A scientist has proposed a method to test the limits of quantum mechanics, by applying it to the human mind.
The idea is based on “spooky action at a distance” or quantum entanglement. This is the suggestion that two particles can share properties, but this only becomes apparent when they are measured. A hundred years ago, Albert Einstein thought this wasn’t possible, and physicists have been looking for ways to prove him wrong ever since.
To test quantum entanglement, physicist John Bell came up with a thought experiment in 1964 to send one of a pair of particles to a location, A, and another to location B. A device at each location would measure a specific property of the particles, their spin, using a random number generator to pick positive or negative spin.
If the measurements correlated (the particles were found to have the same spin at each location), then quantum entanglement could be proved. Hence the word “spooky”, because they appear to influence each other without interacting.
Lucien Hardy from the Perimeter Institute in Canada has proposed an advancement on the theory. He suggests that the measurements of two particles, A and B, can relate to the human mind. He wonders if the mind operates on the immaterial world and plays a part in quantum mechanics.
“[French philosopher Rene] Descartes put forth this mind-matter duality, [where] the mind is outside of regular physics and intervenes on the physical world,” Hardy said, reported New Scientist.
To test this, he proposes having two groups of 100 people separated by 100 kilometers (60 miles). Each would be hooked up to an EEG machine, and the signals from the headsets would change the properties of the devices at each location before the particles arrived.
If the results agreed with the Bell tests, that supports quantum theory. If it doesn’t, it suggests the measurements at each location are being affected by something beyond standard physics – perhaps the human mind.
“The radical possibility we wish to investigate is that, when humans are used to decide the settings, we might then expect to see a violation of Quantum Theory,” Hardy writes in his paper. “Such a result, while very unlikely, would be tremendously significant for our understanding of the world.”
Quantum entanglement is extremely useful, so understanding it is important. Quantum computing, for example, relies upon entanglement, with “qubits” – quantum bits – allowing more information to be stored in a smaller space.
Recently, quantum communication has come to the fore using the same principle. If someone intercepts a transmission, the particles are changed and altered on arrival at their destination, meaning messages can be heavily encrypted.
Whether the human mind also has a part to play, well, that’s another think coming.
(H/T: New Scientist)