Physics in Mind: A Quantum View of the Brain

Physics in Mind: A Quantum View of the Brain

Physics in Mind: A Quantum View of the Brain

Physics in Mind: A Quantum View of the Brain

Excerpt

The radio was on in the background when I became aware of some vaguely familiar chords. As I began to listen more intently, a few swells of harmony pushed a button somewhere: Bach, the chorale “Out of the Deep,” the faint final accords.

I hadn’t heard that piece in decades. But as a teenager I had sung it in the school choir. Hearing those notes, I remembered the music and words of the entire chorale, as well as the withering look of the conductor when I missed my cue… and yes, the face of that girl in the choir I had fancied.

A melody, a face, the sounds of rushing wind, the smell of honeysuckle, the touch of a hand long still—all this we can perceive with the mind’s eye. We see, we hear, we feel, we remember, we are aware.

But what precisely do we mean when we say, “We are aware of something”? What is this peculiar state, at once so utterly familiar and so bewilderingly mysterious, that we call consciousness? What is its mechanism?

I put it like that point blank, to show from the start the tenor of the way and hold implicitly forth the expectation that consciousness has a physics explanation. Such a prospect may be shocking to some. That our mind and perceptions, our joys and sorrows, our memories, our sense of self, or worse, the glittering jewel of human intellect, thought, could be reduced to physics terms, may be a blow to one’s self-esteem. But it is really no more so than anything evolutionary—Darwinian schemes always step on the peacock tail.

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