forwarded message from Kimberly Bodelson

From: John Conover <>
Subject: forwarded message from Kimberly Bodelson
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 1996 08:32:07 -0800

One of the great epistemological arguments in contemporary science
concerns the Godel and Turing theorems. In a nutshell, these theorems
state that the next theorem of mathematics can never be formulated by
a computer, no matter how powerful the computer-which some have
interpreted as job security for mathematicians. The epistemological
issue is that the human mind does the next theorem of mathematics on a
regular basis. So, it would appear to some, namely Roger Penrose, that
the human mind is qualitatively different than a computer, ie., it is
not a "meat machine." The question now arises that if it is not a meat
machine, what is it?  Leaving aside the Godelian issues of such a
question, (ie., if we knew what it was, would we know that we knew,)
Penrose, et al, have proposed that it operates on quantum mechanical
principles. The arguments are presented in the talk.


BTW, Penrose did the mathematics for Stephen Hawking, and is regarded
as the chairman of the intuitionist movement in mathematics. He
extended the quantum mechanics into a description of the
cosmos. Apparently, the universe at the atomic level operates
differently than the 3 dimensional universe we are familiar with. For
example, an electron in a transistor arrives at its destination before
it departs for it. Electrons can also disappear, only to reappear at
the speed of light, somewhere else in the universe. At the atomic
level, the concept of time itself has a peculiar interpretation. In
some sense, time can run backward. This prompted Hawking's famous
statement that there is no physical reason why we can not remember the
future. The direction of time remains an enigma in quantum mechanics.
Penrose's argument is that because the human mind operates on these
principles, the human mind can transcend the limitations of
computational machinery.

------- start of forwarded message (RFC 934 encapsulation) -------
Received: (from root@localhost) by (8.6.12/8.6.12) with UUCP id HAA09611 for; Thu, 21 Nov 1996 07:41:01 -0800
Received: from by with SMTP (8.6.12/SMI-4.1)
        id HAA28548; Thu, 21 Nov 1996 07:18:27 -0800
Received: by (4.1/SMI-4.1)
        id AA21866; Thu, 21 Nov 96 08:12:18 MST
Message-Id: <>
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
Precedence: bulk
From: (Kimberly Bodelson)
Subject: SFI Informal Talk:  Stuart Hameroff (Wed, 11/27, 11AM)
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 96 08:12:14 MST

The Santa Fe Institute is pleased
to announce an informal talk

Is consciousness a self-organizing quantum process in brain
microtubules? The Penrose-Hameroff Orch OR model

Presented by

Stuart Hameroff
Professor, Anesthesiology and Psychology
University of Arizona, Tucson

HOSTED BY:  Steen Rasmussen, SFI

Wednesday, November 27, 11:00 AM
Santa Fe Institute Large Conference Room


What is consciousness? Panpsychist/panexperiential philosophers (e.g.
Leibniz, Whitehead, Wheeler, Chalmers) conclude that "qualia", or an
experiential medium from which consciousness derives, exists as a
fundamental feature of reality. If so, Planck-scale spacetime geometry
(e.g. Penrose's quantum spin networks) may encode raw "protoconscious"
experience. A self-organizing quantum process could select Planck-scale
"funda-mental" experience resulting in consciousness. Is there such a

"Objective reduction" (OR) is Penrose's quantum gravity solution to the
problem of wave function collapse. In OR, a quantum coherent superposition
system able to avoid environmental decoherence will reach an "objective"
quantum gravity threshold causing instantaneous self-collapse (OR).
Superpositioned states each have their own spacetime geometries; OR
events select (non-computably) particular system states, spacetime
geometry and funda-mental experience. In OR the size of an isolated
superposed system is inversely related to its coherence time until
self-collapse (E=h/T): large systems (e.g. Schrodinger's 1 kg cat)
would self-collapse (OR) in only 10^-37 sec; an isolated superposed
beryllium atom would OR only after 10^6 years. A 25 millisecond brain
event (e.g. occurring in coherent 40 Hz) would involve nanograms of
superposed mass. Could OR events occur in the brain?

In the Penrose-Hameroff "Orch OR" model, quantum coherent
superposition develops in microtubule subunit proteins (tubulins)
within brain neurons and glia, are isolated from environmental
decoherence by actin gels and connected among cells by quantum
tunneling across gap junctions. When the quantum gravity threshold is
reached, self-collapse, or objective reduction (OR) abruptly occurs.
We equate the pre-reduction, coherent superposition ("quantum
computing") phase with pre-conscious processes, and each instantaneous
(and non-computable) OR, or self-collapse, with a discrete conscious
event. Sequences of events give rise to a "stream" of consciousness.
Microtubule-associated-proteins "tune" the quantum oscillations; the
OR is thus self-organized, or "orchestrated" ("Orch OR"). Each Orch OR
event non-computably selects (a) microtubule subunit states which
classically regulate synaptic/neural functions, and (b) funda-mental

The Orch OR model is testable, consistent with known neurophysiology
and addresses enigmatic features of consciousness. Implications for
evolution will be addressed.

                Kimberly S. Bodelson         505-984-8800 (phone)
                Santa Fe Institute           505-982-0565 (fax)
                1399 Hyde Park Road
                Santa Fe, NM   87501
                USA                    ||

------- end -------

John Conover,,

Copyright © 1996 John Conover, All Rights Reserved.
Last modified: Fri Mar 26 18:55:28 PST 1999 $Id: 961121083247.9774.html,v 1.0 2001/11/17 23:05:50 conover Exp $
Valid HTML 4.0!