Ever since the discovery of quantum mechanics, “reality” has been hard to grasp, literally and figuratively. The laws of quantum mechanics seem to suggest that particles are neither here nor there. Particles or waves exist everywhere and nowhere at once. Only when observed do particles suddenly make a choice on where to be.
Does this mean that observing our world is what makes it real? Does it blink out of existence when we’re not looking?
The question of how to make sense of quantum mechanics and its curious implications has occupied many curious minds for decades. One such mind is that of Lucien Hardy, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute in Canada.
Hardy has proposed an experiment that may shed light on many unanswered questions, bringing us closer to understanding what the mind is, whether it’s made up of the same matter as the physical world and whether it is capable of affecting the physical world.
Hi experiment concerns one of the features of quantum mechanics known as quantum entanglement – what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”. It refers to the fact that entangled particles affect one another regardless of the distance between them – the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the other particle. For a brief overview, see the animated video below.
Hardy has proposed to use a variation on the Bell test which was devised in 1964 to prove the actual existence of certain theoretical consequences of the phenomenon of entanglement in quantum mechanics.
Futurism explains: “Simply put, the Bell test involves a pair of entangled particles: one is sent towards location A and the other to location B. At each of these points, a device measures the state of the particles. The settings in the measuring devices are set at random, so that it’s impossible for A to know the setting of B (and vice versa) at the time of measurement. Historically, the Bell test has supported the spooky theory”.
In Hardy’s experiment, humans will be used to decide the settings at each end.
“To get a sufficiently high rate of switching at both ends, I suggest an experiment over a distance of about 100km with 100 people at each end wearing EEG headsets, with the signals from these headsets being used to switch the settings.”
“The radical possibility we wish to investigate is that, when humans are used to decide the settings (rather than various types of random number generators), we might then expect to see a violation of Quantum Theory in agreement with the relevant Bell inequality. Such a result, while very unlikely, would be tremendously significant for our understanding of the world,” Hardy wrote in a paper published online.
If the experiment turns up results that show a correlation between the measurements that doesn’t match previous Bell tests, it would boil down to a violation of quantum theory which would suggest a new influence on the A and B measurements outside the realm of standard physics.
Why does this matter?
This new influence might be the mind, or human consciousness. It could show that consciousness is not comprised of matter, that it exists in a separate state and is not governed by the laws of physics.
Such a result would shed more light on human consciousness and likely unleash a new slew of debates and theories.