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Series of Experiments Shed Light on the Role of Consciousness

by Dean Radin

Is consciousness generated by the activity of the brain or is it a fundamental property of the universe? The IONS research team has been studying this question for several years using various kinds of optical systems. Our latest experiments, published recently in the journal Physics Essays, confirm our earlier findings. This line of research suggests that consciousness may play a key role in how the physical world manifests. This does not mean human consciousness literally "creates" reality, but it does suggest that there is more to consciousness than is implied in today's neuroscience textbooks.

Double-slit experiment

For these studies, which focus on the possibility of mind-matter interactions, we are using double-slit optical systems because, as the Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman famously said, "[The double-slit experiment] has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery."

Feynman's mystery involves what it means to "observe" or to measure a physical object. When we observe an everyday object, meaning an object that can be adequately described using classical physics, the act of observation does not influence the object's properties. This is not the case when observing a quantum system. Quantum objects are exquisitely reactive to the act of observation; this sensitivity can easily be seen whenever a quantum object is measured. The measurement causes the quantum wave-like behavior to change into particle-like behavior. A controversial interpretation of this effect—that consciousness itself is responsible for "collapsing" the quantum wavefunction—was proposed by mathematician John von Neumann and supported by other prominent physicists. Much has been debated about this "quantum measurement problem" from philosophical and theoretical perspectives; we are taking a more pragmatic approach by explicitly testing von Neumann's idea.

In our latest paper, we report the results of three experiments: two involving double-slit optical systems that people attempted to mentally influence in our lab, and one involving a similar test conducted online. All three experiments showed results consistent with von Neumann's proposal and with our earlier work. We are continuing to explore this mind-matter interaction phenomenon, and we will report the results of those studies in future publications.

Download the full paper »
Try the double-slit experiment online »
Dr. Quantum animated overview of double-slit experiment »
The Quantum Measurement Problem »

  • NoetPoet Mar 25, 2014

    Birds start chirping in the morning and then shortly afterwards the sun rises. This sequence of events occurs every morning. Therefore the chirping of the birds must cause the sun to rise. We can’t even begin to postulate a plausible mechanism to explain *how* the chirping of the birds causes the sun to rise, let alone formulate an experiment to test whether such a mechanism actually exists. But surely the fact that the chirping of the birds and the rising of the sun seem to coincide with such impressive regularity is sufficient to embrace post-hoc reasoning and take the rest on faith. Especially if we do enough fancy statistical hand-waving to make the numbers seem impressive.

  • Anonymous Icon

    robwillcarp Mar 31, 2014

    Really ?
    You think these guys aren't capable of properly taking causality vs correlation into consideration ?
    You're basically accusing some of the top minds in the field of being unable to conduct an experiment with the most basic Physics 101 statistical considerations.
    Really ?

  • marcusantonio91 Apr 01, 2014

    I'm sorry noetpoet, but that's a non-sequitor. What relevance do birds responding to the approaching rise of the sun have to do with the apparent effects of human minds on this experiment? In addition, it's a pretty bad form to accuse the experimenters of essentially fudging the numbers, which, unless I'm mistaken, is what you are doing.

  • Hellseer May 11, 2014

    The thing about the dawn and the birds is interesting as there is a wave or pulse which is very beautiful to feel and the birds all wake and sing when that pulse passes through.

    Is one separate from consciousness, even if one is unconscious ? Why not consider the issue at a simpler level such as what is one being conscious of ? Is one conscious of the base chakra, the heart chakra, the toast burning or perhaps being late for work ?

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience May 28, 2014

    In *higher reality,* there is no delineation between mind and matter! Those are "objects" to convention, with life breathed into them via "the stories they tell themselves," but, Consciousness wise, you have to ~ transcend ~ convention's use of language (and all those stories) to *process* Universal Reality. Science inadvertently objectifies everything, and then spends billions and soooo much wasted "time" trying to figure out how to UNobjectify what they mistakenly objectified in the first place!

    There is One Process throughout, and everything, everybody, every event, the weather, etc., are all SHARING that One Process!

    It is all *translucent energy,* and you have to get beyond convention's obsession with physicality, because everything is relative, and there is no relativity going on when you trap everything in stasis!

    The reason people, scientists included, can't process or understand this is because it is clearly far more highly evolved than they are in a position to process, but also because language is basically the product of the collective unconscious convention, and as such only serves to conveniently support conventional reasoning/more convention.

    The more Conscious one becomes, the more time and space are altered, or (relentlessly) redefined, which is what creates/establishes "dimensions." Dimensions are not "physical" objects, they are *realizations!"

    Now you can see why telepathy is the mathematical "language" of the Enlightened. Extraordinary to experience!

    Hope this helps! :)

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience May 28, 2014

    Consciousness/Enlightenment, btw, is the fluent *processing* of translucent *energy!*

  • NoetPoet Jul 03, 2014


    I'm not saying they're not capable, I'm saying they don't *want* to.


    It's not a non-sequitur at all. The point I am making is that you can't just assume that correlation equals causation. Especially when you have generous interpretations of what qualifies as correlation and use shoddy experimental procedures like online tests for god's sake. How is it bad form to make such an accusation? They experimenters have clearly gone into this experiment assuming what they intend to prove - THAT is bad scientific form. They squint hard enough, they see a correlation which they can't/refuse to consider other explanations for, and concluded that it must therefore be due to psi.


    Have you got any evidence of this "wave-pulse" other than your own subjective (imagined) experience?

  • Anonymous Icon

    suryadeva Jul 04, 2014

    @NoetPoet Jul 03, 2014

    In an area without birds the sun does not rise!

  • Anonymous Icon

    Philip Jul 11, 2014

    Noetpoet- did you read the abstract? Further, did you read this or any other of the many, many peer-reviewed papers covering all of the aspects and prior findings upon which this study was based/extended upon? The fact that you would dismiss any results because you say they were produced over the internet demonstrates something. That is for certain. The relevance you seem to place on "the internet" being a basis for dismissal shows that you apparently missed a great deal if not all of the conditions and protocols in the abstract. Distance from observer to target is what is relevant and not the fact that responses by the observer are transmitted over the internet vs telephone, telegraph, very loud shouting, etc is what is relevant. Plus, you apparently dismiss the many trials where the observer is in immediate proximity to the interferometer protocols,too which are statistically significant by themselves. But, everyone here kind of knows what significance to grant your comments and I will leave you to your highly informed, educated, and intelligent responses.

  • Anonymous Icon

    Onamm Aug 05, 2014

    this feels like church

  • marcusantonio91 Aug 16, 2014

    "It's not a non-sequitur at all. The point I am making is that you can't just assume that correlation equals causation. Especially when you have generous interpretations of what qualifies as correlation and use shoddy experimental procedures like online tests for god's sake. How is it bad form to make such an accusation? They experimenters have clearly gone into this experiment assuming what they intend to prove - THAT is bad scientific form. They squint hard enough, they see a correlation which they can't/refuse to consider other explanations for, and concluded that it must therefore be due to psi."

    Thanks for the reply! I didn't notice this until now. My first point is a question to you; did you actually read the paper?

    My second point his that what exactly is shoddy about it. A lot of experiments are taken online, not just in parapsych. Moreover, the experimenters had no involvement in this other than collecting the results, the test was completely automated. My final point is that I think attacking the researchers for having a hypothesis is a tad harsh, as practically all scientific experiments propose a hypothesis. But perhaps I'm misunderstanding you.

  • JLHarter Oct 05, 2014

    I find the discussion in this thread interesting and appreciate the ability to take them in. A thought, I suppose, is that anything we theorize must begin with a framework. If we limit the framework or start in an incomplete place, how do we then find the truth? If we stand on a premise, we must see that exploration from that perspective through and it may or may not pan out in valid conclusions. If we stand on another premise and begin, we must see that exploration from that perspective through and it may or may not pan out in agreeably valid conclusions. I wonder why we continue to see consciousness as a problem to solve. I guess I see it as a framework to understand and deeply appreciate those out there seeking understanding and through their eyes we may begin to piece together the component parts that comprise the whole. But what if the entire concept...humans understanding consciousness is like tiny ants attempting to define the universe? A multidisciplinary approach, contemplating the various facets can come up with answers. Are we asking the right questions? What questions then, should we be asking? Are there more questions than we can pin down? Is that the real problem? Our perspectives shape our beliefs and help us formulate our hypotheses and following, the way we test them. We will have our answers whether through science or the feeling of intuition. In gratitude to all for their interest in this topic do I send all the best wishes in their research.

  • Anonymous Icon

    Frans Oct 25, 2014

    I was made aware of the problem around the double slit experiment some months ago. After observing the dilemma, I broke it down in two rather simple steps:

    Everything is energy. In this experiment there are two different energies at play. These energies are the wave component of the particle and the physical component of the particle. These two different energies are being separated by the act of observation. The wave-particle that is being observed changes it state. The wave component is the energy that is being transferred to the observer as no energy can be lost. This wave energy is the energy that gives form of the object being observed within the consciousness of the observer.
    The remainder is the mass of the wave-particle itself, which is the actual observed. If you don’t look at it, it could be anywhere, but as soon as you do it will have to be at that point where you look at. The observer influences the environment. It is the creation of consciousness. Consciousness is energy.

    you can find a more detailed rationale here:

  • Anonymous Icon

    crwhiting Jan 08, 2015

    Cause and Effect is the primary mode for a dualistic world. Sages tell us that everything is connected and anyone who has experienced an awaking event will know the truth of this. The bird that sings before the dawn is connected, but that connection may not be the direct path that a scientist would look for. We might sit beneath the tree and listen to the bird sing and know that the dawn is “causing” the bird to sing, but does the bird cause the sun to rise? Everyday events are so complex that the human mind cannot assimilate enough information to analyze most events accurately. We simply guess at effects based on experience.

    The goal of the scientist is to reproduce the event while eliminating enough variables where the interaction can be clearly understood. Any scientist worthy of his diploma will quickly prove that the bird didn’t cause the sun to rise, even as the wise man knows the two are connected.

    But even the scientific process can lead to misunderstandings, because in the end you cannot eliminate the variables you don’t know about – and there are a lot of variables we don’t know anything about. This is why every generation of scientists will basically disprove the work of the previous generation because as our knowledge increases so does our inventory of variables.

    The question then becomes, is there any boundary condition to the variables involved? Will we someday know all of them?

    The primary path to wisdom is experiential. But will we ever know everything? I certainly hope not. If time is an illusion of the physical senses, then the concept of learning is misguided anyway, since “learning” is a linear time function.

    Or, if we assume that consciousness influences, or even creates, our physical reality, and that free will exists, then the “cause and effect” problem is vastly more complicated than anyone can understand, with or without science.

    As to the bird and the sunrise, I don’t know for sure. All I can say is that they are connected, and the sunrise is beautiful regardless of who caused what.

  • Anonymous Icon

    Sriskandarajah Mar 06, 2015

    "Is consciousness generated by the activity of the brain or is it a fundamental property of the universe?"
    First of all we should understand what is consciousness and what is conscious experiences. Is there consciousness in the absence of conscious experiences?

    It is true that damages in the brain affect our conscious experiences. So it doesn't mean that brain creates self or brain produces conscious experiences or brain creates conscious experiences. It means that brain only involves in the arising of conscious experiences. It is obvious that brain involves in the arising of conscious experiences and it is wrong to say that brain creates conscious experiences. Brain is not involved in creating the conscious experiences or self. Brain creates the self is a wrong explanation. Because it is a conclusion without understanding what is self. Self and experiences are different aspects. Neuro scientists mix up both and making all confusing and misleading conclusions. Brain damage may cause changes in experiences. That does not mean brain creates self or conscious experiences.

  • Anonymous Icon

    dustproduction Mar 17, 2015

    How do you separate out the participation of others in quantum observations.

    Human beings are social by nature and live in continuous interaction with each other and the external world. Therefore, human brain functions should be studied bearing these social underpinnings in mind. To converge data from brain imaging and social sciences, we have emphasized the organism–environment system as well as the importance of the body for acting, emotions, and communications. Within this framework, the omnipresent action–perception loops lead to the creation of an inner world, the embodied mind, which strongly relies on the interaction with the environment. The mind, with its many levels, is socially shaped and reconstructed dynamically by moment-to-moment interactions. Furthermore, a large part of human cognition is off-loaded or outsourced to the environment, a phenomenon that should be investigated in future brain-imaging studies.

    Despite the private contents of individual minds, humans are able to share their understanding of the world and maintain common representations, such as art and narratives. An important part of this intersubjectivity is supported by highly automated motor and sensory mirroring systems that enable people to live with others, even if not exactly understanding how it feels to be the other person. Similar basic mirroring mechanisms likely form the prerequisites for motor imitation, emotional contagion, and even empathy.

    Although a unified theory of the mind seems too lofty a dream, current brain imaging is converging neuroscience with various disciplines interested in human social cognition and interaction. All these views and skills are necessary to improve our understanding of the determinants of human social interaction. In the future, the understanding of the human mind can be further deepened by moving from one-person neuroscience towards two- and multi-person neuroscience, both conceptually and experimentally.

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