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The Physics Of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind And The Meaning Of Life Paperback – Bargain Price, December 28, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

It's not every day you hear a physicist ask what happens when we die. Evan Harris Walker, sparked by the early, tragic loss of his love, does just that and more in The Physics of Consciousness, a book in the same vein as Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics, but with a firmer grounding in scientific understanding. Walker marries the traditions of Southern literature--a longing for the past, a resignation toward the present, and a determined optimism about the future--to a technical explanation of the limits of materialism; a weird synthesis, certainly, but charming and engaging nonetheless. Since his primary topic is consciousness, Walker turns to neuroscience and Buddhism (its spiritual equivalent) for inspiration. His quantum-mechanical approach to synaptic transmission and "the speed of consciousness" are difficult to evaluate and seem a bit overstretched, but his discussions of the history and current events of physics are lucid and ironically lend weight to his antimaterialistic arguments. Is this, as he hopes, another step toward 21st-century religion, or just another New Age reinterpretation of the spooky world of the ultrasmall? Don't bet on either--The Physics of Consciousness will jog your brain in new ways and, if nothing else, you'll find a new appreciation for how little we really know about ourselves. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Walker's ambitious, unorthodox treatise attempts to outline the basis for a new physics, one that recognizes consciousness as a fundamental part of reality. A widely published physicist, mostly in scientific journals, he reports having had a Zen enlightenment experience in 1966 while walking in an open field at the University of Maryland. This propelled him on a quest to rethink quantum mechanics, which he, like Einstein, found incomplete in its picture of an indeterminate cosmos. Electrons tunneling across the human brain's 23.5 trillion synapses create a vast network of potential interactions according to quantum mechanics, so neural impulses are generating our thoughts, emotions and perceptions, according to Walker's theory. Here, he sets forth what he claims is the cornerstone for a science of mind, complete with equations about the brain's workings. The most accessible, core part of the book is its juicy, vigorous account of the revolution in physics engendered by quantum theory and its replacement of the classical Newtonian worldview. Obsessed with mortality and whether the soul survives death (he believes "something of us must survive"), Walker lightens the load with personal interludes in which he reminisces about his high school girlfriend, who died of leukemia very young. Though deeply felt, these at times maudlin recollections feel out of place and detract from his presentation. This digressive, maverick tome, which opens the door to paranormal phenomena and God as "Quantum Mind," will appeal more to serious investigators and philosophical types than to general readers seeking the purported spiritual implications of the new physics. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738204366
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,736,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

114 of 117 people found the following review helpful By Daryl Anderson VINE VOICE on June 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book could change your way of thinking about two of the most important realms of your world: what's "out there" and what's "in here" - it changed mine. For a book with such an impact, you might wonder why I only offer a stingy 4-stars. My concern is that since powerful ideas, like powerful chemistry, often depend on context (or `medium'), they may only explode on me (on you) if our intellectual medium is currently primed with the right elements. Mine was. Hopefully my writing about the book will help you establish whether it will be a bang or a whimper for you.
Walker's book is not just another "Tao of Physics", not merely another anxious new age gathering of science about the skirts of wishful metaphysics. It combines some of the better points of both, though, to present two startling ideas. Walker's application of these two ideas is to weaving together the strange edges of `out there' reality, as described by modern quantum physics, with the quicksilver ghost in the machine, the `in there' of your consciousness. I've seen a few books that attempt this by basically claiming "it sure is spooky out there" and "its pretty strange in here" and using little more that wishful thinking to posit a link. Walker does more.
The two ideas that Walker's book startled me with can seem simple when stated - you may think you've already thought them. He builds a case for claiming that parts of the biochemistry of the brain are driven by processes, not at the level of chemistry, but at that of quantum physics. Along with this he proposes a mechanism for extending the magnitude of intra-brain communication between neurons to suggest a combinatorial explosion in the already dauntingly large number of possible connections and states in the brain.
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100 of 105 people found the following review helpful By J. Watts on April 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I used to be a physicist, and I know. It's what they fear most. Most physicists are fearfully materialist, whether they admit it or not. They hold onto the material world for dear life, even as they're proving that, well, there is no material.
They figure, the world makes sense. It's out there. We're in here. We'll just measure a little better, write the equations better, and it will all make sense... But the one thing they've never been able to explain is, if all this stuff is just stuff, who's thinking about it and doing the physics? How can a universe of rocks hold a place for consciousness?
Evan Harris Walker goes where more and more physicists are going, but where most fear to tread. Living legends like Freeman Dyson have seen it. Legends long gone like Erwin Schrodinger have seen it. It's the fact that when you finish going down, down, down, splitting all the particles that can be split, writing equations for the ultimate reality, you come face to face with.... you.
There is no matter. There is no structure. All that you see, all that you touch, is pure consciousness. Consciousness condenses the "real" physical world from an unreachable realm of potentiality, in which many things are true at once.
Walker explains, how this is so, how it must be so, and how the most amazing discovery, non-locality, means that (as Schrodinger said) there is only ONE consciousness. Anywhere and everywhere. And you're it. So am I, and so is she. So are we all, and so is it all.
That's not formless mysticism or a bad acid trip. It's in the equations. It's true. It's realer than what we used to call reality. But, as Richard Feynman once said, physicists don't WANT to think about what quantum theory really means.
Well, Evan Harris Walker has.
Buy this book.
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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Rafael Olivas on August 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The subtitle of Walker's exploration is perhaps better than the title: The Quantum Mind and the Meaning of Life. Unlike some of the other postings here this reviewer cannot gush uncritically about The Physics of Consciousness. It begins awkwardly, it ambles and lurches along for some time, and when it does hit it's stride with science it careens between disciplines with intoxicated gusto, rather than surgical precision. But in the end it's worth the ride. It is an important book as it postulates a testable hypothesis about consciousness, free will and whatever uber-reality may (or may not) underlie ALL THAT IS. (It is a modern re-statement of Thales' theorem that "all is water" --in this case "all is consciousness/will.")
To get through this awkward tangle requires some patience and more than a little familiarity with quantum physics and neuroscience. A healthy prior exposure to cosmology, evolution, and epistomology is also useful. But with that background in place, Walker's thesis is nothing short of extraordinary to contemplate. The author's exploitation of a personal tragedy from his young adulthood weaves a personal thread into this tapestry. Some might complain about this intrusion, and it does complicate the development. But it also lends a deep (if idiosyncratic) humanity that this reader eventually found oddly satisfying.
Walker goes as far with the philosophy of reality as any Western scientific thinker has been willing to go. It's the most contemporary general proof for an ultimate consciousness, a Platonic "first cause," this reader has ever enjoyed. And it's good enough to merit serious attention. The Physics of Consciousness deserves a place alongside recent explorations such as The Moral Animal (R. Wright) and The Fifth Miracle (P. Davies) as serious contemplations for students of Big Ideas. Just be prepared to be patient with it. And brush up on your quantum mechanics.
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