The decision to read this article is not the result of gravity breaking your quantum spirit

The decision to read this article is not the result of gravity breaking your quantum spirit

A few years ago, deep below the Apennine Mountains in Italy, a team of physicists hunted flashes of light that could suggest that human consciousness is a product of gravitational forces.

The fact that they came empty-handed does not mean that we are all computers without free will; however, this makes the search for an appropriate model that explains consciousness far more challenging.

If the idea of ​​not having free will is unpleasant, you are not alone. During the 1990s, Nobel laureate Roger Penrose and an anesthesiologist named Stuart Hammeroff argued that the quantum properties of cell structures called microtubules could introduce enough space to move the brain to break the “one input, one output” constraints of classical mechanics.

While their hypothesis, called Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch OR), lies on the edge of physics and biology, it is nevertheless complete enough to provide researchers with predictions that can be scientifically explored.

“What I liked about this theory is that it can be verified in principle, so I decided to look for evidence that could help confirm or falsify it,” said physicist Catalina Curceanu of the Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati in Italy.

Penrose’s and Hameroff’s concept could be tested, but it still rests on a mountain of assumptions about the way physics and neurology work on a fundamental level.

The basis for quantum mechanics is the idea that all particles exist as a range of possibilities unless they are in some way quantified by measurement.

What exactly that means is not clear, which has led to this interpretation being interpreted as a ‘collapse’ of wavy fog perhaps into a concrete absolute of hard reality.

Equally astonishing is the question of why a swarm of possible values ​​should be placed on any measurement at all.

One idea advocated by Penrose and his colleague Lajos Diozi at the end of the 20th century suggested that the curvature of space-time could favor some possibilities over others.

In other words, mass and its gravitational force can somehow crush quantum waves.

Applying this assumption to competing quantum states of cellular material — namely, tubulin chemicals that mix within neurons — Penrose and Hameroff calculated the time it would take for quantum effects to translate into mechanisms that would affect consciousness.

Although their model stops explaining why you consciously decided to read this article, it shows how neurochemistry can deviate from classic computer operations into something less restrictive.

Penrose’s and Dios’s idea of ​​gravitational collapse has already been tested by none other than Dios himself. Their experiment at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory examined the simplest scenario of collapse, finding no signs that the hypothesis was correct.

In light of these findings, the team now wonders how their previous results could affect Penrose’s and Hameroff’s Orch OR hypothesis.

Their critical analysis of the model suggests that at least one interpretation of the hypothesis can now be ruled out. Given what we know about quantum physics, the distribution of tubulin within our neurons, and the limitations imposed by Dios’s previous experiments, it is very unlikely that gravity pulls the strings of consciousness.

At least not in this specific way.

“This is the first experimental study of the pillars of quantum collapse in relation to the gravity of the Orch OR model of consciousness, which we hope will be followed by many others,” says Curceanu.

It is difficult to say what exactly it would mean for any investigation to find a trace of evidence for Orch OR. Non-computer descriptions of consciousness are not only difficult to study; they are difficult to define. Even indisputable programs that reflect human thinking provoke our efforts to spot examples of feeling, self-awareness, and free will.

However, the idea that biological systems are too chaotic for delicate quantum behaviors to emerge has weakened in light of the evidence that involvement plays a role in functions such as navigation in birds.

Maybe just a flash of inspiration is all we need to put us on the path to understanding the physics of our souls.

This research was published in Physics of Life Reviews.

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