Nature, Cognition and Quantum Physics - Peter Marcer


The following facts, emergent from the new interdisciplinary area of quantum information processing [1], preview a major paradigm change in science :-

  • in computer science, a physical theory - the quantum theory of computation - is now to be regarded as the theory of computation, replacing the mathematical/Turing theory as the correct one,
  • the nature of information is radically extended by the concept of quantum information, beyond what, until now, has generally been accepted in science to be the case,
  • information therefore becomes a new concept on a par with the accepted concept of energy, needing incorporation in understanding physics, and
  • as already experimentally validated, this incorporation radically changes the scientific understanding of how chemistry may be be performed - specifying new designs for chemical systems employing optimally controlled quantum signal induced, rather than approximately thermodynamically induced, chemical reactions [2,3,4].

The new paradigm, implies a wholly quantum world, where both classical models of physics and computation are at best approximations to physical reality, and where, for example, the recent experimental validation of quantum teleportation[5] is a striking affirmation of the holistic nature of physical reality revealed by quantum mechanics[6].

Thus, current understanding of all derived disciplines where the concept of information processing plays a leading role - such as molecular biology, biology, neurophysiology, cognitive science, medicine, etc, warrant re-assessment and maybe radical revision in the light of this paradigm change. For example, a valid hypothesis is that the 1952-3 experiments of Miller and Urey into the origins of life (where within a closed flask, electric discharges through a 'primordial Earth atmosphere' for many days produced an amino acid containing chemical soup) were essentially correct, except that the possibility of optimally controlled quantum signal induced chemistry [3], was then unknown and is at the heart of life's evolution.

The Programme

From a programme of investigations already in progress, which concerns DNA, the prokaryote cell, the brain, and its essential sub-unit - the neuron -providing a new model of cognition, and the central challenge proposed, it becomes clear that no area of science may be immune from this extended understanding of information processing that quantum physics provides, and that the solution to many of the major unsolved problems in science, could now be within reach.

In the new paradigm, the only valid proofs (even for mathematicians!) are "engineered solutions" ie physical apparatus, be they manmade or biologically evolved, which demonstrate the process in question, as theoretically described. Thus brains as "chemically based computer design", have some information processing operations that are astounding from the engineering, technical viewpoint; physical operations which serve as an existence proof that carbon-based analogue chemical computation does work.

The investigations concern quantum holography (summarised below), for which functional magnetic resonance imaging furnishes an engineered solution [7]. They provide existence proofs ; ie descriptions of why the morphology and dynamics of the following chemically based computer designs, ie "engineered solutions", are the way they are: -

  • DNA - describing how its morphology and dynamics is able to incrementally encode the three dimensional morphology and dynamics of the embryo of its organism[8],
  • the prokaryote cell - describing how such cells function in an environmental niche, for the purposes of survival, as self organising, self replicating, self adaptive units, in accordance with an evolving record within the cell of the cell's history[9],
  • the brain as a cognitive system - describing how it works as a fully distributed, massively parallel, synchronously partitioned processor, filter, memory, and multiple input/output system, which optimizes itself by self adaption/learning[10], and
  • the neuron of such a brain - describing how it contributes to the brain's capabilities and massively parallel operation [11]and why this is quantum parallelism, such that, in relation to simultaneous activity in geometrically separate brain segments and to affecting a change of functionality (ie the shutting down of activity in one set of segments and replacing this by that in another set), these can be done instantaneously, rather than requiring the use of co-ordinating signals from a central control or switching centre as in a classical machine.

Biological evolved engineered solutions demonstrate, for example, that vision, visual images; sound, acoustic images, touch, tactile images, etc -senses- concern chemical simulation of physical reality, where (if quantum holography correctly describes them) adaption/learning, filtering, communication, input/output, memory etc take place directly by means of actual physical signals in the form of holograms; for example, immediate data capture is of a whole three dimensional vista/ movie frame. No form of logical or mathematical representation is employed, simply a physical morphology and dynamics, which quantum holography prescribes, so that processing is top down or bottom up. This allows optimally efficient cognition by filtering of a whole, into its parts or perception by the assembly of a whole, from its parts, etc.

Other engineered or claimed engineered solutions, described by quantum holography are Mach-Zehner interferometry[12], NMR quantum computation Jones, Mosca,and Hansen [25] and teleportation as performed by Zeilinger et al. and di Martini et al.[5].

Scientific Background

Quantum holography describes the mechanisms of holography via the standard quantum mechanical formalism[12] specifying an emitter/absorber model equivalent to an incremental Feynman sum of histories approach[13]. It incorporates signal theory for generic three dimensional image processing and communication into quantum physics in acccordance with the symmetries of the nilpotent Heisenberg Lie group structure, algebra and nilmanifold[14]. These symmetries avoid the decoherence that would, in other circumstances, prevent the quantum interference, self-interference/entanglement necessary for the quantum holography. It does this by employing phase conjugation/ time reversal invariance[15], which are preconditions for self adaption, insensitivity to initial conditions, and what, in other contexts, is known as "stochastic resonance", such that inhomogeneity/ multiple scattering act, counterintuitively, as focussing mechanisms.

The Central Challenge

Biological systems are now simply "engineered solutions" for which DNA - itself an "engineered solution" - provides descriptions. Central to these descriptions to quote de Duve, a Nobel Laureate for cell biology[16], ".... the function of base-pairing is not simply a structural one. Its main role is communication. Amazingly these elementary relationships, the chemical base pairings (where A,U,T,G and C are adenine, uracil, thymine, guanine and cytosine respectively)

Figure 1 


govern, through the two relatively fragile structures they embody, the whole of information transfer throughout the biosphere. They are truly the cipher of life."

That is, DNA base-pairing, the basis of the genetic code provides an "engineered solution" or basic machinery of communication fundamental to life on Earth. Thus, the hypothesis that biological systems are quantum information processing based chemical computer designs, is reduced to experimentally validating that the machinery of base-pairing corresponds to four operations, a quaternary code,for the maintenance of entanglement/unitarity, namely:-,

  • the unitary operation that simply does nothing or
  • either one of the three unitary transformations transfering one Bell state to another.

These unitary operations, the identity operation, the phase flip, the bit flip and the phase/bit flip, which are central to quantum error correction, and fault tolerence, describe for example an ability -quantum dense coding- to send twice as much information as can be sent classically with a two-state particle/system[1]. This, it is argued, must result in inevitable evolutionary advantage. The implication is that information with respect to both amplitude(bits) and phase is being transmitted as the basis of biological communication. A case, exactly analogous to the condition of quadrature in holography[17], which allows full wavefront reconstruction, restoring the original 3 dimensional image carrying wave in both amplitude and phase; the same condition, which in quantum holography is guaranteed by the symmetries of the three dimensional representation G of the Heisenberg group, and where these symmetries imply avoidance of decoherence.

That is to say, quantum holography extends the classical model of holography for full wavefront reconstruction (upto a particular resolution) with complex amplitudes into the quantum domain. Thus the holographic information needed to reconstruct the relative location and state of an object consists of two parts, one which can be transmitted instantaneously, but cannot be used without the other, which can only be transmitted by conventional means at the speed of light or slower. This quantum ability alone combined with the other undoubted advantages of holographic information processing such as associate memory, redundancy, etc, could account for the fact that biological systems/brains have some operations that are astounding from the engineering, technical viewpoint. Implicit in the hypothesis of the central challenge, this duality of communication capabilities implies that information processing in biological systems occurs in tandem at both the traditional classical and quantum levels. By this means, for example, when living cells replicate, each cell would be fully aware of its sister cells relative locations and states, explaining how such replication is able to construct the morphology and dynamics of an embryo subject to the master blueprint of their DNA, and how, when the embryo is complete, self-repair/immune system is brought into play to restore such locations and states, ie health.

Development History

Physics; begins with:-

  • Kepler, who first used a concept of phase in his analysis of Tycho Brahe's data to deduce his laws. A recent formalisation of this analysis has been successfully applied to functional magnetic resonance tomography (MRI) by Schempp[18],
  • Huygens' conceptualization of the behaviour of wavefronts - Huygens' principle - used extensively in classical wave physics, and by Feynman as the basis of his sum of histories approach to quantum physics. It was formalised in various forms by Jessel[19] - leading him to the discovery of anti-sound - and by Resconi and Jessel[20].

    Both concepts are central to quantum physics, as applied by de Broglie, Schrodinger ,Bohm, Feynman and now Berry (in relation to the geometric phase/topological effects), as are,
  • Lie transformations, a culmination of geometrical invariance theory, applied as central to perception, cognition and brain structure by Hoffman[21],
  • holography, the phenomenon of full wavefront reconstruction, discovered by Gabor[17], together with a new computing principle[22], which defines a universal non-linear analogue filter, simulator and predictor which optimizes itself by a learning process - a prototype of which was built at Imperial College in the late '50s. This principle was generalised (using Huygens' principle) by Resconi and Fatmi[23], and Fatmi, Jessel, Marcer and Resconi[24] (using Lie transformational systems, and Lie commutators, respectively); both papers had the support of Salem. They established the relation with topological effects, and the other various models of computation - Turing, Deutsch, etc, and
  • Hahn, a disciple of Bloch, who pioneered magnetic resonance scanning and Hounsfield, who devoted the latter part of his Nobel prize address to the future of MRI rather than X-ray tomography.

A full theoretical approach to MRI has been developed by Schempp[7] based on harmonic analysis on the Heisenberg group with its applications to signal theory[14]. This nilpotent Lie group, able to model Huygens' principle, holography, etc ; its Lie algebra, Heisenberg uncertainty( as was realised by Weyl in 1928); and its nilmanifold, topological effects, etc., defines quantum holography. Based on the Lie commutator [q,p], it specifies a quantum model of Gabor's universal, analogue, non-linear, filter, simulator and predictor that optimizes itself by a learning process, employing the phenomenon of full wave front construction ie holography, uniting a),b),c),d)and e).

Living systems :-

  • There is already a significant history of publication and scientific workers, who anticipated this paradigm shift, predicting that various aspects and properties of biological systems, anomalous to classical explanations, could only be accounted for quantum mechanically. These include, Schrodinger, Pauli, Jung, Bohm, Frohlich, Pribram, Umezara, Jibu, Yasue, Eccles, Josephson, Penrose, Hameroff, Ho, Hiley, Farre ,Grossing, Schempp, Mitchell, etc


This approach to wider perspectives is an established programme of research, guided by the understanding of the known workings of a production device, the fMRI tomographic machine, for which an extensive, validated, theoretical description, quantum holography, exists. The continuation of this programme, in accordance with existing and new models (in italics) to validate or refute the central challenge proposed and various subgoals (in bold), would require minimum financial investment, manpower, and timescale (say five years). The result would be

  • the extent to which the new paradigm will change our understanding of science and technology in the new millennium, with
  • the critical and immediate implications, this could have on the critical masses of various (possibly all) research, development, and higher education programmes.

A successful validation - the prestige of discovering the quantum physics underlying the origin and functioning of living systems, would constitute a quantum leap in mankind's understanding of Nature, of how brains work; how cognition/intelligence can be understood and are carried out; and understanding of biological evolved engineered solutions would lead to the rapid technological development of manmade ones !


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[3] Dahleh M., Peirce A.P. and Rabitz H., Optimal control of uncertain quantum systems, Phys. Rev.A, vol. 42, no. 3, lst Aug., 1990, pp 1065-1079.
[4] Judson R.S. and Rabitz H., Teaching Lasers to Control Molecules, Phys. Rev. Letts. vol. 68, no. 10, 9th March, 1992, pp 1500-1503.
[5] Bouwmeester D., et al. Experimental quantum teleportation, Nature,1997, 11th December, vol.390, pp 575-579.
[6] Sudbery T., The fastest way from A to B, Nature 1997, 11th December, vol.390, pp 551-552.
[7] Schempp W., Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Mathematical Foundations and Applications, John Wiley, NY, 1997.
[8] Marcer P.J. and Schempp W., A mathematically specified template for DNA and the genetic code in terms of the physically realisable processes of quantum holography, 1996, March 9th, Proc. the Greenwich symposium on Living Computers, eds. Fedorec A.M., Marcer P.J., pp 45-62.
[9] Marcer P.J. and Schempp W., The model of the prokaryote cell as an anticipatory system working by quantum holography, Proc. 1st Intern. Conf. Computing Anticipatory Systems, Belgium,Aug. 11-15, 1997, ed. Dubois D.,(in press).
[10] Marcer P.J. and Schempp W., The Brain as a conscious system, Intern. Journal General Systems, 1998, in press.
[11] Marcer P.J. and Schempp W., Model of the Neuron Working by Quantum Holography, Informatica, vol. 21, 1997, pp 519-534.
[12] Schempp W., Quantum holography and neurocomputer architectures, Journal of Mathematical Imaging and Vision, vol. 2, 1992, pp 279-326.
[13] Schempp W., Bohr's indeterminacy principle in quantum holography,self-adaptive neural network architectures, cortical self-organization,molecular computers, magnetic resonance imaging and solitonic nanotechnology, Nanobiology, 1993, vol.2, pp 109-164.
[14] Schempp W., Harmonic Analysis on the Heisenberg group with applications in signal theory. Pitman Notes in Mathematics Series 14. Longman Scientific and Technical, London, 1986.
[15] Fink M., Time Reversed Acoustics, Physics Today, 1997, March, pp 34-40.
[16] de Duve C., A Guided Tour of the Living Cell, Scientific American Library, W. H. Freeman, New York, 1984, two volumes ; in particular, vol. 2, pp 250, pp 257.
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[18] Schempp W., Mysterium Cerebrotopographicum, (early private communication).
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