Deciding to Read This Article Isn't The Result of Gravity Crushing Your Quantum Spirit

A team of scientists looked for flashes of light deep beneath the Apennine Mountains in Italy a few years ago, hoping to find evidence that human consciousness is the result of gravitational forces.

The fact that scientists came up empty-handed doesn't mean we're all meat computers with no free will; it does, however, increase the difficulty of finding a good model for describing consciousness.

You're not alone if you find the concept of having no free will unsettling. In the 1990s, Nobel laureate Roger Penrose and physician Stuart Hameroff proposed that quantum features of cellular structures known as microtubules may provide enough wiggle room for brains to break free from classical physics' 'one input, one output' limits.

While their concept, known as Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch OR), is on the cutting edge of physics and biology, it's complete enough to offer scientists with predictions that can be tested scientifically.

"What I loved about this theory was that it is in principle testable, and I decided to search for evidence that might help confirm or falsify it," says physicist Catalina Curceanu of Italy's Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati.

Although Penrose and Hameroff's theory is testable, it is nevertheless based on a mountain of assumptions about how physics and neurology work at their most fundamental levels.

The idea that all particles exist as a spectrum of possibilities until they're quantified in some manner is fundamental to quantum physics.

The precise meaning of this is unclear, prompting some to view the difference as a 'collapse' of the wave-like blur of possibilities into a solid absolute of hard reality.

The puzzle of why a swarm of conceivable values might settle on any one measurement is equally enthralling.

In the late twentieth century, Penrose and his colleague Lajos Diósi proposed that the curvature of space-time may favor some possibilities over others.

To put it another way, quantum waves may be squashed flat by mass and its gravitational force.

Penrose and Hameroff calculated the time it would take for quantum effects to transfer into processes that would impact consciousness by applying this assumption to competing quantum states of biological material – specifically the tubulin shifting molecules around inside neurons.

While their model falls short of describing why you choose to read this article on purpose, it does demonstrate how neurochemistry may stray from traditional computational processes into something more flexible.

The gravitational collapse theory proposed by Penrose and Diósi has already been put to the test, by none other than Diósi himself. Their test at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory looked at the most basic collapse scenarios and found no evidence that the idea was correct.

In light of such discoveries, the team is currently considering how Penrose's and Hameroff's Orch OR theory could be affected.

Their rigorous examination of the model indicates that at least one interpretation of the hypothesis has been ruled out. It's highly implausible that gravity is pulling at the strings of awareness, given what we know about quantum physics, the distribution of tubulin within our neurons, and the limits imposed by Diósi's prior studies.

At least, not in this specific manner.

"This is the first experimental investigation of the gravity-related quantum collapse pillar of the Orch OR consciousness model, which we hope will be followed by many others," explains Curceanu.

It's difficult to determine what it would signify if any inquiry turned out even a speck of evidence for Orch OR. Non-computational accounts of consciousness are not only difficult to research, but also to define. Even incontrovertible algorithms that mirror human thought make it difficult to find evidence of sentience, self-awareness, and free choice.

However, evidence of entanglement having a role in tasks like as navigation in birds has challenged the concept that biological systems are too chaotic for delicate quantum behaviors to evolve.
Perhaps all we need is a flash of inspiration to set us on the path to comprehending the physics of our very souls.