Physics News of the Week: Evidence for the Controversial Theory of Consciousness

| January 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

Believe it or not, it’s Sunday again, so we’re gonna take a look at some of the top physics news. Here are the top 3 physics news articles from last week, plus some additional links for further reading. To receive these straight to your email, register to our email newsletter.

1. An Entirely New Class of Stars (January 13)

A star can reach a really high speed by being propelled out of the galaxy by a supermassive black hole, which resides in the centre of the galaxy. Interestingly, astronomers have discovered a class of stars, which move at “hypervelocities” without being propelled by the galactic core.

Recently, Lauren Palladino of Vanderbilt University and her colleagues have discovered 20 hypervelocity stars, which do not come from the centre of the galaxy. “The big question is: what boosted these stars up to such extreme velocities? We are working on that now,” said Holley-Bockelmann, who also worked on the research. Read more at the link above.

The mysteries of consciousness might be explained by quantum mechanics

2. Support to a Controversial Theory of Consciousness (January 16)

The famous theory called “Orchestrated Objective Reduction” (‘Orch OR’), was first introduced in the mid-1990s by an eminent mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose and an anaesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff. The theory suggested that consciousness derives from deeper level quantum activity inside the brain neurons.

As you might imagine the theory has been harshly criticised, mostly due to the fact that the brain was considered too “noisy” for seemingly delicate quantum processes. Surprisingly, recent research on the subject suggests  that there is evidence for quantum coherence in plant photosynthesis, bird brain navigation, our sense of smell, and brain microtubules. The recent discovery of warm temperature quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons by the research group led by Anirban Bandyopadhyay from the National Institute of Material Sciences in Tsukuba backs up Penrose and Hameroff’s theory.

“After 20 years of skeptical criticism, the evidence now clearly supports Orch OR,” said Hameroff and Penrose. “Our new paper updates the evidence, clarifies Orch OR quantum bits, or “qubits,” as helical pathways in microtubule lattices, rebuts critics, and reviews 20 testable predictions of Orch OR published in 1998 — of these, six are confirmed and none refuted.”

3. A New Project Aims to Find Dark Matter (January 17)

The new experiment known as DarkSide-50 aims of finding the mysterious dark matter — substance that makes a quarter of the universe. “This is like the search for the Higgs boson was 10 years ago,” said Peter Meyers, a professor of physics at Princeton University and one of the lead scientists on the project. “We have a good idea of what to look for, but we don’t know exactly where or when we will find it.”

Housed inside a chamber in Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory, the DarkSide-50 will search for dark matter particles that should drift through its chambers. The idea is that the outer chambers of the detectors should distinguish WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles) from cosmic-ray muons and particles called neutrons, which are emitted from trace amounts of radioactivity in the materials used to construct the detector. A WIMP interacting with the argon will be seen nowhere else, whereas the neutron and muon will interact with both the argon and either the scintillator or water, allowing the scientists to distinguish WIMPs from the other particles.

More news:

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