Black Holes and Quantum Consciousness
Quantum physics can be compared to magic. The processes and phenomena that it studies are so incredible and mysterious! Irina Schreiber, a nuclear physicist, believes that this science is very difficult to understand. At the same time, it can open the veil of many mysteries of the universe. The expert devoted her first face-to-face meeting after a long self-isolation period to one of the most fascinating topics for her: black holes and quantum consciousness. The meeting was held at Planetarium 1 with the participation of the Saint Petersburg Youth House. The Global Women Media news agency is happy to share the ‘summary’ of the lecture with its readers.
PhD in Physics and Mathematics, researcher at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN, Geneva)
The Nobel Prize is one of the most prestigious international awards. It is awarded annually for outstanding scientific discoveries, revolutionary inventions, and major contributions to culture or community development. This year’s laureates in the field of physics are Roger Penrose, a theoretical scientist, and experimental scientists Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Gez. They succeeded in something that seemed completely unbelievable for a long time. They proved the existence of a supermassive compact object with characteristics similar to a black hole in the centre of the galaxy.
Irina Schreiber has been working at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) for many years. CERN is the structure on the basis of which the Large Hadron Collider operates. In its essence, it is a huge device to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang. This device makes it possible to accelerate particles almost to the speed of light and then make them collide with each other. Thus, through their experiments, scientists are trying to understand how all the objects of the universe including black holes were created.
“Can we use the Large Hadron Collider to create a mini black hole on Earth? Theoretically, yes. However, there has been no such black hole recorded in experiments yet”, comments Irina Schreiber.
What we know about black holes today is only a tiny piece of information that makes it possible to slightly lift the veil. However, a huge long-term work of scientists from different countries is behind this knowledge. The scientific work, for which Roger Penrose received the Nobel Prize, was published in 1965. Already then, the scientist claimed that the theory of relativity by Albert Einstein reliably predicts the formation of black holes. In fact, he mathematically proved that the physics we use to describe various processes is also true for black holes. Many years later, his colleagues, astrophysicists Andrea Gez and Reinhard Genzel from the USA and Germany, proved the existence of black holes in practice. They discovered an invisible and extremely heavy object in the centre of the galaxy, which controls the orbits of stars.
It is interesting that Roger Penrose did not perceive black holes as a real object when working on the theory. In his opinion, it was more of a mathematical apparatus. Who would have thought that decades later the world would see a photo image of a real cosmic miracle?
In physics, it is impossible to be sure of the reliability of theories until they are proved experimentally. That is why Roger Penrose who had made his discovery in 1965 was awarded only 55 years later.
A black hole is a supermassive object. This means that its existence affects everything around it. It is virtually impossible to see the black hole itself. Scientists managed to calculate its location in the galaxy following the change in the orbits of the stars and their displacement from their ‘usual’ paths.
In April 2019, a publicly available unique photo with the image of a black hole appeared. However, it shows not the ‘mysterious abyss’ but a halo formed around it consisting of rotating gas and dust. It is followed by that very ‘event horizon’, behind which all the objects falling into its zone disappear.
It is believed that a black hole may be like a ‘wormhole’, a path connecting one space-time area to another place in the universe. However, that has not been proven in practice. No object that got into the black hole has returned to the visible part of the space yet.
What is really happening? A supermassive object compresses and its mass and gravity are concentrated in one point, thus forming a black hole. Time and space begin to distort in this area.
In addition to research related to black holes, Roger Penrose paid much attention to the existence of quantum consciousness. According to the scientist, the distortion of space and time can cause certain events at the quantum level. They affect the behaviour of particles in the structures of the human brain responsible for consciousness.
“Many physicists are still sceptical about this hypothesis. Perhaps, I am one of them. However, if we think about the fact that the black holes were once a purely theoretical object and scientists received a prize for discovering them this year, the theory of quantum consciousness also acquires the right to exist”, says Irina Schreiber.
“It is difficult to say whether quantum consciousness really exists. Quantum physics is a science that is difficult to apply to our macro world. However, scientists have found no refutation that it does not work in human consciousness”.
Richard Feynman, one of the leading experts in quantum physics, once said that no one in the world knows quantum mechanics, including himself. No one fully understands what happens inside black holes. No one fully understands what consciousness is and how it works. The scientist suggests that all that may be linked as elements in one chain.
To show the complexity of the perception of quantum physics by human consciousness, Irina Schreiber cited an experiment first conducted about 200 years ago. Scientists observed a stream of particles passing through two thin slits leaving a trace on the screen behind the canvas with holes. This is how scientists tried to understand what the ‘test subjects’ were: waves or separate points. The result was shocking. When the observers monitored the movement of particles through the gaps using a special device, the trace on the screen showed two thin stripes. That was quite logical. However, when the observers did not follow the process itself and turned only to its result, the screen demonstrated many stripes. The scientists were confused. It seemed that particles become waves only when they are watched.
This experiment can lead us to an interesting conclusion. Nature ‘knows’ not only whether we are watching but also whether we plan to watch. In other words, it is nature that regulates human consciousness.
From the scientific point of view, there are two explanations of what happened. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of physics, elementary particles are defined as both waves and particles simultaneously. Observing a particle is possible when it is struck against the quanta of a measuring instrument. This causes the collapse of wave functions. Thus, the observer does not affect a particle, only quanta of the measuring instrument do that.
The many-worlds interpretation shows that there are parallel universes, each of which has the same laws of nature. At each act of measuring a quantum object, the observer ‘splits’ into several versions of himself or herself. Each of these versions sees its own measurement result.
What theory is correct or the most reliable? Science has no answer. However, Irina Schreiber recalled the famous rhetorical question of Albert Einstein: “Does that mean the Moon is not there when I am not looking at it?”
Optical illusions are a vivid example of the manipulation of human consciousness. Such practice shows that reality looks the way how people themselves form it in their consciousness. Human thoughts create a perspective of everything that exists in the world. In other words, people generate physical reality through their subjectivity.
“As a scientist and experimenter, when I prove or disprove something, I am guided by some existing theory, by the knowledge that I already have. My consciousness, like that of any person, cannot be a white sheet. So, we are in a kind of a trap. On the one hand, any theory can be fairly proved or disproved, on the other hand, we can be wrong, relying on the subjectivity of our consciousness”, says Irina Schreiber.
Roger Penrose believed that it is not consciousness that can influence quantum mechanics but it is quantum mechanics that is involved in the human consciousness as its part.
In his opinion, the human brain contains special protein microtubules that can be interpreted as quantum objects. In this case, the ability of a person to maintain different, seemingly incompatible, psychological states can be not a peculiar feature of perception but a real quantum effect.
There are many versions of the existence and non-existence of quantum consciousness. The topic is open for discussion and research, which makes it even more interesting.
In one of his books, Roger Penrose wrote: “If the laws of physics could break down at the beginning of the universe, why couldn’t they break down anywhere? In quantum theory, it is a principle that anything can happen if it is not absolutely forbidden”.
“Quantum theory is very difficult to understand because it describes a world, in which a particle can be in several places at once and move from one place to another. At the same time, it is very useful. Understanding the behaviour of the tiniest elements of the universe strengthens our understanding of everything else. The world is much more complex and diverse than it may seem”, believes Irina Schreiber.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov