Soul > Part III > Chapter 37 > The Mind is a Bose-Einstein Condensate

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 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, photons and phonons. 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 Section C). 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 37g). The non-radiative EM fields are known as "evanescent fields".


Figure 37g. Classification of regions based on their distances from a transmitting antenna. The nearest region, within 0.159 wavelength, is called the reactive region in which some electromagnetic energy does not propagate immediately. [Image source: US Department of Labor]

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 (GR) force in the formation of BEC.

BEC can overcome the decoherence problem which is the main difficulty in making a quantum computer (Tim Byrnes; Georgia Tech News, 2013). The coherence time of a photon pair from a laser beam is only about 40 x 10-15 second that can be increased to 350 x 10-12 second by narrow filtering (Halder et al., 2007). In contrast, the coherence of an interacting two-component BEC can survive for seconds (Egorov et al., 2010). Therefore, ideally, quantum information processing should employ BEC to prevent rapid decoherence. Section D has shown that the photons emitted from ionic currents may serve as qubits in quantum information processing. From this point of view, the mind should also be a BEC.

Creation of the Mind BEC

As discussed earlier, the ions passing through ion channels may emit both EM and GR waves. Due to weak gravitational attraction between EM waves (photons), they cannot form a BEC by themselves unless under special conditions (see above). However, 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).

The frequency of EM and GR waves generated by ionic currents is estimated to be about 10 MHz (see this article), corresponding to the wavelength of 30 meters which is much larger than the size of a brain. Thus, the entire brain can be considered as a point at which synchronized GR and EM waves should produce constructive interference. If the number of synchronized GR/EM waves is sufficiently large, the BEC of GR/EM waves can be created (Figure 37i).


Figure 37i. The BEC of GR/EM waves (a geon) can be created by constructive interference among a large population of synchronized GR/EM waves that are emitted from the ions passing through ion channels.

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. Thus, the BEC of GR/EM waves can also be called a geon. Neuroscientific studies suggest that the geon is formed by synchronized neuronal oscillations at the alpha band. Physiological information from sensory inputs and memory retrieval is not encoded in alpha rhythms, but in the θ-nested-γ pattern (Chapter 36). Conscious perception of these information is accomplished through two stages (see next section).


Author: Frank Lee
Last updated: 2020-10-14