Tag: Niels Bohr

Future uncertainties!

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future. Niels Bohr

I love this saying from Mr. Bohr and often repeat it, albeit at times with my own twist to it.  I was reminded of this uncertainty of the future from some comments to a recent post over at Lack of Environment.  The particular post was called Can technology save us? and was a reflection of Martin Lack, the blog’s author, watching a recent BBC Horizon special called Tomorrow’s World.  (There’s the YouTube of the broadcast at the end of this post.) Martin opened his post by saying:

I happened to stumble across a BBC TV Horizon special, entitled ‘Tomorrow’s World’ last Thursday.  It begins with a fascinating review of humankind’s history of – and propensity for – invention. It also explains some truly fascinating – and inspiring – developments in the spheres of space exploration, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and power generation.

In the introduction, the programme presenter and narrator Liz Bronnin explains how, after 100’s of thousands of years of technological stagnation, the fast-moving world of technological innovation is very definitely a modern invention.

Then a little later Martin goes on to say:

After about 32 minutes, Bronnin introduces the power of the Internet to promote innovation – crowd-sourcing research funding and the concept of open-source technology – the complete abrogation of intellectual copyright… It is a fundamental challenge to globalised Capitalism; but it may well be the solution to many of our problems…

However, to me, the final third of the programme is by far the most fascinating… It looks at the challenges of finding a replacement for fossil fuels. It provides a very clear message that this is a technological challenge driven by the reality of physics – not by ideology.

But, overall, Martin lets us know his perspective with his final paragraphs:

Re-engineering nature for our benefit will, without doubt, be very very useful. However, I still think the optimism of the comment at the very end of the programme “…I never worry about the future of the human race, because I think we are totally capable of solving problems…” is very unwise. This is because anthropogenic climate disruption is a problem that is getting harder to solve the longer we fail to address it effectively.

Bronnin concludes by saying that, “it is an exciting time to be alive…” However, I remain very nervous. This is because, as Professor Peter Styles of Keele University – a strong supporter of the hydraulic fracturing industry – recently acknowledged, it will be impossible for carbon capture and storage to remove enough CO2 from the atmosphere to prevent very significant changes to our climate. This is because of the collective hypnosis that deludes most people into seeing perpetual economic growth as the solution to all our problems.

In short, I am certain that technology alone cannot save us. In order to avoid the ecological catastrophe that all but the most ideologically-prejudiced and wilfully-blind can see developing all around us… we need to modify our behaviour: This primarily means that we need to acknowledge the injustice of a “use it up and wear it out” mentality and, as individuals, all learn to use an awful lot less energy.

Climate change “sceptics” have picked a fight with history and science – primarily with the concept of Entropy – and they will lose. The only question that remains is this: Are we going to let them put us all in (what xraymike79 recently called) ‘the dustbin of failed evolutionary experiments’.

Now Jean and I also watched the Horizon special and, to be perfectly frank, found it both uplifting and inspiring.  It seemed a great counter to the overwhelming volume of commentary these days along the lines of ‘The end of the world is nigh!‘ some of that coming from yours truly! That’s not to make light of the huge hurdles ahead.

But it was a couple of comments on Martin’s post from Patrice Ayme that got me thinking.  Here’s the exchange that went between Patrice and Martin following on from a comment from Thomas Foster.

Considering that it is technology which has enabled us to “conquer” nature and thus the degradation of the environment which is a consequence of that it seems most unlikely to this writer that the cause will also bring about a cure. Thomas Foster

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The genus Homo has been technological for 5 million years. Give or take two million. Homo is the cure for life. Patrice Ayme

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If we Homo Sapiens have been technological for 5 million years, we have spent most of that time being very unsuccessful; and have spent the rest being far too successful. Is there no scope for just living in harmony with our environment (as opposed to being at war with it)? Martin Lack

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Hominids have been masters of the environment for at least three million years. By a million years ago, only Homo was left (but for places like Flores). Dozens of megafauna species got annihilated. Homo’s technology has extended to the entire Earth for at least a million years. The Earth itself was turned into a tool. A tool we are not at war with, but that we use. Patrice Ayme

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A utilitarian attitude to Nature is one that does not recognise its inherent value (i.e. which it would have even if we did not exist). Seeing ourselves as superior to Nature rather than as part of it has resulted in our not living in harmony with it. This is, by definition, equivalent to being at war with Nature. QED. Refer: Nature is not your enemyMartin Lack

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Call it what you want, Martin. Man manipulates nature, and that nature one calls nature has not been “natural” for more than a million years. Except if one views man as part of nature! Patrice Ayme

Patrice is a very clear thinker even if, at times, pretty hard-hitting.  But this exchange confirmed in my mind that clearly looking out to the future must always be hard.  Most certainly in this period of mankind’s evolution predicting the future is especially difficult.  Hence my contribution to Martin’s post:

Jean and I watched the Horizon special a couple of evenings ago. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what my overall thoughts are in response to your post, Martin. What does come to mind is that old saying, “Never underestimate the power of unintended consequences.

So it may be that we are at a particular point in time, or more likely an era, where seeing clearly into the future is challenging.

The one aspect of modern life that is a game-changer is what we are doing now. Sharing ideas and thoughts across a far-flung net. Not only as the Horizon programme illustrated but as ordinary people trying to make sense of the world.

These are incredibly uncertain times.  Undoubtedly not the first in man’s long history as an historian will explain (cue to Alex!).   But to all of us alive today, these are the most uncertain times we have ever experienced!

No wonder so many of us feel lost at times in today’s world.

Here’s that BBC Horizon, courtesy of YouTube.

I will close with this thought from one masterly ‘wordsmith’, William Wordsworth.

“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.”

What on Earth to do?

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it involves the future. Niels Bohr

I have seen a number of versions of this quotation from Niels Bohr but no matter the inference is clear.  My way of putting it is that the future has a habit of observing the law of unintended consequences!

This gentle immersion into today’s muse is on the back of two events.  The first was the reading of Guy McPherson’s book, Walking Away from Empire, that I reviewed last week.  The second was watching a fascinating presentation about reversing climate change.

Just stay with Guy McPherson for a moment longer.  He is of the very firm opinion that we face imminent environmental collapse and the collapse of the industrial economy.  His bet is that the environment is already in the grip of ten feedback loops that guarantee making the environment unsustainable for the majority of species on this planet within a couple of decades.  If you want more then take a mouse click across the Guy’s blog Nature Bats Last.

So, given that one embraces this prediction, free of the clouds of delusion that it couldn’t possibly come to that, then what?  (I’m assuming that you have the basic motivation to get out of bed in the morning!)

The natural response is what on earth to do?

That’s where Allan Savory comes in!

WikiPedia introduces him as follows:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(Clifford) Allan Redin Savory (born September 15, 1935) is a Zimbabwean biologist, farmer, soldier, exile, environmentalist, and winner of the 2003 Banksia International Award and the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. He is the originator of holistic management.

Savory had begun working on the ancient problem of land degradation (desertification) in 1955 in Northern Rhodesia, where he served in the Colonial Service as Provincial Game Officer, Northern and Luapula Provinces. He subsequently continued this work in Southern Rhodesia first as a research officer in the Game Department, then as an independent scientist and international consultant. When in exile, Savory worked from the Cayman Islands into the Americas introducing his new discoveries about both the cause of desertification and how to reverse it using increased numbers of livestock.

He subsequently wrote up this work in the book Holistic Management: A New Decision Making Framework, written with his wife Jody Butterfield and published by Island Press (1989; 1999 2nd edition).

In 1992, he co-founded the Africa Center for Holistic Management with his wife Jody Butterfield and, in 2009, the Savory Institute, headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, which he currently heads. The Savory Institute works globally with individuals, government agencies, NGOs, and corporations to restore the vast grasslands of the world through the teaching and practice of holistic management and decision making.

The institute’s consulting and training activities are turning deserts into thriving grasslands, restoring biodiversity, bringing streams, rivers, and water sources back to life, combating poverty and hunger, and increasing sustainable food production, all mitigating global climate change through carbon sequestration. In 2010, Savory and the Africa Center for Holistic Management won The Buckminster Fuller Challenge.

In a 2012 address to the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, on the urgent need to bring agriculture and conservation back together, Prince Charles lauded Savory’s nature based approach.

OK, enough from me. Watch Allan Savory’s fascinating and potentially life-saving idea, as presented to the TED2013 conference.

Might just come down!

I do not believe that civilizations have to die because civilization is not an organism. It is a product of wills.  Arnold J Toynbee

Yesterday, I explored a number of ideas around the proposition that the USA is in decline.  The case is by no means clear but there does seem to be a preponderance of support for the notion that, as with all great empires, this could be an ‘end time’ for the USA.

One needs to go no further than A. J. Toynbee himself to reflect on that idea.  Who was Arnold J Toynbee?  Here’s his biography as presented on the Gifford Lectures website,  ( Note: A fabulous series of lectures available on YouTube!)

Arnold J Toynbee

The British historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee was born in London on 14 April 1889 and died on 22 October 1975 in York, North Yorkshire, England. He was educated at Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford. He was the nephew of economic historian Arnold Toynbee, with whom he is sometimes confused. His first marriage to Rosalind Murray, with whom he had three sons, ended in divorce in 1946. Professor Toynbee then married Veronica M. Boulter, his research assistant.

From 1919 to 1924 Arnold J. Toynbee was professor of modern Greek and Byzantine history at King’s College, London. From 1925 until 1955 Professor Toynbee served as research professor and Director of Studies at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. During both world wars he worked for the British Foreign Office. He was a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

While Professor Toynbee’s Gifford Lectures were published as An Historian’s Approach to Religion (1956) he is best known for his 12-volume A Study of History (1934-1961). This massive work examined the growth, development and decay of civilizations. He presented history as the rise and fall of civilizations rather than nation-states or ethnic groups. According to his analysis of civilizations the well-being of a civilization depends on its ability to deal successfully with challenges.

Professor Toynbee oversaw the publication of The Survey of International Affairs published by Oxford University Press under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs from 1925 to 1977.

A Study of History is the longest book in the English language, described in Wikipedia as, “the 12-volume magnum opus of British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, finished in 1961, in which the author traces the development and decay of all of the major world civilizations in the historical record. Toynbee applies his model to each of these civilizations, detailing the stages through which they all pass: genesis, growth, time of troubles, universal state, and disintegration.

Back to the theme of the essay.  One might propose, therefore, that a decline in the USA could be the ‘leading edge’ of a decline not only of the empire of the USA but of the whole of our present civilisation; the ‘universal rhythm of rise, flowering and decline‘.

Back on the 3rd October, Simon Johnson, one half of the famous duo with James Kwak, over on Baseline Scenario published an essay under the title of Fiscal Confrontation And The Declining Influence Of The United States.  Let me dip into that.  Simon starts off by saying,

It is axiomatic among most of our Washington elite that the United States cannot lose its preeminent global role, at least not in the foreseeable future. This assumption is implicit in all our economic policy discussions, including how politicians on both sides regard the leading international role of the United States dollar. In this view, the United States is likely to remain the world’s financial safe haven for international investors, irrespective of what we say and do.

Expressing concerns about the trajectory of our federal government debt has of course become fashionable during this election cycle; this is a signature item for both the Tea Party movement in general and vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan in particular.

Then later, in a reference to my own British history, writes,

Threatening to shut down the government or refusing to budge on taxes is seen by many Republicans as a legitimate maneuver in their campaign to shrink the state, rather than as something that could undermine the United States’ economic recovery and destabilize the world. This approach is more than unfortunate, because the perception of our indefinite preeminence – irrespective of how we act – is completely at odds with the historical record. In his widely acclaimed book, “Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance,” Arvind Subramanian places the rise of the dollar in its historical context and documents how economic policy mistakes, World War II and the collapse of empire undermined the British pound and created space for the United States dollar to take over as the world’s leading currency.

Then Simon endorses the key point made by Arvind Subramanian, namely,

But Dr. Subramanian also asserts that two other factors were important: the sheer size of the American economy, which overtook Britain’s, probably at some point in the late 19th century, and the United States current account surplus. In particular, American exports were far larger than imports during World War I and by the end of World War II the United States had amassed almost half the gold in the world (gold at that time was used to settle payments between countries.)

In effect, the United States dollar pushed aside the British pound in part because the United States became the world’s largest creditor.

Simon’s essay closes thus, (and you do need to read the full essay, by the way, many important ideas are expressed)

The dollar became strong because American politicians were responsible, careful and willing to compromise. Fiscal extremism, confrontation and a refusal to consider tax increases over any time horizon will undermine the international role of the dollar, destabilize the world and make it much harder for all of us to achieve any kind of widely shared prosperity.

Finally, in a call with my son, Alex, just 30 minutes ago (I’m writing this on the morning of the 4th October), he mentioned an item he had read in today’s Guardian newspaper No recovery until 2018, IMF warns.

The International Monetary Fund’s chief economist has warned that the global economy will take a decade to recover from the financial crisis as the latest snapshot of the UK economy suggested that growth in the third quarter will be at best anaemic.

Olivier Blanchard said he feared the eurozone crisis, debt problems in Japan and the US, and a slowdown in China meant that the world economy would not be in good shape until at least 2018. “It’s not yet a lost decade,” he said. “But it will surely take at least a decade from the beginning of the crisis for the world economy to get back to decent shape.

2018!  That leaves plenty of time for any number of global ‘surprises’ geopolitical and environmental alike!  But my final message is one of caution.  I am as vulnerable as the next person in seeing ‘doom and gloom’ ahead.  However, drop in to Learning from Dogs next Tuesday and watch something that may surprise you.

So on that note, the closing quote is going be one that I have loved for a long time:

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future. “ Niels Bohr

The mystery of telepathy

Just a bit more science about that sixth sense.

Yesterday, I wrote about how science was coming up with some pretty strong evidence that humans do have the ability to communicate in a way that might be called ‘telepathic’.

If (and that’s a big ‘if’) I have any understanding of the science, I believe it has much to do with quantum physics.  So I thought it fun to take a small diversion in today’s Post and give you some material on this very strange world of the very, very small.

From A Lazyman’s Guide to Quantum Physics,

What is Quantum Physics?

That’s an easy one: it’s the science of things so small that the quantum nature of reality has an effect. Quantum means ‘discrete amount’ or ‘portion’. Max Planck discovered in 1900 that you couldn’t get smaller than a certain minimum amount of anything. This minimum amount is now called the Planck unit.

Why is it weird?

Niels Bohr, the father of the orthodox ‘Copenhagen Interpretation’ of quantum physics once said, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it“.

To understand the weirdness completely, you just need to know about three experiments: Light Bulb, Two Slits, Schroedinger’s Cat.

Two Slits

The simplest experiment to demonstrate quantum weirdness involves shining a light through two parallel slits and looking at the screen. It can be shown that a single photon (particle of light) can interfere with itself, as if it travelled through both slits at once.

Light Bulb

Imagine a light bulb filament gives out a photon, seemingly in a random direction. Erwin Schroedinger came up with a nine-letter-long equation that correctly predicts the chances of finding that photon at any given point. He envisaged a kind of wave, like a ripple from a pebble dropped into a pond, spreading out from the filament. Once you look at the photon, this ‘wavefunction’ collapses into the single point at which the photon really is.

Schroedinger’s Cat

In this experiment, we take your pet cat and put it in a box with a bottle of cyanide. We rig it up so that a detector looks at an isolated electron and determines whether it is ‘spin up’ or ‘spin down’ (it can have either characteristic, seemingly at random). If it is ‘spin up’, then the bottle is opened and the cat gets it. Ten minutes later we open the box and see if the cat is alive or dead. The question is: what state is the cat in between the detector being activated and you opening the box. Nobody has actually done this experiment (to my knowledge) but it does show up a paradox that arises in certain interpretations.

To conclude I will offer this quotation reputed to be from the great master himself, Albert Einstein,

The more success the quantum theory has, the sillier it looks.

David Bohm and the Implicate Order

I was much taken by Patrice’s guest post of yesterday and have managed a short break from the travails of my Master’s degree to post an article by David Pratt, that has been part of my research.  Jon.

David Bohm and the Implicate Order

By David Pratt
David Bohm

The death of David Bohm on 27 October 1992 is a great loss not only for the physics community but for all those interested in the philosophical implications of modern science. David Bohm was one of the most distinguished theoretical physicists of his generation, and a fearless challenger of scientific orthodoxy. His interests and influence extended far beyond physics and embraced biology, psychology, philosophy, religion, art, and the future of society. Underlying his innovative approach to many different issues was the fundamental idea that beyond the visible, tangible world there lies a deeper, implicate order of undivided wholeness.

David Bohm was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1917. He became interested in science at an early age, and as a young boy invented a dripless teapot, and his father, a successful businessman, urged him to try to make a profit on the idea. But after learning that the first step was to conduct a door-to-door survey to test market demand, his interest in business waned and he decided to become a theoretical physicist instead.

In the 1930s he attended Pennsylvania State College where he became deeply interested in quantum physics, the physics of the subatomic realm. After graduating, he attended the University of California, Berkeley. While there he worked at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory where, after receiving his doctorate in 1943, he began what was to become his landmark work on plasmas (a plasma is a gas containing a high density of electrons and positive ions). Bohm was surprised to find that once electrons were in a plasma, they stopped behaving like individuals and started behaving as if they were part of a larger and interconnected whole. He later remarked that he frequently had the impression that the sea of electrons was in some sense alive.

In 1947 Bohm took up the post of assistant professor at Princeton University, where he extended his research to the study of electrons in metals. Once again the seemingly haphazard movements of individual electrons managed to produce highly organized overall effects. Bohm’s innovative work in this area established his reputation as a theoretical physicist.

In 1951 Bohm wrote a classic textbook entitled Quantum Theory, in which he presented a clear account of the orthodox, Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics. The Copenhagen interpretation was formulated mainly by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in the 1920s and is still highly influential today. But even before the book was published, Bohm began to have doubts about the assumptions underlying the conventional approach. He had difficulty accepting that subatomic particles had no objective existence and took on definite properties only when physicists tried to observe and measure them. He also had difficulty believing that the quantum world was characterized by absolute indeterminism and chance, and that things just happened for no reason whatsoever. He began to suspect that there might be deeper causes behind the apparently random and crazy nature of the subatomic world.

Bohm sent copies of his textbook to Bohr and Einstein. Bohr did not respond, but Einstein phoned him to say that he wanted to discuss it with him. In the first of what was to turn into a six-month series of spirited conversations, Einstein enthusiastically told Bohm that he had never seen quantum theory presented so clearly, and admitted that he was just as dissatisfied with the orthodox approach as Bohm was. They both admired quantum theory’s ability to predict phenomena, but could not accept that it was complete and that it was impossible to arrive at any clearer understanding of what was going on in the quantum realm.

It was while writing Quantum Theory that Bohm came into conflict with McCarthyism. He was called upon to appear before the Un-American Activities Committee in order to testify against colleagues and associates. Ever a man of principle, he refused. The result was that when his contract at Princeton expired, he was unable to obtain a job in the USA. He moved first to Brazil, then to Israel, and finally to Britain in 1957, where he worked first at Bristol University and later as Professor of Theoretical Physics at Birkbeck College, University of London, until his retirement in 1987. Bohm will be remembered above all for two radical scientific theories: the causal interpretation of quantum physics, and the theory of the implicate order and undivided wholeness.

In 1952, the year after his discussions with Einstein, Bohm published two papers sketching what later came to be called the causal interpretation of quantum theory which, he said, “opens the door for the creative operation of underlying, and yet subtler, levels of reality.” (David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, Order & Creativity, Bantam Books, New York, 1987, p. 88.) He continued to elaborate and refine his ideas until the end of his life. In his view, subatomic particles such as electrons are not simple, structureless particles, but highly complex, dynamic entities. He rejects the view that their motion is fundamentally uncertain or ambiguous; they follow a precise path, but one which is determined not only by conventional physical forces but also by a more subtle force which he calls the quantum potential.The quantum potential guides the motion of particles by providing “active information” about the whole environment. Bohm gives the analogy of a ship being guided by radar signals: the radar carries information from all around and guides the ship by giving form to the movement produced by the much greater but unformed power of its engines.

The quantum potential pervades all space and provides direct connections between quantum systems. In 1959 Bohm and a young research student Yakir Aharonov discovered an important example of quantum interconnectedness. They found that in certain circumstances electrons are able to “feel” the presence of a nearby magnetic field even though they are traveling in regions of space where the field strength is zero. This phenomenon is now known as the Aharonov-Bohm (AB) effect, and when the discovery was first announced many physicists reacted with disbelief. Even today, despite confirmation of the effect in numerous experiments, papers still occasionally appear arguing that it does not exist.

In 1982 a remarkable experiment to test quantum interconnectedness was performed by a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect in Paris. The original idea was contained in a thought experiment (also known as the “EPR paradox”) proposed in 1935 by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen, but much of the later theoretical groundwork was laid by David Bohm and one of his enthusiastic supporters, John Bell of CERN, the physics research center near Geneva. The results of the experiment clearly showed that subatomic particles that are far apart are able to communicate in ways that cannot be explained by the transfer of physical signals traveling at or slower than the speed of light. Many physicists, including Bohm, regard these “nonlocal” connections as absolutely instantaneous. An alternative view is that they involve subtler, nonphysical energies traveling faster than light, but this view has few adherents since most physicists still believe that nothing-can exceed the speed of light.

The causal interpretation of quantum theory initially met with indifference or hostility from other physicists, who did not take kindly to Bohm’s powerful challenge to the common consensus. In recent years, however, the theory has been gaining increasing “respectability.” Bohm’s approach is capable of being developed in different directions. For instance, a number of physicists, including Jean-Paul Vigier and several other physicists at the Institut Henri Poincaré in France, explain the quantum potential in terms of fluctuations in an underlying ether.

In the 1960s Bohm began to take a closer look at the notion of order. One day he saw a device on a television program that immediately fired his imagination. It consisted of two concentric glass cylinders, the space between them being filled with glycerin, a highly viscous fluid. If a droplet of ink is placed in the fluid and the outer cylinder is turned, the droplet is drawn out into a thread that eventually becomes so thin that it disappears from view; the ink particles are enfolded into the glycerin. But if the cylinder is then turned in the opposite direction, the thread-form reappears and rebecomes a droplet; the droplet is unfolded again. Bohm realized that when the ink was diffused through the glycerin it was not a state of “disorder” but possessed a hidden, or nonmanifest, order.

In Bohm’s view, all the separate objects, entities, structures, and events in the visible or explicate world around us are relatively autonomous, stable, and temporary “subtotalities” derived from a deeper, implicate order of unbroken wholeness. Bohm gives the analogy of a flowing stream:

On this stream, one may see an ever-changing pattern of vortices, ripples, waves, splashes, etc., which evidently have no independent existence as such. Rather, they are abstracted from the flowing movement, arising and vanishing in the total process of the flow. Such transitory subsistence as may be possessed by these abstracted forms implies only a relative independence or autonomy of behaviour, rather than absolutely independent existence as ultimate substances.

(David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, Boston, 1980, p. 48.)

We must learn to view everything as part of “Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement.” (Ibid., p. 11.)

Another metaphor Bohm uses to illustrate the implicate order is that of the hologram. To make a hologram a laser light is split into two beams, one of which is reflected off an object onto a photographic plate where it interferes with the second beam. The complex swirls of the interference pattern recorded on the photographic plate appear meaningless and disordered to the naked eye. But like the ink drop dispersed in the glycerin, the pattern possesses a hidden or enfolded order, for when illuminated with laser light it produces a three-dimensional image of the original object, which can be viewed from any angle. A remarkable feature of a hologram is that if a holographic film is cut into pieces, each piece produces an image of the whole object, though the smaller the piece the hazier the image. Clearly the form and structure of the entire object are encoded within each region of the photographic record.

Bohm suggests that the whole universe can be thought of as a kind of giant, flowing hologram, or holomovement, in which a total order is contained, in some implicit sense, in each region of space and time. The explicate order is a projection from higher dimensional levels of reality, and the apparent stability and solidity of the objects and entities composing it are generated and sustained by a ceaseless process of enfoldment and unfoldment, for subatomic particles are constantly dissolving into the implicate order and then recrystallizing.

The quantum potential postulated in the causal interpretation corresponds to the implicate order. But Bohm suggests that the quantum potential is itself organized and guided by a superquantum potential, representing a second implicate order, or superimplicate order. Indeed he proposes that there may be an infinite series, and perhaps hierarchies, of implicate (or “generative”) orders, some of which form relatively closed loops and some of which do not. Higher implicate orders organize the lower ones, which in turn influence the higher.

Bohm believes that life and consciousness are enfolded deep in the generative order and are therefore present in varying degrees of unfoldment in all matter, including supposedly “inanimate” matter such as electrons or plasmas. He suggests that there is a “protointelligence” in matter, so that new evolutionary developments do not emerge in a random fashion but creatively as relatively integrated wholes from implicate levels of reality. The mystical connotations of Bohm’s ideas are underlined by his remark that the implicate domain “could equally well be called Idealism, Spirit, Consciousness. The separation of the two — matter and spirit — is an abstraction. The ground is always one.” (Quoted in Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe, HarperCollins, New York, 1991, p. 271.)

As with all truly great thinkers, David Bohm’s philosophical ideas found expression in his character and way of life. His students and colleagues describe him as totally unselfish and non-competitive, always ready to share his latest thoughts with others, always open to fresh ideas, and single-mindedly devoted to a calm but passionate search into the nature of reality. In the words of one of his former students, “He can only be characterized as a secular saint.” (B. Hiley & F. David Peat eds., Quantum Implications: Essays in Honour of David Bohm, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1987, p. 48.)

Bohm believed that the general tendency for individuals, nations, races, social groups, etc., to see one another as fundamentally different and separate was a major source of conflict in the world. It was his hope that one day people would come to recognize the essential interrelatedness of all things and would join together to build a more holistic and harmonious world. What better tribute to David Bohm’s life and work than to take this message to heart and make the ideal of universal brotherhood the keynote of our lives.

(Reprinted from Sunrise magazine, February/March 1993. Copyright © 1993 by Theosophical University Press)

And for a fascinating insight into Bohm and his beautiful brain, watch this:

By Jon Lavin