There Is No Objective Reality

quantum leve
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I came across an article online while I was reading in bed last night. It’s not the kind of thing you want to be thinking about as you fall asleep. The headline was that “a quantum experiment suggests there’s no such thing as objective reality.”

The physics of this is far beyond me but it doesn’t mean there is no reality. Despite all the silly questions I was asked to consider i undergraduate philosophy classes, reality is right in front of your face. Just look up from this screen. See it?

Physicists have been considering the idea of objective reality since quantum mechanics became a big deal. They are not as concerned with what you see before you as they are with things at a quantum level. They have supposed that two observers can experience different, conflicting realities at the same time.

Of course, you observe a different reality from other observers all the time. Just watch the news or look at your Facebook feed. But scientists have just performed the first experiment that proves it. Or proves something.

A keyword in that headline is “suggests.” They say that the experiment produces an “unambiguous result.” There are a number of assumptions at play here: universal facts actually exist and that observers can agree on them; observers have the freedom to make whatever observations they want; choices one observer makes do not influence the choices other observers make. Those three assumptions are valid IF there is an objective reality that everyone can agree on,

This new experiment suggests that objective reality does not exist which would mean that at least one of those assumptions is not valid. Which one(s) might it be?

I don’t know that I believe that there is a reality we can all agree on, and I don’t have a lot of faith in our freedom of choice. The third assumption (which physicists call locality) is something I also question. Therefore, I don’t seem to believe in objective reality.  That can keep you up at night.

The Death Illusion


Science doesn’t have any interest in an afterlife. Unprovable. Then there’s Robert Lanza. He has a theory of biocentrism that says that death is an illusion created by our consciousness.

Take that a bit further.  He says he has evidence – via quantum physics – of an existence beyond the grave.

Lanza, from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, is a scientist in the fields of regenerative medicine and biology. The biocentric universe views biology as the central driving science in the universe. He proposed the theory in 2007.  Life creates the universe rather than the other way around.

If you accept biocentrism, then the current theories of the physical world do not work. They will only work if you place biology before the other sciences to produce a “theory of everything.”  This is the century of biology.

This video segment if from the film What The Bleep Do We Know!?: Down The Rabbit Hole. It illustrates the Double-Slit Experiment. Even with this simplified explanation, it is a tough concept to grasp. Give it a viewing.

In the experiment, scientists shoot a particle at two slits in a barrier and they observe that the particle behaves like a bullet and goes through one slit or the other.

But, if a person doesn’t watch the particle, it acts like a wave. That means it can go through both slits at the same time.

Matter and energy can display characteristics of both waves and particles. The behavior of the particle changes based on a person’s perception and consciousness. This is not something only Lanza believes. It is quantum physics.

That is strange enough, but it leads you to also theorizing that everything which can possibly happen is occurring at some point across multiverses. (Theoretical physicists believe that there is infinite number of universes with different variations of people, and situations taking place, simultaneously.)

So, there is no “death” as we generally conceive of it.  I’m not sure that will make you sleep any easier at night.

Look at the image at the top of this post. What color is it? Do you see blue? Your eyes or your brain could be altered and it would be red. What is its true color? Does it have a true color? Our consciousness makes sense of the world, and it can be altered to change this interpretation.

To a biocentric believer space and time don’t behave in the ways our consciousness tell us it does. Space and time are  mental constructs. What you see could not be present without your consciousness,’ explained Lanza. ‘Our consciousness makes sense of the world.’

If you are thinking that Robert Lanza is some kind of fringe science oddball, you’re wrong. He is pretty mainstream. He was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. I started reading his book, Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe. His theory is simple yet radical. If we lived in the 15th century, the idea that the world was a big, round rock and not flat would have sounded like total nonsense. [see comment]

Death? Lanza says that when we die our life becomes a “perennial flower that returns to bloom in the multiverse.” That is an afterlife. Not the kind you had imagined.  Can you wrap your mind around that idea?


Holistic Detective Work

This month I binged my way through the BBC series, DIRK GENTLY,  but I originally encountered Mr. Gently back in 1987 when he appeared in Douglas AdamsDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency novel.  The BBC series starred Stephen Mangan in the title role in 2010 and 2012.

Dirk is a holistic detective. He takes quantum theories that concern subatomic particles and applies it to our world. Like Dirk, I do believe in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. I don’t use that to solve crime, so I rely on Dirk to do that for me.

Dirk was born Svlad Cjelli (AKA Dirk Cjelli). In the books, he is rather pudgy man and typically wears an old brown suit, red checked shirt with a green striped tie, with a  long leather coat, red hat and thick metal-rimmed spectacles.

Dirk is always in need of money and in need of clients. He is expensive to hire because his expense accounts include everything, since everything is connected to solving the case – from fish and chips to a few weeks in the Bahamas. However, you can’t say that he rips off his clients because they never seem to pay him.

As anyone who has read or heard about Douglas Adams’ more famous series, the Hitchhiker’s Guides, (which have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide), the Dirk stories are half serious, half humorous.

Dirk’s office at 33a Peckender St. N1 London is probably messier than Sherlock Holmes’ lodgings at 221b Baker Street in that city. The two detectives do have some things in common, though I would guess they are also completely opposite.

Besides Dirk, the novels feature his useless (and unpaid) secretary Janice Pearce and Sergeant Gilks. Gilks is like Holme’s Lestrade and Dirk’s version of Dr. Watson is Richard Macduff.

sherlock quote
one of Sherlock’s explanations of his behavior

I have read or watched most of the many versions of Sherlock Holmes available. Most recently, my wife and I watched the most recent interpretation of a modern-day Sherlock (BBC) starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Back in his college days at Cambridge University (St. Cedd’s College), Dirk discovered he was psychic. He was able to know exam questions before exams. This led to some selling of exam questions and then to Dirk’s expulsion. Dirk doesn’t actually believe in psychic abilities and insists that he has a “depressingly accurate knack for making wild assumptions”.

The Dirk Gently novels evolved from two Doctor Who serials written by Adams. I have never fallen into the Dr. Who wormhole, though I have watched it on and off.  Adams write an episode, “City of Death,” about an alien who tries to change history and erase humanity from existence.

The other cancelled serial, “Shada,” featured a Cambridge professor called Chronotis who is hundreds of years old and has been working at the college for centuries. Chronotis is a Time Lord, and his time machine is an early model TARDIS which is a trademark elements from Doctor Who.

I would guess that some readers would have problems with the novels because of their fragmented and shifting points of view. Events are out of order, or seem to be out of order.

In Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, MacDuff goes to a dinner at his old college and sees his former tutor, Prof. Chronotis, perform an inexplicable magic trick. Later, the two of them discover a horse in the Professor’s lodgings, which is unable to explain. Back home, Macduff finds himself doing things that are out of character, which causes Dirk to intervene and solve the mystery. Of course, MacDuff didn’t realize there was mystery.

My attraction to the world of Dirk is the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. I really do agree with Gently that many things we encounter each day seem trivial and superfluous, but turn out to be important to our lives later.

It may seem incongruous that I believe that there are few, if any, “accidents” but I also don’t believe things are predetermined.

Though Adams does not go deeply into the science behind Dirk’s approach to detective work, it alludes to chaos theory, holism, quantum mechanics and the phenomena of non-locality.

When Macduff’s becomes erratic, Dirk brings in the concept of Schrödinger’s Cat.  Yes, Adams uses these complicated concepts in ways they were never intended to be used. I find that thought-provoking.

The Dirk Gently series only amounts to two and a half novels. First is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987), followed by The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988).  Douglas Adams was working on a third Dirk Gently novel, The Salmon of Doubt, at his untimely death.  Adams died of a heart attack on 11 May 2001, aged 49, after resting from his regular workout at a private gym. He had unknowingly suffered a gradual narrowing of his coronary arteries. The first ten chapters of this novel, assembled from various drafts following Adams’ death, together with a memo suggesting further plot points, appeared as The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time which was published posthumously.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) considers the rabbit hole in the 2010 film of Alice in Wonderland

The idea of going “down the rabbit hole” has become a metaphor for an adventure into the unknown. It comes from that usage in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. in which Alice literally follows a strange rabbit into a burrow and has an adventure in a fantastic world.

In the 1960s, it became a slang expression for a psychedelic experience, both from the book and its popularization through the song “White Rabbit” by the Jefferson Airplane.

I have read that in gaming it can be the initial page or clue that brings a player into an alternate reality fictional world.

filmI also think of the 2005 play called Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire, which was adapted into a film (also called Rabbit Hole) in 2010. The film focuses on parents (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) who are dealing with the death of their 4-year-old son Danny. He was killed in a car accident when he ran out into the street after his dog.

The mother, Becca, can’t really deal with the loss of the child and goes down a rabbit hole when she begins meeting with Jason who is the teenage driver of the car that accidentally hit Danny. Her husband is opposed to their meetings.

Jason’s guilt and her sorrow bring them together in an unexpected way. Jason tells her about a comic book he is writing called “Rabbit Hole.” (In the play, he was a newbie sci-fi writer.) The comic book is about parallel universes. Becca reads it and understands it in a way other than physics.

In many uses of the “down the rabbit hole” metaphor, going down the hole is seen as a foolish, crazy act. The world found there is also strange, perhaps crazy, as in madness. But the visitor to this new place begins to check that world against their own known world. It is often more difficult to emerge from the hole than it was to do down it, but if they do return to their own world, they do so changed.

I often thing of my journeys online as going down a rabbit hole. As a somewhat attention-deficit type person, I often get lost for hours in my online searching, reading, watching, listening and eventual writing. Friends often wonder at the hours I spend lost in this world. I know they question the value or the return on this investment.

movie posterI saw a movie years ago that got me thinking about going down the rabbit hole in more of a physics way. (Though scientists might say the film is fringe science.) It was the documentary called What the Bleep Do We Know which in its release on DVD added the subtitle Down the Rabbit Hole” (The film is amazingly on YouTube in its entirety.)  It is an entertaining, educational, engaging way to view some of the wonders of quantum physics. It connects that to self-realization and human evolution, which is where the fringe comes in.

When you go down that particular rabbit hole into the subatomic world, the laws of physics seem to break down and, like Alice, things seem incredibly strange.

How can an electron be in more than one place at the same time?

As an Alice observer, we have the power to change what we observe.  Get to the fringey edges and you wonder if the molecular structure of water can be altered via meditation. That’s why at those edges physics entangles us in a cosmic unity that makes telepathy, telekinesis and precognition seem more credible.

If you read articles in this area, the “gap” between science and religion/spirituality looks like it has a bridge we can cross.

Like Alice, getting into the rabbit hole is almost too easy. The real challenge is to get out and be the wiser person for the journey.

Manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground (f. 45v / p. 88)Description A handwritten page of the original manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, illustrated by the author. Held and digitized by the British Library.
A handwritten page of the original manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, illustrated by the author. Held and digitized by the British Library.

from the original illustrated Alice in Wonderland   (available as text online)

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled “Orange Marmalade”, but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.

“Well!” thought Alice to herself, “after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!” (Which was very likely true.)

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! “I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?” she said aloud. “I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think—” (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) “—yes, that’s about the right distance—but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I’ve got to?” (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.)

Presently she began again. “I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward! The Antipathies, I think—” (she was rather glad there WAS no one listening, this time, as it didn’t sound at all the right word) “—but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know. Please, Ma’am, is this New Zealand or Australia?” (and she tried to curtsey as she spoke—fancy curtseying as you’re falling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?) “And what an ignorant little girl she’ll think me for asking! No, it’ll never do to ask: perhaps I shall see it written up somewhere.”

Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon began talking again. “Dinah’ll miss me very much to-night, I should think!’ (Dinah was the cat.) “I hope they’ll remember her saucer of milk at tea-time. Dinah my dear! I wish you were down here with me! There are no mice in the air, I’m afraid, but you might catch a bat, and that’s very like a mouse, you know. But do cats eat bats, I wonder?” And here Alice began to get rather sleepy, and went on saying to herself, in a dreamy sort of way, “Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?” and sometimes, “Do bats eat cats?” for, you see, as she couldn’t answer either question, it didn’t much matter which way she put it. She felt that she was dozing off, and had just begun to dream that she was walking hand in hand with Dinah, and saying to her very earnestly, “Now, Dinah, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a bat?” when suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.

Circumscribed By Music

I’m the sparrow on the roof
I’m the list of everyone I have to lose
I’m the rainbow in the dirt
I am who I was and how much I can hurt

So I will look for you
In stories of the kings—
Westward leading, still proceeding
To the world unseen

That’s the opening of  “The World Unseen” by Rosanne Cash (from The Essential Rosanne Cash). I don’t know if you know much about her. If not, you probably know her as the daughter as Johnny Cash and you might know her for her music. You might classify her as a country artist and classify country music as boozy, yeehaw shouting, foot stomping, corny lyrics music. I’m not a big fan of country music, but I am a fan of Rosanne Cash.

I have seen her perform live and also got to see her live in a conversation (rather than a concert) setting and she is much more of the poet, storyteller, thinker and artist in a very good and broad sense.

She has described her life as one “circumscribed by music” because of her family, but she is also quite interested in  language, art and quantum mechanics.


In an interview with Krista Tippett (On Being),  she said that like her father, she feels she is a mystic. She seeks creativity in mystical, musical and mathematical ways. It helps her deal with  love, grief and loss and she finds words and music there. Music is a medium – in both the MacLuhan and the mystical ways. On that program, she was called a “time traveler” because the past, present, and future are often linked in the songs she writes, and sometimes they are all occurring at once. And that idea recalls Albert Einstein’s notion that time is a “stubbornly persistent illusion” – one we are always banging up against in our attempts to break its bonds.

I got a copy of her book Composed: A Memoir which isn’t really a autobiography in the usual narrative, but rather a series of memories which begin to constellate into a whole.

She also has a book of fiction, Bodies of Water, and a children’s book, Penelope Jane, which is a “fairy’s tale” (not quite the same as a “fairy tale”).

I totally agree with her when she writes that “songs aren’t a diary, a blog or a therapy session. I’ve never had a fact-checker come in to go over my lyrics. I haven’t worked through all my childhood issues and achieved enlightenment through songwriting.”

Poetry these days often comes too close diary/blog/therapy. I have had the same situation with students that she seems to have when she teaches a songwriting workshop. You suggest a line or word change and the student says “But it didn’t happen that way.” Cash says that she will remind the student that “if they were bound to just the facts, they should consider science rather than art.”

Still, there is science in her art, even if it is “unseen,”  it is working in that way that forces act upon us unseen. In geometry, the circumscribed circle is one which passes through all the vertices of a polygon. If we define circumscribed as constricted, or defined by some boundary, then I would have to disagree with the word being used to describe her life. If anything, she exceeds the boundary that might have been set by being the child in a famous musical family. As in quantum mechanics, the electron’s motion around the nucleus of an atom is no “orbit” but a wonderfully hard to explain momentum.

A Theory of Everything

The theory of everything comes from theoretical physics and is the idea that some thing could fully explains and link together all known physical phenomena.

I first read about it during a period when I was reading a lot about Albert Einstein. Attempts to unify gravity with electromagnetism go back before Einstein, but after Einstein’s theory of gravity (general relativity) was published in 1915, he and the many others began to search for a “unified field theory”  combining gravity with electromagnetism. For Einstein, it was a theory of everything that obsessed and confounded him until his death.

I did some searching into the origin of the term. A character in some of Stanisław Lem’s science fiction stories in the 1960s was working on the “General Theory of Everything”.  It sounds like something that Douglas Adams would have included in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Physicist John Ellis claims to have introduced the term in an article he wrote in 1986. But my guess is that we have been thinking about it for thousands of years.

It is The Answer.

Though some may search in quantum physics, others search in religion or spirituality or in their own interactions with nature.

The ancient Greeks thought that in all the world’s complexity that an underlying unity was hidden. That was what held Einstein’s interest in his last years. But no one has been successful in finding it.

Now, I am reading about “biocentrism” which is a new theory of everything.

Theorists get caught up in the idea that the odds of  events are so high that we can’t explain the Why of things.

I read that the probability of random physical laws and events leading to us being here on this Earth at this moment is less than 1 out of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Cosmologists might explain our origins as “particles bouncing against each other” until something put it all together. Or, try this: it is like “a watch that somehow wound itself up, and that will unwind in a semi-predictable way. “

On a personal level, how and why did some random bits of carbon become me pressing keys on a computer in Paradelle in 2010?

Biocentrism seems to explain the nature and origin of the universe based on understanding the role of the observer.

That’s us. Our presence.

That means getting past what many theorists currently think. Oversimplified, the universe came from nothingness. That’s actually the “theory” of some religions too.

There was that Big Bang, but if it had been just a tiny bit more powerful, it all would have pushed out too fast and there would be no galaxies and stars. Make it a bit less on the gravitational force and stars, including our Sun, wouldn’t have ignited.

Mess around at all with any of the physical parameters and we don’t exist.

But we do exist. Why?

I have a few books related to this, but my friend Steve pointed me to Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe by Robert Lanza and Bob Berman that came out earlier this year.

Biocentrism really turns your worldview upside down by theorizing that life creates the universe instead of the other way around. Life is not an accidental byproduct of the laws of physics.

Probably a good number of readers are saying that “God did it.”  If that works for you, great. Rest easy. That only works partially for me.

Thirty years ago I was reading the great naturalist Loren Eiseley. His book The Star Thrower (another one from Steve) says that that scientists “have not always been able to see that an old theory, given a hairsbreadth twist, might open an entirely new vista to the human reason.”  He thought you might look at evolution but consider the Big Bang as the end of the chain of physical causality, not the beginning of it.

Theoretical physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in The Grand Design talk about that observer.

There is no way to remove the observer — us — from our perceptions of the world … In classical physics, the past is assumed to exist as a definite series of events, but according to quantum physics, the past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities.

If we, the observer, collapse these possibilities (that is, the past and future) then where does that leave evolutionary theory, as described in our schoolbooks? Until the present is determined, how can there be a past? The past begins with the observer, us, not the other way around as we’ve been taught.

We create space and time. Space and time are simply the mind’s tools for putting it all together. Everything we experience, even our bodies, is occurring in your mind.

Will the next age be the Age of Biology? (As we pass out of the age that focused on physics.)  Will that age begin not with some familiar calendar click like a new year, decade or century but with the 2012 timewave? It seems fitting that the new age might be one that turns our universe outside-in. Not the end of anything but  new possibilities, new perspectives and not seeing reality the same way.

“When we measure something we are forcing an undetermined, undefined world to assume an experimental value. We are not ‘measuring’ the world, we are creating it.” — Niels Bohr

Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe

Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe

Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness

God Theory, The: Universes, Zero-Point Fields, and What’s Behind It All

Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life

The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives