Entanglement: A new definition of consciousness?

Quantum Entanglement may be the key to finally defining consciousness. My original intention was to explore this topic briefly as Science in ten minutes. But as I started explaining it, I realized that there is a lot more that needs to be fit in to explain the process. Rather, it is not a process, but part of reality itself. Albert Einstein once said, “The greatest illusion in this world is the illusion of space”. This line inspired me to write about this topic. Quantum Entanglement is a complex idea, but the base of the thought is very simple. It refers to the idea that two particles will be in an identical state, no matter how far apart they are in space. So by analogy, if two dancers are quantum entangled and if one of them is lifting up their left leg on the Earth, then the other will be doing the same thing at the edge of the universe without any prior or real-time communication. This is the idea of Quantum Entanglement, but of course, it happens at subatomic scales. This idea was discussed by Albert Einstein in 1935.

But why am I am talking about it today? This is because a new theory relating consciousness and quantum entanglement has emerged. I have already written about understanding consciousness as a separate entity in an older article – Can we reach the unifying force of nature?. In this, I have discussed how we can understand consciousness. It is one of the biggest mysteries for humanity to solve. Is a beating heart or a working mind the only criteria for life? It is possible to revive people if their heart stops by doing chest compressions or using the defibrillator. And just two years back, research work has been published in the Nature journal showing the possibility of reviving a pig brain after its cells have died, opening the possibility of replicating this to a human brain. So, this made me question wonder if consciousness is a separate entity in itself.

But now, the new theory says that a lot of the brain’s enormous power comes from quantum processes in the brain, which would also include consciousness. Essentially this goes slightly away from the idea of considering consciousness as a unique entity in itself. However, since everything is controlled by the brain in life, we can try to flow with this theory and see where it would lead. The human brain is an extremely complex organ that can perform tasks that even the most powerful supercomputers are not capable of doing. Our brains not only use neurons but also the connections between them to interpret and process information. And among a lot of questions still persisting about the functioning of our brains, one huge question mark for neuroscientists is consciousness.

Quantum entanglement

Before getting into consciousness, understanding quantum entanglement is important. Don’t turn your eyes away yet. It is not difficult even for non-scientists if explained correctly, which is what I will try to do today. It is essentially what I said in the beginning – two particles that are entangled with each other in a way that they mimic each other’s actions however far apart they may be without any communication. A common misconception is that it defies relativity, which is not true. It is not “communicating” faster than the speed of light. They can be thought of as two parts of the same thing, which is why they behave exactly the same. Another aspect of Quantum Entanglement is the viewpoint. In order to understand this, let’s say there are two balls that are both half-red and half-yellow. I place the two balls in two different apartments on the table such that you see the red side of the ball as soon as you enter the room. However, if you walked around the table and I stayed in the same place, we would see two different colors. However, we know the ball is essentially the same; only the viewpoint is different.

It is a similar situation with particles as well. They are exactly the same particles but the only reason you see different things is that the viewpoint is different. And entanglement can happen with two, ten, hundred, million, billion, or any number of particles.

Hence, the crux of the matter is that quantum entangled particles behave as one unified entity without communication, irrespective of the distance between them. Or as Einstein said, “spooky action at a distance”. But, there is nothing spooky about it though.

Are the Universe and my brain the same?

Coming back to the application of this idea, we have not only observed but experimentally proven this phenomenon. It is observable almost everywhere in the universe from the microscopic to the macroscopic world. The electron shells in multi-electron atoms consist of entangled electrons. At the same time, quantum entanglement is an integral part of photosynthesis. In fact, the Nobel Prize in Physics 2022 was awarded to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger for experiments with entangled photons. So, this field is well-established and the phenomenon is proven to exist. The new question is whether this phenomenon occurs in the brain as well.

In principle, there is no reason why it should not occur. After all, the brain is a big, squishy bag of molecules running on electrical impulses. But how can we measure something for which we don’t have tools yet? So, in this new research, scientists have gone for indirect measurement instead. They used the MRI scan along with the heartbeat of a person to understand how the two interact. In very simple and crude terms, they found that when the heart beats once, it releases a signal called HEP. Quite simultaneously, the brain produced a spike in the signal due to proton interaction (NMR). But when the person fell asleep, this signal died down. Hence, according to them, our brain’s power to perform complex conscious functions in the brain comes from quantum processes in the brain.

In this scenario, our heart and brain are two different organs, but behave like one entity to keep us conscious.

This finding appears to be an application of consciousness that switches our bodies between the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious states depending on the situation. There appears to be something else in the picture which unifies the different energy states of the body. Doesn’t this idea ring a bell? Remember when we talked about the unification of forces of nature? Can we consider entanglement as another aspect of unification? Looks like we can! The microscopic world of electrons, protons, and other small particles and the macroscopic world of planets, stars, galaxies, etc. held together by gravity are two different realms of the same physics. When we unify these two realms, we get quantum gravity. And we can apply the same methods to understand quantum processes in our brain, which is exactly what helped researchers obtain these results about consciousness.

As per these results, we are definitely closer to understanding how our brain manages consciousness. Although we are still far from understanding consciousness itself. Our answer may lie in the unification of the universe because our consciousness may be one manifestation of the omnipresent and endless, living, breathing organic system called the universe. But the quantification of this consciousness is still not possible via our existing methods of measurement. Point to ponder?

Be Priya-fied!


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