Quantum Enigma
Posted: 23 December 2006 05:17 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Have you read 'Quantum Enigma' by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner?
A few months ago I was finally persuaded to watch the movie 'What the bleep do we know?' in order to, as one person put it, be part of the conversation.
Well, I could only watch about 30 minutes before I was so disgusted I sent the dvd back to netflix. And yet I couldn't send it away mentally quite so easily. It bothered me, and it bothered me even more after I saw how many enthusiastic customer reviews it got on amazon.
My 'ideology memes' continued to tear out their hair, so I went on google, and when I found this 'quantum enigma' web site, everyone was able to settle down and let me focus.
Beautiful! The authors' background was reassuring, and the tie-in with the movie 'What the bleep' satisfying. I ordered the book.
The book raises questions which affect people like me, who can't do the math. Questions of worldview, questions of consciousness.
Here's a quote from the web site that I like very much:
"Physics has revealed a profound mystery involving the essence of our humanity, our consciousness. This contradicts the mechanistic worldview that many people incorrectly think science requires. Just what the new worldview means is not clear, but it opens questions I'd consider spiritual." —Bruce Rosenblum.

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Posted: 23 December 2006 05:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Pat, for what it’s worth, I too was of two “minds” on the What the Bleep movie. It beautifully explained certain cognitive facts (such as perceived reality formation), but unfortunately injects all kinds of magical explanations as well. It’s a start, at least.

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Posted: 28 December 2006 01:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“Pat_Adducci”]Have you read ‘Quantum Enigma’ by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner?
A few months ago I was finally persuaded to watch the movie ‘What the bleep do we know?’ in order to, as one person put it, be part of the conversation.
Well, I could only watch about 30 minutes before I was so disgusted I sent the dvd back to netflix

Saw the movie; had similar ambivalent response.  But I hadn’t flashed on the fact that it was based on a book (duh!) until your post.  It’s not in our local library, so I just ordered it from Barnes and Noble.  :idea:

As someone with an poor math and physics backround who is familiar with the philosphy of consciousness but not the science, I need to bone up on modern physics from a source that both has legitimacy from a science standpoint, but can make it accessible to people who are right-brianed and math challenged.

I have heard criticism of other such attempts (like the Tao of Physics).  I hope this one will nail it.

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Posted: 28 December 2006 04:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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The following review is from a website operated by the authors’ home institution:

http://currents.ucsc.edu/06-07/07-31/enigma.asp

From the review:

When Kuttner and Rosenblum proposed a course for nonmajors on the quantum enigma, one colleague told them that “presenting this stuff to nonscientists is the intellectual equivalent of allowing children to play with loaded guns.” They said they’d teach gun safety, and it’s now the most popular course in the department, Rosenblum said.

Based on what the authors say about their own work, it looks like just the thing to dispel the fog created by “What the bleep”. More:

“Physicists can use quantum mechanics and calculate with it beautifully, but nobody understands it,” said Kuttner, now a lecturer in physics at UCSC.

Authors such as Dawkins suggest that the reason why the implications of the theory result in an enigma is because our brains evolved to deal with phenomena far from the quantum scale. Science is not able to give you all the answers, nor does it purport ever to do so. That said, the answers you do get (the kind that can be used in engineering) are of quite high quality.

OTOH, attempting to “understand what it all means” is a task the human mind has set for itself, but like many dreams, the idea does not depend on any sort of positive results for its persistence. In point of fact, religion depends on the feeling of having figured out “what it all means”.

Contemplating an enigma without trying to “figure it all out” may be the essence of mysticism as I understand it.

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Posted: 28 December 2006 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I want to make it clear that my reaction to the movie ‘What the Bleep do we know?’ was not ambivalent in the least.
It made me physically ill the way they mixed some well accepted aspects of quantum physics with absolute, and it seemed to me intentional, confusion. The filming was very much like tv commercials with their quick cuts and flashes of ‘significance’. The whole point of the movie was ‘you don’t know, but WE know because of Ramtha’ but they were too clever to state that directly.
Reading the book ‘Quantum Enigma’ left me cheerfully puzzled. I’m comfortable with that. False ‘knowledge’ is horrifying.

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Posted: 18 June 2007 06:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Just watched What the Bleep and The Secret over the weekend.

There was great information in both and I thought a positive message, but I to found it disturbing how intelligent people latch onto a few threads and weave a tapestry.

I think it is safe to say that Quantum Physics is very bleeding edge, and perhaps we understand it less well than Benjamin Franklin understood electricity.

The idea that our thoughts project and create or alter reality of their own accord is a long leap to make. (The Law of Attraction, taught in The Secret).

I believe instead that our conscious decisions are affected by our subconcious desires, and by choosing and acting in an appropriate manner, we can bring about those desires in many cases (be they positive or negative).

So the success principals taught by these gurus are helpful, but to a lesser extent than they claim. Because I’ve been projecting how badly I want to date a supermodel for months now, and she hasn’t shown up yet
:(

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Posted: 18 June 2007 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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I’ve often thought of science and spirituality in terms of cars - science explains processes such as internal combustion and principles such as torque, while spirituality explains the experience of driving, the feeling of oneness the driver might experience with the car and the road.

I recognize that my metaphor might be horribly simplistic. I simply don’t have a workable definition of spirituality that doesn’t involve some sort of theism. Salt Creek made the point that science is not able to give us all the answers, nor does it purport ever to do so. So why do creationists and other theists assume that science is trying to supplant religion? Maybe they’re too wedded to the idea of supernaturalism. I believe Dawkins rightly criticized Gould’s NOMA idea as not recognizing that theistic doctrines have not stayed on their side of the fence.

When Bruce Rosenblum says that “the new worldview…opens questions I’d consider spiritual,” what questions is he talking about?

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Posted: 21 June 2007 07:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“Carstonio”]I’ve often thought of science and spirituality in terms of cars - science explains processes such as internal combustion and principles such as torque, while spirituality explains the experience of driving, the feeling of oneness the driver might experience with the car and the road.
.......

When Bruce Rosenblum says that “the new worldview…opens questions I’d consider spiritual,” what questions is he talking about?

I believe Rosenblum is talking about the same thing you are talking about in your example of driving.
‘Quantum Enigma’ is all about consciousness and choice.
This book yanked me out of my mechanistic view of cause and effect, and my old assumption that any choice I make is purely based on past chains of cause and effect.

You mentioned ‘the feeling of oneness’ - many people would say that particular feeling is based on the fact that consciousness is the basis of all existence…not just your experience of driving the car, not just the fact that the car was put together by conscious humans, but the very interplay of matter and energy which produces the actual car and the road and the gasoline and your body.

I myself would not say this about ‘consciousness’ because I think ‘consciousness’ is limited to the activity of the nervous system. But I would say there is Beingness behind the interplay of matter and energy and all my experience.
It’s spiritual for two reasons. First,  it’s not material, in the way that matter and energy and force fields and so on are material. Second, we can experience it on a personal level. It’s that personal level of connection which causes me to put a capital letter on Beingness, and anyway I usually just call it God. 

Rosenblum and Kuttner don’t say exactly what they mean by ‘spiritual’, but they do say they believe that science will take us into the realms of understanding the immaterial. They don’t see anything at all ‘supernatural’ in the idea of the immaterial.

I like the way Paul Davies (author of, most recently, ‘Cosmic Jackpot’) points out how odd it is that physicists can assume ‘laws’ without wondering how, why or where those ‘laws’ came into existence.

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Posted: 21 June 2007 09:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]The following review is from a website operated by the authors’ home institution:

http://currents.ucsc.edu/06-07/07-31/enigma.asp

From the review:

When Kuttner and Rosenblum proposed a course for nonmajors on the quantum enigma, one colleague told them that “presenting this stuff to nonscientists is the intellectual equivalent of allowing children to play with loaded guns.” They said they’d teach gun safety, and it’s now the most popular course in the department, Rosenblum said.

Based on what the authors say about their own work, it looks like just the thing to dispel the fog created by “What the bleep”. More:

“Physicists can use quantum mechanics and calculate with it beautifully, but nobody understands it,” said Kuttner, now a lecturer in physics at UCSC.

Authors such as Dawkins suggest that the reason why the implications of the theory result in an enigma is because our brains evolved to deal with phenomena far from the quantum scale. Science is not able to give you all the answers, nor does it purport ever to do so. That said, the answers you do get (the kind that can be used in engineering) are of quite high quality.

OTOH, attempting to “understand what it all means” is a task the human mind has set for itself, but like many dreams, the idea does not depend on any sort of positive results for its persistence. In point of fact, religion depends on the feeling of having figured out “what it all means”.

Contemplating an enigma without trying to “figure it all out” may be the essence of mysticism as I understand it.

I saw What the Bleep… quite a while ago, was ambivalent about it as well.  In particular, was turned off by the woowoo approach to quantum mechanics, but found some of the other parts informative.

That statement about nobody understanding quantum mechanics has been around for so long that it has probably been falsified a number of times.  What is problematic is trying to fit what quantum mechanics tells us into our standard mental frameworks on how the world is.  Don’t fit.  A much better book is Roland Omnes, Quantum Philosophy.  He keeps the math confined to only one section of the book so it is an easy read for non-experts (although a bit of philosophical background is helpful).

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Posted: 07 February 2008 11:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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burt - 21 June 2007 01:07 PM

[quote author=“Salt Creek”]I saw What the Bleep…

A much better book is Roland Omnes, Quantum Philosophy.  ...

Saw the movie, loved the book. Actually, I liked the movie because it made quantum physics seems intriguing and gave viewers lots to get warmed up about. Who cares about the mad spiritualism so long as everyone’s talking about it?

The Omnès book was fairly conventional, tho I like the consistent histories approach and am convinced this is the right way to go, at least when complemented with an Everett-Deutsch story of branching paths and emergent classicism.

I am convinced that quantum theory has the potential to revolutionize psychology and one day put it on a firm scientific foundation. Psychology today is a mixture of empirical “tinkering” (as Ramachandran puts it) and folk ideas about the self and feelings and so on.

My prophecy: psychology and physics will merge in psy-phy ...

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Posted: 07 February 2008 06:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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You guys know the online maxim that the first person to use Hitler in an argument automatically looses? I think it should be amended to include quantum mechanics.

See, as far as I can tell, very few people outside of a physics lab have an understanding of just what quantum physics is all about. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to stop people from making all sorts of outrageous claims about just what quantum physics proves.

Thing is, near as I can tell, quantum mechanics is a tool. It’s a mathematical construct which allows scientist to make seemingly accurate predictions as to the actions of matter at the atomic level. The reason it was created was because Newtonian/Einstinean physics don’t scale down to the atomic level. But quantum physics doesn’t scale up. What this means is that we have two mutually exclusive methods of making mathematical predictions in physics. Like a screwdriver and a wrench, they perform similar actions in totally different ways.

But, still, they are just tools. This can be seen by comparing them with string theory. String theory seems to bridge the gap between Newtonian/Einstinean physics and quantum physics. It seems capable of producing mathematically based predictions in both scales. As such, it would seem to be a useful tool.

However, many scientist are skeptical about string theory, and it’s not hard to understand why. To accept string theory means accepting all sorts of un-testable claims. Multiple dimensions, time travel, cyclical “big bang” creations, etc and other things that are mathematically provable, but lack hard evidence.

But is not quantum mechanics the same kettle of fish? Is it not just a man-made tool by which we can begin to understand things that we didn’t before, but one that is only useful in the context for which it was created? When people claim that quantum physics proves ESP, universal harmonics, homeopathy, or any number of jive mumbo jumbo, isn’t it like claiming that a slide rule proves black holes? Frankly, unless these guys have done the math that shows just how quantum actions can cause noticeable effects on the Newtonian level, then, like Ace Ventura, they are just talking out of their ass.

I would like to plead with people to remember that citing quantum physics doesn’t automatically win an argument. And unless you are willing to “show your work” on the equations, citing it doesn’t prove woo-woo notions either.

Anyone who wishes to learn more about quantum physics and the paranormal can access the link in my other thread,  “Quantum Consciousness, Quantum Miracles, Quantum Failure” right here in the “New Age” forum. It seems to address many of the issues that you are bringing up here. (And yet, no one has commented on it! What’s the matter, guys? Your fancy computers and high-speed connections can’t handle a simple PDF file? Geeze, man, download Adobe Acrobat reader, will ya! It’s free, Rockafeller!)

Finally, I just want to know why anyone would want to seriously discuss anything that contains “insights” from the performance artist JZ Knight? You’d get better insights from Yoda than you would from her character “Ramtha.”

Besides, Yoda’s more realistic.

[ Edited: 08 February 2008 03:39 PM by Celsus]
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Posted: 08 February 2008 09:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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I’m sure many long time members might have looked at the above as ol’ Celsus off on another rant, but check this out from http://www.badscience.net :

Ben Goldacre
Thursday May 19, 2005
The Guardian

Talk about bad science

Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I here? I want answers. Because with answers like these up my sleeve, I’d have solace and a bigger house. And what more could a boy wish for? But science is the last place I’d look.

So, this boring film, What the Bleep do we Know!? plays the new-age trick of mixing up quantum physics with the meaning of life, consciousness and healing. It includes the notion that saying nice things to water can alter its molecular structure. And they’re not the first.

Scientists routinely barge in on weird stuff, such as consciousness and quantum phenomena, and usually at the end of a career, once they’ve got your attention. If you ask me, it’s slightly grotesque.

Roger Penrose: brilliant maths, name made, Oxford, set up for life, then suddenly, big heave, out pops the book on quantum consciousness. Francis Crick, genius boy, discovers DNA, suddenly it’s 30 years later and he’s knocking out books on consciousness too.

Penrose and Hameroff’s hypothesis that microtubules might have something in them that precipitates a wave function collapse, and that this might have something to do with consciousness, is OK. It’s a nice idea. It smacks of the minimisation of mystery, the idea that quantum is weird, consciousness is weird, and we can’t have too much weird stuff going on in the universe so we’d better collapse the two together. It’s an indulgence, although to be fair it’s a fun one.

But compare Darwin and suddenly it all looks a bit trite. No nonsense for that boy. His last manuscript - contain your excitement - was called The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms.

So what’s the difference between Penrose shooting off about quantum consciousness and these cheap new-age quantum truth peddlers? Like all scientists, although he was shooting at the stars and having fun, he still had the decency to label, clearly and separately, what was evidence and what was conjecture.

And more than that, like Darwin, he knew his stuff, which is probably why he didn’t feel the need to go off on one about self-help spirituality.

Read the last chapter of Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman for the real story on the outrageous weirdness of quantum phenomena - the bit where the waves turn into particles is particularly scary - and I defy you to still be worried about your place in the universe.

There are much stranger and more important things going on out there, and it is a lot more interesting than making stuff up.

And check this out this piece from the Cristian Science Monitor:

How quantum physicists ‘review’ the ‘Bleep’ movie
By Peter N. Spotts | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

” What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school…. It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don’t understand it. You see my physics students don’t understand it…. That is because I don’t understand it. Nobody does.”
- Richard Feynman

If quantum physics baffled the late Dr. Feynman, one of its most brilliant explorers, then no one should feel embarrassed for failing to understand the subject.

Particles embracing all possible states until they are forced by an experiment to assume one state, one particle being in two adjacent places simultaneously, the inability to precisely measure a particle’s position and momentum at the same time - these are just a few of the weird manifestations of quantum physics.

The film “What the Bleep Do We Know?!” does a reasonable job of presenting some of these quandaries, researchers say. But they add that the film shows quantum mysteries selectively to shore up metaphysical points. Those points suggest that quantum-derived “possibilities” affect the wider world, that human thought is the ultimate arbiter of physical reality, and that by manipulating thought properly, people can achieve harmony and even shape the structure of matter.

“They take advantage of things we don’t know very well or can’t test very well, then use it in an unfair way,” notes André de Gouvêa, a particle physicist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

The researchers’ bottom line: Quantum physics is about matter at its most fundamental levels and matter’s interactions; it’s not about spirituality.

“Contrary to ordinary beliefs, quantum physics is very predictive,” Dr. de Gouvêa continues. “The theory can’t predict with precision what will happen, but it knows everything that can happen and it will tell you the probability of all these things happening.”

Thus, if a scientist repeats an experiment with subatomic particles often enough, the results will closely match the probabilities quantum theory predicts. This is one reason physicists studying a subatomic particle create large numbers of them in particle accelerators. As the sample size grows, so does the scientist’s confidence in the statistical inferences drawn from the large sample.

Also, the movie suggests that the quantum idea of matter embracing all its possible states at once applies to the larger world of people and rocks. But above a tiny size range, quantum properties collapse, and particles start to behave in the way described by classical physics - more like bowling balls than fuzzy clouds of “wave functions.”

“The movie is saying that somehow we can all get together and, with our collective thought processes, we can influence the outcome” of physical events - be they life experiences or scientific experiments, notes Bruce Schumm, a particle physicist at the University of California at Santa Cruz. “But that’s two leaps beyond what scientists believe to be true.”

First, such claims rely on “hidden variables” susceptible to influence, he says. But quantum mechanics rules out the possibility of hidden variables. Moreover, the movie proposes no plausible physical mechanism by which thoughts influence matter.

To accomplish that, you would have to invoke “new physics,” Dr. Schumm says, in which the explanation can be verified or falsified through experiment. Otherwise, the process falls “outside the realm of physical statements and has entered the realm of spiritual belief.”

[ Edited: 08 February 2008 09:23 PM by Celsus]
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Posted: 15 February 2008 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Thank god for quantum mechanics, otherwise reality would have already won!

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Posted: 21 February 2008 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Celsus - 09 February 2008 02:09 AM

How quantum physicists ‘review’ the ‘Bleep’ movie
By Peter N. Spotts | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Particles embracing all possible states until they are forced by an experiment to assume one state, one particle being in two adjacent places simultaneously, the inability to precisely measure a particle’s position and momentum at the same time - these are just a few of the weird manifestations of quantum physics.

Seems odd, true, but the math is good, so far as I can see, and there are approaches that seem to make decent sense of the situation. For me, the signs that we should not give up hope are summed up in the keywords decoherence, consistent histories, emergent classicism, and quaternionic hidden variables (not to mention my own more metaphysical contribution of symmetry-breaking crystalization in the fluffy top of an ontic ice-cream cone emerging from the epistemotemporal dilation of a primordial strange loop).

The film “What the Bleep Do We Know?!” does a reasonable job of presenting some of these quandaries, researchers say. But they add that the film shows quantum mysteries selectively to shore up metaphysical points. Those points suggest that quantum-derived “possibilities” affect the wider world, that human thought is the ultimate arbiter of physical reality, and that by manipulating thought properly, people can achieve harmony and even shape the structure of matter.

Yes, the movie was tendentious, and the “experts” were not always entirely credible. But quantum possibilities demonstrably do affect the wider world (think of the quantum Zeno effect, or quantum tunneling, or the use of entanglement for encryption and computation). As for human thought, Roger Penrose sketched a fascinating scenario involving wavefunction collapse in the microtubules leading to gravitonic symmetry breaking of the spacetime continuum at the Planck scale. I have criticized the Penrose scenario (see the publications on my website) and proposed a perhaps more biologically plausible variant involving the photonics of dekahertz brainwaves, but I must admit to having attracted no very penetrating feedback. In either of these scenarios, our thoughts, if properly equilibrated, would indeed be capable of nudging reality in certain circumstances.

The researchers’ bottom line: Quantum physics is about matter at its most fundamental levels and matter’s interactions; it’s not about spirituality.

This “bottom line” presupposes a metaphysical dualism of matter and spirit that is strictly untenable at the philosophical level, as much of the debate in the philosophy of mind since Descartes tends to confirm. The modern question is whether the warm, wet environment of the living brain can sustain a sufficient level of quantum coherence to give rise to any observable effects. I think the Penrose scenario survives this issue less well (bearing in mind the critique of Max Tegmark) than my own.

Also, the movie suggests that the quantum idea of matter embracing all its possible states at once applies to the larger world of people and rocks. But above a tiny size range, quantum properties collapse, and particles start to behave in the way described by classical physics - more like bowling balls than fuzzy clouds of “wave functions.”

This is not quite right. Quantum effects have been observed to reach at least up to micro scale, well above the nano scale of atoms or the femto scale of particles. An experiment involving satellite-based interferometers with megameter baselines is planned to test for superpositions at larger scales. More to the point, the behavior of particles remains fuzzy despite the emergence of approximate classicism at larger scales. Classical behavior is only defined at larger scales, rather like temperature, which is undefined for individual particles. The same goes for the “flow” of time, which again is only well defined at larger scales, where indeed relativity makes the emergent classical time dimension strictly equivalent to a spatial dimension. Here there are deep mysteries, and the field is still work in progress.

“The movie is saying that somehow we can all get together and, with our collective thought processes, we can influence the outcome” of physical events - be they life experiences or scientific experiments, notes Bruce Schumm, a particle physicist at the University of California at Santa Cruz. “But that’s two leaps beyond what scientists believe to be true.”

First, such claims rely on “hidden variables” susceptible to influence, he says. But quantum mechanics rules out the possibility of hidden variables. Moreover, the movie proposes no plausible physical mechanism by which thoughts influence matter.

There is a new twist in the hidden variables story. John von Neumann apparently ruled them out, and John Bell proved a theorem showing that hidden variables with real or complex variables would generate statistics that have been ruled out by experiment. But quite recently Joy Christian has proved that entanglement relations are preserved correctly by quaternionic hidden variables obeying a Clifford algebra. Check it out, folks!

As for a plausible physical mechanism, I agree that the Penrose mechanism seems implausible. But the Ross mechanism has not yet been seriously examined ...

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