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Living Environments. In his book The Mystery of the Mind, publishedin , just shortly before his death, he wrote, "It was evident at once that these were not dreams. They were electrical activations of the sequential record of consciousness, a record that had been laid down during the patient s earlier experience. The patient re-lived all that he had been aware of in that earlier period of time as in a moving-picture flashback. From his research Penfield concludedthat everything we have ever experienced is recorded in our brain, from every stranger s face we have glanced at in a crowd to every spider web we gazed at as achild.
He reasoned that this was why memories of so many insignificant events kept cropping up in his sampling. If our memory is a complete record of even the most mundane of our day-to-day experiences, it is reasonable to assume that dipping randomly into such a massive chronicle would produce a good deal of trifling information. As a young neurosurgery resident, Pribram had no reason to doubt Penfield s engram theory. But then something happened that was to change his thinking forever.
For over thirty years Lashley had been involved in his own ongoing search for the elusive mechanisms responsible for memory, and there Pribram was able to witness the fruits of Lashley s labors firsthand. What was startling was that not only had Lashley failed to produce any evidence of the engram, but his research actually seemed to pull the rug out from under all of Penfield s findings. What Lashley had done was to train rats to perform a variety of tasks, such as run a maze. Then he surgically removed various portions of their brains and retested them. His aim was literally to cut out the area of the rats brains containing the memory of their mazerunning ability.
To his surprise he found that no matter what portion of their brains he cut out, he could not eradicate their memories. Often the rats motor skills were impaired and they stumbled clumsily through the mazes, but even with massive portions of their brains removed, their memories remained stubbornly intact. For Pribram these were incredible findings.
If memories possessed specific locations in the brain in the same way that books possess specific locations on library shelves, why didn t Lashley s surgical plunderings have any effect on them? For Pribram the only answer seemed to be that memories were not localized at specific brain sites, but were somehow spread out or distributed throughout the brain as a whole. The problem was that he knew of no mechanism or process that could account for such a state of affairs.
Lashley was even less certain and later wrote, "I sometimes feel, in reviewing the evidence on the localization of the memory trace, that the necessary conclusion is that learning just is not possible at all. Nevertheless, in spite of such evidence against it, learning does sometimes occur. The Breakthrough At Yale, Pribram continued to ponder the idea that memories were distributed throughout the brain, and the more he thought about it the more convinced he became.
After all, patients who had had portions of their brains removed for medical reasons never suffered the loss of specific memories. Removal of a large section of the brain might cause a patient s memory to become generally hazy, but no one ever came. Similarly, individuals who had received head injuries in car collisions and other accidents never forgot half of their family, or half of a novel they had read.
Even removal of sections of the temporal lobes, the area of the brain that had figured so prominently in Penfield s research, didn t create any gaps in a person s memories. Pribram s thinking was further solidified by his and other researchers inability to duplicate Penfield s findings when stimulating brains other than those of epileptics. Even Penfield himself was unable to duplicate his results in nonepileptic patients. Despite the growing evidence that memories were distributed, Pribram was still at a loss as to how the brain might accomplish such a seemingly magical feat.
Then in the mids an article he read in Scientific American describing the first construction of a hologram hit him like a thunderbolt. Not only was the concept of holography dazzling, but it provided a solution to the puzzle with which he had been wrestling. To understand whyPribram was so excited, it is necessary to understand a little more about holograms. One of the things that makes holography possible is a phenomenonknownas interference. Interference is the crisscrossing pattern that occurs when two or more waves, such as waves of water, ripple through each other.
For example, ifyou drop a pebble into a pond, it will produce a series of concentric waves that expands outward. If you drop two pebbles into a pond, you will get two sets of waves that expand and pass through one another. The complex arrangement of crests and troughs that results from such collisions is known as an interference pattern. Any wavelikephenomenacan create an interference pattern,including light and radio waves.
Because laser light is an extremely pure, coherent form of light, it is especially good at creating interference patterns. It provides, in essence, the perfect pebble and the perfect pond. As a result, it wasn t until the invention of the laser that holograms, as we know them today, became possible. A hologram is produced when a single laser light is split into two separate beams. The first beam is bounced off the object to be photographed. Then the second beam is allowed to collide with the reflected light of the first. When this happens they create an interference pattern which is then recorded on a piece of film see fig.
The first beam is bounced off the object to be photographed, in this case an apple. Then the second beam is allowed to collide with the reflected light of the first, and the resulting interference pattern is recorded on film. To the naked eye the image on the film looks nothing at all like the object photographed. In fact, it even looks a little like the concentric rings that form when a handful of pebbles is tossed into a pond see fig. But as soon as another laser beam or in some instances just a bright light source is shined through the film, a three-dimensional image of the original object reappears.
The three-dimensionality of such images is often eerily convincing. You can actually walk around a holographic projection and view it from different angles as you would a real object However, if you reach out and try to touch it, your hand will waft right through it and you will discover there is really nothing there see fig. Three-dimensionality is not the only remarkable aspect of holograms. If a piece of holographic film containing the image of an apple is cut in half and then illuminated by a laser, each half will still be found to contain the entire image of the apple!
Even if the halves are divided again and then again, an entire apple can still be reconstructed from each small portion of the film although the images will get hazier as the portions get smaller. A piece of holographic film containing an encoded image. To the naked eye the image on the film looks nothing like the object photographed and is composed of irregular ripples known as interference patterns. However, when the film is illuminated with another laser, a three-dimensional image of the original object reappears.
The three-dimensionality of a hologram is often so eerily convincing that you can actually walk aroundit and view it from different angles. But if you reach out and try to touch it, your hand will waft right through it. Used by permission] small fragment of a piece of holographic film contains all the information recorded in the whole see fig. If it was possible for every portion of a piece of holographic film to contain all the information necessary to create a whole image, then it seemed equally possible for every part of the brain to contain all of the information necessary to recall a whole memory.
It should be noted that this astounding trait is common only to pieces of holographicfilm whose images are invisible to the naked eye. If you buy a piece of holographic film or an object containing a piece of holographic film in a store and can see a three-dimensional image in it without any special kind of illumination, do not cut it in half.
You will only end up with pieces of the original image. Unlike normal photographs, every portion of a piece of holographicfilm contains all of the information of the whole. Thus if a holographic plate isbroken into fragments, each piece can still be used to reconstruct the entire image. Vision Also Is Holographic Memory is not the only thing the brain may process holographically. Another of Lashley s discoveries was that the visual centers of the brain were also surprisingly resistant to surgical excision.
Even after removing as much as 90 percent of a rat s visual cortex the part of the brain that receives and interprets what the eye sees , he found it could still perform tasks requiring complex visual skills. Vision theorists once believed there was a one-to-one correspondence between an image the eye sees and how that image is represented in the brain. Pribram discovered this is not true. According to the leading theory of the day, there was a one-to-one correspondence between the image the eye sees and the way that image is represented in the brain. In other words, when we look at a square, it was believed the electrical activity in our visual cortex also possesses the form of a square see fig.
Although findings such as Lashley s seemed to deal a deathblow to this idea, Pribram was not satisfied. While he was at Yale he devised a series of experiments to resolve the matter and spent the next seven years carefully measuring the electrical activity in the brains ofmonkeys while they performed various visual tasks. He discovered that not only didno such one-to-one correspondenceexist, but there wasn t even a discernible pattern to the sequence in which the electrodes fired. He wrote of his findings, "These experimental results are incompatible with a view that a photographic-like image becomes projected onto the cortical surface.
The "whole in every part" nature of a hologram certainly seemed to explain how so much of the visual cortex could be removed without affecting the ability to perform visual tasks. If the brain was processing images by employing some kind of internal hologram, even a very small piece of the hologram could still reconstruct the whole of what the eyes were seeing. It also explained the lack of any one-to-one correspondence between the external world and the brain s electrical activity. Again, if the brain was using holographic principles to process visual information, there would be no more one-to-one correspondence between electrical activity and images seen than there was between the meaningless swirl of interference patterns on a piece of holographic film and the image the film encoded.
The only question that remained was what wavelike phenomenon the brain might be using to create such internal holograms. As soon as Pribram considered the question he thought of a possible answer. It was known that the electrical communications that take place between the brain s nerve cells, or neurons, do not occur alone.
Neurons possess branches like little trees, and when an electrical message reaches the end of one of these branches it radiates outward as does the ripple in a pond. Because neurons are packed together so densely, these expanding ripples of electricity—also a wavelike phenomenon— are constantly crisscrossing one another. When Pribram remembered this he realized that they were most assuredly creating an almost endless and kaleidoscopic array of interference patterns, and these in turn might be what give the brain its holographic properties.
As he did, and as other researchers became aware of his theory, it was quickly realized that the distributed nature of memory and vision is not the only neurophysiological puzzle the holographic model can explain. The brilliantHungarian-bornphysicist and mathematician John von Neumannonce calculated that over the course of the average human lifetime, the brain stores something on the order of 2. This is a staggering amount of information, and brain researchers have long struggled to come up with a mechanismthat explains such a vast capability.
Interestingly, holograms also possess a fantastic capacity for information storage. By changing the angle at which the two lasers strike a piece of photographic film, it is possible to record many different images on the same surface. Any image thus recorded can be retrieved simply by illuminating the film with a laser beam possessing the same angle as the original two beams.
By employing this method researchers have calculated that a one-inch-square of film can store the same amount of information contained in fifty Bibles! When such a pieceof film is held in a laser beam and tilted back and forth, the various images it contains appear and disappear in a glittering stream.
It has been suggested that our ability to remember is analogous to shining a laser beam on such a piece of filmand calling up a particular image. At first he is puzzled, but then, slowly, after much effort on his part, he remembers that his aunt used to give himtea and madeleines when he was a little boy, and it is this association that has stirred his memory. We have all had similar experiences—a whiff of a particular food being prepared, or a glimpse of some long-forgotten object—that suddenly evoke some scene out of our past.
The holographic idea offers a further analogy for the associative tendencies of memory. This is illustrated by yet another kind of holographic recording technique. First, the light of a single laser beam is bounced off two objects simultaneously, say an easy chair and a smoking pipe. The light bounced off each object is then allowed to collide, and the resulting interference pattern is captured onfilm.
Then, whenever the easy chair is illuminated with laser light and the light that reflects off the easy chair is passed through the film, a three-dimensional image of the pipe will appear. Conversely, whenever the same is done with the pipe, a hologram of the easy chair appears. So, if our brains function holographically, a similar process may be responsible for the way certain objects evoke specific memories from our past.
For example, the absolute certainty we feel when we spot a familiar face in a crowd of several hundred people is not just a subjective emotion, but appears to be caused by an extremely fast and reliable form of information processing in our brain. In a article in the British science magazine Nature, physicist Pieter van Heerden proposed that a type of holography known as recognition holography offers a way of understanding this ability.
The brighter and sharper the point of light the greater the degree of similarity between the first and second objects. If the two objects are completely dissimilar, no point of light will appear. By placing a light-sensitive photocell behind the holographic film, one can actually use the setup as a mechanical recognition system. In this technique an object is viewed through a piece of holographic film containingits image.
When this is done, any feature of the object that has changed since its image was originally recorded will reflect light differently. An individual looking through the film is instantly aware of both how the object has changed and how it has remained the same. The technique is so sensitive that even the pressure of a finger on a block of granite shows up immediately, and the process has been found to have practical applications in the materialstesting industry.
Typically, individuals with photographic memories will spend a few moments scanning the scene they wish to memorize. When they want to see the scene again, they "project" a mental image of it, either with their eyes closed or as they gaze at a blank wall or screen. In a study of one such individual, a Harvard art history professor named Elizabeth, Pollen and Tractenberg found that the mental images she projected were so real to her that when she read an image of a page from Goethe s Faust her eyes moved as if she were reading a real page.
Noting that the image stored in a fragment of holographicfilmgets hazier as the fragment gets smaller, Pollen and Tractenberg suggest that perhaps such individualshave more vivid memories because they somehow have access to very large regions of their memory holo. Conversely, perhaps most of us have memories that are much less vivid because our access is limited to smaller regions of the memory holograms. As you sit reading this book, take a moment and trace your first name in the air with your left elbow.
You will probably discover that this is a relatively easy thing to do, and yet in all likelihood it is something you have never done before. It may not seem a surprising ability to you, but in the classic view that various areas of the brain such as the area controlling the movements of the elbow are "hard-wired," or able to perform tasks only after repetitive learning has caused the proper neural connections to become established between brain cells, this is something of a puzzle.
Pribram points out that the problem becomes much more tractable if the brain were to convert all of its memories, includingmemories of learned abilities such as writing, into a language of interfering wave forms. Such a brain would be much more flexible and could shift its stored information around with the same ease that a skilled pianist transposes a song from one musical key to another. This same flexibility may explain how we are able to recognize a familiar face regardless of the angle from which we are viewing it.
Again, once the brain has memorized a face or any other object or scene and converted it into a language of wave forms, it can, in a sense, tumble this internal hologram around and examine it from any perspective it wants. But it is not so clear how our brains enable us to distinguish between the two. For example, Pribram points out that when we look at a person, the image of the person is really on the surface of our retinas.
Yet we do not perceive the person as being on our retinas. We perceive them as being in the "world-out-there. But the pain is not really in our toe. It is actually a neurophysiological process taking place somewhere in our brain. How then is our brain able to take the multitude of neurophysiologicalprocesses that manifest as our experience, all of which are internal, and fool us into thinking that some are internal and some are located beyond the confines of our gray matter?
Creating the illusion that things are located where they are not is the quintessential feature of a hologram. As mentioned,if you look at a hologram it seems to have extension in space, but if you pass your hand through it you will discover there is nothingthere. Despite what your senses tell you, no instrument will pick up the presence of any abnormal energy or substance where the hologram appears to be hovering.
This is because a hologram is a virtual image, an image that appears to be where it is not, and possesses no more extension in space than does the three-dimensionalimage you see of yourself when you look in a mirror. Just as the image in the mirror is located in the silvering on the mirror s back surface, the actual location of a hologram is always in the photographic emulsionon the surface of the film recording it. Further evidence that the brain is able toTool us into thinking that inner processes are located outside the body comes from the Nobel Prize-winning physiologist Georg von Bekesy.
In a series of experiments conducted in the late s Bekesy placed vibrators on the knees of blindfolded test subjects. Then he varied the rates at which the instruments vibrated. By doing so he discovered that he could make his test subjects experience the sensation that a point source of vibration was jumping from one knee to the other.
He found that he could even make his subjects feel the point source of vibration in the space between their knees. In short, he demonstrated that humans have the ability to seemingly experience sensation in spatial locations where they have absolutely no sense receptors.click here
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He feels this process might also explain the phantom limb phenomenon,or the sensation experienced. Such individuals often feel eerily realistic cramps, pains, and tinglings in these phantom appendages, but maybe what they are experiencing is the holographic memory of the limb that is still recorded in the interference patterns in their brains.
Experimental Support for the Holographic Brain For Pribram the many similarities between brains and holograms were tantalizing, but he knew his theory didn t mean anything unless it was backed up by more solid evidence. One researcher whoprovided such evidence was Indiana University biologist Paul Pietsch.
Intriguingly, Pietsch began as an ardent disbeliever in Pribram s theory. He was especially skeptical of Pribram s claim that memories do not possess any specific location in the brain. To prove Pribram wrong, Pietsch devised a series of experiments, and as the test subjects of his experiments he chose salamanders.
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In previous studies he had discovered that he could remove the brain of a salamander without killing it, and although it remained in a stupor as long as its brain was missing, its behavior completely returned to normal as soon as its brain was restored. Pietsch reasoned that if a salamander s feeding behavior is not confined to any specific location in the brain, then it should not matter how its brain is positioned in its head.
If it did matter, Pribram s theory would be disproven. He thenflip-floppedthe left and right hemispheres of a salamander s brain, but to his dismay, as soon as it recovered, the salamander quickly resumed normal feeding. He took another salamander and turned its brain upside down.
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When it recovered it, too, fed normally. Growing increasingly frustrated, he decided to resort to more drastic measures. In a series of over operations he sliced, flipped, shuffled, subtracted, and even minced the brains of his hapless subjects, but always when he replaced what was left of their brains, their behavior returned to normal. He writes about this experience as well as giving detailed accounts of his experiments in his insightful book Shufflebrain.
The Mathematical Language of the Hologram While the theories that enabled the development of the hologram were first formulated in by Dennis Gabor wholater won a Nobel Prize for his efforts , in the late s and early s Pribram s theory received even more persuasive experimental support. When Gabor first conceived the idea of holography he wasn t thinking about lasers. His goal was to improvethe electron microscope, then a primitive and imperfect device. His approach was a mathematical one, and the mathematics he used was a type of calculus invented by an eighteenthcentury Frenchman named Jean B.
Roughly speaking what Fourier developed was a mathematical way of converting any pattern, no matter how complex,into a language of simple waves. He also showed how these wave forms could be converted back into the original pattern. In other words, just as a television camera converts an image into electromagnetic frequencies and a television set converts those frequencies back into the original image, Fourier showed how a similar process could be achieved mathematically.
The equations he developed to convert images into wave forms and back again are known as Fourier transforms. Fourier transforms enabled Gabor to convert a picture of an object into the blur of interference patterns on a piece of holographic film. They also enabled himto devise a way of converting those interference patterns back into an image of the original object.
In fact the special whole in every part of a hologram is one of the by-products that occurs when an image or pattern is translated into the Fourier language of wave forms. Throughout the late s and early s various researchers contacted Pribram and told him they had uncovered evidence that the visual system worked as a kind of frequency analyzer. Since frequency is a measure of the number of oscillations a wave undergoes per second, this strongly suggested that the brain might be functioning as a hologram does.
But it wasn t until that Berkeley neurophysiologists Russell and Karen DeValois made the discovery that settled the matter. Research in the s had shown that each brain cell in the visual cortex is geared to respond to a different pattern—some brain cells fire when the eyes see a horizontal line, others fire when the eyes see a vertical line, and so on.
As a result, many researchers concludedthat the brain takes input from these highly specialized cells called feature detec. Despite the popularity of this view, the DeValoises felt it was only a partial truth. Totest their assumption they used Fourier s equations to convert plaid and checkerboard patterns into simple wave forms. Then they tested to see how the brain cells in the visual cortex responded to these new wave-form images. What they found was that the brain cells responded not to the original patterns, but to the Fourier translations of the patterns.
Only one conclusion could be drawn. The brain was using Fourier mathematics—the same mathematics holography employed—to convert visual images into the Fourier language of wave forms. Spurred on by the idea that the visual cortex was responding not to patterns but to the frequencies of various wave forms, he began to reassess the role frequency played in the other senses. It didn t take long for himto realize that the importance of this role had perhaps been overlooked by twentieth-century scientists.
Over a century before the DeValoises discovery, the German physiologist and physicist Hermann von Helmholtz had shown that the ear was a frequency analyzer. More recent research revealed that our sense of smell seems to be based on what are called osmic frequencies. Bekesy s work had clearly demonstrated that our skin is sensitive to frequencies of vibration, and he even produced some evidence that taste may involve frequency analysis.
Interestingly, Bekesy also discovered that the mathematical equations that enabled him to predict how his subjects would respond to various frequencies of vibration were also of the Fourier genre. The Dancer as Wave Form But perhaps the most startling finding Pribram uncovered was Russian scientist Nikolai Bernstein s discovery that even our physical movements may be encoded in our brains in a language of Fourier wave forms.
Russianresearcher Nikolai Bernstein painted white dots on dancers and filmed them dancingagainst a black background. When he converted their movements into a language of wave forms, he discovered they could be analyzed using Fourier mathematics, the same mathematics Gabor used to invent the hologram. Then he placed them against black backgrounds and took movies of them doing various physical activities such as dancing, walking, jumping, hammering, and typing. When he developed the film, only the white dots appeared, moving up and down and across the screen in various complex and flowing movements see fig.
To quantify his findings he Fourier-analyzed the various lines the dots traced out and converted them into a language of wave forms. To his surprise, he discovered the wave forms contained hidden patterns that allowed him to predict his subjects next movement to within a fraction of an inch. When Pribram encountered Bernstein s work he immediately recognized its implications. Maybe the reason hidden patterns surfaced after Bernstein Fourier-analyzed his subject s movements was because that was how movements are stored in the brain.
This was an exciting possibility, for if the brain analyzed movements by breaking them down into their frequency components, it explained the rapidity with which we learn many complex physical tasks. For instance, we do not learn to ride a bicycle by painstakingly memorizing every tiny feature of the process.
We learn by grasping the whole flowing movement. But it becomes much easier to understand if the brain is Fourier-analyzingsuch tasks and absorbing them as a whole. The Reaction of the Scientific Community Despite such evidence, Pribram s holographic model remains extremely controversial. Part of the problem is that there are many popular theories of how the brain works and there is evidence to support them all.
Some researchers believe the distributed natureof memory can be explained by the ebb and flow of various brain chemicals. Others hold that electrical fluctuations among large groups of neurons can account for memory and learning. Each school of thought has its ardent supporters, and it is probably safe to say that most scientists remain unpersuaded by Pribram s arguments. For example, neuropsychologist Frank Wood of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, feels that "there are precious few experimental findings for which holography is the necessary, or even preferable, explanation.
Other researchers agree with Pribram. Larry Dossey, former chief of staff at Medical City Dallas Hospital, admits that Pribram s theory challenges many long-held assumptions about the brain, but points out that "many specialists in brain function are attracted to the idea, if for no other reason than the glaring inadequacies of the present orthodox views.
He notes that in spite of overwhelming evidence that human abilities are holistically dispersed throughout the brain, most researchers continue to cling to the idea that function car be located in the brain in the same way that cities can be located on a map. Restak believes that theories based on this premise are not only "oversimplistic, " but actually function as "conceptual straitjackets" that keep us from recognizing the brain s true complexities.
In addition,he had taken his ideas into the laboratory and discovered that single neurons in the motor cortex respond selectively to a limited bandwidth of frequencies, a finding that further supported his conclusions. The question that began to bother him was, If the picture of reality in our brains is not a picture at all but a hologram, what is it a hologram of?
The dilemma posed by this question is analogous to taking a Polaroid picture of a group of people sitting around a table and, after the picture develops, findingthat, instead of people, there are only blurry cloudsof interference patterns positioned around the table.
Pribram realized that if the holographic brain model was taken to its logical conclusions, it opened the door on the possibility that objective reality—the world of coffee cups, mountain vistas, elm trees, and table lamps—might not even exist, or at least not exist in the way we believe it exists. Was it possible, he wondered, that what the mystics had been saying for centuries was true, reality was maya, an illusion, and what was out there was really a vast, resonating symphony of wave forms, a "frequency domain" that was transformed into the world as we know it only after it entered our senses?
Realizing that the solution he was seeking might lie outside the province of his own field, he went to his physicist son for advice. His son recommended he look into the work of a physicist named David Bohm. When Pribram did he was electrified. He not only found the answer to his question, but also discovered that according to Bohm, the entire universe was a hologram.
The Cosmos as Hologram 33 State College, for it was there that he first became fascinated by quantum physics. It is an easy fascination to understand. The strange new land that physicists had found lurking in the heart of the atom contained things more wondrous than anything Cortes or Marco Polo ever encountered. What made this new world so intriguing was that everything about it appeared to be so contrary to common sense. It seemed more like a land ruled by sorcery than an extension of the natural world, an Alice-in-Wonderland realm in which mystifying forces were the norm and everything logical had been turned on its ear.
One startling discoverymade by quantum physicists was that if you break matter into smaller and smaller pieces you eventually reach a point where those pieces—electrons, protons, and so on—no longer possess the traits of objects. For example,most of us tend to think of an electron as a tiny sphere or a BB whizzing around, but nothing could be further from the truth. Although an electron can sometimes behave as if it were a compact little particle, physicists have found that it literally possesses no dimension. This is difficult for most of us to imagine because everything at our own level of existence possesses dimension.
And yet if you try to measure the width of an electron, you will discover it s an impossibletask. An electron is simply not an object as we know it.
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Another discoveryphysicists made is that an electron can manifest as either a particle or a wave. If you shoot an electron at the screen of a television that s been turned off, a tiny point of light will appear when it strikes the phosphorescent chemicals that coat the glass. The single point of impact the electron leaves on the screen clearly reveals the particlelike side of its nature.
But this is not the only form the electron can assume. It can also dissolve into a blurry cloud of energy and behave as if it were a wave spread out over space. When an electron manifests as a wave it can do things no particle can. If it is fired at a barrier in which two slits have been cut, it can go through both slits simultaneously.
When wavelike electrons collide with each other they even create interference patterns. The electron, like some shapeshifter out of folklore, can manifest as either a particle or a wave. This chameleonlikeability is common to all subatomic particles. It is also common to all things once thought to manifest exclusively as waves.
Light, gamma rays, radio waves, X rays—all can change from waves to particles and back again. Today physicists believe that sub2 The Cosmos as Hologram One can t help but be astonished at the degree to which [Bohm] has been able to break out of the tight molds of scientific conditioning and stand alone with a completely new and literally vast Idea, one which has both internal consistency and the logical power to explain widely diverging phenomena of physical experience from an entirely unexpected point of view.
It is a theory which is so intuitively satisfying that many people have felt that if the universe is not the way Bohm describes it, it ought to be. Briggs and F. David Peat Looking Glass Universe The path that led Bohm to the conviction that the universe is structured like a hologram began at the very edge of matter, in the world of subatomic particles. His interest in science and the way things work blossomed early.
As a young boy growing up in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he inventeda dripless tea kettle, and his father, a successful businessman, urged him to try to turn a profit on the idea. But after learning that the first step in such a venture was to conduct a door-todoor survey to test-market his invention,Bohm s interest in business waned.
He found the most challenging height of all in the s when he attended Pennsylvania These somethings are called quanta, and physicists believe they are the basic stuff from which the entire universe is made. For instance, when an electron isn t being lookedat, experimental findings suggest that it is always a wave. Physicists are able to draw this conclusion because they have devised clever strategies for deducing how an electron behaves when it is not being observed it should be noted that this is only one interpretation of the evidence and is not the conclusion of all physicists; as we will see, Bohm himself has a different interpretation.
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Once again this seems more like magic than the kind of behaviorwe are accustomed to expect from the natural world. Imagine owning a bowling ball that was only a bowlingball when you looked at it. If you sprinkled talcum powder all over a bowling lane and rolled such a "quantum" bowling ball toward the pins, it would trace a single line through the talcum powder while you were watching it. But if you blinked while it was in transit, you would find that for the second or two you were not looking at it the bowlingball stopped tracing a line and instead left a broad wavy strip, like the undulating swath of a desert snake as it moves sideways over the sand see fig.
Such a situation is comparable to the one quantum physicists encountered when they first uncovered evidence that quanta coalesce into particles only when they are being observed. Physicist Nick Herbert, a supporter of this interpretation, says this has sometimes caused him to imagine that behind his back the world is always "a radically ambiguous and ceaselessly flowing quantum soup. He believes this makes us all a little like Midas, the legendary king who never knew the feel of silk or the caress of a humanhand because everything he touched turned to gold. One electron is a quantum.
Several electrons are a group of quanta. The word quantum is also synonymous with wave particle, a term that is also used to refer to something that possesses both particle and wave aspects. Bohm and Inter-connectedness An aspect of quantum reality that Bohm found especially interesting was the strange state of interconnectedness that seemed to exist between apparently unrelated subatomic events. What was equally perplexing was that most physicists tended to attach little importance to the phenomenon. In fact, so little was made of it that one of the most famous examples of interconnectedness lay hidden in one of quantum physics s basic assumptions for a number of years before anyone noticed it was there.
That assumption was made by one of the foundingfathers ofquantum physics, the Danish physicist Niels Bohr. Bohr pointed out that if subatomic particles only come into existence in the presence of an observer, then it is also meaningless to speak of a particle s properties and characteristics as existing before they are observed. This was disturbing to many physicists, for much of science was based on discovering the properties of phenomena. But if the act of observation actually helped create such properties, what did that imply about the future of science?
One physicist who was troubled by Bohr s assertions was Einstein. Despite the role Einstein had played in the founding of quantum theory, he was not at all happy with the course the fledgling science FIGURE 7. Physicists have found compelling evidence that the only time electrons and other "quanta" manifest as particles is when we are looking at them.
At all other times they behave as waves. This is as strange as owninga bowling ball that traces a single line down the lane while you are watching it, but leaves a wave Pattern every time you blink your eyes. He found Bohr s conclusion that a particle s properties don t exist until they are observed particularly objectionable because, when combined with another of quantum physics s findings, it implied that subatomic particles were interconnected in a way Einstein simply didn t believe was possible.
That finding was the discovery that some subatomic processes result in the creation of a pair of particles with identical or closely related properties. Consider an extremely unstable atom physicists call positronium. The positroniumatom is composed of an electron and a positron a positron is an electron with a positive charge. Because a positron is the electron s antiparticle opposite, the two eventually annihilate each other and decay into two quanta of light or "photons" traveling in opposite directions thecapacity to shapeshift from one kind of particle to another is just another of a quantum s abilities.
According to quantum physics no matter how far apart the photons travel, when they are measured they will always be found to have identical angles of polarization. Polarization is the spatial orientation of the photon s wavelike aspect as it travels away from its point of origin. As they pointed out, two such particles, say,the photons emitted when positronium decays, could be produced and allowed to travel a significant distance apart. If the polarizations are measured at precisely the same moment and are found to be identical, as quantum physics predicts, and if Bohr was correct and properties such as polarization do not coalesce into existence until they are observed or measured, this suggests that somehow the two photons must be instantaneously communicating with each other so they know which angle of polarization to agree upon.
The problem is that accordingto Einstein s special theory of relativity, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, let alone travel instantaneously, for that would be tantamount to breaking the time Positronium decay is not the subatomic process Einstein and his colleagues employed in their thought experiment, but is used here because it is easy to visualize.
The Cosmos as Hologram 37 barrier and would open the door on all kinds of unacceptable paradoxes. Einstein and his colleagues were convincedthat no "reasonable definition" of reality would permit such faster-than-light interconnections to exist, and therefore Bohr had to be wrong. Bohr remained unperturbed by Einstein s argument. Rather than believing that some kind of faster-than-light communication was taking place, he offered another explanation. If subatomic particles do not exist until they are observed, then one could no longer think of them as independent "things.
They were part of an indivisible system, and it was meaningless to think of them otherwise. In time most physicists sided with Bohr and became content that his interpretation was correct. One factor that contributed to Bohr s triumph was that quantumphysics had proved so spectacularly successful in predicting phenomena, few physicists were willing even to consider the possibility that it might be faulty in some way.
In addition, when Einstein and his colleagues first made their proposal about twin particles, technical and other reasons prevented such an experiment from actually being performed. This made it even easier to put out of mind. This was curious, for although Bohr had designed his argument to counter Einstein s attack on quantum theory, as we will see,Bohr s view that subatomic systems are indivisible has equally profoundimplications for the nature of reality. Ironically, these implications were also ignored,and once again the potential importance of interconnectedness was swept under the carpet.
A Living Sea of Electrons During his early years as a physicist Bohm also accepted Bohr s position, but he remained puzzled by the lack of interest Bohr and his followers displayed toward interconnectedness. After graduating from PennsylvaniaState College, he attended the University of California at Berkeley, and before receiving his doctorate there in, he worked at the Lawrence Berkeley Radiation Laboratory.
There he. At the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory Bohm began what was to become his landmark work on plasmas. A plasma is a gas containing a high density of electrons and positive ions, atoms that have a positive charge. To his amazement he found that once they were in a plasma, electrons stopped behaving like individualsand started behaving as if they were part of a larger and interconnected whole. Although their individual movements appeared random, vast numbers of electrons were able to produce effects that were surprisingly well-organized.
Like some amoeboid creature, the plasma constantly regenerated itself and enclosed all impurities in a wall in the same way that a biological organism might encase a foreign substance in a cyst. Once again he found that the seemingly haphazard movements of individual electrons managed to produce highly organized overall effects. Like the plasmas he had studied at Berkeley, these were no longer situations involving two particles, each behaving as if it knew what the other was doing, but entire oceans of particles, each behaving as if it knew what untold trillions of others were doing.
Bohm called such collective movements of electrons plasmons, and their discovery established his reputation as a physicist. Bohm s Disillusionment Both his sense of the importanceof interconnectedness as well as his growing dissatisfaction with several of the other prevailing views in physics caused Bohm to become increasingly troubled by Bohr s interpretation of quantum theory.
After three years of teaching the subject at Princeton he decided to improve his understanding by writing a textbook. When he finished he found he still wasn t comfortable with what quantum physics was saying and sent copies of the book to both Bohr and Einstein to ask for their opinions. He got no answer from Bohr, but Einstein contacted him and said that since they were both at Princeton they should meet and discuss the book.
In the first of what was to turn into a six-month series of spirited conversations, Einstein enthusiastically told Bohm that he had never seen quantum theory presented so clearly. Nonetheless, he admitted he was still every bit as dissatisfied with the theory as was Bohm. During their conversations the two men discovered they each had nothing but admiration for the theory s ability to predict phenomena. What bothered them was that it provided no real way of conceivingof the basic structure of the world.
Bohr and his followers also claimed that quantum theory was complete and it was not possible to arrive at any clearer understanding of what was going on in the quantum realm. This was the same as saying there was nodeeper reality beyond the subatomic landscape, nofurther answers to be found, and this, too, grated on both Bohm and Einstein s philosophical sensibilities.
Over the course of their meetings they discussed many other things, but these points in particular gained new prominence in Bohm s thoughts. Inspired by his interactions with Einstein, he accepted the validity of his misgivings about quantum physics and decided there. When his textbook Quantum Theory was published in it was hailed as a classic, but it was a classic about a subject to which Bohmno longer gave his full allegiance. His mind, ever active and always looking for deeper explanations, was already searching for a better way of describing reality.
He began by assuming that particles such as electrons do exist in the absence of observers. He also assumed that there was a deeper reality beneath Bohr s inviolable wall, a subquantum level that still awaited discovery by science. Building on these premises he discovered that simply by proposing the existence of a new kind of field on this subquantum level he was able to explain the findings of quantum physics as well as Bohr could. Bohm called his proposed new field the quantum potential and theorized that, like gravity, it pervaded all of space. However, unlike gravitational fields,.
Its effects were subtle, but it was equally powerful everywhere. Bohm published his alternative interpretation of quantum theory in Reaction to his new approach was mainly negative. Some physicists were so convinced such alternatives were impossible that they dismissed his ideas out of hand. Others launched passionate attacks against his reasoning.
In the end virtually all such arguments were based primarily on philosophical differences, but it did not matter. Bohr s point of view had become so entrenched in physics that Bohm s alternative was looked upon as little more than heresy. Despite the harshness of these attacks Bohm remained unswerving in his conviction that there was more to reality than Bohr s view allowed. He also felt that science was much too limited in its outlook when it came to assessing new ideas such as his own, and in a book entitled Causality and Chance in Modern Physics, he examined several of the philosophical suppositions responsible for this attitude.
One was the widely held assumption that it was possible for any single theory, such as quantum theory, to be complete. Bohmcriticized this assumption by pointing out that nature may be infinite. Because it would not be possible for any theory to completely explain something that is infinite, Bohm suggested that open scientific inquiry might be better served if researchers refrained from making this assumption. In the book he argued that the way science viewed causality was also much too limited. Most effects were thought of as having only one or several causes.
However, Bohm felt that an effect could have an infinite number of causes. For example, if you asked someone what caused Abraham Lincoln s death, they might answer that it was the bullet inJohn Wilkes Booth s gun. But a complete list of all the causes that contributed to Lincoln s death would have to include all of the events that led to the development of the gun, all of the factors that caused Booth to want to kill Lincoln, all of the steps in the evolution of the human race that allowed for the development of a hand capable of holding a gun, and so on, and so on.
Bohm conceded that most of the time one could ignore the vast cascade of causes that had led to any given effect, but he still felt it was important for scientists to remember that no single cause-and-effect relationship was ever really separate from the universe as a whole. As he lookedmore carefully into the meaning of the quantum potential he discovered it had a number of features that implied an even more radical departure from orthodox thinking. One was the importance of wholeness. Classical science had always viewed the state of a system as a whole as merely the result of the interaction of its parts.
However, the quantum potential stood this view on its ear and indicated that the behavior of the parts was actually organized by the whole. This not only took Bohr s assertion that subatomic particles are not independent "things," but are part of an indivisible system one step further, but even suggested that wholeness was in some ways the more primary reality.
It also explained how electrons in plasmas and other specialized states such as superconductivity could behave like interconnected wholes.
As Bohm states, such "electrons are not scattered because, through the action of the quantum potential, the whole system is undergoing a co-ordinatedmovementmore like a ballet dance than like a crowdof unorganized people. At the level of our everyday lives things have very specific locations, but Bohm s interpretation of quantum physics indicated that at the subquantum level, the level in which the quantum potential operated, location ceased to exist All points in space became equal to all other points in space, and it was meaningless to speak of anything as being separate from anything else.
Physicists call this property "nonlocality. To illustrate how,he offers the following analogy: Imagine a fish swimming in an aquarium. Imagine also that you have never seen a fish or an aquarium before and your only knowledge about them comes from two television cameras, one directed at the aquarium s. When you look at the two television monitors you might mistakenly assume that the fish onthe screens are separate entities.
After all, because the cameras are set at different angles, each of the images will be slightly different. But as you continue to watch you will eventually realize there is a relationship between the two fish.
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