‘The Quantum Brain’ by Jeffrey Satinover

I’ve recently finished reading this book. I was slightly put off by the title when I first saw the book (I figured it would be another variant of Orch-OR or something similar), but I eventually got around to reading it, and I must say I was very pleasantly surprised.

The Quantum Brain – AMAZON

Satinover explains how quantum processes may underpin the workings of the brain, but not in the usual Penrose interpretation of microtubule activity leading to large scale quantum coherence, but more from a quantum chaos point of view. Satinover argues that quantum chaos can lead to enhanced pattern stability compared to classically chaotic systems, which then persist up to larger scales.

The philosophical implication from these arguments is intriguing: Because quantum mechanics is a non-deterministic process (to the best of our knowledge) then if the brain acts as a quantum amplifier in some way, then it too may also take advantage of this non-determinism.

The idea of a ‘quantum amplifier’ is introduced via our old friend Bob, who cannot decide which of two women to marry. He is struck by the fact that if he is a fully deterministic, mechanistic being, then the person whom he will marry will, in some way, have been preordained. He dislikes this idea, and so bases his choice on the outcome of a quantum mechanical experiment, such as the beam-splitter experiment, whereby a photon has a 50-50 chance of either passing through a half silver mirror or being reflected from it.

In this way the outcome of a quantum process *can* affect the behaviour of a macroscopic system.

Of course this is all very interesting with regards to the question of simulating the human brain at a very low level (one where QM does start to come into play). Just how low is low? Your opinion may change slightly after reading this 🙂

These are just a few of the very interesting ideas explored in this book. I’d strongly recommend it.

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5 thoughts on “‘The Quantum Brain’ by Jeffrey Satinover

  1. 8-0-8 says:

    Sounds interesting, though I still think that the future is based on determinism :S even if we can’t anticipate it because of the Heisenberg principle.

    I really hope I’m wrong though ^_^’

  2. Geordie says:

    I’m not convinced by the beam splitter argument. Any experimental quantum optics people lurking here that know if you can really do this in practice?

  3. Geordie says:

    Let me be more specific for the experimental quantum optics lurkers 🙂

    Is it really possible IN PRACTICE to generate a truly random sequence using current quantum technology and prove that it really is truly random? How do you do this? Is it even possible?

    It’s important to be careful about assuming a theoretical answer is correct (for example, “yes you can create a truly random number because QM says we can”) and the practical answer (“can we actually generate a truly random sequence and prove that it is truly random?”), because with these types of foundations questions the devil is in the details, and irritating practical issues could turn out to be fundamental. It’s not a good idea to assume that QM is entirely correct and then build a foundations argument on the implications of QM, because almost certainly QM is not the whole story of what’s going on.

    • physicsandcake says:

      I completely agree. What I should have said is that ‘in the thought experiment/from a theoretical standpoint’ it allows you to generate a truly random output. The ‘irritating practical issues’ are almost definitely fundamental and introduce all kinds of loopholes into the argument.

      This made me think of QIP, where there was a bit of ‘friendly tension’ between those inhabiting a seductive platonic world of irrelevance and those who spend at least some of their time listening to what nature is actually telling them. (All we have is the data, right?!).

      Except there were only O(2) of the latter variety of scientists…

  4. Geordie says:

    Go determinism 🙂

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