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Switch to Forum Live View Physics in Mind, A Quantum View of the Brain
4 years ago  ::  Jan 19, 2013 - 12:23PM #1
stardustpilgrim
Posts: 5,664

Physics in Mind, A Quantum View of the Brain by Werner R. Loewenstein, 2013, just out, is a great book. I took a chance on it and pre-ordered from Amazon, it arrived Thursday. Loewenstein was professor of physiology and biophysics at Columbia University. He tells the story of the evolution of our physiology, how life pays the price to compensate for the second law of thermodynamics overcoming increasing entropy, what time has to do with evolution and how the brain and our complete neural system recreates the external world, the primary purpose in early evolution, survival. It's the most interesting read I've come across in years. I'm up to what should promise to be the best part, Chapter Fifteen, Information Transforms in the Cortex and the Genesis of Meaning.

What's new and most interesting here is the role of quantum physics in the transfer of information from the exterior world through the sense of vision, "how the web of our sensory brain generates its virtual images of the world outside". (pg 165) Loewenstein informs us that there are three participants in basic sensory operation: "a protein molecule that picks up the outside information; another protein molecule that translates the information into an electrical signal; and a lipid partner"... (pg 56) The first two are the cognitive (F5 '-) heart of the operation, supply what Loewenstein calls the Maxwellian demon element (after James Clerk Maxwell's intelligent "demon" that overcomes the second law of thermodynamics, always increasing entropy, in his thought experiment that baffled physicists for over a hundred years).

There are receptors for light in the eye which Loewenstein calls a vision demon, the protein rhodopsin, which is tuned to catch photons of a certain wavelength, visible light. Reception of photons cause a change in the protein rhodopsin which causes a torque in the molecule which biochemists call bathorhodopsin. What is new information is that quantum physicist Charles Shank and physical chemist Richard Mathies have shown that these processes are not molecular in nature, but quantum. The motion of the atomic nuclei in bathorhodopsin "behave like coherent quantum waves. ...Quantum mechanics, not classical mechanics, rules the roost at this sensory outpost of the brain". pg 66) "Now coherence, namely quantum-wave coherence, is precisely what is found in photoreceptors". (pg 64)

Loewenstein goes on to say that as the core of the (visual) sensory system belongs to the quantum realm, it obeys the strange rules of quantum logic.

If you're interested in information, how the brain processes information, how the brain and sensory system recreate the exterior world, quantum physics and how the brain uses quantum processes, a must read. Chapter 16: The Conscious Experience, 17: Consciousness and Quantum Information, 18: Molecular Quantum Information, 19: Quantum Information Processing in the Brain. Loewenstein says that the last three chapters contain new discoveries made just as he was finishing the book.

sdp            

Roses always come with thorns. Sometimes, thorns first, sometimes roses first, and, sometimes, thorns outside, roses inside, sometimes roses outside, thorns inside.

Someone who dreams of drinking wine at a cheerful banquet may wake up crying the next morning. Someone who dreams of crying may go off the next morning to enjoy the sport of the hunt. When we are in the midst of a dream, we do not know it's a dream. Sometimes we may even try to interpret our dreams while we are dreaming, but then we awake and realize it was a dream. Only after one is greatly awakened does one realize that it was all a great dream, while the fool thinks that he is awake and presumptuously aware. Chuang Tzu
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4 years ago  ::  Jan 20, 2013 - 10:13AM #2
Faustus5
Posts: 2,064

Looks interesting, obviously. I'm going to wait to see reaction from scientists and philosophers first before I risk spending money on something that could turn out to be another crap-fest by someone making a fetish out of quantum physics.


Amazon has Seth Lloyd and Jared Diamond praising the book in some blurbs. I really like both of those guys, but neither of them has even the slightest expertise in neurology or consciousness. This is not a promising sign.


Also not a promising sign is "how the web of our sensory brain generates its virtual images of the world outside". That's a classic example of the "Cartesian Theater" fallacy in action--the mistake of thinking that consciousness involves the generation of images to be consumed or appreciated by an inner observer. A harmless slip, or a sign that he has taken a leap into a field before mastering some of its difficult nuances?


The rest of the thesis, at least as described by Stardust, seems much ado about nothing. People seem disproportionately excitable any time a process is found to contain elements in the realm of quantum physics. I've always said that it seemed likely and also utterly unimportant that quantum physics is going to rule over some of the things going on in the nervous system. The point is: do such processes have a role  that is somehow more essential to consciousness than those that do not? The answer, so far, always seems "No."

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4 years ago  ::  Jan 20, 2013 - 12:36PM #3
Miguel_de_servet
Posts: 17,177

Jan 20, 2013 -- 10:13AM, Faustus5 wrote:

The point is: do such [quantum] processes have a role  that is somehow more essential to consciousness than those that do not? The answer, so far, always seems "No."


And the authority according to which/whom it would "seem" so is ... ?


MdS

Revelation is above, not against Reason

“The everlasting God is a refuge, and underneath you are his eternal arms ...” (Deut 33:27)
“Do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9)
“By the Lord’s word [dabar] the heavens were made; and by the breath [ruwach] of his mouth all their host.” (Psalm 33:6)
“Forever, O LORD, Your word [dabar] stands in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89)
“Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the arm of the Lord revealed through him?” (Isaiah 53:1)
“Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:38)
“For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13)

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”(Romans 13:8)
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4 years ago  ::  Jan 20, 2013 - 12:41PM #4
stardustpilgrim
Posts: 5,664

I just finished the book, it started to drag a little, but ended strong. Loewenstein has yet to find any place in the brain, other than that mentioned concerning vision, where quantum computation takes place. The problem, also needing to be dealt with by scientists and engineers trying to build a quantum computer, is decoherence. During computing, quantum bits, qubits, have to be isolated from interference because otherwise the superposition ends resulting in decoherence. WL discusses the progress being made building a quantum computer concerning this problem. One way nature has around the problem is speed of computation, getting it done before decoherence takes place.


WL discusses the speculation of Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff that quantum computing takes place in microtubules. He thinks this is not very promising. The problem here is decoherence because of water molecules and likewise inorganic ions, both inside and outside cell walls.


However, WL thinks it is not a coincidence that our brain uses parallel processing, as does quantum computing. An ordinary computer processes information sequentially, does one thing at a time, but does numerous operations very quickly. Our brain does many computations simultaneously (but slowly in comparison to electronic computers). In the last chapter, 19, WL speculates that we will eventually discover how the brain, how evolution, takes advantage of quantum computing. Why? First because of the mentioned quantum use in our sense of vision. Second WL explains what biologists have found about photosynthesis. Two dudes, Graham Fleming and Robert Blakenship, have shown that the transfer of the energy of a photon to chemical energy in plants is a quantum process, "they showed that the initial electron transfer here is by coherent quantum waves. ... In short, the photopigment molecule performs a quantum computation". (pg 268) The key is the speed at which this takes place, before decoherence can occur. WL speculates that if nature can do it twice it can do it again.


He has other reason to speculate that the brain is a quantum computer. As Turing designed computer logic, all classical computers operate from three operations, NOT, COPY, AND gates. In trying to build a quantum computer the scientists and engineers, in the beginning tried to copy how classical computing preforms these operations, which requires a three-bit gate. Trouble is that a three-bit gate is difficult to build because of decoherence, losing superposition. In 1995 Deutch, Baranco and Eckert, and independently Seth Lloyd figured out how to build a two-bit gate that "satisfied the requirements for reversible quantum logic. ... A two-bit quantum gate was something doable". (pg 259) IOW, they knew that they could build a two-bit gate that can do what a classical three-bit gate does. Why is this relevant here? In 1997 Gerschenfeld and Chuang set out "to harness the quantum information inherent in molecules in liquids". (pg 254) In the process they discovered that nuclear-magnetic-resonance spectroscopy (one form being the MRI machine) is essentially a form of quantum computing. They discovered that a simple molecule, dibromothiophene, "has what it takes for quantum logic: two hydrogen nuclei, each with two mutually exclusive magnetic orientations that can encode a quantum bit;" (pg 259)..... "And that is the ticket to the soup". (pg 260) WL says that since Lady Evolution has shown this example, there is plenty to be mined out there by quantum-computer engineers.


There is at least one more thing I will later bring up which WL hinted at earlier, but didn't return to, necessary components of TV's and other electronic equipment, devices that reconstruct the signal, signal correction. That will wait, may or may not now reply to Faustus.


sdp 

Roses always come with thorns. Sometimes, thorns first, sometimes roses first, and, sometimes, thorns outside, roses inside, sometimes roses outside, thorns inside.

Someone who dreams of drinking wine at a cheerful banquet may wake up crying the next morning. Someone who dreams of crying may go off the next morning to enjoy the sport of the hunt. When we are in the midst of a dream, we do not know it's a dream. Sometimes we may even try to interpret our dreams while we are dreaming, but then we awake and realize it was a dream. Only after one is greatly awakened does one realize that it was all a great dream, while the fool thinks that he is awake and presumptuously aware. Chuang Tzu
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4 years ago  ::  Jan 20, 2013 - 1:04PM #5
stardustpilgrim
Posts: 5,664

Jan 20, 2013 -- 10:13AM, Faustus5 wrote:


Looks interesting, obviously. I'm going to wait to see reaction from scientists and philosophers first before I risk spending money on something that could turn out to be another crap-fest by someone making a fetish out of quantum physics.


Amazon has Seth Lloyd and Jared Diamond praising the book in some blurbs. I really like both of those guys, but neither of them has even the slightest expertise in neurology or consciousness. This is not a promising sign.


Also not a promising sign is "how the web of our sensory brain generates its virtual images of the world outside". That's a classic example of the "Cartesian Theater" fallacy in action--the mistake of thinking that consciousness involves the generation of images to be consumed or appreciated by an inner observer. A harmless slip, or a sign that he has taken a leap into a field before mastering some of its difficult nuances?


The rest of the thesis, at least as described by Stardust, seems much ado about nothing. People seem disproportionately excitable any time a process is found to contain elements in the realm of quantum physics. I've always said that it seemed likely and also utterly unimportant that quantum physics is going to rule over some of the things going on in the nervous system. The point is: do such processes have a role  that is somehow more essential to consciousness than those that do not? The answer, so far, always seems "No."




I think maybe my second post answered some of your concerns. One reason the book was so interesting is that it covered so many different areas in the process, and showed why they are relevant. I don't read published papers, I mostly read popular science books. I read Programming the Universe when it came out, for me, this is on a par with that.


I don't understand the conclusion you drew from the "how the web of our sensory brain..." quote. Is the quote not essentially true, in and of itself?


Following up on the second post, I think Loewenstein's point concerning quantum computing is that Seth Lloyd and other developers can take a further look at what "Lady Evolution" has already accomplished in quantum computing, and not try to reinvent the wheel. Thanks for the reply.


sdp   

Roses always come with thorns. Sometimes, thorns first, sometimes roses first, and, sometimes, thorns outside, roses inside, sometimes roses outside, thorns inside.

Someone who dreams of drinking wine at a cheerful banquet may wake up crying the next morning. Someone who dreams of crying may go off the next morning to enjoy the sport of the hunt. When we are in the midst of a dream, we do not know it's a dream. Sometimes we may even try to interpret our dreams while we are dreaming, but then we awake and realize it was a dream. Only after one is greatly awakened does one realize that it was all a great dream, while the fool thinks that he is awake and presumptuously aware. Chuang Tzu
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4 years ago  ::  Jan 20, 2013 - 1:26PM #6
Faustus5
Posts: 2,064

Jan 20, 2013 -- 12:36PM, Miguel_de_servet wrote:


Jan 20, 2013 -- 10:13AM, Faustus5 wrote:

The point is: do such [quantum] processes have a role  that is somehow more essential to consciousness than those that do not? The answer, so far, always seems "No."


And the authority according to which/whom it would "seem" so is ... ?


MdS



I'm knowledgeable enough in this subject that I can be my own authority, but it just so happens that my judgment on this matter is shared by the vast majority of scientists and philosophers who study this sort of stuff. If my position were controversial I wouldn't be so off handed in my remarks.

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4 years ago  ::  Jan 20, 2013 - 1:54PM #7
Faustus5
Posts: 2,064

Jan 20, 2013 -- 1:04PM, stardustpilgrim wrote:

I think maybe my second post answered some of your concerns.


Yes it did. If he is correct, parts of the brain may employ quantum effects, even quantum computing in some sense, for at least some aspects of visual processing if not others we haven't discovered yet.


Even if he is right, it is not the major big deal that people who normally blather on about quantum physics and consciousness are going for. Yes, the brain is kinda sorta like a computer in some respects, and now it looks like some of the "computations" use quantum effects. Ho hum. No mystical consequences like those Hammeroff rants about, nothing essential to consciousness itself, is being offered. Just (I presume so far) good, cutting edge science as normal. But put "quantum" in your book title and people see stars.


Jan 20, 2013 -- 1:04PM, stardustpilgrim wrote:

I read Programming the Universe when it came out, for me, this is on a par with that.


I loved that book! Have read it two or three times.


Jan 20, 2013 -- 1:04PM, stardustpilgrim wrote:

I don't understand the conclusion you drew from the "how the web of our sensory brain..." quote. Is the quote not essentially true, in and of itself?


Nope, it is not true, it is a fallacy. The brain does not "generate virtual images".


Think about it--who is the brain generating the images for? Who's inside watching them? We want to understand, in this case, the biology of visual consciousness. Well, if your model has the brain generating images, it has to be for the benefit of an observer, or there is absolutely no point in spending the energy to do so in the first place. So now we're back to the beginning: now our model has to explain the process of this inner observer appreciating this generated image. We've actually explained and said nothing when we go this route.


Maybe it was just a clumsy metaphor on his part, but clumsy metaphors can lead scientists into making conclusions or declarations that actually aren't justified by the science. Not claiming he has done so since I haven't read the book, but mistakes like that pop out to my eyes rather quickly, because they bedevil work in consciousness studies, even among neurologists.

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4 years ago  ::  Jan 20, 2013 - 2:33PM #8
Miguel_de_servet
Posts: 17,177

Jan 20, 2013 -- 1:26PM, Faustus5 wrote:

Jan 20, 2013 -- 12:36PM, Miguel_de_servet wrote:

Jan 20, 2013 -- 10:13AM, Faustus5 wrote:

The point is: do such [quantum] processes have a role  that is somehow more essential to consciousness than those that do not? The answer, so far, always seems "No."


And the authority according to which/whom it would "seem" so is ... ?


I'm knowledgeable enough in this subject that I can be my own authority, but it just so happens that my judgment on this matter is shared by the vast majority of scientists and philosophers who study this sort of stuff. If my position were controversial I wouldn't be so off handed in my remarks.


Rather self-referencing comment, is it not?


So, rather than pointing out any specific authority other than your own, all you can do is resort to the "consensus".


I suppose that those of the over 8 million Google-hits with "quantum consciousness" that affirm a connection between quantum processes and consciousness are not part of the "consensus" ... Cool


MdS




Revelation is above, not against Reason

“The everlasting God is a refuge, and underneath you are his eternal arms ...” (Deut 33:27)
“Do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9)
“By the Lord’s word [dabar] the heavens were made; and by the breath [ruwach] of his mouth all their host.” (Psalm 33:6)
“Forever, O LORD, Your word [dabar] stands in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89)
“Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the arm of the Lord revealed through him?” (Isaiah 53:1)
“Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:38)
“For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13)

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”(Romans 13:8)
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4 years ago  ::  Jan 20, 2013 - 2:49PM #9
Faustus5
Posts: 2,064

Jan 20, 2013 -- 2:33PM, Miguel_de_servet wrote:

So, rather than pointing out any specific authority other than your own, all you can do is resort to the "consensus".


What am I supposed to do? My library has hundreds of books, hundreds of papers published in the peer reviewed press on the philosophy and biology of the mind, and most of the scholars I read are considered the top dogs in the field. "Quantum consciousness" is not part of the conversation this community is having with one another. Or rather, it is deemed so insignificant that most of them don't even mention it except to dismiss it. It was never a "live" issue except among a tiny, vocal minority who write popular books.


In all the books and papers I have on cognitive neuroscience and consciousness, I think the subject of quantum consciousness is mentioned once or twice in passages no longer than a sentence or two. That is not the mark of an idea that is catching fire, impressing anyone, or making a valuable, significant contribution. (Note that I have books and papers that push the idea as a central thesis, but to measure how seriously it is taken by the field generally, you have to look at how often it is discussed by those who haven't made it an agenda.)


I suppose the over 8 million Google-hits with "quantum consciousness" are not part of the "consensus" ...


MdS


Correct. If you want to find out what the consensus in a field is, you read what the best and brightest scholars in that field are saying to one another--not in books published for consumption by the public, but in books and papers meant to be read by their peers. And while discussions of connections between quantum physics and consciousness are far from absent in those mediums, those discussions have mostly, in the end, been background noise.


Perhaps the thesis of the book Stardust has brought to our attention will change that. In which case, bravo for Dr.  Loewenstein, and good work!

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4 years ago  ::  Jan 20, 2013 - 5:56PM #10
stardustpilgrim
Posts: 5,664

Jan 20, 2013 -- 2:33PM, Miguel_de_servet wrote:


Jan 20, 2013 -- 1:26PM, Faustus5 wrote:

Jan 20, 2013 -- 12:36PM, Miguel_de_servet wrote:

Jan 20, 2013 -- 10:13AM, Faustus5 wrote:

The point is: do such [quantum] processes have a role  that is somehow more essential to consciousness than those that do not? The answer, so far, always seems "No."


And the authority according to which/whom it would "seem" so is ... ?


I'm knowledgeable enough in this subject that I can be my own authority, but it just so happens that my judgment on this matter is shared by the vast majority of scientists and philosophers who study this sort of stuff. If my position were controversial I wouldn't be so off handed in my remarks.


Rather self-referencing comment, is it not?


So, rather than pointing out any specific authority other than your own, all you can do is resort to the "consensus".


I suppose that those of the over 8 million Google-hits with "quantum consciousness" that affirm a connection between quantum processes and consciousness are not part of the "consensus" ... Cool


MdS







We have basically two different issues when quantum consciousness is mentioned. The first, which we have been discussing here, is whether the brain uses quantum processes for creating consciousness. Loewenstein says there is not yet any evidence for this (although as already stated, he believes that "Lady Evolution" figured out ways to take advantage of quantum processes and it may turn out that the brain does use quantum computing in creating consciousness).


The second is the question of whether consciousness plays a role in the quantum process of collapsing the wave function, IOW, turning probability inherent in superposition, into reality. WL mentions this, specifically Eugene Wigner's idea that "the wave function gets entangled with a conscious being, and that this entanglement somehow causes it to collapse". (pg242) This is where most of the nonsense comes from like the movie, What the Bleep Do We Know? It can't be anything but nonsense because the universe got along pretty well before mankind came on the scene. A lot of this speculation comes out of the double-slit experiment and the many variations on it having to do with delayed measurement an such, the strange and non-understood effects that occur. 


WL says that "No human observer is necessary for the wave-function collapse". (pg 246) WL also says that "But as the the question of what mechanism causes the wave to collapse, even today, after seven decades, one can but speak ex cathedra ignorantiae". (pg 241) 


I'm reminded of the great film, A Man for All Seasons, where Thomas More was exceptionally careful about speaking, or not speaking, concerning the legality of the King's divorce or some such business...and also what his wife or daughter might have heard him say about this business.....to keep his head from being cut off. (Turns out it didn't help anyway, they ended up cutting off his head). WL is careful not to say more than we actually know (unlike Henry Stapp and the likes of Fred Alan Wolf).......


sdp  

Roses always come with thorns. Sometimes, thorns first, sometimes roses first, and, sometimes, thorns outside, roses inside, sometimes roses outside, thorns inside.

Someone who dreams of drinking wine at a cheerful banquet may wake up crying the next morning. Someone who dreams of crying may go off the next morning to enjoy the sport of the hunt. When we are in the midst of a dream, we do not know it's a dream. Sometimes we may even try to interpret our dreams while we are dreaming, but then we awake and realize it was a dream. Only after one is greatly awakened does one realize that it was all a great dream, while the fool thinks that he is awake and presumptuously aware. Chuang Tzu
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