PART ONE: ENTERING THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
In this first of the book's four parts, we discuss the major trends of twentieth-century physics and identify contemporary physicists' consensus position as to physics' open questions and how we should go about addressing them.
Chapter 1. Twentieth-Century Physics. We discuss the three major strands of twentieth-century physics: special relativity, general relativity, and quantum physics.
Chapter 2. Report Card on Twentieth-Century Physics. Consensus views among physicists are presented as to the major accomplishments in physics through the end of the twentieth century.
Chapter 3. Entering the Twenty-first Century: String Theories. The most highly regarded proposal for physics' theory of everything is a theory in which the universe's most basic entities are vibrating strings. These strings vibrate in ten dimensions of space, not just our familiar three spatial dimensions. Their vibrations explain the elementary particles of matter and the forces of the universe, including the force of gravity, which has proven to be theoretical physics' most troublesome force.
Chapter 4. Ghosts. An entertaining digression about how we might experience extra dimensions of space, beyond our familiar three dimensions.
Chapter 5. Entering the Twenty-first Century: What Is Reality? Quantum physics incorporates a surprising dependence on observers, on intervention into physical systems by measurement, even on a role for consciousness. This is because the quantum model is that unobserved elementary phenomena proceed along multiple, parallel, superposed paths until they are observed or measured, at which point there is a collapse to a single path. This astounding phenomenon raises basic questions about the nature of reality.
Chapter 6. Reductionism, and Its Critics. The tendency of scientists to learn and to understand by breaking complex systems into component parts is considered a principal approach of the modern scientific method. There is some thought among scientists that there is a limit to how far we can take these reductionist methodologies, and that holistic approaches need to be introduced, especially if we are to develop a scientific understanding of consciousness and the mind.
PART TWO: PHYSICS AND THE MIND
Part Two is a review of the work of a small number of twentieth-century physicists who have proposed links between modern physics and the mind.
Chapter 7. Consciousness. The modern view of consciousness as understood by philosophers, psychologists, and other scientists.
Chapter 8. Early Extensions of Quantum Physics into the Social Sphere. Quantum physics, as well as relativity, have offered politicians and others a tool of metaphor, through which they have promoted various positions over the years.
Chapter 9. Doris Lessing. A brief digression to the career of the great twentieth-century writer, who partway through her career migrated from a fiercely realistic style to frankly speculative excursions into the mind and elsewhere. Reactions by Lessing's fans parallel the anger, disappointment, and befuddlement that have met physicists who propose scientific theories of consciousness.
Chapter 10. The Emperor's New Mind. The 1989 publication of The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics, by respected mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose, is a seminal event for scientific inquiry into the mind. Penrose's groundbreaking proposals include a link between the mind and a central question of modern physics, which is how to reconcile twentieth-century physics' two major strands, relativity and quantum physics. Penrose also proposes biological mechanisms that take advantage of this link. First reactions to Penrose were largely unsupportive.
Chapter 11. More Physicists' Thoughts about the Mind. Both before and after Penrose, other physicists have proposed how modern physics might help explain consciousness and the mind. Some of the most influential proposals are discussed.
PART THREE: NEW PHYSICS
Fifteen contemporary areas of physicists' inquiry are discussed. Overriding these areas of inquiry are questions of whether they stretch the twentieth century's standard models of physics beyond their breaking points.
Chapter 12. Quantum Gravity. Quantum gravity is the Holy Grail of modern physics. It reconciles the two major strands of twentieth-century physics—relativity, which is largely a theory of gravity, and quantum physics. Modern theories explaining quantum gravity range from essentially linear extensions of existing science to radical reconfigurations of the nature of the physical world.
Chapter 13. Extra Dimensions. String theory, as well as a number of other proposed theories of modern physics, suggest that hidden dimensions influence our perceived physical world. Some proposals assume that these extra dimensions are hidden because they are small, but other proposals consider large and even infinitely extended extra dimensions. Experimental physicists consider how we can observe these extra dimensions.
Chapter 14. The Universe. We keep getting surprised by new phenomena of the universe, such as dark matter and dark energy, which observation tells us must exist but which theory can't yet convincingly explain. Some explanations propose extravagant new understandings for cosmology and the nature of the universe.
Chapter 15. Entanglement. Einstein called this "spooky action at a distance" and doubted that it's a real phenomenon of the physical world. But experimental physicists have now confirmed that elementary particles can be so entangled that acting on one can immediately affect the characteristics of its far-distant entangled partner. The phenomenon of entanglement requires an explanation since it demonstrates communication of information faster than the speed of light—even instantaneously—in contradiction of a basic assumption of physics that caps transmission rates at the speed of light.
Chapter 16. Entropy and Information. Entropy is a thermodynamic property, which, perhaps surprisingly, is a measure of disorder. A basic principle of physics is that closed physical systems migrate in the direction of increasing disorder. This is one of the physical world's rare instances of an arrow of time. Modern physics links entropy with information content: high infomation content means low entropy. Theorists have linked these concepts with basic questions about the nature of time, the nature of thinking, and other phenomena of new physics.
Chapter 17. Black Holes. Science meets science fiction with this paradigm for the mysterious nature of spacetime. Black holes are linked in many directions to other new physics phenomena.
Chapter 18. Imaginary Time and Multiple Histories. Physicist Stephen Hawking has combined these two phenomena—the mathematical construct of imaginary numbers applied to time, and the parallel worlds of unobserved quantum phenomena—to propose a broad theory of particle physics and cosmology.
Chapter 19. Tunneling. The boundaries between adjacent matter are not as clear-cut as we might imagine: some particles can tunnel into what appears to be another particle's territory. This has practical applications and is also another element of new physics that raises questions about our theoretical understandings.
Chapter 20. Bose-Einstein Condensates. Quantum phenomena are generally thought to take place only at the smallest submicroscopic levels, but Bose-Einstein condensates are macroscopic quantum phenomena, which display a degree of coherence that had been considered possible only for elementary particles.
Chapter 21. Chaos and Complexity. Many contemporary mathematicians consider that complex phenomena cannot be understood as extensions of our normal mathematical frameworks, but must instead be described by a qualitatively different form of mathematics involving fractional and infinite dimensions as well as highly exaggerated consequences of apparently small variations in conditions. Physicists have applied the mathematics of chaos to various phenomena of the microscopic and galactic universes.
Chapter 22. Neutrinos. This elementary particle has been a thorn in the side of theoretical and experimental physicists. The standard model of particle physics assumes that neutrinos have zero mass, but experiment now confirms a small mass. This may have far-reaching consequences for physics theory.
Chapter 23. The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics. Scientists wonder why mathematics works so well as a tool of physics and other sciences. There seem to be implications for the nature of reality.
Chapter 24. The Myths of Time and Mass. Some radical understandings of the physical world propose that time is an illusion and a superfluous concept. And, surprisingly, physicists still feel that it is not clear why matter has mass: the standard model of particle physics proposes that mass derives from a never-observed elementary particle.
Chapter 25. The Role of Art. Some scientists propose that art is intimately linked with the deepest natures of the cosmos and the submicroscopic world. And concepts of modern physics find their way into modern literature and art. Physics is also linked to philosophy, religion, and paranormal phenomena.
Chapter 26. The Fine Structure Constant. Physicists wonder about the smallest units of space, time, mass, and force. There has been a numerologic obsession of sorts among some physicists involving the number 137.
PART FOUR: SPECULATIONS
In this, the fourth and final part of New Physics and the Mind, we play physicist. Quantum physicist. Relativistic quantum physicist. New physicist of the the mind.
How about a "top ten" list of theories of new physics and the mind, theories that go beyond the standard model?
Who are our role models? Who among physicists has already traveled this path?
And where in the universe does this take us?
How have physicists speculated about the phenomena of new physics, and about the nature of the mind? Part Four counts down ten physicists' speculations, slowly introducing strands and themes that the later theories test, reject, refine, and ultimately wind into fully developed theories of everything, including all of new physics as well as the physics of the mind.
The countdown culminates with Topological Geometrodynamics (TGD), the theory developed by Finnish physicist Matti Pitkänen. Physical spacetime and classical physics are physical representations of a quantum world linked to the mind. The mind operates according to a mathematical system that is linked to, but is radically different from, real mathematics. Both the real physical world and the world of the mind are constructed as hierarchically linked four-dimensional universes—many-sheeted spacetime. Our biology links us to our minds and to the universe.