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Quantum thoughts

  1. Sep 13, 2010 #1
    Can quantum physics measure our thoughts and emotions? Is there or if any a formula to measure this energy? I was just thinking about the trouble in the unification of Quantum and relativity would be like our body. Relative physics would govern the physicality of our body and I am not sure if quantum physics governs our thoughts and emotions since it is filled with uncertainty, like random thoughts. Is there a way to measure the energy from which we create these images that we see and the emotions that we feel?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2010 #2
    SQUIDs are macroscopic quantum interference devices that are very sensitive. They can measure a lot of rather subtle energies. This is mainstream science.

    Also radioactive decay rates may be sensitive - but that is, so far, a fringe, not the mainstream science.
  4. Sep 14, 2010 #3
    As far as I understand, the brain can be described just fine in classical terms. Also, I'm fairly certain that entanglement does not play any role, due to decoherence. There are fairly good very simplistic classical models of the brain, that describe neurons in broad terms, such as activation level that do a decent job of modeling brain function. You have IBM Blue Brain project, Geoffrey Hinton, and Jeff Hawkins all doing excellent work. But there is much more ongoing research. But all of the current research tends to imply that the power of the brain comes from its ability to process information in parallel, rather than from QM. I think people will be very surprised in the coming decades as we realize that the brain is just a simple parallel machine.
  5. Sep 14, 2010 #4
    They will be even more surprised if they will realize that it is not a simple parallel machine.
  6. Sep 14, 2010 #5
    True. That would be quite a surprise. I think I was talking more in terms of the layman. Scientists already generally regard the brain as a type of parallel machine (which is what I think you were implying).
  7. Sep 14, 2010 #6
    Scientists regard brain as a neural network. Its computational power is known: it can only solve so called linearly separable problems. Humans solve much harder problems each day, so their activity can not be explained as a neural network. There's something more in our heads, we don't know what it is yes.
  8. Sep 14, 2010 #7
    This is incorrect, and the exact reason why I chose to reply to this topic. It's almost annoying to me how often I hear this. It's as if everybody thinks they are an expert on the subject. Perhaps 50 years ago scientists regarded the brain as a neural network, but we have much more complex models now. For example, take a look at those researchers I mentioned. You will see we've come quite a long ways in 50 years. It's just that hardly anybody actually knows about the research. Hinton's work on DBNs completely demolishes that upper bound you gave on the power of neural networks (so long as they are truly implemented as a parallel machine). Also, take a look at the results of the Netflix competition, which relied heavily on Hinton's work. And there's much more research going on. But those are few of the best places to start.
  9. Sep 14, 2010 #8


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    To add to what ThePhysicsGuy has stated, please refer to Nature article that has quite an extensive overview of what we currently know:

    Christof Koch and Klaus Hepp "Quantum Mechanics in the Brain", Nature v.440, p.611 (2006).

    Among other things, they said:

    While I agree with this comment, and it is certainly the case at 300K, we already know that "size" isn't the culprit here (see the Schrodinger Cat-type experiments from Delft/Stony Brook). There, 10^11 particle can maintain coherence and exhibit quantum properties. However, this is under a very unique condition, and certainly not the same as the scenario of what the authors in this paper are describing, which definitely is a classical system.

    They also stated this, which is consistent with what ThePhysicsGuy has pointed out:

    They end with this conclusion:

  10. Sep 14, 2010 #9


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    Welcome to PF illism!

    I’m only a layman and not an expert on the subject, but I do have my own brain and I hope it qualifies for commenting... :smile:
    A philosopher would probably say: Please specify "thoughts and emotions".

    And I would ad "mathematically"; since there is no mathematical formulation of human "thoughts and emotions", and mathematics is the language of physics. How could you measure something that you can’t specify?

    No mathematical formula for "thoughts and emotions", but there are tools for measuring brain activity like PET, MRI, EEG, MEG, etc. This will only show where the activities are in the brain.

    PET scan of the human brain

    When it comes to images and visualization, there’s good understanding how the eye works, and where the visual processing center is situated in the occipital lobe.


    But I doubt there are any scientists who, in detail, can explain the emotions you feel when you look at someone you love, and I’m definitely sure there is no "mathematical formula" for love (yet!:smile:).

    Personally, I’m a little skeptic in believing that the human brain could be reduced to a "mathematical machine", and that 'all' we got is 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses calculating as h*ll...


    A really convincing simulation in the far future, maybe. But the real McCoy in 10 years...?:bugeye:?

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  11. Sep 14, 2010 #10


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    This is interesting. How do we describe consciousness, thoughts, cognition, emotions, subjectivity, ethics, creativity, imagination, intuition, love, hate, altruism, qualia, etc in (mathematical) classical terms?

    I’m not saying that you can’t build a really big and complex version of Deep Blue that acts as a human on most planes, in a simulation. But is there anyone who believes Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project, when he says: "It is not impossible to build a human brain and we can do it in 10 years"


    I promise to do something really stupid, like eating my computer, if the NEURON software running parallel on a Blue Gene supercomputer is all it takes, and this code is going to do the job of a human neuron...?:surprised?

    Code (Text):
    //create two sections, the body of the neuron and a very long axon
    create soma, axon
    soma {
        //length is set to 100 micrometers 
        L = 100
        //diameter is set to 100 micrometers
        diam = 100
        //insert a mechanism simulating the standard squid Hodgkin–Huxley channels
        insert hh
        //insert a mechanism simulating the passive membrane properties
        insert pas
    axon {
        L = 5000
        diam = 10
        insert hh
        insert pas
        //the axon shall be simulated using 10 compartments. By default a single compartment is used
        nseg = 10
    //connect the distal end of the soma to the proximal end of the axon
    connect soma(1), axon(0)
    //declare and insert a current clamp into the middle of the soma
    objref stim
    soma stim = new IClamp(0.5)
    //define some parameters of the stimulus: delay, duration (both in ms) and amplitude (in nA)
    stim.del = 10
    stim.dur = 5
    stim.amp = 10
    //load a default NEURON library file that defines the run routine
    //set the simulation to run for 50 ms
    tstop = 50
    //run the simulation
    Producing this output:


    I’m not religious, but I’m praying to "something" that there is more "code" running in my brain... :cry:

    What’s your opinion on the fact that if the human brain just a computing machine, then Gödel's incompleteness theorems would apply to it? And so to speak – giving us "some trouble" in formulating a consistent mathematical model of ourselves, right?

    Finally some words by Erwin Schrödinger on qualia that to me gives a strong indication for that Henry Markram is not making it in 10 years:

    And don’t forget that the nifty color screen you are looking at right now, with millions of colors, only consist of tiny red and green and blue "lamps" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RGB" [Broken])...

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Sep 14, 2010 #11
    I have a hard time accepting the idea of the brain as just a sort of computation device be it classical or quantum.

    I am conscious, a light switch is not. putting 2 light switches together doesn't make them any more conscious then a single light switch. a million switches, a billion switches, or a trillion switches still don't make the leap from a thing, just following deterministic (or quantum) laws, to a consciousness.

    A machine can take measurements, process data, and produce an output. This is different then a living being experiencing something, contemplating it, and making a decision. It doesn't matter how sophisticated the machine.

    I just think there is something metaphysical about consciousness. I don't know that, but that is what I think.

    Edit: I type too slow. DevilsAvacado said the same thing first and better.
  13. Sep 14, 2010 #12


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    I don’t know if you type slower, but you are much funnier, "a trillion switches" this exactly on the spot, hehe! :rofl:

    If the human brain is just computing machine, you could do this very cruel thought experiment: Take a newborn, separate the brain from the body, keep both part alive artificially, and put the brain in a black box for 20 years, then put them together again, and "boot up" the darned "thing"!

    This should not be a problem for a machine, right!?

    But the "thing", if it survived, would not be human, more like a totally mad Frankenstein...


  14. Sep 15, 2010 #13
    Read Jeff Hawkins' book "On Intelligence". It covers many of those points. Also, look at Hinton's work for more information on thoughts, imagination, and creativity. Lastly, I would also add that I think some of those points are simply imaginary (creations of the imagination). Human level AI is coming. And it's coming very soon. So we'd better start accepting this and considering its implications, while we still have time.
  15. Sep 15, 2010 #14


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    Nothing of what you said here is based on science, but rather, on a matter of personal tastes. If that is what you are using, then there is no discussion here because, what is the rationale of arguing about one's favorite color? Try to argue against my favorite color.

    What you have been given are very strong science arguments. Read the references. We spent considerable effort to find those, rather than countering your post with our own personal preferences. Unless you can come up with something similar, using arguments such as "I have a hard time...." will get us nowhere fast.

  16. Sep 15, 2010 #15
    Yes, but choosing a research direction in science depends to some extent on a matter of personal taste. Some scientists will look for evidence that the brain is just a machine, some that it is not just a machine. Both directions can lead to new and fruitful discoveries.
  17. Sep 15, 2010 #16


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    Choosing, maybe. Getting FUNDING for it, no.

    You can use whatever criteria you want to choose what you want to do. However, it doesn't mean that the rest of us will want to fund it without any significant justification. Try it.

    The whole point of the article that I cited is that, as far as we know NOW, there aren't any quantum effects yet to explain the function of the brain. This isn't simply based on a matter of tastes. Now, does this mean that one should stop pursuing and asking if there can be? No! But this is a different issue than claiming that there is!

  18. Sep 15, 2010 #17
    What you know, need not be the same as what other people know. What you do not want to fund - other people may want, and may be even funding right now, without you knowing it. It was always like that.
  19. Sep 15, 2010 #18
    I wonder if we could model volition / expectation in terms of randomness in quantum mechanics (i.e., the probabilistic aspects).
  20. Sep 15, 2010 #19


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    I'm sure that's the same argument those people who poured money into the Blacklight Power company is saying. People will pour money into dubious claims all the time.

    What I described isn't what *I* know, but what is now generally the state of knowledge in that field. It doesn't mean it isn't going to change, but this is what it is now.

    This is totally off topic. The OP isn't asking for such things.

    If you have evidence that there are effects related to brain functions that can be explained only using QM, then show references to address the OP's question. Till then, this is idle speculation.

  21. Sep 15, 2010 #20


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    Jeff Hawkins is a very smart guy, and I loved my Palm Pilot, which is still around in a drawer somewhere. And I think he has a much more realistic approach to AI than the Blue Brain Project:
    This is what my silly "layman intuition" told me years ago, and it feels comforting that a much smarter guy has come to exactly the same conclusion.

    I’ve skimmed through the paper and Hawkins main 'tools' are patterns and the memory‑prediction framework. To me, this looks like the right way to advance, especially when it comes to visualization. Pattern recognition has been around for awhile and seems to work just fine.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=<object width="640" height="505">
    <param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/pLh3iQQn_fA&fs=1&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0&amp;color1=0x402061&amp;color2=0x9461ca"></param><param [Broken] name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
    <param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param>
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    But then I’m not following Hawkins. All the wonderful things humans are capable of is just a result of a very big and "multi-connected" memory? And all that is human is predictions out of this memory??

    I’m not buying this.

    Also Hawkins makes it very easy for himself by stating consciousness doesn’t exist, it’s just a "magical sauce" that one pour over a brain made of cells...? Consciousness is just memories and Hawkins "don't feel anything special is going on"...?

    I would love to hear Hawkins having a discussion with his wife about when they made love for the first time, and repeat this statement!! (= divorce? :smile:)

    I think we can all agree that consciousness is something that is happening now, the subjective experience of being. There are people who had tragic accidence and lost all their short-term memory – if they go out to buy milk, they don’t remember the way home. I don’t think we can call these persons zombies without consciousness.

    When it comes to qualia, Hawkins has no clue.

    According to Hawkins, all we need is 8 TB (terabyte) of memory and a connectivity that reproduce that of a neuron that may connect to five or ten thousand other cells, and this can be achieved by small number of high-capacity "lines".

    Then what?

    I can buy eight 1TB HDD tomorrow and start simulating the multi-connect wiring. Is there anyone who thinks this stuff is going to emulate a human brain in the very near future??

    I don’t. Hawkins is probably on the right track, but there must be a lot more to figure out what the human brain does whit this large and multi-connected memory.

    If anyone is interested in the paper, Google: Hawkins, Jeff - On Intelligence(UC)

    And here’s a 20 min video from TED going thru the main idea:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=<object width="640" height="385">
    <param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/G6CVj5IQkzk&fs=1&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0&amp;color1=0x402061&amp;color2=0x9461ca"></param> [Broken]
    <param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
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    (The thing that made me "jump" was when Hawkins at 20:03 says: "In the same way, this is like the fu*king brain science and these memories are going to be very fundamental technology" ... fu*king brain science!? :smile:)

    Maybe so, but to me creations of the imagination is just what the human brain is all about.

    So they say, for 30 years now.

    This has also been the case for 30 years.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  22. Sep 18, 2010 #21
    I'd warn you to wait until we create an artificial conscious being before you start jumping do conclusions like that. We aren't quite sure how to do it, so who's to say that a trillion switches couldn't be conscious?

    You're a human, not a measuring machine. We have no real reason to believe that such devices don't have a consciousness of sorts, or at least something maybe a little similar. Do remember that consciousness sees to be a 'more or less' type of thing rather than an 'either or'. take animals and the like for example, or different states of consciousness that you experience throughout life.

    I think the problem here essentially comes from the fact that people treat consciousness as a pure thing, a pure state. that the line between the 'I' and the 'not-I' is sharp. it only takes good self diagnostics to realize that you are a composite, that there is really no 'consciousness', just the union of different elements. for example, tonight when you go to sleep, pay attention to what happens. you think about stuff for a few minutes, but then you kind of start to go wierd, hard to concentrate, random thoughts, nonsensical thought lines. things just get more and more messed up until eventually you feel your 'consciousness' essentially self destruct, different parts doing different things. in deep sleep all you feel is this kind of swirling or pulsating. not consciousness at all, but still some sort of 'first person experience'. this is what i imagine machines or simpler animals experience.

    once i was badly poisoned by carbon monoxide. It does very strange things to your 'consciousness'. i can't really explain them due to the flaws of language, but they did clearly show to me that consciousness is a sliding scale, and multivariate, rather than being a binary 'yes or no' type of thing. so if it's not really a special state, why label it as such?
  23. Sep 19, 2010 #22
    I think it's funny that so many people refuse to accept that we are just sophisticated biological machines. It might have taken millions of years to diverge from our ancestors and develop into what we are today but as we understand more and more about what we are on the physical level, why would it not be possible to create an artificial being that marvels at the complexity and mystery of the world and has dynamic patterns of thinking? I think it's possible and I think that I will see this before I die (assuming I live to be [at least] 80 years old)..
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