Multiple Personalities, Dreams, and Brain Cells
In Chapter 17 of Friendly Invasion there is a discussion that many readers find difficult to fully comprehend. A character in the story who is not involved in this discussion has multiple personality disorder (also known as "Dissociative Identity Disorder") and in this chapter the alien participant in the discussion is trying to explain his civilization's concept of personality to the other participant, who is a human . The aliens believe that alter personalities are dreams, and because alter personalities are functionally interchangeable with primary personalities, primaries must be understood as dreams, too, albeit with various unique characteristics.
At this point the alien finds it necessary to explain their theory of dreams, which -- stepping out of the fictional setting -- is not alien at all but is largely based on theories and experiments by contemporary quantum theorists and biophysicists who are trying to understand the electromagnetic fields of the brain. EEG studies of cell areas well separated in the brain but exhibiting tightly synchronized activity must be synchronized through the field because transmission through the cell network would be much too slow to explain observed coordination. This sort of "through the field" communication is guided by field dynamics that can be measured. In theoretical terms, field nodes form and evolve in the brain's EM field. These are dynamic macroscopic quantum field structures, which are supported by and guide the quantum state changes of brain cells. A state change or "quantum jump" delivers a pulse of EM radiation, and because billions of these pulses occur every second we have metabolic support for the EM field and the dynamics that macroscopically form in it.
Finally, the alien explains that all such field dynamics are dreams, which interact with each other by "entanglement" (a bit of scientific jargon that means they are able interact as quantum entities do). In keeping with the fact that many of these dynamic nodes will be active at once, there must be many dreams active at once, each with it's own specific and essential function. The function of a personality would be to interact with the outside world. Ironically, the term "dream" as it is commonly used refers to the only kind of dream that has no essential function.
Is all this plausible? Well, is it plausible to the human participant in this dialogue? Plausibility hangs on a question that contemporary quantum physicists remain perplexed by. This is called "the problem of quantum measurement". Apparently there is a linkage between a quantum state change and consciousness about the physical system involved. The aliens in this story take the position that every single "quantum jump" at the cell level is associated with a corresponding measurement by the cell, which in effect is a flash of awareness -- an observation by a conscious entity. Mainstream biophysics today is moving toward agreement that cells are living creatures and must have some form of awareness. The aliens believe that these flashes of awareness are the constituent "pixels" of our dreams as they radiate to the macroscopic EM field dynamics that are the physical correlates of consciousness.
Set forth below are quotes from prominent scientists on the subject of quantum theory. (warning: these quotes may just confuse you even more!)
Neil Turok - early universe physicist, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
Quantum physics forms the foundation of chemistry, explaining how molecules are held together. It describes how real solids and materials behave and how electricity is conducted through them... It enabled the development of transistors, integrated circuits, lasers, LEDs, digital cameras and all the modern gadgetry that surrounds us.
Niels Bohr - foundational contributior to quantum theory, Nobel Prize winner
"...those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it."
Frank Wilczek - physicist and Nobel Prize winner
A common habit of thought... is the idea that space is [a] simple receptacle in which bodies move around, with no two bodies present at the same point. ...In modern quantum physics generally, and in the standard model of fundamental physics in particular, physical space appears as a far more flexible framework. Many kinds of particles can be present at the same point in space at the same time. Indeed, the primary ingredients of the standard model are not particles at all, but an abundance of quantum fields, each a complex object in itself, and all omnipresent.
Eugene Wigner - theoretical physicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize winner
"When the province of physical theory was extended to encompass microscopic phenomena through the creation of quantum mechanics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore again. It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness."
Martin Rees - cosmologist and astrophysicist, "Astronomer Royal" of the UK
"In the beginning there were only probabilities. The universe could only come into existence if someone observed it. It does not matter that the observers turned up several billion years later. The universe exists because we are aware of it."
Marvin Chester, Quantum Physicist, UCLA
Meaning does not reside in the mathematical symbols. It resides in the cloud of thought enveloping these symbols. It is conveyed in words; these assign meaning to the symbols.
Michio Kaku, (1995) - theoretical physicist at City College of New York.
It is often stated that of all the theories proposed in this century, the silliest is quantum theory. In fact, some say that the only thing that quantum theory has going for it is that it is unquestionably correct.
_ Michio Kaku
"[On the practical applications of particle physics research with the Large Hadron Collider.] Sometimes the public says, 'What's in it for Numero Uno? Am I going to get better television reception? Am I going to get better Internet reception?' Well, in some sense, yeah. ... All the wonders of quantum physics were learned basically from looking at atom-smasher technology. ... But let me let you in on a secret: We physicists are not driven to do this because of better color television. ... That's a spin-off. We do this because we want to understand our role and our place in the universe."
Roger Penrose - mathematical physicist at Univ.of Oxford (England)
Does life in some way make use of the potentiality for vast quantum superpositions, as would be required for serious quantum computation? How important are the quantum aspects of DNA molecules? ...Are the subtleties of quantum field theory important to biology? ...Do we really need to move forward to radical new theories of physical reality, as I myself believe, before the more subtle issues of biology - most importantly conscious mentality - can be understood in physical terms? ...It would be too optimistic to expect to find definitive answers to all these questions, at our present state of knowledge, but there is much scope for healthy debate...
For those who want to better understand quantum phenomena, perhaps you should begin by checking out this YouTube video about the basic experiment that first uncovered the problem of quantum measurement.