The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Bose-Einstein Condensates

Possibly the most popular candidate to yield quantum consciousness has been Bose-Einstein condensation (theoretically predicted in 1925 and first achieved in a gas in 1995). The most popular example of Bose-Einstein condensation is superconductivity.

The fascination with Bose-Einstein condensates is that they are the most highly ordered structures in nature (before their discovery in 1925 by Albert Einstein and Satyendranath Bose, that record was owned by crystals). The order is such that each of their constituents appears to occupy all their space and all their time: for all purposes the constituents of a Bose-Einstein condensate share the same identity.  In other words, the constituents behave just like one constituent (the photons of a laser beam behave just like one photon) and the Bose-Einstein condensate behaves like one single particle. Another odd feature of Bose-Einstein condensates is that they seem to possess a primitive form of free will.

  A Bose-Einstein condensate is the equivalent of a laser, except that it is the atoms, rather than the photons, that behave identically, as if they were a single atom. Technically speaking, as temperature drops, each atom's wave grows, until the waves of all the atoms begin to overlap and eventually merge. After they have merged, the atoms are located within the same region in space, they travel at the same speed, they vibrate at the same frequency, etc.: they become indistinguishable. The atoms have reached the lowest possible energy, but Heisenberg's principle makes it impossible for this to be zero energy: it is called "zero-point" energy, the minimum energy an atom can have.

The first Bose-Einstein condensate was created in 1995 by the US physicists Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman. In 2003 both the Austrian physicist Rudolf Grimm and the US physicist Deborah Jin achieved a Bose-Einstein “super molecule”, i.e. a collection of molecules (not just atoms) behaving in perfect unison.

The intriguing  feature of a Bose-Einstein condensate is that the many parts of a system not only behave as a whole, they become a “whole”. Their identities merge in such a way that they lose their individuality.

It was thought that Bose-Einstein condensation could be achieved only at very low temperatures. The British physicist Herbert Froehlich (“Long-range coherence and energy storage in biological systems”, 1968) proved the feasibility, and even the likelihood, of Bose-Einstein condensation at body temperatures in living matter (precisely, in cell membranes). This opened the doors to the possibility that all living systems contain Bose-Einstein condensates.

He argued that electrically charged molecules of living tissues behave like electric dipoles. When digestion of food generates enough energy, all molecular dipoles line up and oscillate in a perfectly coordinate manner, which may result in a Bose-Einstein condensate.

Biological oscillators of this kind are pervasive in nature: living matter is made of water and other biomolecules equipped with electrical dipoles, which react to external stimuli with a spontaneous breakdown of their rotational symmetry.

The biological usefulness of such biological oscillators is that, like laser light, they can amplify signals and encode information (e.g., they can "remember" an external stimulus).

Above all, coherent oscillations are crucial to many processes of integration of information in the brain.

 


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