Consciousness, Information and Water: Their Concealed Affair, A Quantum Tryst – Part 1
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” From the mouth of Sherlock Homes. From the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
My love affair with water began as a kid. Think about it. Water is a kid’s best friend in summer. I had wild fun at the local community pool, body surfed and got battered by unapologetic waves at Coney Island and Brighton Beach, all the while building up the most delicious appetite, the kind that only comes from hours of raucous water play. In the South Bronx where I grew up, water gushing from an open fire hydrant soothed my young, naked feet as I danced around on sizzling hot asphalt.
But my fascination with the clear, thirst allaying, life giving liquid took an unexpected shift around the time I turned 50 when I happened upon Dr. Emoto Masaru’s book, The Hidden Messages in Water. In this endearing work, Dr. Masaru publicly shared his startling discovery that a person’s thoughts and emotions could influence how water molecules set up into ice crystals. Angry thoughts gave rise to “ugly” crystals, while love and appreciation caused water to arrange itself into stunningly beautiful designs.
Had his book been published during my years of training in medicine or the decade after, I would have rejected Dr. Masaru’s conclusions. After all, isn’t water just the medium in which all the biochemistry needed for life, comes to life? Fortunately, sometime before the book’s appearance, a crack had formed in the Newtonian view of reality I held. It had served me well, providing a stable and supportive platform for the rigors of medical training and practice. But new ideas were emerging, hinting that the posited barrier between the quantum and macroscopic worlds was not so well defined.
That one’s state of consciousness might play a role in health and disease, that there is more than a tenuous link between the mind and physical health that might be exploited to enable healing, was still a fledgling concept just beginning to find a place, if only in the most obscure alcoves of conventional medical science. This premise finds more acceptance today, yet it is still far from chic among those “in the know”. Although many criticisms were made about Dr. Masaru’s methods, when I first encountered his work something in me felt that it was true. Not only does water reflect an image of our physical selves. In the structure of the smallest ice crystals, it also mirrors what we think and feel.
In keeping with this came reports of people, who by merging their conscious will were able to clean up small bodies of polluted water. Had Dr. Masaru stumbled upon a simple, inexpensive way to purify this most important substance? The implications for global health were astounding! But no matter how intriguing the evidence, that conscious intention might be employed to improve the quality and potability of water has since been all but ignored.
The Memory of Water
Seventeen years before The Hidden Messages in Water hit the shelves, Dr. Jacques Beneviste and coworkers published an equally mind-blowing paper in one of the most revered scientific journals, Nature. The research appeared to show that a very dilute, homeopathic solution of an antiserum reproducibly elicited a significant biologic response (basophil degranulation)1. In this context, the term “the memory of water” was coined as a way to describe the effect of a solution sequentially diluted so many times that not a single molecule of the original reagent could possibly be retained. The information appeared to be imprinted in the water in the form of electromagnetic waves, and could be digitized and stored for later use or for transmission to another lab anywhere in the world.
When a manuscript is submitted to a highly regarded, peer reviewed scientific journal, it is referred to several respected investigators working in the same field for comment. According to Dr. John Maddox, then the editor of Nature, although the methods outlined in the article appeared flawless, not one of the referees believed the findings were real. The problem was that there was no mechanism by which the results could be explained. After all, how could a homeopathic dilution thought to contain none of the active ingredient produce such a striking biological effect?
It was only after intense pressure by Dr. Beneviste that the paper was published, and only on the condition that Dr. Maddox could arrange for a visit to directly observe the procedures. The story of what followed can be easily searched and reviewed elsewhere – you’ll find plenty of references on the web. Briefly, what happened was that Dr. Maddox arrived accompanied by scientific fraud buster, Walter Stewart, and James Randi, a high-profile magician and skeptic.
Dr. Beneviste’s integrity was not in question. However, many in the scientific community were concerned that someone in his lab was bamboozling the data. Dr. Maddox’s team did not arrive in a spirit of open minded inquiry, but with the express intent of fingering the grifter who they were certain must be behind the mystifying results. Although Dr. Maddox and company found no definitive evidence of fraud, several interesting patterns emerged that were to plague Dr. Beneviste’s work despite multiple revisions in his procedures and their application to different biological systems.
Perhaps the most important observation, was that of a sort of “experimenter effect”, with some of Dr. Beneviste’s lab personnel proving particularly “gifted” at achieving positive results in both open-label and blinded experiments. In contrast, random results were the norm when the experiments were blinded by visiting scientists or participants at public demonstrations. This was true even after Dr. Beneviste’s group devised an automated robotic analyzer for one of the biological models.
The possibility that biological information could be digitized caught the attention of researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, who attempted to replicate Dr. Beneviste’s work. Although unable to reproducibly digitize specific biological signals, they too observed a clear relationship between experimenter and outcome.
This observation was never accounted for by examination of the procedures, and so was simply shrugged off as an inexplicable vagary of the scientific method or attributed to random factors that could not be identified with certainty. No matter that two types of experimental outcomes could be expected, depending exclusively on who was performing the experiment and despite strict adherence to the same protocols.
Recently, a possible solution to the puzzle has been proposed by Francis Beauvais2, whose “quantum-like statistical model” includes the cognitive states of the two types of experimenters.
The Double Slit Experiment
Before going any further, let’s review an historically significant observation referenced in Quantum Physics 101 – Part 1, Thomas Young’s double slit experiment. At first glance, the double slit procedure appears to clearly establish the wave nature of light. However, the double slit experiment can be modified in such a way as to highlight light’s particle-like behavior. But there’s something else that’s far more intriguing. It’s this… the mere act of observing individual photons halts their wavy behavior. Suddenly, they take on the characteristics of particles.
I know what you’re thinking, but no, we haven’t gone off topic. Let me explain.
The setup requires a source of photons aimed at a screen containing two narrow slits. Behind the double slits is a second screen, a detector on which the impact of the beamed photons is recorded. Consistent with the wave nature of light, a series of light and dark interference lines forms on the detector screen. This will happen whether we shine a continuous stream of photons, or if the photons are delivered one at a time. In the latter case, it’s only after many photon hits that the interference pattern becomes apparent.
A more recent version of the experiment uses a device known as a Mach-Zehnder interferometer. It offers a distinct advantage. The interferometer provides direct evidence of wavy behavior, interference, that can be observed with only a single photon. Moreover, as already alluded to, if we take a peek as a photon enters the interferometer, it will appear to acquire particle-like qualities.
The interferometer yields unambiguous confirmation of superposition (how a quantum particle can simultaneously exist in more than one state), as well as permitting the observer to witness wave function collapse (how a quantum particle in a superposed condition suddenly manifests only one of many different possibilities). In the context of Beneviste’s water experiments, the interferometer procedure suggests that the cognitive state of an experimenter can interfere with itself (wave), or not (particle), to achieve consistently positive vs random experimental results.
Take a look at the figure below:
The device consists of a photon source, two beam splitters (each of which permits exactly half of a stream of photons to be transmitted while the other half is reflected), two mirrors and two detectors. If only a single photon is sent to the interferometer, it should have a 50/50 chance of taking the transmitted path (B), or the reflected path (A). Whichever path it takes, the photon will be reflected off a mirror after which it will encounter another beam splitter. Now it has a 50% chance of making its way to either detector 1 or detector 2. Pretty straightforward, right?
But that isn’t what happens. Oddly enough, 100% of the photons arrive at detector 1. It doesn’t matter how many photons you hurl at the interferometer. Not one will ever strike detector 2.
The reason for this paradox is that the photon makes its way through the interferometer in a superposed state. In other words, the photon takes both paths at once. More correctly, it’s the photon’s wavefunction that does so. When the photon wavefunction arrives at the second beam splitter, it destructively interferes with itself, canceling itself out in the direction of detector 2, and constructively interferes with itself in the direction of detector 1.
I bet you think that’s pretty cool. We’ve just demonstrated both superposition and the wave nature of light! But hang on, there’s more.
If we add another detector to the system, we’ll call it detector 3, and place it somewhere along path A (or B) so that we can spy our speedy photons as they whiz by, something entirely different happens. Only half will travel along path A. The others will take path B. What’s more, we’ll see random hits on detectors 1 and 2. If we send enough photons through and count up the number of hits, half will be recorded by detector 1 and half by detector 2. Kind of like a coin toss. Or what we’d expect from particles playing by the rules of chance.
Now let’s get back to Francis Beauvais’ statistical model.
Quantum-Like Probability, Consciousness and Water
Instead of photons, beam splitters, mirrors and detectors, let’s look at the outcome of the water experiments with samples blinded by Beneviste’s lab staff vs what happened when the samples were blinded by outside observers.
In the case of certain of Beneviste’s cohorts, positive results consistent with the notion that information can be stored in water, were nearly uniformly achieved. Contrarily, samples that were blinded by outside participants gave random results. That’s actually a bit perplexing, because if information storage didn’t actually occur in water, the outsiders’ results should have been uniformly negative. In fact, the outcome of the experiments followed a pattern that is virtually identical with what happens with the photon and interferometer scheme.
Careful observation confirmed that the experimental procedures performed by theBeneviste group and visiting scientists were exactly the same, leaving only one variable that could not be controlled… the cognitive state of the experimenter.
Yes, I know, sounds a little woo woo. But then again, if you weren’t open of mind, you wouldn’t be reading this, would you? Besides, the idea isn’t really all that exotic. Biophysics gurus F. Geiger and M. Bischof in a paper entitled “The Quantum Vacuum in Biology”, define quantum mechanics as “… a description of the fundamental nature of consciousness in the interplay between the observer, the process of observation, and the object of observation.”5
We already know that thoughts affect reality, even in the absence of physical intervention.4 Consider the work performed over nearly 30 years by scientists at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Lab. Thousands of experiments conclusively showed that human intention could alter the behavior of random number generators and other machines. This research was performed by accomplished, highly respected scientists, including an aerospace engineer and a theoretical physicist.
So, even though Beauvais proposes a statistical model, it may very well shed some light on how consciousness accounted for the outcomes of the memory of water experiments. When experiments were performed by Beneviste’s colleagues, the macroscopic wavefunction associated with the experimenter’s cognitive state “interfered” with itself, yielding nearly uniform, positive results, much as a photon in an interferometer can interfere with itself to trigger only one of two detectors. In contrast, the wavefunction describing the cognitive state of an outside observer delivered random results, exactly what happens when a photon acts like a particle and chooses path A or B, but not both.
The effects of conscious intention on machines that were observed at PEAR were small, but reproducible and highly statistically significant. Beneviste’s experimenters – working not with machines, but with water – also produced statistically significant results. However, their remarkably positive findings were anything but small. Might there be something “different” about water itself that permits large, nearly invariable results when experiments are conducted by one group, and random findings when conducted by another?
I hope to address this question in the next edition.
1. E Davenas, et al (1988). Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE. Nature 333 (6176), 816-818.
2. Beauvais (2013). Description of Beneviste’s experiments using quantum-like probabilities. Journal of Scientific Exploration 27 (1), 43-71.
3. Does photon behavior in the interferometer make you a little crazy? Well then, how about this? If we turn on detector 3 only after each photon has made its way past the first beam splitter, half the photons will arrive at detector 1 and half at detector two. It’s as if the photon knew in advance that detector 3 was going to be turned on, so chose to act as a particle. That’s just maddening. How can a photon “know” our intention when it comes to detector 3?
4. Although I think you’ll agree that happens as well. For example, imagine sitting in the movie theater with a few minutes to kill. You see an ad for popcorn. Suddenly, you feel a hunger pang. YOU WANT POPCORN AND YOU WANT IT NOW. So what do you do? You get out of your seat and walk over to the concession stand where you purchase an extra-large container of popcorn, far more than you can or should eat (that’s what I’d do anyway). This is an example of a cognitive state affecting reality with the aid of a physical intervention (getting up from the seat, walking to the corn popper, etc.)
5. BF Zeiger, M Bischof (1998). The quantum vacuum in biology. Paper read at the 3rd International Hombroich Symposium on Biophysics, International Institute of Biophysics (IIB), Neuss, Germany.
Image: The Chemical Formula of Water H2O © Zastavkin | Dreamstime.com
Image: Double Slit Experiment. By Ebohr1.svg: en:User:Lacatosias, User:Stannered derivative work: Epzcaw (Ebohr1.svg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Images of Mach Zehnder device created with Keynote.
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