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We began to understand the quantum world and quantum effects from the 1850s when black body radiation [1] began to be studied and then in 1905 Einstein explained the photoelectric effect [2] and hence photons or the smallest describable quantum of light.

But now more than 100 years on, a huge body of knowledge has been uncovered about the quantum world, and now quantum mechanics as it is known has become some of the most exacting of all the sciences [3], it produces science that is extra-ordinarily precise when verified experimentally. And a picture it is now being painted about our world that is truly mind-boggling.

Listening to some of the brightest minds on the planet and what they are in fact saying about the quantum world should present a paradigm shift in our traditional conception of ourselves and the world around us.

But let’s take a step back. How small is quantum scale? Well to give you some indication if the human body was the size of the Earth, then a red blood cell would be the size of a Olympic swimming pool, and if a red blood cell were the size of the Earth, a carbon atom would be the size of a football field [4]. That’s the quantum or nanoscale and at this scale matter, the same matter that makes up our material reality acts very strangely indeed. In fact we call these bits of matter at these scales ‘particles’ but they just don’t act, as we would think, like a particle of sand but just a much, much smaller particle of sand.

Matter on these scales acts in very strange ways indeed. Particles on the quantum scale pop in and out of existence, they can be at two places at the same time, called superposition [5]. They can be entangled in space and time [6], meaning what you do to one is done to the other even if they are on the other side of the universe, which defies all our classical physics. They in fact act as sort of a wave, smeared across space and are in essence non-local [7], meaning they do not have a particular location in space. In the natural state the universe exists as a kind of wave as represented by the wave function or the Schrödinger equation which predicts the functioning of this wave-like indescribable reality that is the universe in its natural state [8].

And as we begin to dig deep with an atom we find it is in fact made up of subatomic particles that are also largely indescribable. For example particle physicists call their properties spin and colour charge and strangeness [9], beyond any rational interpretation, yet they are mathematical realities that are beyond question. But it appears many of these subatomic particles that make up each and every atom in the universe pop in and out of existence, like fireworks on a nights sky.

The atom is extraordinary stable, the indestructible bedrock of existence. Most have existed since the dawn of time, but their substructure, what they are made from seems to be a torrent, a flux of virtual particles bursting in and out of existence.

These virtual particles make up the majority of the mass of every atom in our body, so it seems inescapable to conclude that we are in some strange way being beamed up from some sub-atomic realm a bazillion times a second as each one of the seven billion billion billion atoms in our body [10] is in continuous flux. In fact only 10 per cent of the mass of our body is in fact attained from our atoms, while 90 percent is from these virtual particles popping in and out of existence [11]. So 90 per cent of your mass and hence weight comes from virtual particles popping in and out of existence a bazillion times a second.

Think about that for a second – it cannot be said that we are fundamentally material beings, well not in the way we have viewed ourselves for thousands of years, as just static flesh and bone. Something far more complex is going on in and around us, keeping us looking and feeling like a stable material body living in the static material world around us.

This is all, I should say, standard model stuff [12], tried, tested and accepted across the quantum physics world. Few people actually talk about what all this means which is why I wrote a book, called Iniquity & The Separation of Being, digging into this and even more bemusing conjecture that quantum physics reveals about our business as usual world.

A new theory by some of the brightest minds in this space begins to blur any lines that defined what we were as existential beings. Roger Penrose, that is Sir Roger Penrose OM FRS the English mathematical physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science, the Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, who worked with Stephen Hawking to nut out our understanding of the Big Bang itself, has proposed along with Stuart Hameroff a theory of consciousness called Orch-OR [13], or Orchestrated Objective Reduction.

My novel Iniquity & the Separation of Being, explores what this theory may mean to our understanding of consciousness if a literal interpretation is applied, and coins this effect ‘Material Entanglement’. I will deal with this mind altering picture of reality in Part 2 of this article.

Feel free to leave your comments, questions and thoughts below this article.


  1. Black body radiation, Wiki access

  2. Photoelectric Effect , Wiki access

  3. Some good answers to Why is quantum mechanics called the most precisely tested theory in the history of science, Quora access

  4. Some relative sizes, Quora access

  5. Superposition, access at

  6. Nonlocality and entanglement Scientific American access

  7. A good discussion of Non-Locality in Scientific American access

  8. Considering that the universe always was and shall always be, its dynamics and evolution is described as wave function. The wave function of the universe is constructed through the single particle wave functions of its constituent particles. This formalism considers the universe as any other system in quantum mechanics and it reproduces many results including a relation connecting time, temperature and the cosmological constant of the universe. J. B. Hartle and S. W. Hawking have attempted to explain this Wave Function of the Universe. Access at Journals.aps

  9. Properties of quarks, Wiki access

  10. How many atoms in our body, a good derivation at Education.jlab access at < >

  11. According to Lawrence Krauss [in his book A Universe from Nothing] "virtual particles that pop in and out of existence in the empty spaces of the protons contribute 90% of the particle's weight/mass." Skip to 20:07 if you're interested, access his lecture at <YouTube> ; "So ninety-nine percent of the mass in every nucleus is the energy pushing the quarks together," extract from article What Are All Those Quarks Doing in Your Body? access at <Gizmodo> ; A good discussion of Virtual Particles in Scientific American access

  12. Lawrence Krauss’ book ‘A Universe from Nothing’; A good discussion of Virtual Particles in Scientific American access

  13. Orch-OR review by Hameroff from Science Direct access



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