Theories of the Universe: Action at a Distance

Action at a Distance

This astounding bit of information about holographic imagery is what led both Bohm, and as we'll see in the next section, Pribram to develop their theories. To see how each of them developed their ideas, we need to go back and look at one or two of the weird aspects of quantum behavior. Remember that the double slit experiment is considered to be the central mystery of quantum mechanics. When the particle that is sent through the slit is observed, it behaves as a particle, but when it is not observed, it behaves as a wave. That led Neils Bohr to develop his famous Copenhagen interpretation in which the electron didn't come into existence until it was observed. Of course, Schrdinger's famous cat was the rebuttal to that argument, but that idea of observation altering the outlook of an experiment still lies as a core principle in quantum mechanics and is also the basis for Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.

Black Holes

The phenomenon of seeing objects for each piece of film that is cut only occurs on holographic film whose images are invisible to the naked eye, not on images that don't require special illumination. So don't cut anything in half, like your credit card, to see if this is true!


In the 1930s a Russian scientist Nikolai Berstein discovered that our physical movements might be encoded in our brains in a language of Fourier waveforms. He painted white dots on dancers and then filmed them walking, jumping, dancing, and other movements against a black background. When he converted their movements into a language of waveforms by using the same equations (Fourier transforms) that form the basis for holography, he found that the waveforms contained hidden patterns that allowed him to predict his subject's next movement to within a fraction of an inch.

Einstein and Bohr got into some very famous debates about these weird aspects of quantum mechanics and one of the most famous arguments put forth by Einstein is known as the EPR paradox (named after the three men who developed it—Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen). Their argument went something like this. Because measurements disturb a quantum system, the idea was to perform measurements on two separate systems to see if they were able to have identical internal observed characteristics. In other words, two similar quantum systems are allowed to interact until their internal states become correlated. Now put the two systems on opposite sides of the room or miles apart with observers at each box. If the boxes are both opened at precisely the same time and the internal states are measured and still identical, then somehow the systems were able to communicate to each other their information instantaneously so they could know which internal states to agree upon. This, according to Einstein and the boys, would be impossible because instantaneous transfer of information is not possible since nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. So how could observation bring these characteristics into being? They thought they had him. But Bohr responded by saying that instead of believing that some faster than light mechanism was at work, he simply said that if subatomic particles don't exist until they're observed, then they could no longer be thought of as independent things. They were part of an indivisible system and could not be thought of as separate entities.

Black Holes

In the last 20 years and even more recently in the last 5 years, there have been a growing number of scientists, mostly physicists and biologists, who are questioning some of the more unusual aspects of quantum theory that have been ignored or swept under the carpet by the traditional scientific establishment. While most of science, especially physics, content to stay within the framework of quantum mechanics developed over the past 50 years, others feel that to ignore these puzzling aspects is to miss a significant part of quantum theory that will ultimately lead to greater understanding. Some even think that the TOE will continue to elude physicists until these fundamental anomalies are addressed. And as you'll see in this section, the new theories that deal with these unusual aspects offer some remarkable insights into cosmology and the role we play as an essential part of the cosmos.

A Remarkable Event

In 1952, David Bohm suggested a way to test the EPR paradox, (although only as a thought experiment), and in 1964, John Bell showed how this thought experiment might be carried out in reality. Finally in 1982, the experiment was successfully carried out in Paris by Alain Aspect and his colleagues. The experiment is a little complicated to get into, but the outcome proved to be a momentous point in the history of science. Of course you didn't hear about this in newspapers or on the evening news and, unless you read science journals, you may have missed it altogether. However, the implications of this experiment have the potential to shake the very foundation of science itself and may be one of the reasons why it has been somewhat ignored.

Aspect and his team found that under certain circumstances, subatomic particles such as electrons and photons are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating them, whether it's 20 feet or 20 billion miles. Somehow each particle always seems to know what the other is doing. This, of course, violates the ultimate speed of the universe, the speed of light. It also shows that the universe has an interconnectedness that can't be explained within the context of traditional physics. The important feature of these experiments is that they have directly detected nonlocality. Based on this finding, there is no need to invoke the collapse of the wave function or any other interpretation of quantum mechanics or indeed to accept quantum theory at all. What has been revealed as a fundamental truth about the universe is that there are correlations that take place instantaneously, regardless of the separation of the objects involved.

Universal Constants

Nonlocality is a term used to describe the way in which the behavior of a quantum entity, like an electron, is affected by not only what is going on at one point (the “locality” of the entity), but also by events that are going on at other places (other localities), which can in principle be on the other side of the universe. These nonlocal influences occur instantaneously as some form of communication which Einstein called a “spooky action at a distance, not just faster than the speed of light but infinitely fast.”


Why is nonlocality such a big deal? You would think that a discovery of this sort would attract a lot of attention. Well, that's just it. The ramifications of the results found in experiments dealing with nonlocality would require restructuring our understanding of reality from the point of view of quantum mechanics. Let me explain why. Classical physics and much of quantum theory states that physical reality is local—a point in space cannot influence another point beyond a relatively short distance. Besides the Aspect experiments, in 1997 other experiments were conducted in which light particles (photons) that originated under certain conditions were sent in opposite directions to detectors located about seven miles apart. As in the Aspect experiment, the results indicated that the photons interacted or communicated with one another instantaneously. And even though seven miles is not a large distance to us, in relation to the quantum universe, it would be the same as halfway across the universe.

The most fundamental implication of nonlocality is that since every particle in the universe has been “entangled” with other particles, like the particles in the experiments, physical reality on the most basic level is an undivided wholeness. It also demonstrates that physical processes are vastly interdependent and interactive, an organic whole, in some ways very similar to Plato's ancient cosmology. There are also implications for us in human terms, for there is no longer the need for accepting as fact the stark division between our minds and the natural world that has preoccupied much of Western thought since the seventeenth century and the development of Cartesian duality. As you'll see in some of the material in this section and in ones yet to come, human consciousness can be viewed as emergent from and seamlessly connected with the entire cosmos.


The implications of nonlocality extend into the realm of biology as well as physics. Recent studies on the evolution of the human brain indicate that the logical foundations of mathematics and ordinary language are much more similar than previously imagined. This understanding leads to knowledge that reveals a much deeper and more intimate connection between our minds and the natural world. In the upcoming sections you'll get a chance to see just how deep this connection may possibly be.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Theories of the Universe © 2001 by Gary F. Moring. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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