Why Gravitational Waves Are Red Herrings
By Deepak Chopra, MD, Menas C. Kafatos, PhD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.
When big science gets a major boost, the news goes around the world with an air of celebration. The latest such event was the confirmation of gravitational waves, which were predicted by Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity. As enthusiastically explained by MIT physicist Allan Adams in a recent TED talk , gravitational waves were considered impossible to detect because of their weakness even 25 years ago. But a project named Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) aimed to build a 5 kilometer measuring device calibrated to within 1/1000 of the radius of the nucleus of an atom in order to capture the signals of gravitational waves from cosmic sources using laser technology.
A few days after LIGO went into operation, in September 2015, by amazing luck the gravitational waves given off by the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago passed through the Earth and were picked up. Such an event sends ripples through spacetime itself traveling at the speed of light. The general public received the triumphant news this month and despite the caution exhibited by a small handful of scientists, LIGO marks the beginning of a new way to measure the universe, through gravitational wave astronomy. Gravitational waves can pass through stars, revealing their core, which is hidden from sight. They may lead cosmologists back to an earlier stage of the Big Bang, and do other amazing things.
Big science has every right to boast of its achievements, but in many ways gravitational waves are irrelevant to the larger situation that present science finds itself in. They serve as a distraction from the unsolved mysteries that could actually shift the paradigm regarding how we see reality.
First, the confirmation of gravitational waves wasn’t a surprise or breakthrough in terms of understanding the universe. They fulfilled a prediction that was almost a century old, and most physicists fully expected them to exist. In fact, a previous discovery by the BICEP2 project (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) in 2014 also made headlines until it was later doubted. The cosmos didn’t gain a new phenomenon.
Second, gravitational waves don’t imply anything for quantum mechanics. Physics has been trying without success to join quantum theory, which very accurately describes the smallest things in the universe, with General Relativity, which accurately describes the biggest things in the universe, and the universe itself. It’s remarkable that physics can explain subatomic particles and faraway galaxies. The problem is that they don’t mesh. The two theories are incompatible, which leads to the “Heisenberg cut,” a sharp division of reality into two domains, one quantum, where waves of energy form peaks in the quantum field, the other classical–in other words, everyday world of people and objects like trees, clouds, and mountains.
Third, until reality is united into one whole, science cannot justify its claim to understand nature. This isn’t simply a piece of grumpy skepticism. The Heisenberg cut raises a wall inside the human brain, because the brain is both a large object and totally dependent on quantum events taking place at the very most fundamental level of brain cells. Being unable to fuse the two domains of reality comes to a crunch every time you think a thought. At the large scale level of classical physics, your thought can be detected as increased neural activity that “lights up” on a brain scan. Yet this isn’t the same as reading your mind. Only you know what your thought is.
Where do you get this knowledge? No one can say, because there is no point where physics can point to a molecule, atom, or subatomic particle and say, “That’s where thinking comes from.” The very notion that atoms and molecules “learned” to think when complexity increased in life’s evolution is highly suspect. Science cannot even trace the origins of the activity detected by an fMRI, because brain scans have zero capacity to penetrate into the quantum world. In other words, a thought might as well be coming from nowhere, physically speaking.
On the face of it, you’d never connect the fantastic achievement of LIGO with the utter confusion that exists when it comes down to how the brain works. Yet they are intimately connected, simply by the fact that doing science is a brain activity. If you don’t know how such activity produces consciousness, and then how it goes on to produce the image of a four-dimensional world, you can’t claim to understand what reality actually is. Instead, you’re like someone in closed room who hears banging on the walls from outside. This banging can be measured in all kinds of ways, but everything you can say about it cannot be confirmed, because you’d have to escape the room to really find out what’s going on.
Likewise, all of physics has been unable to leave the locked room of the skull and the brain it contains. Everything we see, hear, touch, and taste occurs within that enclosed space, and that’s an insurmountable obstacle until two things happens: 1. We figure out how the dark, watery, mush of brain tissue produces the image of a four-dimensional world when it has no light or sound inside it, and 2. We determine once and for all where consciousness comes from. Until these mysteries are solved, gravitational waves are just another set of data to pile on to the mountain of data being churned out every day. Although fascinating and a great advance in science itself, they are red herrings as far as understanding reality is ultimately concerned.
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com
Menas C. Kafatos is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics at Chapman University. He is a quantum physicist, cosmologist, and climate change researcher and works extensively on consciousness. He holds seminars and workshops for individuals, groups and corporations on the natural laws that apply everywhere and are the foundations of the universe, for well-being and success. His doctoral thesis advisor was the renowned M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison who studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has authored 310 articles, is author or editor of 15 books, including The Conscious Universe (Springer), Looking In, Seeing Out (Theosophical Publishing House), and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, You are the Universe (Harmony). He maintains a Huffington Post blog. You can learn more at http://www.menaskafatos.com
Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Vice Chair of Neurology at Mass. General Hospital. Dr. Tanzi is the co-author with Deepak Chopra of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain, and an internationally acclaimed expert on Alzheimer disease. He was included in TIME Magazine’s “TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World”.