Your decision to read this article is not the result of gravity crushing your quantum soul

A few years ago, deep in the Apennine Mountains in Italy, a team of physicists searched for flashes of light that might suggest the presence of a human being. awareness – awareness It is the product of gravitational forces.

The fact that they came empty-handed does not mean that we are all meat computers with no free will; However, it makes the search for a suitable model that explains consciousness more challenging.

If the thought of not having free will is uncomfortable, you’re not alone. In the 1990s, Nobel laureate Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist named Stuart Hammeroff argued that the quantum properties of cellular structures called microtubules might provide enough room for maneuvering for brains to break free from the ‘one input, one output’ constraints of classical mechanics.

While their hypothesis, called Orchestrated Object Reduction (Orch OR), lies on the fringes of physics and biology, it nonetheless complete enough To provide researchers with scientifically verifiable predictions.

“What I loved about this theory was that it was testable in principle, and I decided to look for evidence that might help confirm or falsify it,” Says Physicist Catalina Corchino of Laboratori Nazionale di Frascati in Italy.

Penrose and Hammeroff’s concept may be testable, but it still rests on a mountain of assumptions about the way physics and neuroscience work at a fundamental level.

Central to quantum mechanics is the idea that all particles exist as a set of possibilities unless they are somehow measured by analogy.

Exactly what this means is not clear, which has led some to interpret the difference as a “collapse” of the wave-like fog in the Maybes into a concrete absolute from hard reality.

Equally disingenuous is the question of why a swarm of possible values ​​ever settle on any one measurement.

One idea he defended by Penrose and his colleague Lagos Diosi It was suggested in the late 20th century that the curvature of spacetime might favor some possibilities over others.

In other words, mass and its own gravity can somehow crush flat quantum waves.

Applying this assumption to the competing quantum states of cellular matter—the chemicals that shuffle the tube inside neurons—Penrose and Hammeroff calculated the time it would take for quantum effects to translate into mechanisms that would influence consciousness.

While their model doesn’t explain why you would consciously choose to read this article, it does show how neurochemistry can deviate from classical arithmetic to something less restrictive.

The idea of ​​gravitational collapse in Penrose and Deussy has been tested before, by Deusi himself. Their experiment at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory tested the simplest collapse scenario, finding no evidence to support the hypothesis.

In light of these findings, the team is now asking how their previous findings might affect Penrose and Hameroff’s Orch OR hypothesis.

Their critical analysis of the model indicates that at least one interpretation of the hypothesis can now be ruled out. Given what we know about quantum physics, the distribution of tubulin within our neurons, and the limitations imposed by Deussy’s previous experiments, it is unlikely that gravity is pulling the strings of consciousness.

At least, not in this specific way.

“This is the first experimental investigation of the gravity-related quantum collapse plume of the Orch OR model of consciousness, which we hope many others will follow,” Says chairno.

It’s hard to say exactly what it would mean if any investigation found a glimmer of proof for Orch OR. It is not difficult to study non-arithmetical descriptions of consciousness; They are hard to define. Even undisputed programs that echo human thinking challenge our efforts to identify examples of sensation, self-awareness, and free will.

However, the idea that biological systems are too chaotic to exhibit sensitive quantum behaviors has been weakened in light of evidence that entanglement plays a role in functions such as navigation in birds.

Perhaps just a flash of inspiration is all that is needed to set us on a path to understanding the physics of our souls.

This research was published in Physics Life Reviews.