JULY 2007


Announcing Science in Society #34 - Summer 2007

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What is quantum jazz?


Quantum Jazz [1] (SiS 32) is the music of the organism dancing life into being. We are all quantum jazz players, in the very substance of our being.

Like the little fruitfly larva, the Daphnia, and any other small creature, we too, would be resplendent in all the colours of the rainbow when observed under the polarizing microscope at a special setting that lets you see right through to the tissues and cells and especially the molecules, as they are busy being alive, and keeping the organism alive.

Organisms are thick with spontaneous activities at every level, right down to the molecules, and the molecules are dancing, even when the organisms sit still. The images obtained give direct evidence of the remarkable coherence (oneness) of living organisms.

The macromolecules, associated with lots of water, are in a dynamic liquid crystalline state, where all the molecules are macroscopically aligned to form a continuum that links up the whole body, permeating throughout the connective tissues, the extracellular matrix, and into the interior of every single cell. And all the molecules, including the water, are moving coherent ly together as a whole.

The liquid crystalline continuum enables every single molecule to intercommunicate with every other. The water, constituting some 70 percent by weight of the organism, is also the most important for forming the liquid crystalline matrix, for intercommunication and for the macromolecules to function at all [2-6] (The Rainbow and the Worm - The Physics of Organisms 2nd Edition ; The Liquid Crystalline Organism and Biological Water, ISIS scientific publication; Water, Water Everywhere series, Science in Society 15 ; New Age of Water series Science in Society 23; Science in Society 32).

Quantum jazz players

The quantum jazz players you have seen in the video [7] (Quantum Jazz Parts 1& II, are small creatures from our garden ponds and soils, set to music inspired by them. Though no matter how good the composer and musician, and Julian Haffegee, who composed, played, recorded and mixed the music, and Andy Watton, who edited and married the video sequences to the music, are both very good, no one will ever reach the creative, artistic and technical heights of the real quantum jazz players. So that is a continual challenge for us all.

Quantum jazz is the music of the organism dancing life into being, with every single cell, every molecule and atom taking part, emitting light and sound with wavelengths of nanometres to metres and kilometres; spanning a musical range of 70 octaves, each improvising spontaneously and freely, yet keeping in tune and in step with the whole.

There is no conductor or choreographer. The organism is creating and recreating herself afresh with each passing moment, recoding and rewriting the genes in her cells in an intricate dance of life that enables the organism to survive and thrive. The dance is written as it is performed; every movement is new, as it is shaped by what has gone before. The organism never ceases to experience its environment and registering its experience for future reference.

That’s why genetic engineering fails. The rogue genes forced or smuggled into the organism cannot intercommunicate with the whole, they do not know the score that has evolved to perfection over billions of years, involving all the genes in the species’ genome. Furthermore, the rogue genes have a tendency to run amok. (See Living with the Fluid Genome [8] (ISIS publication).

Quantum jazz is why ordinary folks like us can talk and think at the same time while our lunch is being processed to provide energy. It is also why top athletes can run a mile in under four minutes, and kung fu masters can move with lightning speed and fly through the air, as in the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The coordination required for simultaneous multiple tasks and for performing the most extraordinary feats both depend on a special state of being whole, the ideal description for which is  “quantum coherence”. Quantum coherence is a paradoxical state that maximises both local freedom and global cohesion. The technical details and scientific underpinnings for quantum coherence of the organism are in my book the Rainbow Worm [2].

The quantum coherent organism and the conservation of coherent energy

I came to the conclusion that: The organism is, in the ideal, a quantum superposition of coherent activities over all space-times, constituting a pure coherent state towards which the system tends to return on being perturbed.

An intuitive picture of the quantum coherent organism is a perfect life cycle coupled to energy (and material) flow. The perfect life cycle represents perpetual return and renewal. It is a domain of coherent energy storage that accumulates no waste or entropy within, because it mobilises energy most efficiently and rapidly to grow and develop and reproduce. Not only does it not accumulate entropy, but the waste or entropy exported outside is also minimised.

Of course, the perfect life cycle is an ideal applying to an organism that is perfectly coherent, that will never grow old or die, whereas real organisms do, some more slowly than others. (Read my book on the secret for staying alive and young.)

Part of the secret for quantum coherence is that the life cycle itself contains many cycles of activities within. These cycles of different sizes are all coupled together so that activities yielding energy transfer the energy directly to activities requiring energy, losing little or nothing in the process. If you look inside each small cycle that make up the whole life cycle, you will see the same picture as the whole; and you can do this many times over until you come to the smallest cycle, representing an electronic vibration that has the period of femto-seconds (10-15s). This property of  “self-similarity” is characteristic of mathematical structures called fractals that typically describe living processes such as the branching patterns of trees and blood vessels.

This model of the organism also describes a sustainable ecosystem or economic system [9, 10] (Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare (final chapter); Sustainable Systems as Organisms? ISIS scientific publication).

Intuitively, you can see that the more cycles there are within the life cycle, the more energy is stored, and for longer, because the more times the energy can be used or recycled. The recycling and storage of coherent energy is against all previous thinking, even among those taking unconventional positions against the dominant model in calling for the recycling of materials. Energy, they say, cannot be reused, because it flows in one direction only. But we can see how the model works in the concept of a zero-emission, zero-waste farm that turns wastes and greenhouse gases into food and energy resources, which we have proposed for mitigating climate change and for addressing the food and energy crisis [11] (Dream Farm 2 - Story So Far, SiS 31).

Hallmarks of the quantum coherent organism

Let me highlight the hallmarks of the quantum coherent organism that contrasts with the conventional view of organisms as machines (From Molecular Machines to Coherent Organism, ISIS scientific publication) [12]. The organism is an incredible hive of activities from the very fast to the very slow, the local to global, all perfectly coupled together, so perfect that each activity appears to be operating as freely and spontaneously as the whole. To be quantum coherent above all, is to be most spontaneous and free.

The wave function that describes the system is also a superposition of all possibilities. It implies that the future is entirely open, and the potentials infinite [2, 12].

Quantum coherence is the prerequisite for conscious experience [13] ( Quantum Coherence and Conscious Experience, ISIS scientific publications). It is why each and every one of us thinks of ourselves as “I” in the singular even though we are a multiplicity of organs, tissues and cells, and astronomical numbers of molecules. We would have a wave function that evolves, constantly informing the whole of our being, never ceasing to

entangle other quantum entities, transforming itself in the process like a beautiful exotic golden flower, flashing and flickering in and out of many dimensions at once.

To be quantum coherent is also to mobilize energy most rapidly and efficiently, tointercommunicate nonlocally and instantaneously, transcending the usual separations of space and time. That’s why a ‘being’ can be in two places at the same time and different beings far, far apart can exchange information instantaneously [2].

Quantum coherence also raises my doubts over the conventional interpretations of Chinese Taoist texts. Wu wei, for example, is usually understood as “no action”. That may not the case; rather, it is the ideal of “no bother”, or the possibility for effortless, coherent action, taken when the moment is ripe, or just right, when the entire universe is at one with you.

Freedom, spontaneity, effortless action and effortless creation are all Taoist ideals cultivated in traditional Chinese art and poetry, in life itself.

There’s more to the Tao of biology that quantum coherence brings to us. (I make no claims to being an expert on Taoist philosophy, and defer to our host of the Global Philosophy Forum, Ashok Gangadean, who knows much more than me.)

Sciencing with love

In the early days after the first excitement of having discovered the liquid crystalline organism, we asked a physicist colleague to help explain where the colours come from [14] (To Science With Love, SiS 17). But like many other physicists, he was uncomfortable with the phenomenon, and probably quite unmoved by it. One of his first questions was whether the colours are still there when the organism is dead. (The answer turned out to be no, as we discovered later, for the colours depend on coherent motions of all the molecules, which can only occur in the living organism. As the organism dies, random thermal motion takes over and the colours fade.)

Puzzled, I asked why he wanted to know.

“Then I’d know the colours are real,” he said, “and not artefacts.”

That comment neatly encapsulates the mechanistic perspective of western science: life and its hallmarks - freedom, spontaneity, love and consciousness - are all artefacts because nothing can be said about them.

Organisms are deemed no different from machines, devoid of feelings and consciousness, and to be exploited like machines; thus sanctioning the most horrendous abuses of animals in scientific experiments, the latest being transgenic animals and cloning [15] Is FDA Promoting or Regulating Cloned Meat and Milk?, SiS 33).

The problem lies with how we choose to see organisms, not what they really are.

We now know how the colours come about [16, 17] (Organisms as Polyphasic Liquid Crystals; Quantitative Image Analysis of Birefringent Biological Materials; ISIS scientific publications). But where do the colours really come from? Do they belong to the organism or are they artefacts arising from the way we look at them?

The colours surely belong to the organism, and accurately reflect the state of the organism from moment to moment as it goes about its business of living.  But we can’t see the colours unless we set up the polarised light microscope in a particular way. The colours arise in the act of knowing, in the union of the knower and the known.

This clearly demonstrates that science isn’t about discovering the ‘facts of nature’ ‘objectively’, or independently of us. Knowing depends irreducibly on both the knower and the known. Artists and poets have always taken that for granted. But modern western science is founded on severing our connection with nature, and so the major strand of western philosophy is to puzzle over how it is possible to know at all.

It took centuries of separating and reducing nature to the limit of the quantum of action before western science was to rediscover that nothing in nature is separate. Everything is at once both localised as particle and spread out as wave.

And seemingly separate objects, from fundamental particles to atoms and molecules and increasingly larger objects, could be mutually ‘entangled’, perhaps right up to the entire universe, rather like the ‘holographic universe’ of Ervin Lazlo [18], in which, as in the quantum coherent organism, every part of the universe is implicit in every other.

Quantum physics also recovered the simple truth that other cultures have never doubted, and call it aptly, “the entanglement of the observer and the observed”.

In other words, how we know determines what we know. Scientific knowledge is no different from art and poetry. In order to be a really good scientist, I believe, one has to have the soul of a romantic poet. It was only when I learned to know with the greatest sensitivity and compassion that I was rewarded with the most resplendent vision of the organism. And who will want to hurt a fly after that?

As a biologist and then a biochemist, I was schooled to the routine of killing, fixing, pinning, pulping, homogenising, separating and purifying until no trace is left of the living organisation we were looking for. It violated everything life stands for, and reinforced the illusion that the organism is nothing but a machine, albeit, a very, very complicated machine.

The organic whole works by mutual intercommunication. The healthy body has perfect knowledge of itself because it is most coherent: every part of it is as sensitive as it is responsive. There is literally a ‘wisdom of the body’, a term that physiologists use to express the perfection with which all parts of the body work together to maintain the whole.

There is now evidence that molecules do intercommunicate by singing the same notes to one another (and flashing the same signal) [19] (The Real Bioinformatics Revolution, SiS 33). The conventional wisdom is that molecules in solution ‘bump’ into each other by chance, and if they fit together, like lock and key, they can latch onto each other and do whatever is necessary. But the cell is extremely crowded in a liquid crystalline state, where practically nothing is free to diffuse, not even the water. So how can molecules find one another in the first instance? It is like trying to find a friend in a very large and crowded ballroom in the dark. But by intercommunicating or resonating at particular electromagnetic frequencies, molecules can hear and see one another, as well as become ineluctably attracted to one another. And that can happen only in a coherent, noiseless system.

It is just the same with knowing another organism, or whole ecosystems of organisms. Perfect, authentic knowledge is gained when we are most coherent with what we want to know, i.e., when we have become one with it; when we are intercommunicating most sensitively, and both knower and the known are most authentically and autonomously themselves. Isn’t this like a perfect love affair? To really know something, you have to love it. That’s why I’ve written on ‘sciencing with love’ [14].

Quantum coherent organisms invariably become entangled with one another. A quantum world is a world of universal mutual entanglement, the prerequisite for universal love and ethics. Because we are all entangled, and each being is implicit in every other, the best way to benefit oneself is to benefit the other. That’s why we can really love our neighbour as ourselves. It is heartfelt and sincere. We are ethical and care about our neighbours and all of creation because they are literally as dear to us as our own self.

Universal mutual entanglement is also the basis of a cosmic consciousness and cosmic purpose [20] ( Is There A Purpose in Nature? ISIS paper)

But let me backtrack a little.

The quest for the ultimate reality of nature

Western science is founded on atomism. Thousands of years have been dedicated to the quest for the most fundamental particles of matter and to explaining nature in those terms.

The quest ended in a way when Max Planck identified the smallest quantum of action in the constant named after him [21], and founded quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics soon came to be dominated by the ‘Copenhagen interpretation’, which ends up denying that the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics has anything to say on what nature is really like, especially with regard to the ‘measurement problem’ [22] ( Life & the Universe after the Copenhagen Interpretation , SiS 34).

The wave function of a physical system evolves as a linear superposition (combination) of different quantum states encompassing all possibilities. But actual measurement always finds the physical system in a definite state; and this is referred to as “the collapse of the wave function.” The paradox is usually presented as the parable of Schrödinger’s cat [23] (see Quantum World Coming series, Science in Society 22), an unfortunate creature imprisoned in a box with a capsule of deadly cyanide gas that would be released the moment a radioactive nuclide decays. The cat is therefore in a superposition of being alive, being dead, and being both alive and dead at the same time until the box is opened, i.e., a measurement is performed; at which instant, the cat is either definitely dead, or definitely alive.

 What happens in the measurement that converts the probabilities to an actual, sharply defined outcome? We must not even ask that question, says the Copenhagen interpretation, as it is meaningless. Physics is what we can say about nature, not how nature really is.

The central problem of measurement has provoked many alternative interpretations of quantum mechanics, some taking us to the realm of ultimate reality, well beyond what ordinary physics can say [24] ( Beyond the Central Dogma of Physics, SiS 34).

The ultimate reality of a participatory creative universe

I have gone beyond conventional quantum mechanics in proposing that the organism tends towards a “superposition of coherent space-time modes (i.e., activities)” in a wave function that evolves and transforms but never collapses. The same applies to the universe, which may also be quantum coherent, filled, as it were, with mutually entangled organisms each participating in every other [2, 13].

I follow in the footsteps of British mathematician/philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, who had argued persuasively that quantum mechanics requires a thoroughly organic interpretation [25]. He said the entire universe must be seen to consist of ‘vibratory organisms’ ranging from elementary particles to galaxies. But he had not considered quantum coherence, which I believe necessary to complete his picture. The concept of quantum coherence was not really developed until much later, in association with superconductivity and lasers [2].

Today, the theory of quantum coherence is quite well developed in quantum optics, although it has not quite caught up with some rather amazing empirical evidence. For example, there is experimental evidence indicating that the wave function does not collapse, and entangled states may survive ‘measurements’ or interactions with macroscopic devices [26] (How Not to Collapse the Wave Function (SiS 22),Thus:

Collapse of the wave function

In the standard quantum theory, a quantum system is in a superposition of states or in quantum entanglement (see Box), which is invariably destroyed by measurement. This is referred to as the ‘collapse’ of the wave function - of probability amplitudes - that defines the system, so the system ends up in one definite state and no other. In case of Schrödinger’s cat, this collapse of the wave function amounts to being found definitely dead or definitely alive.

Quantum superposition and quantum entanglement

‘Superposition’ and ‘entanglement’ are two of the strange properties of a quantum system. ‘Superposition’ refers to a quantum system existing simultaneously in multiple states, even states that, common sense tells us, are mutually exclusive. This is usually told as the parable of Schrödinger’s cat, shut up in a box with a vial of cyanide that at any moment might be triggered to release its deadly gas by a radioactive decay reaction. If the cat in the box were a quantum system, then before anyone raises the lid to look in, the cat would be described by a quantum ‘wave-function’ of complex quantum amplitudes, which have to be squared to give the usual probabilities (see "The quantum information revolution", this series). This puts the cat in a superposition of (classically) mutually exclusive states, simultaneously dead and alive, and all states in between.

As soon as it is ‘observed’ by opening the lid, however, the quantum superposition is destroyed, and the system’s wave function ‘collapses’ into a classical state. The cat is found either dead or alive.

‘Entanglement’ describes the way different particles can become correlated no matter how far apart they are, so that a measurement performed on one of them instantaneously determines the state of both the measured particle as well as the entangled particle. This too, collapses the wave-function that previously describes the complex probability amplitudes of the two particles together, no matter how far apart they are.

But could this interpretation be overly simplistic? First of all, the ‘collapse’ of the wave function only applies to the measured property of entangled states, while the unmeasured properties remain indeterminate. For example, a measurement to decide whether a particle is spin up or down leaves it and its entangled partner indeterminate as to whether the spin is oriented left or right.

Then, there are other recent indications that observation need not destroy entanglement.

Survival of the entangled

Altewischer and coworkers in Leiden University in the Netherlands showed that entanglement between pairs of photons can survive even when one (or both) of the entangled photons is converted into a surface ‘plasmon’ and then back again into a photon.

Surface plasmons are oscillating electromagnetic fields strongly localized at the surface of a metal and associated with the collective motion of a large number of electrons. Surface plasmons are formed on metal films perforated by an array of holes smaller than the wavelength of the photons. The plasmon tunnels through the holes to form a similar plasmon on the other side, and eventually reconverts back into a photon.

Altewisher’s team sent many entangled photon pairs onto such metal films, and although many photons are lost as the result of absorption, the surviving photons remain entangled.

The state of a two-particle system is ‘entangled’ when its quantum-mechanical wave function cannot be factorised into two single-particle wave functions. This leads to one of the strangest features of quantum mechanics, non-locality. In other words, when one particle is measured to have a certain property, then the corresponding property of the other particle is instantaneously determined.

It is quite easy to get entangled photons, a starting photon can spontaneously split into a pair of entangled photons inside a nonlinear crystal.

Altewischer’s team wanted to find out what happens when entangled photons are sent through opaque metal films perforated with a periodic array of holes smaller than the wavelength of the photons. Will entangled photons survive such treatment and remain entangled? The answer is, surprisingly, yes.

First, they launched photons of one energy (one wavelength) into a crystal whose particular properties cause each photon to be split into two new photons, a process called down-conversion. By the conservation of energy, each down-converted photon has twice the wavelength and half the energy. Not only that, spin is conserved as well as energy, so the polarization of the two down-converted photons are always opposite to each other. For example, if one photon is measured to be linearly polarized in the vertical direction, the other photon will always be linearly polarized in the horizontal direction, and so on. It is as though the two photons know about each other instantaneously.

Altewischer’s team showed that the entanglement survives even when one (or both) of the entangled photons is converted into a surface ‘plasmon’ and then back again into a photon. Although many photons are lost as the result of absorption, the surviving photons are still entangled.

Given the collective nature of the surface plasmon, which involves some 1010 electrons, it seems remarkable that entanglement should survive. More surprisingly still, surface plasmon modes are short-lived, lasting for just a few femto-seconds (10-15s).

The key to surviving entangled, it seems, is to remain coherent by bouncing off other coherent systems.

In the commentary on the report, William Barnes of the University of Exeter in the UK pointed out that if we simply use a metallic mirror to reflect an entangled photon, we would expect entanglement to survive even though we would still be making use of the collective motion of many electrons to provide the reflection.

In both the surface-plasmon and simple reflection processes, we rely on the electron-electron scattering rate being low enough to allow the electron motion to remain coherent.

But there are even stranger quantum encounters in store.

Survival of stranger encounters

Lucien Hardy, then at Oxford University in Britain, provided a beautiful illustration of the sort of paradox that arises in connection with quantum entanglement through a thought-experiment in 1992.

An entangled particle and anti-particle pair - an electron and a positron - is created and each flies off in the opposite direction. But their paths are made to cross at some point by strategically placed mirrors, and instead of annihilating each other as particle and antiparticle are supposed to do, they somehow manage to "be" and "not to be" at the same time and location.

Hardy considered a Mach-Zender Interferometer (MZI), a set-up containing a half-silvered mirror, which sends a quantum particle into a superposition of states, in that it travels down two separate arms at once: the transmitted and reflected paths.

The interferometer later reunites the two paths to meet at another half-silvered mirror, which is arranged so that if the particle has had an undisturbed journey - no encounter with any other particles or fields - it hits detector C. But if something disturbs the particle, it may hit a second detector, D.

What happens when two such interferometers positioned so that one arm of the first overlaps with one arm of the second (see Fig. 1)?

Figure 1. The overlapping paths of the electron and positron in an entangled pair

If a positron - the antiparticle of an electron – is sent through one interferometer, and an electron through the other at the same time, the two particles travelling along the overlapping arms should meet in an ‘annihilation region’ and destroy one another. Hardy showed that something much stranger happens: quantum theory predicts that both D detectors could click simultaneously. Somehow both particle and antiparticle could disturb each other, yet fail to annihilate, in the overlapping arms. This is Hardy’s paradox.

Most people tend to ‘resolve’ the paradox by pointing out that such paradoxes arise only because we make inferences that do not refer to results of actual experiments. And, if the actual measurements were performed, then standard measurement theory predicts that the system would have been disrupted in such a way that no paradoxical implications would arise.

But an international team of scientists led by Yakir Aharonov in Tel Aviv University, Israel, showed that Hardy’s thought experiment could be carried out, and that it could give new observable results, provided that weak measurements are made.

What would a weak measurement entail? It is one that does not disturb the system significantly, so it remains quantum coherent, and also sacrifices accuracy. According to Heisenberg’s uncertainty relations, an absolutely precise measurement of position reduces the uncertainty in position to zero, but produces an infinite uncertainty in momentum. But if one measures the position up to some finite precision, then one can limit the uncertainty in momentum to a finite amount.

Aharonov and his colleagues imagine such weak measurements are indeed possible, and ask what happens to Hardy’s paradox. They find the paradox far from disappearing. The results of their theoretical measurements turn out to be most surprising and to reveal a "deeper structure" in quantum mechanics, which makes it "even more paradoxical".

In the double MZI setup, it is arranged that if each MZI is considered separately, the electron can only be detected at C- and the positron only at C+. However, because there is a region where the two particles overlap, there is also the possibility that they will annihilate each other.

But the clicking of D- and D+ would be paradoxical. If D- clicked, that means the positron must have gone through the overlapping arm, otherwise nothing would have disturbed the electron, which would have gone to C-. The same logic applies if D+ clicked, that means the electron must have gone through the overlapping arm to disturb the positron. But, there has been no annihilation in either case, which is paradoxical.

Alternatively, if D- has clicked, the positron must have gone through the overlapping arm. But since there was no annihilation, the electron must have gone through the non-overlapping arm. The clicking of D+ indicates that the electron must have gone through the overlapping arm, and the positron the non-overlapping arm. But these two statements are contradictory, which ends in paradox again.

So far, these statements are based on no measurements being made as to which arm the positron or electron actually went. If a standard detector is put in the path of the electron in the overlapping arm, we can find the electron there, but the measurement itself disturbs the path, so the electron could end up in D- detector even if no positron were present. The paradox disappears.

Weak measurements however, will give different predictions. The weak measurement does not disturb the system significantly, but it will be imprecise. To make up for this, the measurement has to be repeated many times in order to get as close to the real answer as possible. (Alternatively, they can do the experiment with a large number of electron-positron pairs and measure the total number of electrons or positrons that go through each arm.) And to simplify the measurements, they concentrate only on the results when D- and D+ both click. The measurements, being weak can be made simultaneously without disturbing the system or each other.

The results – based on calculating the probabilities from the complex quantum amplitudes - show that indeed, the electron and positron, each has a probability 1 of being in the overlapping region, and a probability of 0 of being in the non-overlap region. But they could not both be in the overlapping region; and quantum mechanics is consistent with this too – the joint probability of both being in the overlapping region is 0.

Intuitively, the positron must have been in the overlapping arm otherwise the electron could not have ended at D- and, further, the electron must have gone through the non-overlapping arm as there was no annihilation. This is confirmed by the joint probability of positron being in the overlapping arm and electron in the non-overlapping arm equals to 1. Similarly, D+ clicking means that the electron must have been in the overlapping arm otherwise the positron could not have ended at D+, and further, the positron must have gone through the non-overlapping arm as there was no annihilation. The joint probability of the positron being in the non-overlap region and electron in the overlap region, too, is equal to 1. But these two statements are at odds with each other, as there was only one positron-electron pair. Quantum mechanics solves this paradox by having the joint probability of electron and positron being both in the non-overlapping branch equal to –1! That is being not merely absent, but negatively present.

Finally, "the electron did not go through the non-overlapping arm as it went through the overlapping arm" is also confirmed – a weak measurement finds no electrons in the non-overlapping arm, the probability of electron being in the non-overlapping arm equals to 0. But we know that there is an electron in the non-overlapping arm as part of a pair in which the positron is in the overlapping arm, as the joint probability of that is equal to 1. How is it possible to find no electrons in the non-overlapping arm? The answer is given by the existence of the –1 joint probability of both electron and positron pair in the non-overlapping arms, bringing the total number of electrons in the non-overlapping arm to zero! So the negative presence cancels out the positive presence, resulting in absence.

Klaus Molmer of Aarhus University in Denmark, initially sceptical, now thinks he knows how to do actual weak measurements. He suggests probing the locations of a pair of ions that are first cooled down to their lowest energy state, then hit with two carefully engineered laser pulses to send them into a superposition, which would move them to positions they should never occupy. He set up the ions so they will always fluoresce, except when they are in this paradoxical superposition. As soon as the fluorescence vanishes, he carries out a weak measurement on the ions’ position using another laser. The centre of mass should lie somewhere between the pair.

But the weak measurements show that, in the paradoxical quantum state, the ions’ centre of mass actually lies outside this region.

Molmer thinks that most of what has been done to-date with quantum systems employs weak measurement, only physicists haven’t realised it. And it could have practical consequences. For example, they could expose flaws in quantum cryoptography, in which it has always been supposed that disturbance caused by measurement would prevent eaves droppers decoding messages (see "Quantum information secure?" this series). But an eavesdropper who uses weak measurement would escape detection, and hence succeed in breaking the code.

All in all, reality is stranger, much stranger than we can imagine. I particularly like the idea of being positively present, absent, or negatively present simultaneously.

and this has important implications for quantum information and quantum computing [27] (The Quantum Information Revolution, SiS 22). There is also the suggestion that the universe itself may be quantum coherent [28] (Quantum Phases and Quantum Coherence, SiS 22). So the Copenhagen interpretation may be wrong, or at best incomplete; and one can reject it and still be agnostic about the nature of ultimate reality.

To me, science, as knowledge of nature is inseparable from life and the meaning of life. I see all nature developing and evolving, with every organism participating, constantly creating and recreating itself anew. The universe is truly creative in that the future is not preordained, but spontaneously and freely shaped by every single being, from elementary particles to galaxies, from microbes to the giant redwood trees, all mutually entangled in a universal wave function that never collapses, but like a constantly changing cosmic consciousness, maintains and informs the universal whole.

Do humans have a special role in the universal consciousness? Yes we do, especially if we see ourselves as the pinnacle of creative evolution. We have the power to destroy the earth and bring about our own demise, as is clear from our role in climate change. So certainly we have both the power and the responsibility to put things right.