Matter & Beauty
What if? Take a moment to allow this question to envelope you. What if? –- Rhetorical possibilities echoed by lovers, poets, and mythologists. It is also a question of the potentialities opening as a result of advances of understanding of the nature of the universe and all physical realities by quantum physics. So profound are its implications that it led physicist Niels Bohr, Nobel Laureate, to exclaim: “Anyone who is not shocked by the quantum theory does not understand it” (p. 146). These shocking potentialities arise from two fundamental findings of experimental research into quantum physics: First, nothing exists until it is observed, that is, observation creates reality; and second, there is a universal connectedness between everything in the universe. The latter caused Albert Einstein to assert “I cannot seriously believe in [quantum theory] because … physics should represent a reality in time and space, free from spooky actions at a distance” (p. 9). And Carl Jung, whose work on synchronicity was influenced by quantum physics, proclaimed “The no man’s land between Physics and the Psychology of the Unconscious [is] the most fascinating yet the darkest hunting ground of our times (emphasis added)” (p. xv).
Quantum physics is perhaps the most shocking discovery of the twentieth century—certainly it is one of the most profound. It deconstructed the classical determinism of Newtonian, or classical physics. It is bizarre, the stuff of science fiction and the product of wishful thinking. And yet as Rosenblum and Kuttner point out, it is not subjective; its reality is objective (p. 34). They further note “Quantum theory has been the subject to challenging tests for eight decades. No prediction by the theory has ever been shown wrong. It is the most battle-tested theory in all science—it has no competitors” (pp.51-2). And yet as Einstein says, it is perhaps the spookiest.
Central to quantum physics are experiments, which have thus far shown that “… the properties of objects in our world have an observation-created reality or that there exists a universal connectedness, or both” (Rosenblum and Kuttner p. 150). Take a moment to reflect on this: reality is created by observation and/or all things in the universe are connected. The implications are profound.
Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku has elaborated on observation-created reality: “Quantum theory … tells us that observing an object causes it to be there. … according to quantum theory, an object can be in two, or many, places at once—even far distant places. Its existence at the particular place where it happens to be found becomes an actuality only upon its observation” (p. 12). As I understand it, this is not quite accurate: actual objects don’t exist in multiple locations, it is their probabilities of being located that exist simultaneously. This is explained by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which states, “… one cannot measure both an objects position and its momentum precisely and simultaneously” (Walker p. 92). And this in turn is related to something called Schroedinger’s equation.
Schroedinger’s equation is demonstrated by a famous analogy in physics called “Schroedinger’s cat.” According to this story, a cat exists in two, simultaneous potential states—one dead and one alive, each with a corresponding box. The cat will appear either wholly alive or wholly dead, contingent upon the box one opens for observation. This is because objects, such as the cat, are not comprised of particles. Objects are particle-waves. Walters describes experiments with light, which show light to be both particle and wave (43). And Kaku has reminded us “All energy occurs in discrete packets called quanta” (p. 153). Remember too that energy and matter are equivalent according to Einstein; E=MC2. This means all matter also occurs in these discrete packets. Walker lightheartedly asks, “If light waves of energy behave like particles (discrete packets of quanta) is it possible that ordinary particles of matter behave like waves of energy? Does it make any sense to speak of, say, a football wave” (p. 45). Kaku has provided us the answer: “Matter is represented by point particles, but the probability of finding the particle is given by a wave” (53). Schroedinger’s cat(s) are equally energy and matter. They are comprised of discrete point particles which “behave like waves of energy.” To this, physicist Max Born has added, “…matter waves are actually waves of probability” (Walker 57).
But wait, there’s more. Not only is the object created by observation, but also so is its past. As Kaku has noted, “Your observation not only creates a current reality, it also creates the history appropriate to that reality” (p. 119). Just imagine. An action occurring within the present (an observation) creates actions which occurred in the past that are relevant to the present. Kaku continued: “Quantum theory is saying that our later choice of observation creates (the object’s) … earlier history—we produce something backward in time” (p. 123). In terms of the poor, dead cat Kaku stated “… finding the cat deal would create a history of its developing rigor mortis; finding it alive would create a history of its developing hunger – backward in time” (13). At this juncture it is important to recall that quantum theory is the most rigorously tested theory in all science. Its predictions have never been proven wrong.
This observer created history, which produces “something backward in time” has profound “what if” implications. What if, for example, it was possible to erase one’s history, or parts of it, and recreate it anew. Talk about human engineering. James Hillman has written of therapy as healing the fiction of one’s story. What if it were possible to create a new story altogether. What if it were possible to make different observations in the past, which would create different material events each with their own histories appropriate to them, by observations made in the present. And would those changes alter the present observations? Talk about epic adventures! What if the Odyssey were reframed along these lines so that Penelope’s weaving/undoing/reweaving was really changes produced by her observations. Or what if Ahab had a different observation, creating Moby Dick in a different location/state—old and dying perhaps. The possibilities are endless.
And now it gets spookier. Everything is made of quantum particles, or as has been demonstrated, wave-particles. Quantum physics applies to everything. Theoretically, there can be no distinction between the micro and the macro. What applies to the most microscopic applies equally to the largest telescopic. Kaku pointed out that it is only technological limitation that prevents the demonstration of this principle (p. 15). What applies to Schroedinger’s cat applies equally to the universe. This means that the universe, and all that exists within it, were created by an act of observation. If we are the observed, what and from whence comes the observer? Think for a moment what this implies about the objective psyche and its contents: they are not the most fundamental patterns, but are the product of something even more fundamental. They too, were created by observation, as was the collective unconscious. And there may well be something well beyond it.
This notion of an observer created universe leads to the idea of multiple universes. According to Kaku, this is a likely reality. He argued: “…the ideal of parallel universes is forced upon us. Inflation (the expansion of the universe) represents the merger of traditional cosmology with advances in particle physics. Being a quantum theory, particle physics states that there is a finite probability for unlikely events to occur, such as the creation of parallel universes (emphasis added)” (93). Recalling the ant of T. H. White’s Once and Future King declaration that what is not forbidden is compulsory, Kaku stated that according to the uncertainty principle “Unless something is forbidden, quantum effects and fluctuations will eventually make it possible if we wait long enough. Thus unless there is a law forbidding it, it will eventually occur” (p. 136).
Kaku then suggested a profound notion: “Imagine the stage of life consisting of multistory stages, one on top of the next. On each stage the actors read their lines and wander around the set, thinking that their stage is the only one, oblivious of the possibilities of alternate realities. However, if one day they accidentally fall into a trapdoor, they find themselves thrust into an entirely new stage, with new laws, new rules, and a new reality” (p. 112). What if it was possible to travel between universes? Imagine Odysseus’s journey if this was possible. In which universe would Ahab search for Moby Dick? “The friendly skies” takes on a whole new meaning. Will there be connecting flights of reality?
As it turns out, inter-universe travel is theoretically possible via a process termed “tunneling.” Tunneling, explained Kaku, is the process by which a particle penetrates a barrier (p.54). He continued: “Today this idea of tunneling is central to all of physics and is used to explain the properties of electronic devices, black holes, and the big bang. The universe ‘itself might have been created via tunneling’” (p. 54). And lastly, he wrote: “In Einstein’s theory, we have the possible existence of multiple universes, and in quantum theory, we have the possible means of tunneling between them” (p. 107). And this from the most tested theory of science. Will inter-universe travel by tunneling eventually occur as predicted by the absence of it being forbidden? If its possible to travel one direction, it should also be possible to travel the other. Is simultaneous, multi-directional travel possible via multiple tunnels so that one could go to multiple universes at the same time? Can one exist in multiple superposition states in different universes? Do the same or similar laws of physics apply?
And this leads us to the final notion of quantum theory I wish to discuss: inseparability. Classical physics posited that there is not a connection between material objects except through the interaction of an intermediary—they were viewed as separable. (Rosenblum and Kuttner p. 35). Physicist John Bell tested this theory to see if it would be upheld by quantum theory (Rosenblum and Kuttner p. 143). He found “… the most profound discovery in science in the last half of the twentieth century. … There is a universal connectedness… Any objects that have ever interacted continue to instantaneously influence eath other. Events at the edge of the galaxy influence what happens at the edge of your garden” (Rosenblum and Kuttner p. 139). The term for this inseparability is quantum entanglement.
Wikipedia defined quantum entanglement as “… a … property of a quantum mechanical state of a system of two or more objects in which the quantum states of the constituting objects are linked together so that one object can no longer be adequately described without full mention of its counterpart – even though the individual objects may be spatially separated.” Physicist Brian Clegg added: “Even if these entangled particles are then separated to opposite sides of the universe, they retain this strange connection. Make a change to one particle and that change is instantly reflected in the other(s) – however far apart they may be” (p. 2). And this happens without the intermediary action of a third object. Further, physicists at the University of Vienna have shown “… that moments of time can become entangled too” (Brooks p. 2). Not only is there a universal connection between one edge of the universe and the other, but from one time dimension to another. What if the theory of quantum entanglement also applied to objects located in different universes?
Presuming even a limited working knowledge of Jung’s theory of synchronicity, consider that synchronistic events may possibly arise from entangled connections of objects separated by vast distances in which “normal” definitions of past, present, and future are nonexistent, and even the possibility that these may occur between objects located within different universes.
Joseph Campbell has suggested that the function of mythology is to take us deeper into the experiences of life “… so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive” (1988 p. 5). This is what quantum physics and the “what if” questions it generates stimulates within me. James Hillman has instructed us of the metaphorical foundations of myth. In his Re-Visioning Psychology he wrote: “Myths do not tell us how. They simply give the invisible background which starts us imagining, questioning, going deeper” (p. 158). These are what “what if” questions facilitate by helping one deconstruct the confines of literalism and engage the potentialities of that which lies beyond the borders of one’s prior comprehension.
GeneToews is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Cultural Mythologist. He received his Master of Social Work Degree from the University of Denver, and holds an MA in Mythological Studies With Emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. For the past seven years, Gene was a Social Worker for The Denver Hospice. In addition, he has maintained a private psychotherapy practice for over twenty-five years. He specializes in working with substance abuse, depression, mood disorders, anxiety, adjustment disorders, and issues related to death and dying. He employs a variety of therapeutic techniques, integrating his understanding of archetypal psychology and mythology into his work. For more information, please refer to his website, LifeandRecovery.com. Gene is a past columnist to the online ezine “HeadlineMuse.com.” He may be contacted at email@example.com.
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