May 4, 2009 at 4:39 am #31438
STEM-CELL GURU ROBERT LANZA PRESENTS A RADICAL NEW VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE AND
EVERYTHING IN IT.
By Robert Lanza and Bob Berman
May 2009 issue, published online May 1, 2009
Adapted from Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to
Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, by Robert Lanza with Bob
Berman, published by BenBella Books in May 2009:
The farther we peer into space, the more we realize that the nature of the
universe cannot be understood fully by inspecting spiral galaxies or
watching distant supernovas. It lies deeper. It involves our very selves.
This insight snapped into focus one day while one of us (Lanza) was walking
through the woods. Looking up, he saw a huge golden orb web spider tethered
to the overhead boughs. There the creature sat on a single thread, reaching
out across its web to detect the vibrations of a trapped insect struggling
to escape. The spider surveyed its universe, but everything beyond that
gossamer pinwheel was incomprehensible. The human observer seemed as far-off
to the spider as telescopic objects seem to us. Yet there was something
kindred: We humans, too, lie at the heart of a great web of space and time
whose threads are connected according to laws that dwell in our minds.
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Is the web possible without the spider? Are space and time physical objects
that would continue to exist even if living creatures were removed from the
Figuring out the nature of the real world has obsessed scientists and
philosophers for millennia. Three hundred years ago, the Irish empiricist
George Berkeley contributed a particularly prescient observation: The only
thing we can perceive are our perceptions. In other words, consciousness is
the matrix upon which the cosmos is apprehended. Color, sound, temperature,
and the like exist only as perceptions in our head, not as absolute
essences. In the broadest sense, we cannot be sure of an outside universe at
For centuries, scientists regarded Berkeleys argument as a philosophical
sideshow and continued to build physical models based on the assumption of a
separate universe out there into which we have each individually arrived.
These models presume the existence of one essential reality that prevails
with us or without us. Yet since the 1920s, quantum physics experiments have
routinely shown the opposite: Results do depend on whether anyone is
observing. This is perhaps most vividly illustrated by the famous two-slit
experiment. When someone watches a subatomic particle or a bit of light pass
through the slits, the particle behaves like a bullet, passing through one
hole or the other. But if no one observes the particle, it exhibits the
behavior of a wave that can inhabit all possibilities — including somehow
passing through both holes at the same time.
Some of the greatest physicists have described these results as so
confounding they are impossible to comprehend fully, beyond the reach of
metaphor, visualization, and language itself. But there is another
interpretation that makes them sensible. Instead of assuming a reality that
predates life and even creates it, we propose a biocentric picture of
reality. From this point of view, life — particularly consciousness —
creates the universe, and the universe could not exist without us.
MESSING WITH THE LIGHT
Quantum mechanics is the physicists most accurate model for describing the
world of the atom. But it also makes some of the most persuasive arguments
that conscious perception is integral to the workings of the universe.
Quantum theory tells us that an unobserved small object (for instance, an
electron or a photon — a particle of light) exists only in a blurry,
unpredictable state, with no well-defined location or motion until the
moment it is observed. This is Werner Heisenbergs famous uncertainty
principle. Physicists describe the phantom, not-yet-manifest condition as a
wave function, a mathematical expression used to find the probability that a
particle will appear in any given place. When a property of an electron
suddenly switches from possibility to reality, some physicists say its wave
function has collapsed.
What accomplishes this collapse? Messing with it. Hitting it with a bit of
light in order to take its picture. Just looking at it does the job.
Experiments suggest that mere knowledge in the experimenters mind is
sufficient to collapse a wave function and convert possibility to reality.
When particles are created as a pair — for instance, two electrons in a
single atom that move or spin together — physicists call them entangled.
Due to their intimate connection, entangled particles share a wave function.
When we measure one particle and thus collapse its wave function, the other
particles wave function instantaneously collapses too. If one photon is
observed to have a vertical polarization (its waves all moving in one
plane), the act of observation causes the other to instantly go from being
an indefinite probability wave to an actual photon with the opposite,
horizontal polarity — even if the two photons have since moved far from
In 1997 University of Geneva physicist Nicolas Gisin sent two entangled
photons zooming along optical fibers until they were seven miles apart. One
photon then hit a two-way mirror where it had a choice: either bounce off or
go through. Detectors recorded what it randomly did. But whatever action it
took, its entangled twin always performed the complementary action. The
communication between the two happened at least 10,000 times faster than the
speed of light. It seems that quantum news travels instantaneously, limited
by no external constraints — not even the speed of light. Since then, other
researchers have duplicated and refined Gisins work. Today no one questions
the immediate nature of this connectedness between bits of light or matter,
or even entire clusters of atoms.
Before these experiments most physicists believed in an objective,
independent universe. They still clung to the assumption that physical
states exist in some absolute sense before they are measured.
All of this is now gone for keeps.
WRESTLING WITH GOLDILOCKS
The strangeness of quantum reality is far from the only argument against the
old model of reality. There is also the matter of the fine-tuning of the
cosmos. Many fundamental traits, forces, and physical constants — like the
charge of the electron or the strength of gravity — make it appear as if
everything about the physical state of the universe were tailor-made for
life. Some researchers call this revelation the Goldilocks principle,
because the cosmos is not too this or too that but rather just right
At the moment there are only four explanations for this mystery. The first
two give us little to work with from a scientific perspective. One is simply
to argue for incredible coincidence. Another is to say, God did it, which
explains nothing even if it is true.
The third explanation invokes a concept called the anthropic principle,
first articulated by Cambridge astrophysicist Brandon Carter in 1973. This
principle holds that we must find the right conditions for life in our
universe, because if such life did not exist, we would not be here to find
those conditions. Some cosmologists have tried to wed the anthropic
principle with the recent theories that suggest our universe is just one of
a vast multitude of universes, each with its own physical laws. Through
sheer numbers, then, it would not be surprising that one of these universes
would have the right qualities for life. But so far there is no direct
evidence whatsoever for other universes.
The final option is biocentrism, which holds that the universe is created by
life and not the other way around. This is an explanation for and extension
of the participatory anthropic principle described by the physicist John
Wheeler, a disciple of Einsteins who coined the terms wormhole and black
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