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The Physics Of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind And The Meaning Of Life Paperback – December, 2000
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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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Top Customer Reviews
The author addresses a number of modern science's "800-lb. gorillas in the room," to wit: What is the will? What is consciousness? What do we do with this bizarre child, non-locality, deposited on our scientific doorstep by Bell's Theorem?
"The Physics Of Consciousness" is a highly skilled, plausible attempt to bring these "gorillas" into the fold of mainstream western science. It's heavy lifting, but the author is up to the job. He has a steep knowledge of many scientific areas, not just physics, and it shows. "The Physics of Consciousness" is the result of a lifetime of scientific reflection and arcane training.
Wading through the author's descriptions of how consciousness, the brain, and the will interact asks a lot of the reader, but is necessary, and well worth the effort. Get out a cup of coffee, put on your thinking cap, and dig in.
"The Physics Of Consciousness" is one great achievement.
The author broadly describes consciousness as all things in totality (associated with everything in the universe) and it is also reality, but does not define specifically because the definitions and delineations require objective demonstrations. Consciousness is affected by matter or by events in the physical world; therefore consciousness originates from non-physical contact with physical reality that could be described by all fundamental things that makeup physical world. This may be understood with the Schrödinger equation and Einstein's relativity; if consciousness is tied all at once to all physical reality that the Schrödinger equation suggests or tied to space, time, mass (energy), or one of the four forces. The author discusses the importance of each concept and concludes that consciousness could not be tied directly to any of these constructs of the physical world, but it could be linked by quantum physical process at the synaptic junctions of nervous systems. Two parts of the nervous system are considered; the nerves and the synapse, it is at the synapse where an estimated 23.5 trillion neural connections exists and where the information from nerve to nerve passes or fails to pass. Here is where the mind-brain contact exists; here is where data of our senses are processed and refined in the brain. Synapses interact through quantum tunneling mechanism, the author concludes. As the electron and synapse interact to produce quantum potentialities, the state vectors; the consciousness emerges through this, and it is these branching and interlaced collections of quantum potentialities weaving together possibilities that we experience as consciousness. By selecting which synapse will fire, consciousness turns this into an individual will (when an observation takes place, one synapse collapses to one state in association with consciousness thus leading to will). Subsequently mind brings into reality each moment of thoughts, experience and actions. It is suggested that there is no space, time or matter (energy): The conscious observer creates the spacetime and matter from his conscious mind, the quantum mind is the first cause, time-independent and non-local. The concept of individual identity emerges naturally through quantum consciousness when brain-mind functions transition to consciousness and thus a new identity is acquired. The author uses both Vedanta (Hindu philosophy) and Buddhist philosophies considerably in his discussions.
In the final analysis, the author concludes that life, thought, and consciousness are three separate things. An organism does not have to have consciousness to be capable of thought, because a computer (data processing and computing) is capable of thought. Consciousness may exist somewhere without being a part of either a part of living body or data processing system, because they are consequence of one or more quantum mechanical events. These events are mediated by infinite number of discrete, conscious, and non-thinking entities: These conscious entities determine each quantum mechanical events.
The idea that consciousness need not be a part of living entity is controversial. Secondly the author fails to consider the fact that computers and software run machines are programmed by human beings, at least in the early stages of development. Many unicellular and multicellular organisms (and plants and trees) do not have central nervous systems or brains but they independently run their own lives. The body functions according to laws of nature, but body/mind direct motions, foresee alternative effects that may be fateful for its existence, and face the consequences. The conclusion that "I" be it an animal or a plant is used in the widest meaning of the word, which means to state that, I who control the motion of the molecules according to the laws of nature. I reproduce or give birth or create another living being like myself. I can be consequential to the fate of another living species, hence I am special, the personal self equal the all-comprehending- eternal-self. The Upanishads states that Atman is equal to Brahman, and consciousness is never experienced in plural but only in the singular. If consciousness of different people are different, then each individual has a separate soul (plurality of souls), but plurality is merely a series of different aspect of one soul and one conscious, produced by the deception of Maya. This is same as illusion produced in a gallery of mirrors.
1. What Is Life?: with "Mind and Matter" and "Autobiographical Sketches"
2. Schrödinger: Life and Thought
3. Schrodinger's Science and the Human Temerament
4. Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science
5. Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg
6. Synchronicity, Science, and Soulmaking: Understanding Jungian Syncronicity Through Physics, Buddhism, and Philosphy
7. Niels Bohr's Times,: In Physics, Philosophy, and Polity
8. Ideas And Opinions