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Quantum Theory

The following is
Dr. Jeffrey Satinover’s lecture
at an international Kabbalah congress,
Israel, April, 2005

This lecture will focus on a field that is considered to be “advanced science,” but which, compared with Kabbalah, is actually quite primitive. Think of a person who doesn’t know what a nut looks like, and suddenly finds a nutshell. He spends a long time studying it and for many years assumes that it is a completely lifeless object. Finally, after long, arduous years of research, he examines the complex symbols on the inner part of the shell and concludes that this has to be a shell of a living object, probably containing within it a living, evolving organism that is not the shell itself.

Just like that person, modern science has been successfully researching the physical world for hundreds of years, assuming that this world is the whole reality. The premise was that the physical world was a lifeless entity, and that there was nothing else besides it. Science has recently concluded that if we meticulously test the purely physical world, we will be able to find subtle evidence that the physical world is only a shell covering a living entity inside it.

Let me try and explain why specifically modern quantum theory is a kind of “boundary science.” There is an extensive debate around quantum theory, so I will present only what I think is correct. I also recommend that you study this topic on your own to know what other researchers have found, and then draw your own conclusions.

I would like to stress that quantum mechanics and modern science do not say anything about Kabbalah or about spirituality. However, they do say that the physical world is not the end. They have proved that there is something beyond, but they cannot say a thing about its nature. I think that accurately defining this point is of paramount importance.

All our knowledge, coupled with the immense power of quantum theory and its inferences about the physical world, lead us to deduce two things:

  1. There must be something beyond the physical world.

  2. We do not know anything about that “something” and cannot research it through science.

We often want science to serve as a tool in the research of spirituality. But the best scientists have already realized that this is not possible. Science can serve as an intellectual tool, leading us to conclude that there is something else. In Kabbalistic terms, it can be a vessel that leads us to knowing the point in the heart. The most abstruse mathematics in quantum mechanics can be a tool that enables us to recognize the existence of a point in the heart. But science cannot reach beyond that point.


Let me try to give you a short, easy introduction to quantum theory. I will not use sophisticated mathematics and I will only present terms you have probably heard before. If these terms did not make sense before, I congratulate you, because they are not supposed to make sense.

Ancient Kabbalists said that it is impossible to imagine the true nature of reality. Contemporary quantum mechanics came to a very similar conclusion. It is impossible to use any terms or images to properly understand the nature of the physical reality. For instance, many of you must be aware of the famous statement that when you understand matter correctly, you understand that it is simultaneously a wave and a particle. This is a very trendy saying, and perhaps you are imagining something about it, or are setting up a little mental equation.

In fact, however, this is nothing but a line of utterly senseless symbols. There is no way to make them sound logical.

I previously stated that quantum theory allows us to understand the boundaries of contemporary science and declares that there is “something” beyond the physical world itself. To explain this, I will later describe an astounding phenomenon whose research is now evolving, called “quantum computation.”

In addition, I will relate to a witty experiment that was first described conceptually back in the 1960’s by Richard Feynman (1918-1988), one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century and a Nobel prize laureate in physics. This depiction is, even today, the most concise description of the mystery that surrounds quantum mechanics. Later, this experiment was executed with various kinds of particles. I will offer my explanation as to why this science demonstrates the boundaries of science, and why it points directly to the existence of “something” beyond the straightforward material world.

For generations, the fundamental perspective of science matched that of Einstein. Einstein’s perception still prevails among many scientists, maintaining that there is nothing besides the physical world. Since the brain is built solely of physical particles, any specific event, meaning interaction of one particle with another, is defined wholly by the location of the particles and their movements in the preceding moment. The same perspective applies to every event in the physical world, including events in our bodies, our minds, our thoughts, and our interconnections.

In other words, the entire physical universe is a lifeless mechanical mechanism inevitably and inescapably unfolding. Any perception that we think is our own, the very perception of ourselves as conscious, feeling human beings, with our own intentions, (everything we do here and the rest of our human life) is only an illusion. There is no love, no hate, no passion, and no satisfaction. We are lifeless particles in complex compositions that unfold over time.

All our progress in medicine is founded wholly on that perspective and, thanks to it, succeeded. Many of us owe our lives to it. This perspective is a very compelling one and cannot easily be discarded.

Yet, this principle brutally attacks not only our perception of ourselves, but our need to ascribe purpose and meaning to life. Nonetheless, as exasperating as it may be, a large part of the world functions in just such a mechanistic manner.

Many contemporary philosophers recognized that while this view yielded great benefits, it inflicted an alarming blight upon us because of the belief that life is ultimately meaningless.

The Nazis, for example, readily applied this perspective in many fields and became very efficient as both killers and scientists. Often, modern medicine’s attitude towards people is cold and cruel primarily because of the efficiency of the perspective that life has no meaning.

Computer science is a kind of extreme distillation of the mechanical outlook down to the mathematics and the logic of mechanical interactions. The scientific basis for modern computer science is the idea that a physical entity can exist in several states simultaneously. The computer consists of components that are based on “bits,” and contains an enormous amount of them. A “bit” is a physical entity that can exist in one of two states.

Modern quantum mechanics allows for a phenomenon with far-reaching implications. It maintains that there can be physical entities that exist in two states simultaneously. Just believe me for a moment--such a thing really does exist. This means that if a standard computer can be in N states, a quantum computer can be in 2n states at the same time.

At the YaleUniversity laboratory, we have built a device that contains 400 such components. This may seem like a relatively small

Figure 8

number, but such a device can produce a memory of 2 to the 400th power bits. This is such a huge number that we cannot even perceive it. Thus, we are talking about building computers of such fantastic power that could literally work magic.

How did the assumption arise that two different states could exist simultaneously? Here we should mention an experiment conducted by Richard Feynman some fifty years ago. Assume that there is a full water tank containing a device that moves up and down. This action creates waves from two different sources, causing the waves to cross paths. Eventually, the path-crossing of the waves will create a pattern known as an “interference pattern” (Figure 8). This pattern is a collection of the path-crossing of the waves. It is a very well known phenomenon and we can easily calculate where these crossing points will be.

Now let us picture a similar experiment, but with particles instead of ripples. Picture a gun shooting discrete bullet-like particles at a screen. If we put a partition between the particle gun and the screen with a tiny crevice in it, and shoot particles toward the screen, only a thin ray of particles will penetrate the screen through the crevice. Consequently, the particles will always appear at a certain predictable point (Figure 9).

Figure 9

If we changed the experiment a little and made two slits in the partition instead of one, we would expect particles to reach two distinct points on the screen, just as we had one distinct point on the screen when there was only one slit. However, if we built the experiment correctly, at a certain ratio between the size of the particles and the size of the slits, the result would be quite different: We would find that the particles appeared all along the screen, not just in the two anticipated points.

As a result, particles would appear in even spaces along the whole screen and in both directions, indefinitely. The quantity of particles at each point would differ, being more profuse at the center and gradually decreasing as we move away from the center. The proportion between the number of particles appearing at each point would create a wave pattern (Figure 10). As a result, one could say that quantum particles are both waves and particles simultaneously.

Figure 10

This brings up the question, “What is a wave?” To simplify how this works, I will first explain it with limited accuracy, and subsequently correct the inaccuracy. A wave is a division of probabilities to find a particle at a certain point along the screen. Actually, the particle gun projects a “moving wave of probabilities,” a probability that a certain particle will be at a certain location.

Now let me correct myself: When we measure the numbers that describe the amount of particles that appeared at each point on the screen, we get a mathematical result that does not perfectly match a moving wave of probabilities. Instead, it is the square root of the probability.

In fact, some of the square roots are negative. The probability that something will happen in the real world can be anywhere between 0 and 1, but it cannot be negative. In other words, this “thing” that expands in space doesn’t exist in the physical world, but it still creates an impact.

Figure 11

Even if we were to fire one particle per week, the probability distribution would remain identical to the interference pattern of the two waves we mentioned above. Actually, even if we fired a single particle, dismantled the equipment, put it back together a year later, and fired another single particle, we would still receive exactly the same result (Figure 11).

This probability pattern is built with absolute mechanical precision. It is so astounding that it seems to reach beyond time and space. The structure of this phenomenon is prearranged in perfect mechanism, its mathematics are known with utter precision, and today this phenomenon assists us in building amazingly accurate computation devices.

If we were to fire a single particle, we would be able to predict with utter mathematical precision the probability of that particle hitting a certain spot on the screen. However, quantum mechanics says, and this is my main point, that nothing in the physical universe can determine exactly where that particle will hit.

In other words, when you are looking at millions of particles, matters are determined with absolute mathematical certainty. However, the specific location where each particle will land remains undefined by anything in the physical universe.

As a result, some of the greatest physicists deduced that there was a deterministic element in the universe that operates precisely as we’ve thought. However, there is another unknown operative element delicately interwoven in the texture of the universe that does not interfere with the mechanical unfolding. This is why it all appears mechanical in the eyes of one who is not observing sufficiently keenly.

However, if we observe very cautiously, we will find that any particular unfolding in the universe is affected by something that is not a part of the universe. Moreover, since the theory itself requires an element that is essentially extra-universal, we are left with a boundary.

This is why some physicists proclaimed that quantum physics was a boundary science, a science that points to the boundary which humans can reach while researching the physical universe. In other words, these physicists assert there is something beyond that boundary that science will never be able to identify.

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