutionary at the time. It wasn’t easily accepted.
Well, we tend to think that the universe is smooth and continuous, and so did the scientists of the early 20th century, until Planck came up with his quantum idea. They didn’t like the idea that energy could only come in packets because that meant there were certain energy states that were not allowed. That violated the idea of classical Newtonian physics, which had been accepted for over 200 years.
It’s like saying that when you are driving your car you can go at any speed from 0 to 80 mph. But Planck was saying that no, there are only certain speeds you can have, and that some speeds are impossible! It didn’t make any sense. That’s a crude analogy, but back in those days this idea was revolutionary. The only problem was that it completely solved the problem of blackbody radiation, and the math worked out, so it had to be accepted.
Planck’s quantum idea inspired the great genius Einstein, several years later, to write a very simple relationship to describe what these quanta are: E = h * f, where h is Planck's constant, and f is the frequency of the radiation. In other words, with his equation, Einstein formalized Planck’s idea that energy comes in little packages called quanta. Einstein said that a quantum is just a specific amount of energy, represented by the "h" in the formula above. F in the formula represents frequency, or how fast something is vibrating. So Einstein took Plank's idea of "quantizing," and said that the fundamental building block of energy and matter is a tiny little packet of vibrating energy.
Again, this simple equation just says that energy comes in tiny little packets of vibration called quanta. Frequency is just vibration, and Planck’s constant, the h, just tells us how big or small each of these little quanta are. It turns out that Planck’s constant is 6.63 * 10^-34 js, a number that is so small it’s practically non-existent. So a quantum is a very, very small amount of energy indeed. Einstein called these quanta photons, and showed that light could both be a particle and a wave. Look up Einstein and the photoelectric effect if you want more info on this.
Einstein, piggybacking on Planck’s quantum proposition, showed that a photon is the basic quanta of light and all electromagnetic energy. So a photon of frequency f will have its own specific and unique energy. We can see this in the spectrum of light. Each frequency of light is a different color: red, yellow, blue, etc. The different colors come about because each of the colors is a slightly higher or lower frequency, or vibration. The amplitude or strength of energy at that frequency just depends on the number of photons of that frequency being produced per unit of time. So OK, the more photons you have (the more quanta) the more intense the light is.
The quantum is what Quantum Mechanics (QM) is conceptually based on. Planck, when he came up with this concept, didn’t think much more about it because the math worked out. But it led to the development of QM, which created an entirely new branch of science.
So OK, the quantum idea revolutionized scientific thinking. But why has the quantum idea so penetrated the popular consciousness? Well, here’s an example of why. Let’s say you do an experiment with light, which Einstein said could be both a wave and a particle called a photon. You take normal, everyday light and you put it through a light polarizer. A light polarizer just orients all the light waves in one particular direction, lets say in the vertical direction. Good sunglasses have polarizing filters, for example. Most of the glare that causes you to wear sunglasses comes from horizontal surfaces, such as water or a highway. When light strikes a surface, the reflected waves are polarized to match the angle of that surface. So, a highly reflective horizontal surface, such as the hood of a car, will produce a lot of horizontally polarized light. Therefore, the polarized lenses in sunglasses are fixed at an angle that only allows vertically polarized light to enter.
Let’s say we have a light source like a laser that only emits light of one frequency, or color. Let’s say the laser is a red laser. We pass the light through a polarizing filter that only lets light through in the vertical direction. Then we pass that vertically oriented light through another polarizer that is oriented at 45 degrees. How much light will get through? Well, common sense tells us that only ½ of the light will come through. Draw a square on a piece of paper and then a diagonal through it. You can see that the diagonal has two equal components: a vertical component (the side of the square that goes up) and a horizontal component (the side of the square that goes sideways). Since the light coming in is vertically polarized, the diagonal polarizer is going to block all of the horizontal light, and the intensity of the light should be reduced by ½. And that’s exactly what happens.
But quantum mechanically, that’s NOT what happens. In QM, the photons are very, very tiny little things: they don’t know that we are doing an experiment, they don’t know about light polarizers oriented in the vertical or horizontal direction. They can’t see all that because they are so tiny. At the subatomic level, there’s just a bunch of particles interacting. Remember that the laser and the polarizers are themselves made of atoms, and those atoms are 99.999% space. At the subatomic level there’s just a bunch of tiny little particles in space.
So in QM, each individual photon approaching the polarizer can be in only two possible resultant states: a photon that gets passed through the 45 degree polarizer, or a photon that doesn’t. Those are the two possible outcomes of the experiment.
Remember that the light we’re using is coming from a red laser, so all of the photons are the same frequency. E = hf. So all the photons are identical. There’s no difference between them. So why does one photon go through and another gets blocked? If you are one of those little photons, who or what is making that decision? That’s what makes QM so fascinating! It’s almost as if there was some underlying intelligence making the decision to pass one photon through and to reject another one. Or maybe each photon knows whether it should go through because the experimenter has decided that only half of them can go through. Or maybe there’s information in the fabric of space that programs only half of the photons to go through (more on that later).
This idea has excited and intrigued people for decades. So I guess that’s why the word “quantum” is used so often: because it comes with the idea that underneath the physical reality we see, there is something powerful, intelligent, and mysterious that is guiding things in the proper direction.
All right, so quantum mechanics just studies the interaction of these little packets of energy at the subatomic level. It’s a very complex subject that is based on a simple, but powerful idea, that the entire world of form we see in the physical universe comes from infinitesimally tiny, tiny little packets of vibration. The only difference really, fundamentally, between QM and metaphysics is that we believe these little packets of energy can be created or influenced (by consciousness) and scientists believe that energy can’t be created or destroyed or influenced by anything other than energy. In other words, the basic disagreement is about who or what created energy, who or what created these quanta.
Where do these little quanta come from? Science doesn’t deal with that problem; they just say that the origin of all of this matter and energy is pure speculation, and isn’t important; or, as Dr. Sheldon Cooper might say, “hokum.” But people like Max Planck, and Einstein, and David Bohm, and other physicists, have had some very interesting things to say about these metaphysical questions outside the formally accepted boundaries of science.
Now that we know what “quantum” means, and why people are so fascinated with it, let’s take a look at 4 quotes from Max Planck, the founder of QM. Planck, BTW, lived from 1858 until 1947.
1) “All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force... We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.’”
2) “Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”
3) “We have no right to assume that any physical laws exist, or if they have existed up until now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future.” And finally,
4) “Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: 'Ye must have faith.’”
Let’s look at the first of Planck’s quotes, 1) “All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force... We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.’”
I like this definition because a matrix, in math, is a collection of energies or things or symbols. So what Planck is saying here is that all matter is contained in the mind. Wow! That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? Notice that this is basically the same concept that Plato had in his Republic 2,500 years ago, when he talked about the shadows on the wall representing a higher reality, just stated in more sophisticated terminology.
So what is Mind? What is intelligence? What is consciousness? Surely energy and matter are not conscious – look at that lump of rock outside your window, or the desk your monitor sits on. Consciousness must have something to do with non-physicalness.
Planck’s 2nd quote is even cooler. 2) “Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.” Planck is just saying here that the consciousness of the observer affects the experiment.
Describing how all those subatomic particles interact with each other is impossible, because there are so many of them. At the subatomic level there are so many particles you can’t even count them. So QM says that nature itself is probabilistic.
In other words, we can’t know exactly how things are going to turn out because there are so many possible degrees of freedom, or states, that the system could be in, because there are practically an infinite number of particles which all can have different spin, different momentum, different mass, and different position, and different frequencies.
So QM postulates something called a wavefunction, which represents the state of the system and all of its possible outcomes. In other words, say we want to determine exactly, by measurement, the spin of a particle. There are a lot of different spins the particle could be in. However, our testing equipment is set up, lets say, to measure the particle in the spin “up” direction. In other words, we want to determine how many of the particles are spinning in the “up” direction, so that’s what our equipment is set up to do.
But here’s the weirdness and the mysteriousness associated with QM. When we measure a particle that is spinning partly in the “up” direction and partially sideways, IF we get a response from our equipment, the particle will have changed its spin entirely to the “up” direction, even though it had previously been spinning partly “up” and partly “sideways.” So the act of measurement itself alters the inherent characteristic of the particle.
Now, here’s something else interesting in QM. If we prepare photons that have the possibility of being spin up OR spin down, and we measure with equipment that can measure spin up or down, and we spin the photons sideways at 45 degrees, say (a spin that goes up and to the right and that has NO downward component) some of the photons will be measured as having down spin even though there is no down spin component in the tested photons!
Apparently what happens is that each photon makes a choice, depending not upon its presently manifested state of spin (sideways), but on its potential for spin (up and down)! This is, to me, a remarkable result. It’s almost like the little photon says, “hey I don’t care if I’m spinning sideways, I have the choice to go up and down as well, and I’m going to alter my physical nature and go down.”
QM says that the set of all possible outcomes or states collapses to just one manifested state, and ignores all of the other states. Mathematically a guy named Erwin Schrödinger made an equation, called the Schrödinger wave equation, that describes this process mathematically. In QM terms, it is said that the act of measurement collapses the wavefunction, from out of all the possible states of the particle or the system being measured, to just one manifested outcome, just like in a radio when we tune to one station, and the others are all blocked. This feature of QM is known as wavefunction collapse.
QM says that the act of measurement RANDOMLY causes the system to assume only one value. That’s because most scientists are materialists, and they cannot admit that there is anything outside the Body Reality. But some more metaphysically oriented people say that the conscious intent of the observer or the measurer is the force that collapses the wavefunction.
Metaphysically speaking this is easy to understand, because collapse of the wavefunction is just manifestation. In metaphysics we talk about creating our own reality, and visualizing something, and feeling it, and we speak about the Law of Attraction. Well, the LOA is, in physics-speak, the collapse of the wavefunction into a particular eigenstate, revealing something definite, observable, and physical.
So how does this relate to Planck’s second quote? Well, Planck says that “we are part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.” And the mystery is, “What is the nature of the universe?” and “What is life?” My take on what Planck is saying is that we can’t “solve” the mystery of the universe if we see ourselves separate from it; if we only consider the physical and not what Planck calls “Mind,” and what I am calling consciousness.
Again, as we’ve said before so many times on this show, the mystery exists because we have a wrong definition of “we.” Who or what are we? What is a quantum? A purely physical interpretation of that just leads us into materialism, and all of the belief systems that originate from materialism, which is to say, scarcity, and problem resolution through conflict and war. But what if the quantum was a product of a non-physical consciousness? Then it would be alive internally, and everything in the universe would also be alive. That's what I think is happening, and I wrote a movie about it called "The Unity of Spirit and Matter" which you can see at sunrise-production.org.
So, Planck’s second quote essentially says what QM says, that the observer affects the experiment. And the experiment is LIFE, not just subatomic particles! Metaphysically we say that consciousness affects the physical universe. We say that consciousness is the embodiment of this wavefunction in QM, and that when we intend very strongly we can actually collapse the wavefunction to the desired outcome, just like the little photon decided to go down spin even though he was physically spinning sideways. A materialist photon would have told him “you have no downspin component so you can’t go there!” Ha! To me, that’s how QM relates to metaphysics in this regard.
On this show we’ve been talking about a virtual world of subtle energy that is superposed upon the physical universe, and that contains a practically infinite number of possible outcomes or manifestations. This is the same idea that QM has on the subatomic level. QM scientists are very careful to describe quantum fields as physical, and at the subatomic level and even the Planck level they are. But there is another, more refined and subtle energy beyond the Planck level, beyond the EM spectrum. This is what the ancients referred to as the ether.
We’ve said that the yin-yang symbol is just two circles inside a bigger one. If you look at that symbol carefully you can see it. Well, those 2 circles met at only one tiny little point in the middle of the symbol, and that point is a singularity. A singularity is really non-physical, it is beyond space and time because it is infinitely small. That singularity point at the center of the two circles, which represent the physical universe and the virtual universe, is accessible by consciousness. Consciousness has the native ability to communicate in both worlds, the physical and the virtual.
All right, let’s move on to Planck’s 3rd quote. 3) “We have no right to assume that any physical laws exist, or if they have existed up until now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future.” This is a very powerful statement because it implies that the laws of the universe aren’t fixed, or set in stone, and that they can change (Dr. Sheldon Cooper, take note!).
Clearly our ancestors in the ancient world knew things we don’t. They built a worldwide grid of huge pyramids and monuments like Stonehenge with stones that weighed in the tons, and lifted them high in the air. Their science was different than ours, and apparently they used physical laws that we think are impossible. Planck is saying that a physical law is not really a law because it can change at any time. Well, why would physical laws change? Again, we have to come back to a non-physical, creative principle, because we know that matter doesn’t have the ability to change its mind.
But matter and energy can appear to change its mind if there is another influence acting upon the field that it is in. And that influence is consciousness. The experimenter affects the outcome of the experiment.
Here I want to talk about a fascinating experiment called a Quantum Eraser. You can find the outline of this experiment at Ron Rhodes’ site called “The Bottom Layer” at bottomlayer.com. The results of the experiment, which generates an entangled pair of photons from a light beam going through a crystal, is as follows. The position of a photon at one of the photon detectors has been already registered and scanned. So we know exactly where it is. Yet the actual position of the photon arriving at that detector will be at one place if we later learn more information; and the actual position will be at another place if we do not.
Ron Rhodes says, in his comments: “we the observer are shocked to learn that the pattern [of photon detection] shown by the positions registered at a detector at Time 2 depends entirely on the information gathered later at Time 4, and available to us at the conclusion of the experiment.”
There are two ways to interpret this experiment. A physicist would just shrug and say, “That’s just how QM works.” The other way is to say that the experimenter, by his measurement and/or knowledge of what happened at the end of the experiment, has the ability to change the result of something that has already happened. To me this is remarkable. Apparently time is not the linear flow we think it is, if we can essentially go back in time to affect the outcome of something that already happened.
Of course, people who have worked in the black programs say that we already know how to move forward and backward in time. Sean David Morton’s book, “Sands of Time” is a beautifully written story about that.
I want to end the show by talking about a remarkable debate that occurred at the 2011 Asimov Memorial Debate at the Museum of Natural History, hosted by Neil de Graf Tyson, who interviewed Prof. S. James Gates, of the U. of Maryland. You can find excerpts from this discussion at Ross Rhodes’ fantastic site called “The Bottom Layer.” The discussion went like this:
“NdGT: So where has this pursuit taken you [Dr. S. James Gates, Jr.], where have you landed?
A: [Prof. Gates:] Oh my god. Why would you ask that?
NdGT: I'm asking you that here and now. It's New York City, it's March 7  ... Where have you landed?
A: Well, partly it's taken me to these strange images that are behind your head right now. These are pictures of equations. I've been for the last 15 years trying to answer the kinds of questions that my colleagues here have been raising . And what I've come to understand is that there are these incredible pictures that contain all of the information of a set of equations that are related to string theory. And it's even more bizarre than that, because when you then try to understand these pictures you find out that buried in them are computer codes just like the type that you find in a browser when you go to surf the web. And so I'm left with the puzzle of trying to figure out whether I live in The Matrix or not.
NdGT: Wait – you're blowing my mind at this moment. So, you're saying – are you saying your attempt to understand the fundamental operations of nature leads you to a set of equations that are indistinguishable from the equations that drive search engines and browsers ...
NdGT: ... on our computers?
A: That is correct. So ...
NdGT: Wait, wait. I have to just be silent for a minute here. So you're saying as you dig deeper, you find computer code writ[ten] in the fabric of the cosmos...
A: Into the equations that we want to use to describe the cosmos, yes.
NdGT: Computer code.
A: Computer code. Strings of bits of 1's and 0's.
NdGT: It's not just ... sort of resembles computer code, you're saying it is computer code.
A: It's not even just is computer code, it's a special kind of computer code that was invented by a scientist named Claude Shannon in the 1940s. That' s what we find buried very deeply inside the equations that occur in string theory, and in general in systems that we say are supersymetric.
NdGT: Ok. Time to go home, I think. I mean ... where are we going to go after .... So, are you saying we are all just ... there is some entity that programmed the universe; and we're just expressions of their code ...
A: Well, I didn't say that ...
NdGT: ... like The Matrix? That's what you said ....
A: Some of those codes are showing on the screen behind you right now. They don't look like codes, but these pictures, which we call “Adinkras, ” are graphical representations of sets of equations that are based on codes. So this is, in fact, to answer your question more directly, I have in my life come to a very strange place because I never expected that the movie “The Matrix” might be an accurate representation of the place in which I live.”
Wow! If Professor Gates is right, then the fabric of the cosmos contains programming, and that programming, perhaps, comes from this virtual world we’ve been talking about that is superposed onto the physical. Perhaps we as metaphysicians aren't so crazy after all!
All right, it’s time to look at Planck’s last statement. 4) ““Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: 'Ye must have faith.’”
I’m not sure exactly what Planck meant here, but his statement implies that nature cannot be understood only through observation and measurement. The Quantum Eraser experiment and prof. Gates’ equations shows us that there is definitely something magnificent and powerful that lies beyond mere materiality. It’s one thing to engage in metaphysical speculation, but science itself is beginning to show us a much more beautiful and complex world that lies beyond what we understand as space and time.