Book Excerpt
Quantum Enigma : Physics Encounters Consciousness
by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner

We have reviewed this book.
Link to our book review.

There are additional excerpts
on our book review page.

An excerpt from Quantum Enigma : Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner, published 2006 by Oxford University Press.
Book excerpt reprinted with the permission of the publisher.
Copyright © 2006 Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner

PLEASE CLICK HERE for BOOK PRICE and SHIPPING INFORMATION

BOOK EXCERPT

Presenting the Enigma

Though what you're saying is correct, presenting this material to nonscientists is the intellectual equivalent of allowing children to play with loaded guns.

-- A colleague's objection to our physics course, "The Quantum Enigma"

This is a controversial book. But nothing we say about quantum mechanics is controversial. The experimental results we report and our explanation of them with quantum theory are completely undisputed. It is the mystery these results imply beyond physics that is hotly disputed. For many physicists, this mystery, the quantum enigma, is best not talked about. It displays physics' encounter with consciousness. It's the skeleton in our closet.

One concern of physicists is that some people, seeing the solid science of physics linked with the mystery of the conscious mind, might become susceptible to all sorts of nonsense. We are sensitive to that problem and try to address it. Physicists can also be extremely uncomfortable with their discipline being involved with something so "unphysical."

Quantum theory is the most stunningly successful theory in all of science. Not a single one of its predictions has ever been wrong. Quantum mechanics has revolutionized our world. One-third of our economy depends on products based on it. However, this physics can look like mysticism. Quantum experiments display an enigma that challenges our classical worldview.

The worldview demanded by quantum theory is, to borrow the words of J. B. S. Haldane, not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. Most of us share commonsense intuitions that deny the implications of quantum theory. For example, is it not just common sense that one object cannot be in two distant places at once? And, surely, what happens here is not affected by what happens at the same time someplace very far away. And does it not go without saying that there is a real world "out there," whether or not we look at it? Quantum mechanics challenges each of these intuitions by having (conscious) observation actually create the physical reality observed.

This idea is so hard to accept that some soften it by saying that observation appears to create the observed reality. Most physicists exploring the foundations of quantum mechanics today decline to sidestep the enigma with semantics and rather face up to what Nature seems to be telling us -- though usually admitting that they don't fully understand it. After you see the archetypal quantum experiment you will be able to decide for yourself the extent to which the creation of reality by observation is just "apparent."

Since quantum theory works perfectly, for all practical purposes physicists can ignore -- even deny -- any mystery. But by doing so, we leave the aspects of the theory that most intrigue nonphysicists to misleading presentations such as, to take just a single example, the movie What the Bleep? The real quantum enigma is not only more fascinating than the "philosophies" such treatments espouse, it is more bizarre. Understanding the true mystery requires a bit more mental effort, but it's well within the grasp of an intelligent nontechnical person.

The enigma we discuss is not just a way of looking at things, nor is it a new -- or ancient -- philosophical perspective. We describe straightforward physical phenomena that can be convincingly displayed to anyone. But with such demonstrations, we face an enigma that defies solution within our conventional worldview.

Though the quantum enigma has confronted physics for eight decades, it remains unresolved. It may well be that the particular expertise and talents of physicists do not uniquely qualify us for its comprehension. We physicists might therefore approach the problem with modesty -- though we find that hard.

At the boundary where solid physics peters out, interpreting what's going on is controversial among physicists who think about it seriously. That physics has encountered consciousness cannot be denied. The continuing discussion by physicists of the connection of consciousness with quantum mechanics displays that encounter. Most interpretations of quantum theory show how the encounter with consciousness need not become a relationship. However, no interpretation evades it.

Here is how physics Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner once put it:

When the province of physical theory was extended to encompass microscopic phenomena through the creation of quantum mechanics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore again. It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.

Quantum Enigma : Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner,
PLEASE CLICK HERE for BOOK PRICE and SHIPPING INFORMATION

BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER

The most successful theory in all of science -- and the basis of one-third of our economy -- says the strangest things about the world and about us. Can you believe that physical reality is created by our observation of it? Physicists were forced to this conclusion, the quantum enigma, by what they observed in their laboratories.

Trying to understand the atom, physicists built quantum mechanics and found, to their embarrassment, that their theory intimately connects consciousness with the physical world. Quantum Enigma explores what that implies and why some founders of the theory became the foremost objectors to it. Schr”dinger showed that it "absurdly" allowed a cat to be in a "superposition" simultaneously dead and alive. Einstein derided the theory's "spooky interactions." With Bell's Theorem, we now know Schr”dinger's superpositions and Einstein's spooky interactions indeed exist.

Authors Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner explain all of this in nontechnical terms with help from some fanciful stories and bits about the theory's developers. They present the quantum mystery honestly, with an emphasis on what is and what is not speculation.

Physics' encounter with consciousness is its skeleton in the closet. Because the authors open the closet and examine the skeleton, theirs is a controversial book. Quantum Enigma's description of the experimental quantum facts, and the quantum theory explaining them, is undisputed. Interpreting what it all means, however, is controversial.

Every interpretation of quantum physics encounters consciousness. Rosenblum and Kuttner therefore turn to exploring consciousness itself -- and encounter quantum physics. Free will and anthropic principles become crucial issues, and the connection of consciousness with the cosmos suggested by some leading quantum cosmologists is mind-blowing.

Readers are brought to a boundary where the particular expertise of physicists is no longer a sure guide. They will find, instead, the facts and hints provided by quantum mechanics and the ability to speculate for themselves.

Quantum Enigma : Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner,
PLEASE CLICK HERE for BOOK PRICE and SHIPPING INFORMATION

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Bruce Rosenblum is Professor of Physics and former Chairperson of the Physics Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has also consulted extensively for government and industry on technical and policy issues. His research has moved from molecular physics to condensed matter physics and, after a foray into biophysics, has focused on fundamental issues in quantum mechanics.

After a career in industry that included two technology startups, and following a second career in academic administration, Fred Kuttner now devotes most of his time to teaching physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research interests have centered on the low-temperature properties of solids and the thermal properties of magnets. For the last several years, Kuttner has worked on the foundations of quantum mechanics and the implications of the quantum theory.

Quantum Enigma : Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner,
PLEASE CLICK HERE for BOOK PRICE and SHIPPING INFORMATION

BOOK REVIEWS

"A remarkable and readable presentation of the basic mysteries of science, our universe, and human life. Critically important problems in our understanding are interestingly discussed with perception, depth, and careful objectivity."

-- Charles Townes, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, inventor of the laser, and Templeton Prize recipient

"Employing the simplest, correct demonstration of the Great Quantum Dilemma that I have ever seen, Rosenblum and Kuttner starkly expose the hidden skeleton in the physicist's closet."

-- Nick Herbert, author of Quantum Reality

"This book is unique. I know of no other which so artfully tackles two of the greatest mysteries of modern science, quantum mechanics and consciousness. It has long been suspected that these mysteries are somehow related. The authors' treatment of this thorny and controversial. issue is honest, wide-ranging and immensely readable. The book contains some of the clearest expositions I have ever seen of the strange and paradoxical nature of the quantum world. Quantum Enigma is a pleasure to read, and I am sure it is destined to become a classic."

-- George Greenstein, Professor of Astronomy, Amherst College, Coauthor of The Quantum Challenge: Modern Research on the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics

"The boundary of existence that modern physics finds itself butting against is consciousness. The cautious, sober approach of Quantum Enigma makes its astonishing conclusions all the more credible. This is an immensely important and exciting book."

-- Raymond Chester Russ, Editor, Journal of Mind and Behavior

Quantum Enigma : Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner,
PLEASE CLICK HERE for BOOK PRICE and SHIPPING INFORMATION

We have reviewed this book.
Link to our book review.

There are additional excerpts
on our book review page.