The ultimate goal of the study of physics is to decode the rules and laws of the universe; to understand what “makes it all tick,” so to speak. That goal, of course, has remained elusive, but great strides have been made toward it over the last few thousand years.
Newton’s formulations of the laws of gravity, Kepler’s laws of motion, Bohr’s modeling of the atom, Maxwell’s equations on electromagnetic behavior… these all contributed to a deeper understanding of the very fabric of reality. Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity, and then General Relativity, soon followed.
Our understanding of physics accelerated throughout the 20th century with theories on the Big Bang, inflation and the inflaton field, string theory, M-theory, supersymmetry, quantum mechanics, parallel worlds, bubble universes and much more. It’s truly fascinating to observe all this as a conscious being sitting inside the very universe we’re all trying to figure out, and one thing I really appreciate about physicists in general is that they require an extraordinarily convincing burden of proof before they announce something to be “discovered.”
That’s in great contrast to the pharmaceutical industry which essentially just “makes stuff up” and passes it off as “science.” Drug companies give science a terrible name, but physicists are the redeeming individuals who help restore credibility to the very name “science.”
(For example, in clinical drug trials, a pharmaceutical only has to work on five percent of the test group in order to receive FDA approval as “safe and effective for everyone!” In the realm of particle physics and cosmology, however, experiments usually have to reach a level of certainty approaching 2,999,999 out of three million (5 sigma), thereby leaving only one chance in three million of the conclusion being wrong. Now that’s what I call confidence!)
This is why physicists, chemists and other “hard sciences” people who end up throwing their hats in with the pharmaceutical / vaccine / chemotherapy industries only end up discrediting themselves. The for-profit health care industry is largely based on quackery that merely borrows the label of “science” but follows none of its stringent requirements for proof. Physics and cosmology, in great contrast, has (almost) nothing to patent and nothing to sell to the public at monopolistic prices. Particle physics, cosmology and even quantum field theory is truly all about the quest for knowledge and not about hyping up some false pandemic to sell more dangerous vaccines to an unsuspecting public.
Even with the extreme attention to evidentiary detail, however, there’s still something the physicists have been overlooking for a long, long time: Consciousness.
The quest for particles (while ignoring consciousness)
Why would anyone want to spend a few billion dollars smashing atoms together and analyzing the results of the splatter? To find out what atoms are made of, of course. But more importantly, to find out what the universe is made of. That’s what CERN is all about, and as long as its results are understood in the proper context, it’s valuable science.
There’s a huge gap in all this, unfortunately, and that gap has its origins in the thinking that atoms are made entirely of particles. The wildly misnamed “God particle” known as Higgs boson has been the single most sought-after particle by physicists in their quest to find physical evidence to back up their mathematical equations of the “Standard Model” of the universe.
To understand why that matters, let’s back up for a minute. Physicists and especially cosmologists spend an enormous amount of time working in the abstract realm of mathematics. The purpose of the mathematics is to attempt to model physical reality, which is, of course, engineered into the fabric of the universe with the language of mathematics. (Consciousness is also woven into the fabric of reality, many argue, but that’s a subject I’ll revisit later.)
What’s often lacking in this scientific quest is physical experimental evidence that backs up the math. So it only makes sense to attempt to conduct real-world experiments to either prove or disprove what the theory predicts. That’s what CERN is all about. Now that the Higgs particle has been convincingly demonstrated to exist, this helps nail down all sorts of answers, thereby leading to a deeper exploration of other questions, each of which grants a measure of understanding to human civilization.
Ultimately, physicists are attempting to understand the origins of the universe, which has turned out to be a tricky question for lots of reasons, some of which are almost impossible to imagine. In addition to the parallel worlds and multiverse theories that have joined the complexities, there is also “brane theory” to deal with. It’s a theory that says, in a nutshell, multiple universes coexist intertwined with each other but not interacting. You can’t touch another brane world even though it may exist right alongside our own brane world.
What’s important to realize in all this is that even the so-called “Standard Model” of explaining everything is currently an unsatisfactory patchwork of equations and mathematical transformations that don’t play well together when it comes to different physical contexts such as really small things or really large, massive things. Try to meld large-scale equations of gravity, for example, with really small phenomena such as quantum fluctuations of atomic nuclei, and you get nonsensical mathematical answers such as “the answer is X divided by zero!”
Virtually all present-day reality modeling equations break down at singularity events such as black holes, too. The Standard Model is seriously lacking, in other words, and one of the reasons there is so much excitement about Higgs boson is because it would help fill in the gaps of the Standard Model explanation.
There’s little doubt that the Standard Model is only a temporary quick fix in the bigger picture, of course. It’s not “wrong” in the sense of being terribly incorrect; it’s most likely just incomplete. Ultimately, physicists hope to find a “unified theory” that explains everything with a single set of mathematical understandings and equations that apply to all observable phenomena in the universe: electromagnetism, gravity, mass, light and so on. Einstein spent a considerable portion of his life in search of the unification of these fundamental forces but was unable to achieve it. This is a goal of understanding that may yet take lifetimes to achieve.
If it were achieved, it would represent one of the most profound achievements in the history of humankind.
Yet, as I hinted above, there’s still something missing from all this: Consciousness. Without consciousness, the universe cannot be fully explained, as consciousness is increasingly emerging as a fundamental force impacting the very fabric of reality. This is really, really frustrating for many scientists because, for starters, the majority of them don’t even believe in the existence of consciousness. Stephen Hawking is famous for his rather short-sighted remarks that people are mindless, soulless beings — “biological robots” — and that religion / spirituality is a realm for “people who are afraid of the dark.”
He titles chapters of his book, “The Theory of Everything” and yet does not even acknowledge the existence of consciousness or free will — two things that are fundamentally tied into quantum theory equations in the context of the “Observer.” It goes without saying that until modern-day physicists can embrace and attempt to understand consciousness and the role of the Observer in shaping the physical universe, even their most determined efforts to find a unified theory of everything will come up short.
This is frustrating for physicists because, to date, there are no equations that describe the behavior or properties of consciousness. Although consciousness can be experienced first-hand by conscious beings, it so far has defied measurement and experimental validation. How can anyone prove consciousness exists? Other than the fact that it is self-evident to those who possess it, is there an independent way to measure it and thereby confirm its existence?
This may ultimately prove impossible because of an error in the question. An “independent” measurement, in classical physics, describes a measurement being conducted by a mechanism that has no ties to any conscious observer. Yet in order to become aware of the measurements, a conscious being must, one way or another, interact with the results of the experiment. This interaction, as quantum theorists are increasingly realizing, is itself part of the experiment and may alter its outcomes even after the fact. The Observer cannot be isolated from the events observed.
This also means that all of today’s science is, in fact, biased toward consciousness. All the evidence that makes up the entire history of known science suffers from a glaring “selection bias” because it was all observed and selected by conscious beings. Even this recent Higgs boson discovery may have been brought into existence solely because so many conscious beings were focused on bringing into reality what they imagined to be real. I know this almost starts to sound New-Agey, but such is the nature of things in a conscious universe: All science being conducted today is carried out under the influence of “consciousness bias.” And so we need to understand what this means and how it impacts our understanding of reality.
Gaining a deep understanding of this may be exceedingly difficult for human beings to achieve. It may, in fact, be beyond the capabilities of biological beings with limited neurological capacity. Nevertheless, I believe that the more modern science understands about the Higgs boson, quantum theory, particle physics and cosmology, the closer science will be to initiating a scientific study of consciousness.
We’ve got to get the hard sciences out of the way first, in other words, before the interaction between mind and matter can even be approached.
Consciousness, parallel worlds and more
Consciousness, you see, isn’t made of particles. Thus, you can’t smash consciousness in a particle accelerator and hope to see the tiny bits of what it’s made of. (You can crush free will, of course, but that takes a government.) Yet there is increasingly compelling evidence that consciousness interacts with the physical world and may even create parallel physical worlds when it is exercised. Hints of this are emerging from the study of quantum physics, which immediately leads to the possibility of “multiple worlds” and parallel realities.
The search for Higgs boson, ultimately, is an important one, but the approach is incomplete if our civilization seeks to uncover the fundamental forces that unify our observable universe. Those forces do not exist in a vacuum absent the minds of the conscious inhabitants of the universe. Where there is life, there appears to be consciousness, and if there’s one thing most physicists and cosmologists agree on, it’s that life is ridiculously abundant across the cosmos. Not in terms of units of life per square meter, of course, since most of the universe is, physically speaking, just empty space. The average density of the known universe (roughly 28 billion light years across) has been estimated at 6 hydrogen atoms per cubic meter. That’s a lot of empty space, but it’s filled with literally trillions of stars, each of which may harbor life and therefore consciousness.
To achieve a fundamental understanding of the origins and mechanisms of our known universe without factoring in the impact of consciousness and the conscious observer is, to put it bluntly, a blind approach to ultimate understanding. It’s like trying to bake a cake but leaving out the flour. The recipe of reality from which our universe has sprung must take into account consciousness. If it does not, no unification of fundamental forces will ever be complete, I believe.