|Topics > What is the Mind?|
For decades, a few researchers (Marshall, Penrose–Hameroff, Jibu-Pribram-Yasue) have speculated that consciousness could arise from the formation of a Bose–Einstein condensate (BEC), but exactly what constitutes the BEC remains unclear. This article shows that the mind could be a BEC of electromagnetic (EM) and gravitational (GR) waves emitted from ionic currents through ion channels. The frequency of these waves is predicted to be around 10 MHz, which can be tested by newly developed radio wave detectors.
Aura and Qi
Since ancient times, humans have had the idea that the body may emit certain energy fields referred to as "aura" in Western countries and "qi" in China. The Chinese qigong, which is based on the concept of qi field, remains quite popular today. The notion of aura did not fade away either. Various types of aura photography are available on the commercial markets. They claim to have the capacity to read your mind.
Qi Comprises EM Waves
The aura and qi were believed to be the electromagnetic (EM) field in modern terminology. From 1978 to 1999, a large number of experts and scholars in China tested and analyzed the external qi of qigong. By using the dielectric-barrier discharge (DBD) method, they detected the EM waves emitted from the hand. The observed frequencies were found to be in the range 0.3-200 MHz (Zheng et al., 2016), with a median value at 10 MHz. The 10 MHz EM waves are generated most likely from neural activities. A human hand contains about 17,000 neurons, predominately concentrated in fingers (Delhaye et al., 2018). The commercial aura photography is also based on the energy fields emitted from the hand. Then, how can the neural activity generate 10 MHz EM waves?
Qi May Originate from Ion Channels
Neuronal firing is accompanied by the opening of ion channels which are a special class of proteins embedded in nerve membrane. Physical laws dictate that any accelerating charged particle will radiate EM waves and any accelerating massive particle should produce GR waves. An ion has both mass and charge. Before ions enter ion channels, they move slowly and randomly in the solution, with negligible acceleration. As a neuron fires, a large number of ions will pass through the channels, with strong acceleration driven by the electrochemical gradient. Since ions possess both mass and charge, their accelerated motion will produce both GR and EM waves.
During the opening of a channel, a train of ions will pass through the channel one by one. Each ion will generate a pulse of EM energy. Thus, the frequency of EM waves emitted by these accelerated ions can be estimated from single channel currents. For voltage-gated sodium and potassium channels, the single channel current is about 1 - 4 pA (Aldrich and Stevens, 1987; Zagotta et al., 1988), where 1 pA = 10-12 ampere and 1 ampere = 6 x 1018 electron charge per second. Therefore, about 107 ions can pass through a single channel within a second. The interval between two consecutive ions is then equal to 10-7 second, corresponding to a frequency of 10 MHz.
It is important to note that the value, 10 MHz, is obtained without any adjustable parameters. The value depends exclusively on single channel currents which are in the range 1 - 4 pA for major types of ion channels in neurons.
The Mind Is a Bose-Einstein Condensate - Early Thoughts
According to mind-body dualism, the mind is an immaterial substance distinct from the brain. Conscious perception of a scene is imprinted in the mind, not the brain. That is, the mind contains information about the perceived scene. Any information must have a carrier. Since the perceived scene is not imprinted in the brain, its information carrier is not neurons, but the immaterial substance that constitutes the mind. Furthermore, information in the mind is integrated. For example, when playing tennis, you may see an integrated scene such as "a round, white ball moving quickly in a certain direction." To encode integrated information, the EM waves or other substance of the mind must be bound in a small region. They cannot be distributed over hundreds of miles. Based on the unifying feature and other properties, Marshall (1989) concluded that the substrate of consciousness should be a Bose–Einstein condensate (BEC).
A BEC is the lowest quantum state of a group of bosons (with integer spin), such as rubidium, sodium and photons. When a gas of boson atoms are cooled to temperatures very close to absolute zero (-273.15 °C), microscopic quantum mechanical phenomena, particularly wavefunction interference, become apparent macroscopically, thus causing them to bind together (see this article). In the original paper of Marshall, he suggested that the BEC for consciousness could be formed by phonons, which are the quantized vibrational states of molecules in solids and some liquids. Transient BEC of phonons has been observed at extremely low temperature, 7K (Misochko et al., 2004). However, at room temperature, a large number of high-energy vibrational states will be excited, making them virtually impossible to form a BEC, unless under special conditions that lead to "Fröhlich condensation".
Fröhlich condensation can be regarded as the BEC of phonons at room temperature. It has been postulated to play a central role in consciousness and cognition within the Penrose–Hameroff orchestrated objective reduction (Orch OR) model. The Orch OR model received wide attention. One of its proponents, Roger Penrose, is a well-known physicist who just won a Nobel Prize. Despite its popularity, Reimers et al. (2009) showed that "the model and related theories for cognitive function that embody coherent Fröhlich condensation as an essential element are untenable."
If phonons are ruled out, what could be in the mind? Jibu et al. (1996) hypothesized that the mind could be the BEC of "evanescent photons". Photons are the quanta of EM waves which, in the free space, propagate at the speed of light, that is, approximately 300,000,000 meters per second. Evanescent photons refer to the photons that do not propagate. How can photons stop moving away from the source? Jibu et al. believed that the evanescent photons could result from the interaction between their radiation field and the electric dipoles of water in the perimembranous region. However, there is no evidence that water and membrane can hold photon propagation.
As a matter of fact, it has been well documented that the near field of a transmitting antenna contains a reactive region in which some electromagnetic energy does not radiate immediately (Figure 3). The non-radiative EM fields are known as "evanescent fields".
The Mind Is a Bose-Einstein Condensate - My View
Remarkably, the ionic current through an ion channel resembles the electric current in a straight antenna. Therefore, some of the photons emitted from ions could be evanescent photons. However, these photons will be held around the channels only very briefly. Additional conditions are required to form a BEC that can last for longer than a second. Recently, the gravitational force has been shown to induce quantum entanglement and coherence between massive particles (Marletto and Vedral, 2017; Krisnanda et al., 2019; Ghoshal et al., 2020). A photon is massless, but it has an energy of hν, where h is the Plank's constant and ν is its frequency. Through Einstein's famous equation, E = mc2, the photon also has an effective mass which can exhibit gravitational interaction. Such GR force, under normal conditions, is too small to induce the formation of a BEC. In 2010, Klaers et al. managed to create the BEC of photons by confining photons in a dye-filled optical microcavity to increase effective mass. This finding underscores the importance of gravitational force in the formation of a BEC.
As discussed above, the ions passing through ion channels may emit both EM and GR waves. Under normal conditions, EM waves alone cannot form a BEC. In contrast, GR waves are the carrier of gravitational force. The attractive force between GR waves, or between GR and EM waves, is strong. It has been estimated that the GR-GR attractive force is more than 80 orders of magnitude stronger than the EM-EM attraction (Faraoni and Dumse, 1998, Eq. 6.1). Therefore, the GR waves generated by ionic currents could play a critical role in the formation of a BEC.
The Mind Is Also a Geon
In physics, the term "geon" refers to an entity consisting of only GR and/or EM waves which are held together in a confined region by their mutual attraction. It is essentially the BEC of GR and EM waves. If a geon consists of only GR waves, it is called a gravitational geon, corresponding to the BEC of GR waves. The "electromagnetic geon" is the same as the BEC of photons, comprising only EM waves (photons).
The size of a geon is likely to be about the same as the reactive region in which some energy does not propagate. The reactive region is known to be 0.159 wavelength. As estimated above, the frequency of EM waves emitted from ionic currents is about 10 MHz, corresponding to a wavelength of 30 meters. Therefore, the radius of the mind is predicted to be roughly 5 meters (Figure 4).
Our current technology cannot detect the GR waves in the mind, due to their extremely weak interaction with matter. The EM waves generated by neural activities are very weak. They have not been directly observed yet. In the past few years, significant progress has been made in the development of highly sensitive radio wave detectors, through innovative methods such as bolometer (MIT News, 2018; Blaikie et al., 2019), optomechanical transduction (Simonsen et al., 2019), Rydberg Atoms (Meyer et al., 2019) and photonic Fock states (Gely et al., 2019).
The new methods can be used to directly observe the mind and test the predictions of Geon Hypothesis.
Author: Frank Lee