The Physics of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind and the Meaning of Life

Overview


For decades, neuroscientists, psychologists, and an army of brain researchers have been struggling, in vain, to explain the phenomenon of consciousness. Now there is a clear trail to the answer, and it leads through the dense jungle of quantum physics, Zen, and subjective experience, and arrives at an unexpected destination. In this tour-de-force of scientific investigation, Evan Harris Walker shows how the operation of bizarre yet actual properties of elementary particles support a new and exciting theory of ...
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Overview


For decades, neuroscientists, psychologists, and an army of brain researchers have been struggling, in vain, to explain the phenomenon of consciousness. Now there is a clear trail to the answer, and it leads through the dense jungle of quantum physics, Zen, and subjective experience, and arrives at an unexpected destination. In this tour-de-force of scientific investigation, Evan Harris Walker shows how the operation of bizarre yet actual properties of elementary particles support a new and exciting theory of reality, based on the principles of quantum physics-a theory that answers questions such as "What is the nature of consciousness, of will?" "What is the source of material reality?" and "What is God?”
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Walker's ambitious, unorthodox treatise attempts to outline the basis for a new physics, one that recognizes consciousness as a fundamental part of reality. A widely published physicist, mostly in scientific journals, he reports having had a Zen enlightenment experience in 1966 while walking in an open field at the University of Maryland. This propelled him on a quest to rethink quantum mechanics, which he, like Einstein, found incomplete in its picture of an indeterminate cosmos. Electrons tunneling across the human brain's 23.5 trillion synapses create a vast network of potential interactions according to quantum mechanics, so neural impulses are generating our thoughts, emotions and perceptions, according to Walker's theory. Here, he sets forth what he claims is the cornerstone for a science of mind, complete with equations about the brain's workings. The most accessible, core part of the book is its juicy, vigorous account of the revolution in physics engendered by quantum theory and its replacement of the classical Newtonian worldview. Obsessed with mortality and whether the soul survives death (he believes "something of us must survive"), Walker lightens the load with personal interludes in which he reminisces about his high school girlfriend, who died of leukemia very young. Though deeply felt, these at times maudlin recollections feel out of place and detract from his presentation. This digressive, maverick tome, which opens the door to paranormal phenomena and God as "Quantum Mind," will appeal more to serious investigators and philosophical types than to general readers seeking the purported spiritual implications of the new physics. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
The nature of consciousness, which perennially troubles the minds of scientists and philosophers, is the subject of an ever-growing body of literature. Two of the latest entries approach the topic from different perspectives. Glynn, a professor of physiology and head of the Physiological Laboratory at Cambridge, offers a comprehensive summary of what we know about the brain--both its evolution and its mechanisms. Among the topics he covers are natural selection, molecular evolution, nerves and the nervous system, sensory perception, and the specific structures responsible for our intellect. Using the mechanisms involved in vision and speech as models, Glynn skillfully describes various neurological deficiencies that can lead to "disordered seeing" and problems with the use of language. He carefully distinguishes what we know through experimental evidence from what we know through the observation of patients with neurological damage. He also describes some of the major theories that attempt to explain why these structures arose. While his book concentrates on the structures that make up the mind, Glynn is well aware that some physical events appear explicable only in terms of conscious mental events--a situation that conflicts with the laws of modern physics. Only briefly, however, does he consider the various approaches that have been taken to deal with the issues of mind/body and free will. In contrast, this is the primary focus of The Physics of Consciousness. After reviewing the fundamentals of classic physics, Walker (who has a Ph.D. in physics) summarizes elements of the new physics in which our knowledge of space, time, matter, and energy are all dependent on the moment ofobservation. Walker explores the meaning of consciousness as a characteristic of the observer. In this context both the observer and the act of measurement are critical. In essence, Walker leads his reader on a journey through his concept of a "quantum mind," which can both affect matter (including other minds) and can be affected by other distant matter/minds. To break up what would otherwise be an extremely dense text, Walker also relates the very touching story of the loss of his high-school sweetheart to leukemia. Indeed, it is his memory of their relationship that drives Walker to seek an understanding of ultimate reality. At times, he has a tendency to be dogmatic--as when he concludes, "our consciousness, our mind, and the will of God are the same mind." While An Anatomy of Thought is appropriate for most academic libraries, the Physics of Consciousness will be most accessible to readers with some knowledge of advanced physics.--Laurie Bartolini, Illinois State Lib., Springfield Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Booknews
Part memoir, part meditation, part analysis<-->by a scientist (Ph.D. in physics, U. of Maryland, 1964) who has published for both scientific as well as popular audiences. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738204369
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 12/28/2000
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 644,145
  • Lexile: 1210L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author


Evan Harris Walker, founder of the Walker Cancer Institute, has made major scientific contributions in astronomy, astrophysics, physics, neurophysiology, psychology, and medicine. Since he received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Maryland in 1964, he has published more than a hundred papers in scientific journals and holds a dozen patents. He lives in Aberdeen, Maryland.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Where Have the Gods All Gone?

It is easy to imagine fantasy as physical and myth as real. We do it almost every moment. We do this as we dream, as we think, and as we cope with the world about us. But these worlds of fantasy that we form into the solid things around us are the source of our discontent. They inspire our search to find ourselves. In order to put meaning back into our lives, we should recognize illusions for what they are, and we should reach out and touch the fabric of reality.

Although we know that our common-sense understanding of the world is merely fiction, the illusions stay with us. Science has entirely overturned what we know about the structure of the world. But rather than revising our picture of what reality is, we cling to a collage of incongruent shards. We preserve a false assemblage of images, one pasted upon another, so that we can keep unchanged the mental portrait of ourselves and of the world to which we are accustomed. We go about our business despite the fact that the world on which we base our lives is so much in question, so much a mystery.

Even when we have searched out some knowledge, and when we have penetrated into the jitterbug world of Mr. Zukav's Wu Li Masters or of Carl Sagan's billions and billions of everything, we are left with only so many more unanswered questions about reality. We want to know. We ask. We search for answers, and we are given a box with little pebbles inside. Is that what the world is? Little pebbles, big pebbles, pebbles in a vast box shimmering and shaking about. Have we our answer? Is reality only a box filled with pebbles? Is that it? Is it all just a little box of rocks that holds infinity inside and stretches to the edge forever?

We want to ask, "Is there a God? Does my life have meaning and purpose?" Science, we are told, says that even to ask about God is beyond its scope. But this is not true. Either there is no such thing as God, or science-which embodies our ability to reason-must be able to frame the question and provide us with answers.

We know that science has proved capable of giving us dependable, solid, objective answers. It is the one path that yields answers about the machinery of reality and shows that these answers are valid. When such questions are asked, science must answer.

To many scientists, however, God is only a memory from childhood: a put-off to questions they once asked themselves. "Where do I come from?" was left unanswered with, "From God." Yet perhaps, the great shortcoming of such questions is that the concept of God is so conventional that it too is apt to be as empty as that box scientists give us-that box filled with the universe and yet empty of meaning to what we have asked: "What is reality, really?"

THE OLD GODS

Let us go back to mankind's earliest times. Think of Homo habilis looking out into the cosmos, gazing into the blackness of a fearful night with sparkling wonder spread across the vaulting sky. Think of such a man alone in the night's stillness, looking at the stars. He blinks his eyes and wonders. His mind transcends the immediate hazards of the day, and he sees things in the sky that he cannot reach. He sees for the first time the edge of his own being and looks beyond, perhaps forming the first thoughts of some new understanding, the first thoughts of some new knowledge, and then he falls asleep. Somewhere in that early time, in a pattern of stars seen overhead, in the stirrings of an image in the bush, in a lifeless form that did not move from its forest bier, the first troubled, questioning thoughts came to early man and passed into oblivion.

But I can see another, later time, a time when another early man lay more sheltered in a cave sleeping. As the moon rolled in its changing orbit, its full face appeared in the entrance to the cave, its light filling the doorway and jolting the primitive being into a frightened awakening. Such an experience would deepen the mystery of the sky, perhaps forming a memory that would last until the experience recurred months later...

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
1 Where Have the Gods All Gone? 7
2 It's a Material World 15
3 Into Eternity 29
4 The Light Fantastic 41
5 Jitterbug World, Jitterbug Reality 51
6 Hunt for the Tin Man's Heart 67
7 Many Worlds, Many Mansions 85
8 The Sound of the Temple Bell 115
9 A Golden Brocade 141
10 Satori Physics 161
11 Looking for the Emerald City 185
12 The Red Shoes 215
13 To Sleep, Perchance to Dream 239
14 A Matter of Will 257
15 Quantum Miracles 267
16 From Epicycles to Loops 279
17 The Causal Mind 311
18 A God for Tomorrow 327
Appendix I 339
Appendix II 343
Notes 345
Index 355
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2001

    A Gem...

    I agree with the previous reviewer.. Far more than other authors, he actually comes closer to actually giving plausible and eye-opening answers, instead of vague speculation posing as 'proof'. He presents an intriquing and compelling theory, gives us some solid background to support the theory, with the idea that it needs development as any fledging scientific concept does.. He doesn't pretend or claim to pretend that this theory has been proven or that everything is all wrapped up with a bow, as other authors do, which strikes me as marking him as a more serious scientist. A very mind-opening book for anyone interested in the quantum world and how it relates to us.. Also touches you on an emotional level, as it is personal story and not a dry intellectual discourse.. I'd very much like to see him write a follow up book..

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2001

    An exceptional, historic book

    There are so many books out there that presume to explain consciousness but, really, do not even begin to scratch the surface. Dennett's 'Consciousness Explained'- a somewhat pretentious title for a book that does nothing of the kind- and such spring readily to mind. Reading Walker's book is an epiphanic experience. There are two things that any reasonable explanation of the mind and consciousness MUST necessarily contain to be credible: 1- Quantum Physics, the most successful and powerfully explanatory yet astonishing science ever. Any fundamental theory or explanation of consciousness that would not convincingly include and involve Quantum Physics at a logical and intimate level would be highly suspect - it would not have the ring of ultimate truth, since such a profound theme should by necessity avail itself of the deepest-going means of analysis that we have at our disposal/ read exist. Second - numbers. Verbose talk and 4-syllable words are cheap, but numbers do talk and have a way of being incontrovertible. Walker's book includes both. And very, very convincingly. The first half of the book is a bit slow and in some key parts not very well written. Walker's explanation of Bell's inequality and theorem can be found elsewhere, better exposed. But the second half of the book is pure, glittering gold. Whoever reads this second half enters the realm of convincing, intelligent, trail-blazing science. They will be made privy to an explanation that has eluded mankind and all of conscious life throughout history. Until now. Yes. It is that Earth-shaking. It is a pity that this book is not better known and/or not more aggressively marketed. It constitutes a giant step in mankind's intelligent understanding of consciousness. It should be obligatory reading for the normal educated homo sapiens of the early 21st century. It should also serve as the basis upon which to further elaborate and refine the science of consciousness. It provides a simple pathway to determining how conscious animals may actually be, how we can at long last integrate intelligently the universe, mankind, some spirituality, and much much more besides. I weep when I see the kind of access and public exposure that mediocre, simplistic, or downright cretinic orators may attain in our society, and how exceptional contributions such as Walker's book remain largely unknown. Do yourself a favor: read this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 12, 2009

    Most compelling!

    Philosophers, physicists, students and scholars of all calibers can enjoy this work. Well written and very interestingly organized and presented.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2008

    Overated and tedious

    I have read better books on this type of subject by authors who could write for educated people, but novice to this subject. I E Paul Davies, Brian Greene and Michio Kaku. The first 150 pages could have been eliminated or condensed. A bit let down, but an ok read. I will go back to the other authors for new thought.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2004

    Truth is coming of age.

    This book has brought me to one of the most contented times in my life. Of course it is probably just a personal, non-relatable moment of joy, but I will try to share it anyway. It has been about 21 years since my enlightenment when I wrote¿ ¿There is no space and time¿no cause and effect---no birth or death---that all form is a thought in the consciousness of one that is continually being `thunk¿ that gives the appearance of time and space, cause and effect,¿ and that ¿our consciousness is that consciousness thinking this form. It¿s all an Illusion.¿ And I said that when we leave form, we retain ¿a witness capability¿ and ¿our will.¿ I have built my life around those experiences, and I cannot tell you in full the difficulties I have gone through and the rejections I have had to accept almost daily over all those years, at times almost costing my freedom and life. But science has finally been forced into theoretical agreement with every aspect of what I have experienced. This book presents the issues, and if this knowledge is projected into the future as a common understanding by all people¿imagine. The Truth is coming out. I can finally rest a little. I will mention that anything worthwhile usually takes some work, and I believe this book may fall into that category for most people. But stick with it¿don¿t give up¿it all pulls together in the end and will be well worth your effort, I¿m sure.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2003

    Finally some answers!

    This exceptional book will leave you absolutely speechless. Everything you want to say is done for you. Evan Walker does a wonderful job capturing the reader's attention and curiosity. If you've been asking yourself questions about life, reality or your mere existence, STOP! You have found the answers to your questions. This author digs deep within his soul to share his personal experiences relating to the perplexity of life here on Earth and beyond. You will not want to put the book down. Enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2002

    The nature of reality

    This is a trail-blazing book, and the corny subtitle should by no means be held against it. Despite (or rather, because of?) the author's own Zen training, the book is firmly based on physical arguments rather than mystical/philosophical ones. The book begins to plug a gaping hole in our current science-based understanding of physical reality. The hole in question is the exclusion of consciousness from the description of physical reality. Although philosophically laughable, the notion that the deepest aspects of physical reality can be described without ever speaking about the entity doing the description has dominated science and acted as a straitjacket that confined scientific thought for far too long. Instead, the book shows that reality cannot be understood without consciousness, or indeed, that reality and consciousness are ultimately the same thing. As Eddington put it, "the stuff of the world is mind-stuff". But this book goes much further than Eddington did in proving this assertion, or, if not quite yet proving, at least providing us with mechanisms and falsifiable assertions to investigate it as a hypothesis. Quite possibly among the ten books of the century. One can only hope that other scientists will pick up the trail. The potential for fruitful investigation is vast, and the promise is for nothing less than a complete revolution in our understanding of reality.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2001

    A must read for the inquisitive

    There are two different aspects to this book; the physics and then the author's personal life that gives those less interested in physics a reason to keep reading. I personally believe that he could have tied things up a little better than he did in relating the two at the end. But that does not even begin to take away from the purpose of this book. Like what was said in previous reviews, the other theories on quantum mechanics can be found better explained elsewhere, but when Walker begins to explain his interpretation hold on to your seat. All other interpretations of quantum mechanics are so vague that the reason they are still around is because there is no way to test and dispute their validity and those who proposed these explanations gave no suggestions as to where to start to dispute it. Walker does just the opposite. Not only does he give a very plausible explanation to our understanding and interpretation of quantum activities, he also begins to tell us how we can go about testing his hypothesis. I personally believe that if there is to be a breakthrough in the understanding of quantum physics it will be toward his perspective. We can only measure that for which we perceive through our five senses and this is where our consciousness dictates our reality. There must be a further understanding of ourselves before we can understand the Universe in which we place ourselves.

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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    Posted January 18, 2010

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    Posted October 29, 2008

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