Entangled Minds

Japanese, Portuguese, Latvian and Romanian editions are available.

Preface

If you do not get schwindlig [dizzy] sometimes when you think about these things then you have not really understood it [quantum theory]. - Neils Bohr

One of the most surprising discoveries of modern physics is that objects aren't as separate as they may seem. When you drill down into the core of even the most solid-looking material, separateness dissolves. All that remains, like the smile of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, are relationships extending curiously throughout space and time. These connections were predicted by quantum theory and were called "spooky action at a distance" by Albert Einstein. One of the founders of quantum theory, Erwin Schrödinger, dubbed this peculiarity entanglement, saying "I would not call that one but rather the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics."

The deeper reality suggested by the existence of entanglement is so unlike the world of everyday experience that until recently, many physicists believed it was interesting only for abstract theoretical reasons. They accepted that the microscopic world of elementary particles could become curiously entangled, but those entangled states were assumed to be fleeting and have no practical consequences for the world as we experience it. That view is rapidly changing.

Scientists are now finding that there are ways in which the effects of microscopic entanglements "scale up" into our macroscopic world. Entangled connections between carefully prepared atomic-sized objects can persist over many miles. There are theoretical descriptions showing how tasks can be accomplished by entangled groups without the members of the group communicating with each other in any conventional way. Some scientists suggest that the remarkable degree of coherence displayed in living systems might depend in some fundamental way on quantum effects like entanglement. Others suggest that conscious awareness is caused or related in some important way to entangled particles in the brain. Some even propose that the entire universe is a single, self-entangled object.

What if these speculations are correct? What would human experience be like in such an interconnected universe? Would we occasionally have numinous feelings of connectedness with loved ones at a distance? Would such experiences evoke a feeling of awe that there's more to reality than common sense implies? Could "entangled minds" result in the experience of your hearing the telephone ring and somehow knowing - instantly - who's calling? If we did have such experiences, could they be due to real information that somehow bypassed the usual sensory channels, or are such reports mere delusions? Can psychic or "psi" experiences be studied by science, or are they beyond the reach of rational understanding?

These are the questions explored in this book. In a nutshell, we'll find that there's substantial experimental evidence indicating that some psi experiences are genuine. We'll also learn that one reason for persistent scientific skepticism about psi is due to outdated assumptions about the nature of reality. For centuries, scientists assumed that everything can be explained by mechanisms analogous to clockworks. But over the course of the 20th century, we've learned that this common sense assumption is wrong. When the fabric of reality is examined very closely, nothing resembling clockworks can be found. Instead, reality is woven from strange, "holistic" threads that aren't located precisely in space or time. Tug on a dangling loose end from this fabric of reality, and the whole cloth twitches, instantly, throughout all space and time.

Science is at the very earliest stages of understanding entanglement, and there is much yet to learn. But what we've seen so far provides a new way of thinking about psi. No longer are psi experiences regarded as rare human talents, divine gifts, or "powers" that magically transcend ordinary physical boundaries. Instead, psi becomes an unavoidable consequence of living in an interconnected, entangled physical reality. Psi is reframed from a bizarre anomaly that doesn't fit into the normal world - and hence labeled paranormal - into a natural phenomenon of physics.

The idea of the universe as an interconnected whole is not new; for millennia it's been one of the core assumptions of Eastern philosophies. What is new is that Western science is slowly beginning to realize that some elements of that ancient lore might be correct. Of course, adopting a new ontology is not to be taken lightly. When it comes to serious topics like the nature of reality, it's sensible to adopt the conservative maxim, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." So we're obliged to carefully examine whether psi is a real phenomenon. If the conclusion is positive, then one or more of our previous assumptions may be broken and we'll need to come up with alternatives.

As we explore the concept of psi as "entangled minds," we'll consider examples of psi experiences in life and lab, we'll review the origins of psi research, we'll explore the results of thousands of controlled laboratory tests, and we'll debunk skeptical myths about psi. Then we'll explore the fabric of reality as revealed by modern physics and see why it's becoming increasingly relevant to understanding why and how psi exists. At the end, we'll find that the 19th century English poet, Francis Thompson, may have said it best:

All things by immortal power,
Near and Far
Hiddenly
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star.