Star Larvae Hypothesis
Biological cells use microtubules to accomplish various tasks. Unicellular organisms use them to form their flagella and cilia, the whip- and hairlike structures that the organisms use to move around. Microtubules also play a key role in cell division. In brain cells, or neurons, however, microtubules perform neither of these functions. Penrose and Hameroff argue that these tubular structures insulate their hollow interiors from outside influences, such as heat, adequately enough so that highly sensitive states of quantum superposition can grow within them until they self-collapse. This process, which Penrose and Hameroff call "objective reduction," is distinct from the reduction of quantum indeterminate states that occurs under the influence of environmental factors.
excerpt from his Templeton Prize acceptance speech, 2001
Gravitational self-collapse of a quantum indeterminacy that spans neurons is a determinate physical event, each collapse itself being the physical correlate of a particular subjective experience. In other words, in this model consciousness is quantized. It occurs as a sequence of discrete events in rapid succession. Instances of subjectivity can, in this model, vary by magnitude in proportion to the size of their originating quantum superpositions. The notion is similar to Whitehead's discrete occasion of experience.
This is a rough summary of the model proposed by Penrose and Hameroff. The model is controversial and continues to attract critics. Nonetheless, it is a promising candidate for a description of the interface between the physical and mental worlds. The model implies a scale of consciousness, from rudimentary forms of sensation that define the experience of simple organisms to the apprehensions of the sublime of which human minds are capable, the qualitative and quantitative differences between the extremes of mind being attributable to differences in the numbers of microtubules available to participate in the process of objective reduction. In the Penrose-Hameroff model, the magnitude of potential consciousness might not be directly proportional to brain size, but the two variables should correlate to some degree.
In this model, the particles that are given determinate existence by the collapse of the superposition are electrons associated with the molecular constituents of microtubules. But if particles more massive than electrons could be held in superposition long enough to undergo objective reduction, then the corresponding conscious experience would be proportionately further along the scale of magnitude. Implicit also in the Penrose-Hameroff model is the possibility of structures other than biological cells managing the process of objective reduction.
Researchers keep discovering more ways in which quantum processes play essential roles in biological systems. Quantum-mediated biological processes include photosynthesis, olfactory perceptions (smells), and some enzymatic reactions. DNA itself might exploit quantum effects. There no a priori reason to exclude quantum physics from possible mechanisms of consciousness. Research continues to suggest that biology is not only friendly toward, but might require, quantum effects.
Philosopher Charles Hartshorne takes a conventional view, in Philosophers Speak of God, but veers into a creative conjecture:
"According to contemporary theories, the sun is wasting away its own matter. Above all, if the sun receives nothing in return from its effects, this is precisely because it is blind and unconscious; otherwise, the spectacle of life on Earth would mean an immense aesthetic content streaming back to the sun!"
Hartshorne might have been too eager to dismiss his own speculation.
Applied to the quantum tunneling of protons inside stars, the Penrose-Hameroff model provides a theoretical foundation for stellar consciousness. Considering the mass of a proton relative to that of an electron, a difference of more than 1000 to 1, and the number of protons available to participate in objective reduction inside stars, a (highly speculative) basis exists to suggest not only that stars might be conscious, but that they are superconscious. Stellar consciousness is a candidate for the sentience ascribed to the various grades of angels and religion's other astral entities.
Author and entrepreneur Gregory Sams argues for a conscious sun.
A criticism of quantum models of consciousness points out that quantum superpositions in the brain would not be sustainable for the required durations because the brain is a warm, thermally "noisy" environment, and quantum coherence requires a relatively noiseless, cold environment. This criticism would seem to dampen the prospects for solar consciousness, unless stars, like refrigerators, are heat pumps that cool their interiors.
Recently, an active pumping mechanism has been identified in stars, or at least mechanisms have been proposed to explain what seems to be an active transport of energy from inside a star to its surface. In "The Paradox of the Sun’s Hot Corona" (Scientific American, June, 2001) authors Bhola Dwivedi and Kenneth J. H. Phillips describe research into the possible mechanisms behind an observed reversal of the sun’s heat gradient at the chromosphere. Moving outward from the chromosphere to the corona, increasingly far from the core, temperatures steadily rise, a paradox that suggests that the sun's metabolism actively pumps heat from its inner to its outer layers. Uncovering the responsible mechanisms would be a small step toward proving the existence of objective-reduction processes inside stars. But the paradox at least establishes that stellar metabolisms can support active pumping of energy from one place to another—that heat in stars is not transmitted only by the passive modes of conduction, convection, and radiation, but also by active transport. As the authors conclude, "Even as one mystery begins to yield to our concerted efforts, others appear. The sun and other stars, with their complex layering, magnetic fields, and effervescent dynamism, still manage to defy our understanding." (more recently , researchers have identified spicules, jets of plasma, as the structures that transport heat from the sun's surface to its atmosphere. News release is HERE.)
A specific mechanism that could help cool stellar cores is the Ranque effect, in which a rotating gas heats up at its periphery while its interior cools along the axis of rotation. Researcher Renzo Boscoli describes this effect and applies it to stellar metabolism. It's a highly speculative application of the Ranque effect, but intriguing for its relevance to the prospect of stellar consciousness. Says Boscoli, ". . . due to a constant Ranque effect I see no reason why the centre [of a star] would not continue to cool towards absolute zero." If the effect can produce such extreme cold, so much the better are prospects for solar/stellar consciousness.
C. G. Jung
"On the Nature of the Psyche" (1947/1954). In Collected Works, Vol. 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. 1960/1969
Like the Hawking process, the Penrose-Hameroff objective reduction process describes an interaction between quantum mechanics and gravity. The star larvae hypothesis leverages the Penrose-Hameroff model not only to suggest that stars are conscious, but also to lay the theoretical foundation for a proposed industry of proton manufacturing. Objective reduction has the potential to use the Hawking process to manufacture protons by exploiting the quantum peculiarity sometimes called called the observer effect. The effect has to do with the ability of human observers to influence the outcome of quantum reduction.
A quantum superposition potentially can collapse into an empirically determinate event by one of two routes, either by the proposed objective reduction process of the Penrose-Hameroff model or by the interference of external, environmental influences. A peculiarity of research in quantum physics is the discovery that human subjectivity seems capable of acting as such an environmental influence. It appears that, by selecting a particular mode or frequency of observation, an experimenter can influence the result of the collapse of quantum superpositions.
In one example, physicist Wayne Itano and colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology placed a system of atoms in an irradiated environment that normally, after a given period of time, would have caused some of the atoms to move into an "excited" state by way of a quantum-mechanical process. However, by observing the system with sufficient frequency, they prevented any of the atoms from moving into the excited state. For any given observation, the probability was overwhelming that no atoms would have changed state, and by making observations frequently enough, the occurrence of at least some atoms transitioning was postponed potentially indefinitely. Each observation effectively sets the clock back to zero. This effect is known as the Quantum Zeno Effect.
In The Dreaming Universe, Physicist Fred Alan Wolf summarizes the implications of this and similar experiments, "Intent, through our powers of observation, actually modifies and alters the course of the physical world and causes things to occur that would not normally occur." This implies that conscious intent has some power to skew quantum events in desired directions. The observer effect seems to be the result of the focused concentration, or intent, or selective decision making of mind. And by such means, indeterminate, probabilistic, noncomputable quantum events, potentially including Hawking radiation, can in theory be influenced toward desired outcomes, such as the production of protons preferentially to other types of particles.
Late in his career the physicist Erwin Schroedinger turned his attention to issues of biology. In a small but influential book entitled What is life? he took a step toward a humanistic appropriation of the miraculous when he reasoned as follows:
"Let us see whether we cannot draw the correct non-contradictory conclusion from the following two premises:
(i) My body functions as a pure mechanism according to the Laws of Nature.
(ii) Yet I know, by incontrovertible direct experience, that I am directing my motions [. . .]
The only possible inference from these two facts is, I think, that I—I in the widest meaning of the word, that is to say, every conscious mind that has ever said or felt "I"—am the person, if any, that controls the 'motion of the atoms' according to the Laws of Nature."
So what developments await brains and minds in space that will enable them to direct the outcomes of quantum processes en masse toward preferred ends—according to the Laws of Nature?
The Star Larvae Hypothesis:
Stars constitute a genus of organism. The stellar life cycle includes a larval phase. Biological life constitutes the larval phase of the stellar life cycle.Elaboration: The hypothesis presents a teleological model of nature, in which
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