Thursday 20 May 2010

Beyond reality - Watching information at play in the quantum world is throwing physicists into a flat spin, says Mark Buchanan 14 March 1998 by Mark Buchanan Magazine issue 2125

WHAT does a financial index have in common with Shakespeare's Richard III, a drawing of a cat and this sentence? Easy. No matter how important any one of them may be to you, they can all be reduced to the ubiquitous digital bits of the information age. And, as such, they can pass from a mind to a machine, flow down telephone lines and spill out unchanged onto a page halfway across the world. Information is nothing but patterns of 0s and 1s.

Information and Energy Make Up Our Reality Bruce Robertson NES Health

What is reality anyway? To answer this question, we have to look beyond manifest reality, beyond the substance that makes matter appear solid. We know, in fact, that all matter, at the level of atoms and of electrons and other elementary particles, is mostly empty space. Most of us are familiar with Einstein’s equation E=mc2, where “E” is energy, “m” is matter, and “c” is the speed of light. It tells us that matter and energy are equivalent. It tells us that matter is pure energy, albeit energy that is in a dense form. However, because science has mostly ignored the concept of information, we aren’t taught about the implications of how information plays into this insight. There are many philosophical debates about how to define “information.” In biology, information is often associated with pattern formation, with organising principles—with how individual bits coalesce into a functioning whole where the sum is greater than the parts. Information drives a process called “emergence,” which explains how order arises from seemingly chaotic activities embedded in a process. The body is a beautiful example of information, organisation and emergence, for it starts from a single cell, which divides over and over, making trillions of other cells, which then specialise into different kinds of cells (there are about 200 types of cells in the human body). Then those cells organise themselves into groups of similar cells, forming tissues and organs—until eventually they make a fully-formed and functioning human being. Information both describes the state of organisation of a system and also directs the development of that system, from which “life” emerges.

Information in Nature - Joan Wilcox NES Health

Information has been the subject of a lot of scientific inquiry, and it forms the basis for the newer sciences of chaos theory, systems theory and information theory. However, even in many of these disciplines, information is thought of as something that arises from a system, rather than something fundamental to the system itself. That view is slowly changing and information is now being thought of not as an abstract concept but as a real substance of nature.

“Substance” may be the wrong word, implying as it does a physicality that is hard to imagine, but it will have to suffice. It is important to realise that nothing in quantum can be thought of as real in the sense of the physical reality of our world. The quantum world is an abstract, mathematical world — what some physicists call a shadow world — yet from the laws of quantum and other fields of physics we can come to better understand our material, physical world and how it works.

If we use the laws of physics (both classical and quantum) to explain nature, the question that some theorists and philosophers ask is, “Where do the laws of physics come from?” Why should Nature be revealed at all from a method of inquiry, such as mathematics, that is entirely a creation of human thought? In an article that may seem outdated but that actually has relevance to recent discoveries, “I is the law” (January 30, 1999, New Scientist) writer Robert Matthews explores this question, saying that physics has a “guilty secret,” which is that physicists themselves “haven’t the slightest idea why the laws work, or where they come from. All their vaunted equations are just mathematical lash-ups, made out of bits and pieces from other parts of physics whose main justification is that they seem to work.”

One physicist, Roy Frieden, came up with an answer to why physics works and where the laws of physics come from — information. It’s hard to wrap your mind around this concept, but let’s give it a try, because physicists may be catching up with NES theory, although for the most part they are still way behind the curve.

Some physicists think now that information may be the ultimate fundamental entity of the universe, even more fundamental than energy. Frieden’s inquiry was pioneering in showing that there is a specific way that we can extract information from Nature: he has shown that the laws of nature arise (as Matthews explains it) “from the gap between what nature knows and what nature is prepared to let us find out.” I won’t go into his theory in detail, as it is quite complex, but I will review two of his conclusions that apply to NES.

Questions, not measurements, matter. Frieden says that the fundamental laws of nature arise in response to how we probe nature. They are not really there in and of themselves, but are revelations based on our way of exploring nature. He says that “perhaps every physical phenomenon occurs in relation to measurement — the measurement acts as a kind of catalyst for the effect.” If this is so, then “physical laws occur as answers to questions. . .” In effect, the kind of measurement we choose to make somehow determines what nature reveals to us. This is not unlike what Werner Heisenberg said, which became part of an article of faith in physics called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Einstein also said that we can only know nature through our method of questioning. Peter Marcher and others have proposed the phase-conjugate-adaptive-resonance theory, which says that all information is encoded in phase waves and that we extract information according to the level of our attention and intention (consciousness as measurement or questioner). What this means really, is that we can only know nature by interacting with it in some way, and the kind of interaction we choose to have with nature may determine what nature reveals to us. But the big question for physics is, What is an interaction? Or in common physics parlance, What is a measurement?” According to Frieden, it may simply be a question. This shift in definition has broad implications, for it moves physicists from being static cataloguers of nature to being explorers of their own dynamic interactions with it.

NES has always suspected that nature works this way, but in truth it was only a year or so ago that Peter Fraser, Harry, Bruce and others at NES realised that we had to change our language to more accurately reflect how we are interacting with nature. We no longer talk about “measuring” the body-field, but only about asking it questions. Our method is not static, but dynamic. Probing the body-field is like asking it questions and then detecting the robustness of the response. We are not seeking a single quantitative answer, but a qualitative response. Most fundamentally, it is the kind of question we ask that determines the quality and kind of response we get.

NES has also uncovered that the sequence in which questions are asked influences the amount and accuracy of the information that nature (in this case, the body-field) yields to us, which is an understanding and method unique to NES. It is interesting to speculate what relevance this sequencing might have to how physics teases information from nature and what kind of answers physicists get. Would it make a difference to their understanding of the laws of physics? Maybe some genius frontier physicist will take the lead from NES theory and take up the quest!

Answers from nature are not definitive, but provisional. As Frieden explored the implications of seeing measurements as questions, he came to the opinion that nature primarily acts not through “action” (one fundamental type of which is energy exchanges) but through providing us ways to come up with a “best possible description” of a phenomenon (which is information based). Action is incredibly important in physics, but, as Matthews reveals, no physicist “understands the principles behind nature’s infatuation with action, and no one can calculate it directly.” Frieden, however, believes it all comes down to information and how nature is really not very willing to part with information. Matthews explains that what is important in action is the difference between “the information we try to prise from nature by making observations and the information nature has, but is reluctant to part with.” He writes, “Frieden has built his radically new vision of physics based not on the mysterious ‘action,’ but on something more intuitive: our attempt to come up with the best possible description of phenomena. . . . Frieden’s information-based methods provide a stunningly clear interpretation of the laws of physics: they represent the best we can possibly do in our quest to extract information using our inevitably error-prone methods.”

As Frieden himself says, “Through the very act of observing, we actually define the physics of the thing measured.” This does not mean that nature is not real or is all in our heads. It means that “any physical attempt to extract information about nature determines the answer we obtain.” In his view, the best answers are the current laws of physics. But these are subject to change as we think of more novel and precise methods of probing nature. In other words, the laws of nature may not be eternal.

Frieden’s insight that nature’s answers are “best possible” answers is something NES has known for quite some time. Peter’s matching technique is based on uncovering the best possible answer to a question, not in yielding a one-time, enduring, definitive answer. We know that the dynamic body-field gives us the best possible answer under the circumstances or according to the context. When a more precise, or even simply a different, question is asked, the older, less ideal answer drops out. In addition, in relation to the NES scan, we know that because the body-field is dynamic, a scan reveals the best possible protocol at the time of the scan, and according to the condition of the client (body, mind and spirit; and in relation to internal and external influences) at that moment. It may also be influenced to some extent by the intention set by the client toward a healing goal (there is some aspect of the scan that is affected by the question/measurement provided by the client him- or herself, even unconsciously).

Frieden proposed his theory ten years ago, and since then other physicists have come to similar conclusions, but the field of physics as a whole has been slow to shift its mindset from energy to information as the fundamental entity of the cosmos. NES theory is ahead of the pack in many respects, and it is interesting to watch from the sidelines as physics catches up!

Vlatko Vedral: Everything is information

Vlatko Vedral: Everything is information

Physicist Vlatko Vedral explains to Aleks Krotoski why he believes the fundamental stuff of the universe is information – and how he hopes that one day everything will be explained in this way