There are some strange, strange ideas floating around right now on the edges of quantum physics. What's brewing is a peculiar and unfortunate marriage of science and religion, all of it hinging on the relationship between gravity and time.
Those of you who keep an eye on Deepak Chopra's Twitter feed may have noticed recently that he has been trying to connect quantum consciousness of various levels and conditions of existence - a set of spiritual, meditative, philosophical and religious questions - to quantum physics. I blogged about his latest concepts here. Like many people, Chopra is also fixated on the Theory of Everything, or rather, the lack thereof, which would if successful explain how Newton's Classical Law of Gravity (corrected and reworked by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity and his concept of spacetime) - that is, the Physics of the very large, such as planets and galaxies - could relate to the Quantum Physics of the very small. Unfortunately, since the laws of gravity do not work at the sub-atomic level, there are various attempts to unite General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics by theorizing about gravity - here for example. Mark Van Raamsdonk of UBC summarizes the problem neatly here:
"The approach that allowed physicists to develop a quantum mechanical theory for the strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces turns out not to work when applied to the remaining force, the force of gravity. In fact, it fails miserably. As a result, finding the correct quantum mechanical theory of gravity has been a prominent open question for decades; indeed it is one of the greatest challenges in theoretical physics. While Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is almost entirely adequate for the purposes of describing the observed gravitational dynamics of planets, stars, galaxies, and even the expansion of the universe as a whole, it cannot be the whole story, since it does not incorporate the quantum mechanics principles that are believed to underlie all physics in our universe. Usually, a quantum mechanical description of nature is only necessary at very short distance scales; at macroscopic distance scales, the pre-20th century ``classical’’ physics provides an excellent approximation. But there are certain situations, such as in the interior of a black hole, in the early universe just after the big bang, or in a hypothetical scattering of particles with energies many orders of magnitude larger than we can currently produce in an accelerator, where gravitational effects would be important at distance scales small enough that a quantum mechanical description of the physics is essential. Finding the right theory of quantum gravity is essential if we want to fully understand the workings of nature."Enter Chopra, now adding the mythological figure of Icarus to a mix of black holes, gravity and time travel from a play he's just seen. He appears to be preparing to relate Arrow of Time problems to the gravity problem in the quest for a Theory of Everything. Chopra's Twitter feed has been buzzing recently with criticisms he's fielded from Quantum Physicist Leonard Mlodinow of Caltech. The two are now on friendly terms, but not before Mlodinow spoke out at debate at Caltech on the future of God.
Mlodinow to Chopra.
Chopra on Mlodinow.
Chopra has begun talking about consciousness in relation to gravity and physics, and yes, Stephen Hawking is in there somewhere too. It's a sign of the times that physicists and spiritual gurus are chatting. When unverifiable realms of physics encounter hazy 'cognitive theories of the universe,' which edge toward a cosmology of one big infinite mind, there is a real danger of the cosmos being re-anthropomorphized. How long did it take us to break from the geocentric model of the solar system? - Now we're getting a geo-centric, simian-laden, quasi-spiritual view of the laws that govern the universe. Maybe Icarus is a fitting mythological metaphor here, after all.