Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our Non-Local Universe

A direct link to the above video is at

Entanglement-at-a-distance does physically exist, in the sense that it has physically verifiable (and verified) consequences. Which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that some of our most engrained notions about space and causality should be reconsidered.
- theoretical physicist Bernard d'Espagnat
(I've talked before about the underlying patterns of information that create our universe, and of ideas that connect us all together, and how much I like the term Richard Dawkins gave us for this concept: "memes". Memes, as ideas that instantaneously connect together "outside of spacetime" are a great example of thinking about our universe from a timeless perspective. I saw another great example of the kind of synchronicities that arise as people around the world think similar thoughts right after I finished writing today's blog entry. The above quote is from a blog entry posted just a few days ago by award-winning theoretical physicist Bernard d'Espagnat. Click here to read his blog entry in full, and you will see a great many parallels to the blog entry you're about to read.)

Principle of locality
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In physics, the principle of locality states that an object is influenced directly only by its immediate surroundings. Quantum mechanics predicts through Bell's inequality the direct violation of this principle. Experiments have shown that quantum mechanically entangled particles violate this principle: they have been shown to influence each other when physically separated by 18 km, thus the principle of locality is false.
As the above wikipedia definition clearly states, our universe is non-local, despite what our intuition might tell us as we look around at our world. Understanding that our 4D spacetime is really just a shadow of patterns that exist outside of time, within the fifth dimension and above (see The Holographic Universe) gives us a way to visualize how entangled particles can be connected in ways that seem impossible, and this also gives us a way to see how the Shamanistic viewpoint regarding hidden forces which are outside our physical domain makes sense in this context: it's all part of our non-local universe.

The above picture comes from the National Human Genome Research Institute website.

The National Institute of Health published an article recently about ground-breaking new DNA analysis procedures that look at the helix not as a sequential ladder, but as a 3D shape. To quote from the article:

The sequence of the 3 billion DNA base pairs that make up the human genome holds the answers to many questions pertaining to human development, health and disease. Consequently, much research aimed at understanding the genome has focused on establishing the information encoded by the linear order of DNA bases. In the new study, however, researchers focused on how those bases chemically interact with each other to coil and fold the DNA molecule into a variety of shapes.

"We often think of DNA as a string of letters on a computer screen and forget that this string of letters is a three-dimensional molecule. But shape really matters," said Dr. Margulies, who is an investigator in NHGRI's Genomic Technology Branch. "Proteins that influence biological function by binding to DNA recognize more than just the sequence of bases. These binding proteins also see the surface of the DNA molecule and are looking for a shape that allows a lock-and-key fit."

I've talked many times about Richard Dawkins and his "River Out of Eden" concept, thinking about genes as being shapes that are connected across time (or as I like to say, the fourth spatial dimension, since for us "time" is just one of the two possible directions in that dimension). When we've already been encouraged to think of a genome as being a fourth dimensional shape (or as Bruce Sterling likes to say, a "spime"), I have to admit I assumed that 3D analysis of DNA was already in place!

This all relates to trying to think about our reality as existing outside of spacetime - if you think of reality as being only a linear sequence of events relentlessly moving forward on our "arrow of time", you are missing an important part of the picture.

Discover Magazine put up an amusing article on their website a couple of weeks ago, called Twenty Things You Didn't Know About Time. The last two entries in particular caught my eye:

19 Time has not been around forever. Most scientists believe it was created along with the rest of the universe in the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago.

20 There may be an end of time. Three Spanish scientists posit that the observed acceleration of the expanding cosmos is an illusion caused by the slowing of time. According to their math, time may eventually stop, at which point everything will come to a standstill.

With my project, I insist that those two ideas are related - both "before" and "after" the beginning and end of our universe are the same state: but to understand that idea requires a perspective which is "outside" of time as we know it. One of my personal favorite blog entries about this idea is "Local Realism Bites the Dust", which you might want to check out.

Quantum physics tells us that our reality is connected together in ways that seem impossible: instantaneous effects with widely separated but entangled particles make no sense within our sequential physical world... unless you can embrace the idea that our universe is non-local. An article in the March issue of Scientific American, written by David Z. Albert and Rivka Galchen, offers an explanation of Bell's Theorem which arrives at this important concluding paragraph:

Researchers carried out experiments using entangled photons instead of electrons (which alters the angles to use but makes the experiment technically much less difficult) and found results that conformed with quantum mechanics’s predictions. And so by Bell’s theorem there must not be any determinate values carried by those photons. And because that contradicts EPR’s conclusion, the assumption that nature is local is also wrong. And so the universe we live in cannot be local.

Our non-local universe allows for connections that transcend the "now" that we are in at this instant, and that is not some kind of mystical mumbo jumbo, that is an accepted scientific fact. Since that idea can be used to explain so many of the other mysteries we've been exploring with this project (most recently in entries like Creativity and the Quantum Universe, The Shaman, and The Musician) only adds weight to this conclusion, as non-intuitive as it may seem.

Embrace your non-locality! And enjoy the journey.

Rob Bryanton

Next: Imagining the Omniverse - Addendum

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