## Sunday, March 15, 2015 ... /////

### Hagelin on QM, consciousness

So far, I have only looked at pieces of this 75-minute-long August 2014 talk by John Hagelin at Stanford

which was enough to get convinced that I want to watch it carefully tonight. John Hagelin has not only co-authored numerous top-cited papers in high-energy physics but he has also been recognized as a guru by the Indian meditating folks, he has run for the Natural Law Party in the U.S. presidential elections, he has acted in movies, and so on. He seems to be intriguing speaker to me, too.

Sometimes in 1990, shortly after students like myself (or led by people including myself) defeated communism (along with some unpopular teachers LOL), a group of Indian disciples of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, some updated but otherwise totally traditional believers in India, came to our high school to hunt for new souls. They looked perfectly traditional – all the superficial data, outfits etc. were fully compatible with the idea that they have spent the previous centuries by meditation in a cave in India.

However, they also gave us booklets that were full of "unified field theory", perhaps also supergravity and/or string theory, and lots of diagrams, many of which appear in the talk above in one way or another. They have found the most important spiritual things in the Universe, they announced, and that also allowed them to find a theory of everything in physics, and so on. And if you do their OM exercises (perhaps according to the diagram with the ever denser waves converging at the tip of the infinite triangle), you may understand everything, too.

For days, I was highly tempted to believe them because the message was so good – too good to be true. At least I think that it's not true today! ;-)

It took me many years before I learned that a brilliant physicist, John Hagelin, was actually behind all the high tech stuff in their otherwise ancient superstitious documents of these Indian folks. And because he has spent lots of time by thinking about these matters and he is really smart, I believe it may be fun to listen to him despite his opinions' being potentially highly heterodox – or maybe even because of that. I suspect that he will still be constrained by the preconceptions of his less brilliant meditating colleagues in faith which may reduce the scientific depth of the talk but the remaining depth may still deserve our time, especially because many of us found our recent debates on consciousness fascinating (113 comments are in that comment thread right now).

This blog post should be significantly expanded tonight but you are encouraged to watch the talk before I do and leave your comments and impressions before I hopefully do so.

About the content of the talk

At the beginning, the instructor who hosts Hagelin is introducing the guest and talking about some student formalities. Hagelin begins to talk about the size of the Universe and the number of stars and galaxies before he moves to the microscopic world and some kind of effective-theory talk about the relationship between the fundamental and the superficial (BTW a good word), between the microscopic and macroscopic.

Quantum mechanics is mentioned as a key topic after 12:30. We may get deeper to describe the nuclei etc., and use quantum field theory, and since the time when superstring revolution swept through here, we have had a unified field theory, Hagelin says, while understating the age of both supergravity and string theory by one or two decades.

He says that the theory describe everything and the fundamental nature is extremely simple but the technology looks extremely complex. He describes the spiritual content of the fundamental theory or the unified field as "absolute silence" combined with "infinite dynamism". That's a great union of opposites and while I agree it captures some extreme abilities of physics, it also looks like somewhat vacuous and ill-defined. After all, when "dynamism" is defined operationally, it's bound to be finite, and "silence" is a word that is usually restricted to acoustics or slightly beyond it – so in a much more general context, "silence" is pretty much guaranteed to be just poetry or religious marketing. It can make the listeners feel in a certain way but these feelings are largely irrational.

The dark energy and the zero-point energy activity of the quantum fields are identified by Hagelin. Well, from some viewpoint, they are the same thing; from others, they are not. The cosmological constant may also have "classical" contributions and dark energy is primarily important in cosmology where its origin (partially) in quantum fluctuations doesn't seem to play a role. On the other hand, the quantum fluctuations exist even if the cosmological constant exactly cancels, e.g. in highly supersymmetric vacua. So this identification is oversimplifying things.

Pictures of superstrings are shown, in unnatural nearly exactly circular shapes. After centuries of searching for the deepest thing, we discovered the rubber band: what a disappointment. But it's the unified field capable of making consciousness etc. that is at the core of the discoveries. Well, at this point, I find it a bit demagogic, too. The rubber band with the rubber-bandy laws describing their oscillations and splitting/joining interactions are literally complete descriptions of everything that is observable about the unified field – let me assume that he means some string field in a string field theory description of the fundamental theory. In this sense, fundamental physicists haven't discovered anything else than the rubber bands! What is added is either some emergent science, or some spiritual interpretation that is likely to be disconnected from the empirical evidence.

Mass eigenstates of vibrating relativistic superstrings are presented using the standard musical analogy – except that the intonation is a bit more religious than we are used to. ;-) This intonation explodes to a big difference after 20:10 when he links five musical eigenstates of the string with the... five ancient elements. Nice. There's something that is analogous, something that is not, and something that is really opposite in the two cases. You could argue that the five ancient elements were more analogous to the different elementary particle species in a quantum field theory – while string theory really requires the existence of one element only. Moreover, the number of vibrations in string theory is infinite, not five.

You may listen to the sentences assuming that they are a rather standard popular sketch of string theory. But it gets combined with somewhat surprising shockers such as "that the strings live in the immortality, i.e. pure being". Could you please be a little bit more specific about these two steps, Dr Hagelin? How does strings' immortality differ from the immortality of quantum fields or other concepts in science? In what sense is the being "pure"?

Spacetime quantum foam is combined with inflation. This is a rather unusual way to present the two concepts but I think that morally speaking, it is correct and novel. The bubbles in inflation are usually thought of in the framework of quantum field theory on fixed curved spacetime backgrounds. But at the end, the correct theory demands the geometry to be fluctuating as well, and even the topology may change, so the conditions that produce the seeds of a new inflating Universe "may be" the topological bubbles we know from the spacetime quantum foam.

However, the background indifference principle – with the advances that support it, like the ER-EPR correspondence – recommend us to think that it's perfectly consistent to assume that the topology of a region of space, including the region where the inflating bubble is born, is not changing. We may also assume that it is changing, and with the right choice of the possible objects that may exist on top of the background we chose, there will always be a valid and exact description of the physical phenomena.

Multiverse. He doesn't like it but it seems to be imposed upon us. Many of us often describe the situation in a similar way.

Consciousness and meditation begin around 22:22. What are they? Physics is over at this point. We're promised that we will be told important truths mostly hiding from the Western psychological science.

Minutes are dedicated to the essence of mathematics, different number systems and the expansion from integers to whole numbers etc. Not controversial or revealing. The expansions – while one needs to make things more abstract – allow us to prove things, the system becomes more comprehensive and more ready to do physics. We need irrational numbers, too. And complex numbers are necessary for quantum mechanics. Holism and abstractness go up together. These comments are totally OK with me – but I am not learning anything new, either.

Suddenly, the yogistic tradition or early Buddhism is described in almost the same sentence. Deeper levelsof mind and the thinking process. Now, different kinds of rest and relaxation are described. It may be affected by the meditation goals but I still view these comments as technical. Stress affects diseases etc. BTW I am skeptical about most of these comments about "soul influences physical health". It's not that the influence is nonzero but sometimes the psychological state only changes the perception of the physical condition, not the essence of the condition itself. He claims that heart diseases drop. Oh sure, most heart diseases may be caused or help by high pressure and meditation probably lowers it, but that's it.

Coherence of the brain is higher during meditation etc. More so than during some other conditions. Great – this looks like some normal neuroscience. I cannot quite see why those things are important. Some advertisements about improving intelligence, maturity etc. by this orderly functioning. I would only believe if I saw some significant data that make it clear. And I would say he hasn't talked about consciousness itself yet; it's neuroscience of a sort focusing on mental health. I think Hagelin knows a lot about these things – but I am simply not too interested in these technicalities. Some parts of brain are sometimes working more etc. – I don't care...

After 57:00, he finally mentions "the" consciousness through which we experience the world but that is hidden itself. He said something new for me but I couldn't understand it. I still didn't get what were the somati that appeared in every other sentence. Now I see that it is "samadhi" which explains why I don't know the conceptLOL. It's the absorption by meditation. OK, another redundant word. Coherence, everything is great, you are awake but enjoy everything from the sleep, too, and so on. It's so funny for this guy says all these highly spiritual things about detached brains when he actually sounds as a completely matter-of-fact pragmatic man. ;-)

Well, maybe it is the reason why I find these remarks boring: they are actually too practical for me! It looks like getting his mind into the best constructive shape is the most important goal. I don't believe it can make too much difference and even if it can, I am just not too interested in it. I am more keen on learning the truth.

Wow, he sketches a one-to-one correspondence between classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and quantum field theory on one side; and three terms in the Indian religious jargon on the other side. OK, I don't buy this except as a good prank. Good sounding words but I am not the typical audience.

#### snail feedback (53) :

Apparently he won an IgNobel Peace prize: "Presented to John Hagelin of Maharishi University and The Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy, for his experimental conclusion that 4,000 trained meditators caused an 18 percent decrease in violent crime in Washington, D.C."

He is also mentioned in Robert Park's book, "Voodoo Science" (Oxford, 2000).

On the Transcendental_Meditation page of RationalWiki, I found the following about Hagelin: "In the late 1990s, Hagelin (who was considered a serious quantum physicist before he went nuts) offered the services of 7000 yogic flyers to create enough positive vibes to end the war in Kosovo."

LOL.

Listened for the first 22 minutes... At some point Hagelin presents this slide with on the left hand side a top-down description of the reductionist/unifying approach to physics that most of us will agree with. On the right hand side a description of his transcendental meditation program with a big arrow pointing downward toward this "Pure Consciousness / Unified Field".

Then my bullshit alarm went on.

I may watch the rest later but I'll wait first for more courageous TRF readers to post their impressions.

don't waste your time watching the full thing, lol! it's a cesspool of bullshit peppered with scientific jargon...

Geim levitated a frog, Lubos.
But perhaps Geim did nothing and the frog was just yogic flying...:)

The talk was like a Centaur: one half head and one half ass.

much = must ,
patient present = patient presence,
There are probably also others.

Is this thing conscious?

http://www.cleverbot.com/

Thanks, Wizard, but I was already decided to complete watching the video - and I just succeeded.

Thank you so much Lubos for linking Hagelin’s talk at
Stanford. You are doing distinct service to intellectuals for pointing out such things. I have met John Hagelin twice in Vedanta (Hindu philosophy) conferences. I am convinced that he is smart and he sincerely believes in the stuff he is talking about. There are hundreds of decent universities in U.S.
where after leaving Harvard, he could have obtained tenured position. If I could obtain such a position, I am sure, he could have obtained a position. Yet, he chose to be on faculty of Maharishi University in Iowa because of his specific beliefs in TM etc.Medical benefits of TM have been scientifically verified.Since science does not understand consciousness yet, it is difficult to say much about his theory of unified field. In these conferences, in addition to the medical benefits slides, he showed one slide with Lagrangian for
unified field. I remember to have asked him this question. In the usual physics,you compare solutions with the experiments. What do you do with this Lagrangian? He said something about effect on the individual and society which, frankly, I did not find very convincing. But again, we know very little about consciousness and I would welcome all proposals.
His talk about relating science and Yoga is also quite
interesting. After all, in theoretical physics, great scientists use the same brain to make models. So there may be something to his talk about brain getting into some kind of universal consciousness which is called “Samadhi”. Unfortunately, I am not practicing TM or even simple meditation yet. So I cannot vouch for it.
As for the general feeling on whether we need something
other than science in our life, I repeat what I mentioned in a guest blog (Hinduism for physicists) which you were so kind to publish. World is definitely in bad shape. Only thing we have to do is to watch evening news. Wars with weapons of mass destruction, murders and violence in general, cruelty, criminal
activity, dependence on drugs, lack of compassion and nicety in dealing with fellow human beings,greed,lack of ethics and morality, claiming full credit for somebody’s work (last blog LOL!!!) etc. etc. One can go on and on. Science has not helped to overcome this. In fact science has made things worse by giving weapons of destruction to people with base instincts. So personally I welcome such novel ideas in addition to science. Human race needs religion or something else in addition to science if it wants to survive.

Hagelin ideas were very influential in persuading me to drop out of college as a physics student, since he teaches that one needn't learn so much technical physics (why bother?) in order to access the deepest realms of reality.

We could have all just stayed in caves and meditated, why bother do anything else? By the time the lion eats you may have already reached the deepest realms of reality so lion doesn't mater.

So we should have people who reached the deepest realms of reality raise a hand and then we should shoot them, because they are just consuming the resources for no good reason after that.

these days we also have new age mullas semi versed in science, in another video he mentions path integral as a proof for god,
you can sample starting 23 min

I went in a skeptic, perked up at some of the extraordinary claims in the middle -- TM has been shown to increase IQ for example -- but then came out a skeptic at the end. Why? Well, if TM can indeed increase a person's intelligence significantly there ought to be some hard empirical evidence showing that. And if such evidence is there and is conclusive, why haven't we all heard about it? Not much of an argument you might say. Maybe. I'll look further into it. And I will send a link to my daughter (who has attention deficit disorder) and my ex-wife (who has been traumatized by our divorce) just in case it is helpful. Will even try it myself -- unless skepticism is a disqualification. Which it probably is. :)

Well, 30 years ago they could just scream on TV - she sayeth, he sayeth, Lord is my Lord, etc. and that would sound really biblical and proper, Joe and Jenn would clap, send donations, etc.

These days, there is a segment of semi-technical population that requires a bit more.

So, instead of citing verses and mapping them on examples of Joe who fucked Jenny, but Jenny was fucking Frank before, so Frank got angry, now you talk about complex numbers before you start bullshitting.

Dear Lubos,
I think Hagelin gives an ok but short popular talk on fundamental physics and an interesting talk about meditation. But I don't see that he has succeeded in really combining these topics in a deep way.

You didn't need strong doses of espresso on the way?

I think I'll play it now to put me to sleep faster. Also, then I may be fully awake while in deep sleep, as he says. I want to control my sleep the next time I (sex related content censored)

Okay, on a positive side I'll admit that the experience of being asleep while still fully aware, moving in the sleep landscape (all in technicolor and sharp focus) as you wish, is really a powerful, unforgettable experience.

Are you serious? If you really study
these scriptures, they do not tell you to give up your responsibility or any particular work (called your Dharma) just a change of attitude about getting fruits of your action! TM is in addition to your regular work, not instead. Hagelin did not give up his work towards Physics Ph.D. although,I am fairly certain, these ideas were springing up in his mind even when he was a physics student! I am sure, he still teaches regular physics classes at his university.

Hanson has made several million dollars in outside income because of his activism. He continues his activism, in order to have someone drop a big egg on him. His activism is almost exactly the same as that of Tom Schweich, gubernatorial candidate of Missouri, who after being challenged for being Jewish, said the entire state was corrupt and he would take them all on. He was sans the Jones hat. I mention this not to bash Jews and their idiosyncrasies, but rather to point out possible opportunities- possibly a matrix computation that shows quantum interactions that improve intelligence in certain ethnic groups in financial circles. Well, it was just off the top of my head. Recall the frowning cat worth \$100M!

Hi Luke,

Some of these claims in the piece below are obviously less supported than others, but there *can be* beneficial effects. But trying it yourself over a period is the best way to judge right?

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201309/20-scientific-reasons-start-meditating-today

My favorite way of meditation is sitting in silence in front of a textbock about cool stuff or a nice text generally, such as the one about moonshines, to absorb what it contains.

This gives me a deep and calm satisfaction, which feels very zen ;-)

Seems Indian religions are much richer in modern physics than others ...

BTW the second and third talks by Tony Nader are also excellent. He is M.D. Ph.D and a neuroscientist and does not seem to be crackpot!! You just continue to the end of the first talk by Hagelin. It will take you into the subsequent talks.

I agree. In my youth I have dropped acid, mushrooms, have been a member of Hare Krishna group for about a year, then I wanted to experience Kundalini, I read Egyptian Book of the Dead, Aleister Crowley's Magick, went nuts when Castaneda published his books and so on, the list is pretty long.

By now I have developed aversion to things spiritual as presented in speeches like this one. Some of my spiritually active friends still send me links to similar speeches, none of them by nuts, all people with strong technical education, but they all sound the same to me and bore me to death.

In contrast, a video about the Category theory, and almost any math, is deeply relaxing.

Hi Lubos

You can erase this if you think its not appropriate, or too much self-promotion. I would understand.

I would like to say that samadhi is a really important thing. I wrote a book about it here:

https://dondeg.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/what-is-science-is-now-a-free-ebook/

When understood in its proper and original context, yoga can explain many things, including the process we call science.

I've been doing a whole series on the "proper context" of samadhi here:

https://dondeg.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/the-yogic-view-of-consciousness-part-1/

Yoga provides a unique understanding of the human mind, and that is what the writing in the 2nd link is meant to convey. It is up to 10 parts now.

The problem with Haglin is, he might be good with physics, but the TM movement has a limited view of yoga. You know about Euclid's Elements, I am sure, and how important this was in the history of math. There is a similar book that is just as important in the history of yoga called the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. The writings linked above seek to explain Patanjali's book to modern people. The TM yoga has gone far away from the original teachings of Patanjali. This would be like someone just making up a bunch of stuff and ignoring Euclid's work.

This is why his talk was not informative to you with respect to the yoga material.

There is connections with modern physics, but in a way very different from what popular yoga movement like TM portray.

I invite any smart people here to come and discuss these topics on my blog.

Kantian ethics - never do to somebody what you wouldn't want to be done to you - is just fine for me. No need for volumes of scriptures, institutions and rituals.

I still prefer Castaneda, Don Juan and Don Genaro. Yes, it all turned out to be a literary fiction, no real interviews with shamans, but I vew all other forms of spirituality on the same terms, a fiction anyway. It is just that Don Juan's description of reality is so compelling and original in my view.

Maybe that's where Vladimir Putin is. Doing some yoga in a cave.

http://laaake.com/ - Shrodinger's Putin
(a clock since Vladimir started his meditation)

I totally agree.

I may have needed a strong coffee and it could have helped, or not. But I did listen to it sort of by 2/3 of my attention and mostly didn't get it.

LOL, a good and tough question.

Dear papertiger, it's likely it was just cold but I actually think that the theory of attending the birth by the hot gymnast in Switzerland

makes some sense unless the Swiss are "completely and deliberately" lying.

On this picture of Alina Kabayeva

http://d5pa5brvrabv4.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/kabayeva3.jpg

I needed to spend 30 seconds to figure out whether the front or the back side of her head should appear on that place.

If Putin really managed to father her baby, it shows that he must have amazing 3D geometric skills and he would probably be very good in the research of the Calabi-Yau manifolds, too. ;-)

That pose must get the kinks out.

Looks like yoga to me ;)

Maybe we're both right.

But Independent internet TV channel Dozhd (Rain) said on Sunday, the Russian president had been knocked down by the flu and retreated to his residence on Lake Valdai in the north.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/46581096.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

Maybe not.

Yup, I do follow it although I didn't post a special "where is Putin" blog post because this looks like too light a genre - it's something for New York Post, perhaps, but not for The Reference Frame.

As to Vlad's whereabouts, my guess is he's taking anger management lessons from Jack Nicholson:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/expd/16181677384/

For those who don't have a clearly understanding this parody, this film clip should clear things up for you:

@ Lukelea and Lubos:
Yes! Good and tough question!! It is true that after ancient spurt of advanced civilization (Yoga, math, decimal system, astronomy etc we have discussed before) Indians became slaves for centuries by first Muslims and then British rulers. Muslim invaders used to burn libraries routinely! Consequently scientific and technological advancement did stop. You might say these are poor excuses. OK. I will not argue too much. But now the tables may be turning. India made it to Mars at the first attempt. GDP is growing fast. It is the largest democracy in the world. Perhaps half of silicone valley and microsoft are run by Indians. In U.S. or U.K. if you visit a doctor or hospital, you are quite likely to come across a person of Indian origin. In universities, in science and engineering departments, one is quite likely to come across Indian professors.More recently, Indians have broken through high ranks of corporate and wall street leadership. So the future seems to be promising. But in any case we are talking about spiritual and not material success! And no one should say that Indians have all the answers!! Not for string theory anyway!!

My original comment was (I thought obviously) a joke. But even if India had all the answers - that is to say, some of its people knew how to access reality at the deepest level and were enlightened - you would, I believe, see in India what you see now: a whole lot of trashy humans and a few extraordinarily noble ones. Nevertheless, I don't think India has all the answers; but many of its mystics have had the wise insight - which Stephen Hawking would endorse - that when a human meditates, it is the universe that is meditating.

That seems perilously close to moral subjectivism. If that is Kantian ethics and if that were universally endorsed, there wouldn't be anything morally wrong with the sado-masochistic rapist who abuses and likes to be abused in return.

Tony,

If you take transcending to heart and try and think to disavow attempts to see what had been done in your past so as to presuppose a change now, how what you did recognizes, what you are doing is now being done in a transcendental way?

Intentionally and abstractedly as a mathematical journey does this now skips all that ole other stuff?

In observance of the video, did you know what you were doing before as you searched, was to have found is your spirituality is now on the road to using mathematics?

Best,

I totally disagree, and if I was a string theorist, I would see this talk in a different light. Think for a minute about the rubber band. Think about Susskind's attempt to find some way to explain the nature of particulates in a new and fascinating way, and what is realized?

Best,

Put aside any thought of some system here so as to become Transcended. I think if you use the substrate recognition of how you venture into a mathematical state, as if, in a way deriving a coherence regarding your subjectivity with thinking, what's to lose?

You are just realizing you are doing things that you didn't realize you were doing and can call your system string theory. Are you above the debate of whether its true or not, or have moved on beyond the logicality of seeking truth? heaven forbid that string theory is ever associated with such thinking?:)

I think because people as they get older they become disillusioned about everything being only politics.
So some of us find refuge in austere truths like mathematics and physics, which even then politics lurk around the corner.

It is strange Harvard people gave Geim ignoble prize. he was just studying whether a big diamagnetic body can be levitated by magnetic field. As far as I am concerned, it was a perfectly good physics expt.

I agree with you, Kashyap. An issue is that the IgNobel prize is supposed to be funny - it isn't necessarily about "embarrassing" work. It is not really an anti-prize,it is a funny prize, and that's why lots of real Nobel prize winners help to organize it.

Unfortunately, many people love to understand it as an anti-prize, and as an anti-prize, the Ig Nobel prize would totally suck and Geim would be an example for the reason you mentioned.

If you go beyond the politics, the politics doesn't matter anymore. Being caught in that debate, is an agreement one makes by loosing sight of something more intrinsic to life then swinging between polarites.

I am not getting you, life is a series of politics. we play politics with our wives, children, coworkers .

I used to debate with my brother about our business, so when we had some big problem, I would tell him we must play a bit of politics to solve it. But he would say, no, we must stick to principles.

When the problem reached crisis level. I would tell him we must enforce principles, and he would say I think at this stage a bit of politics maybe necessary!

What is intrinsic to live?

I reckon String Theory proves the Flying Spaghetti Monster. After all, strings are just shavings from his noodly appendages, and gravitons are spaghetti hoops. QED.

This is too vague, raises further questions, and just isn't satisfying. I haven't heard a satisfying alternative though. Saying consciousness is just neurons firing makes no sense to me. In QM/ST, there are particles and there is 'the observer'. These are separate things, and I don't think any amount of particles will ever make an observer. Decoherence (as I understand it) will give you a range of classical looking outcomes, but will only give a statistical distribution of those outcomes - you still need an observation (and by implication, an observer) to see which one is actual.

So true and so irritatingly saddening. At the rate at which my cynicism is growing, I'll be in a cave by the time I'm thirty. I've got no idea what the ideal universe would look like, but every day I find myself saying, 'It simply can't be like this...' Cue sad violin music, the dejected face of a man staring outside a window at happy people passing by.

I did not watch Hagelin's talk yet but I consider it as just a story in the set
of possible stories. As you may know, I am
interested in and study the set of possible and impossible
stories, from a metamathmatical perspective. I also consider quantum
physics as a choice function in relation to the rendering of
stories with our brains, our marvelous Virtual Reality Generator.

In an enlarged perspective, ie. the multiverse as implied by many
current physics theories, I find it interesting the apparent one
to one relationship between the many worlds interpretation of
quantum physics, and physics multiverse manifestations (possible
stories rendered). I call all of this, All There Is, Ising. I
believe in none of it and all of it as potentialities to be rendered. I am a quantum mystic shaman
in the moment, loving/binding it all into meaningful causal
relationships. Everyone's story is what it is, from the choices
one makes. No-ones story can be denied. We all learn from each
other; I find this beautiful.