Saturday, July 16, 2011

Introducing Wigner's Friend

Here is a stunning portrait of Wigner’s Friend!

Schrodinger’s Cat and Wigner’s Friend are outlandish science fantasies by two of the 20th century’s Nobel laureate quantum mechanics. They dazzled me as a kid with their cartoon-like simplicity and began my lifelong obsession with science fantasy.

Click on the image at left to view a hilarious and in-your-face YouTube video that lucidly describes Wigner’s Friend and its weird implications.

As an adult, I felt the ground shift under me when I finally grasped the deeper significance of these thought experiments: There is no scientific definition of an observation.

We know from the peerless wonder of the double-slit experiment that observation changes the quantum world—but what qualifies as an observation?

On larger scales, relativity theory shows how the velocity of the observer affects the interpretation of what is observed.

And more personally, our biology creates its own version of reality in our heads. Forty years ago, physiologist Benjamin Libet measured how the brain lights up with the intention to act just before we experience the volitional certainty that we’re doing exactly what we choose. Our actions are decided for us in uncanny and bewildering inner spaces.

Choice and identity float out of a neurological vanishing point, a weightless instant beyond our awareness. What does this mean?

Who are those voices we distantly hear as we drift to sleep? I say ‘who’ not ‘what,’ because these neurological entities plot the mythic fatedness of our dreams. The very fact that the sleeping brain uses us in dramas not of our making is a huge clue.

With dazzling poetic intelligence, the brain manipulates us into expressing all of the mind’s mysterious powers (of memory and imagination)—with no control.

This ‘night voice’ so many of us hear is Wigner’s Friend. I mean this in a poetic sense. And poetry—metaphoric thinking—has stupendous effectiveness in the virtual reality of the brain … where we all live and die.

An entity observes us and nightly installs us as characters into narratives and dramas—of whose design? Who is observing us from within the complexity of our organic being?

Science, for now, how has no idea. And so, science fantasizes, conducts thought experiments and proposes hypotheses about being human.

What we do know is that our being is a mystery. Humans are made of fantasy. We can only imagine who we are. And so, we move through the world in the disguise of our presence.

This blog is a conversation with the observer behind that disguise, with Wigner’s Friend. For me, that’s you. I, my sense of ‘me,’ exists in this distinctly human space as the unique pattern of these words. How you observe this pattern determines who I am.

Who am I?

How you see me is how you see your self, because I exist through these words as part of the virtual reality in the organic structure of your brain. How you respond to this blog originates at preconscious levels, within the unknowing that projects us into consciousness. And so, of course, silence is a meaningful response – though a text easy to misread!

I am intensely interested in what you have to say. Or, rather, what fantasy shapes and moves you.

That was the charge I gave myself when the notion for this blog emerged from the secret corridors of my brain: to express openly the candescent power trapped in the human place of the skull, to write from our heart in its cage, and then to observe whatever appears here at this website, where we meet in mystery.

“I even feel a certain honor to be associated with such a mystery."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mayhaps stories are living thing, and words their cells. Those cells live inside the people they enter, where they wait to meet other words and make other stories -- and perhaps we are just the soil and weather that help them grow and affect them a bit, and certainly carry them from one place to another. "Received language" actually affects what we think even though we didn't think it. "In the Beginning, there was the Word." And dreams, dreams where words run loose on their own? I love that idea.


July 19, 2011 at 7:42 PM  
Anonymous said...

That was fabulous. I found it informative and entertaining. HUGS!!!

July 20, 2011 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger A. A. Attanasio said...

Stories as living things reminds me of Richard Dawkins' concept of 'memes,' cultural ideas that replicate. The 'night voices' we hear are the memes interacting, creating memeplexes, affecting "what we think even though we didn't think it." That adds to our responsibility as conscious beings, doesn't it? To 'know thyself,' as the Delphic oracles charges, means bringing to light the narratives that are telling us who we are. Dreams offer a glimpse. And the fantasies that appeal to our waking minds have much to say about who is dreaming us up! What does this say about our cultural mind that comic book fantasies are the biggest draw at the box office these days?

July 20, 2011 at 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- What does this say about our cultural mind that comic book fantasies
are the biggest draw at the box office these days?

That we are in a nascent (childlike, cartoon) phase of acknowledging that we are all super-heroes?

July 21, 2011 at 5:42 PM  
Anonymous Rainbow said...

Every inner movement is a prayer that transforms the world.

July 22, 2011 at 11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Memes are pieces of stories, or pieces looking to be a story? The story itself feels like a living thing to me, with its own life and identity -- I think it's why I get mad when author's "hack," turning out lifeless Frankensteinian pieces to pay the bills. I understand paying the bills, but there is something depraved about cobbling together such undead things. (Nye, please step off the soapbox now, darling.)

Dreams. I think we are dreaming all the time, that otherness is always rolling, and we only plug into it at certain times, where we know what's going on. I can feel them under the surface if I fall asleep slowly enough, and sometimes, dreams under THOSE dreams. Almost all my selling stories have been born in dreams, too.

;) But I didn't know I had responsibiities as a conscious being. Is there a handbook or memo I didn't get?

Everyone dreams the stories of heros, feels the heroic journey in their bones for some reason, and I guess comic book heroes are a flavor appreciated by many. It was cool as a kid for me, but I don't quite get the current obsession with spandexed (or now, kevlared) superheroes. I understand appreciating heroic qualities, but these are writ in neon paint and cartoon "boings!"

July 23, 2011 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger froggy57 said...

((What does this say about our cultural mind that comic book fantasies are the biggest draw at the box office these days?))

Maybe that we are loosening up? We all loved comics as kids. But as young adults we were too 'cool' and wouldn't be caught dead with a comic in hand. Now we are finally able to say "Fuck you" to the up-tighters, and enjoy our comics.

August 16, 2011 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger shaun said...

Perhaps Wigner's Friend is that imaginary pal we all may have shared in our youth. Yet I suspect it is we who are his imaginary friend, indeed.

September 9, 2011 at 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think its funny that i dreamed a being with the name "Nox Vox" who took a liking to me and became my father and "master". Until i dreamed that had had never heard the name Nox Vox and no idea that the words themselves had any meaning until i looked up the definition when i woke up, and then typing the two together led meto this site. I find that amusing, because two years ago i wrote a poem from the point of view of ideas. I ended the poem with the idea asking living things if we thought we would exist if the ideas hadnt thought us up

February 17, 2013 at 3:52 PM  
Blogger A. A. Attanasio said...

Your dream connection with “Nox Vox” resonates harmonically with this short-lived blog! Thanks for bringing to this collective space your own intimacy with Wigner’s Friend – a relationship that sounds marvelously creative, a fathom of human experience calibrated for the depths of dream!

February 18, 2013 at 4:12 PM  

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