July 23, 2020
In this podcast Prof. Josephson talks about the Josephson Effect, transcendental meditation, the Mind–Matter Unification Project, intelligence, science orthodoxy, paranormal, water memory, the publication process, cold fusion and LENR, understanding quantum mechanics, coordination dynamics, biosemiotics, artificial intelligence, cymatics, and intelligent design.
Samuele Lilliu (SL). Good afternoon Professor, how are you?
Brian Josephson (BJ). Fine, thanks.
SL. The first thing I wanted to discuss with you is that you were jointly awarded the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physics for predictions of the properties of a supercurrent through a tunnel barrier. The Josephson Effect involves a supercurrent flowing indefinitely long without any bias applied across a Josephson Junction, which is made of two or more superconductors coupled by a weak link. Can you outline what’s a Josephson Junction and what’s the Josephson Effect?
BJ. I got interested in superconductivity when I was a research student. I was about the only person who could understand the theory in that group so I got into trying to understand what superconductivity really was. The thing that seemed most relevant was that there is a kind of wave. The interesting thing was that wave had a phase and I wondered if that phase had meaning. I thought about this and I came to the conclusion that if you had two superconductors each with its own wave, the phase difference could be something meaningful, but only if you could couple two superconductors together. So, I then was able to work out what currents you would get if there were two superconductors joined by a weak link. That was the effect basically. That current was sensitive to the phase. It had various consequences like quantum interference, for example, and the way frequency and voltage differences were connected. So that was it basically.
SL. What sort of environment was there when you discovered these concepts? I mean at the Cavendish Laboratory, what sort of environment did you have around?
BJ. Some people were sceptical but Prof. Philip Anderson was visiting and he had actually worked on this idea of the phase and the superconductor, so he was very positive about it. I think it was ok then, but of course I was working on conventional physics at that time, so I didn’t encounter any difficulties.
SL. You are the 7th youngest person who got a Nobel Prize for Physics, you were 33 when you got the award. Did that change your plans?
BJ. Yes one thing was that I had an enormous number of contacts [from people]. I thought so next six months I'll be spending answering letters but it went on much longer than that. That's one side. It also helped in the sense that people felt they couldn't stop me doing ideas they weren’t interested in. I got invited to lots of conferences and so on.
SL. Basically the mind-set in academia, in general, and also at the Cavendish Lab, in particular, have changed quite a lot during the past decades. Now there is a lot of push towards scientists so that they can get involved into start-ups and entrepreneurship. I guess when you did these discoveries there wasn't such a thing or maybe there was… I don't know… did you get any push towards writing patents and spinning off these ideas into a company?
BJ. No actually my supervisor Brian Pippard was against the idea of patents, he was against the idea of turning your work to produce lots of papers. That certainly changed. [Now] People are encouraged to do lots of papers and so on. It's not being very good and they have to spend a lot of time applying for grants. I've been less involved on that, because I don't seem to be able to get grants anyway. So I don't spend much time applying for funds. Fortunately as a theoretician I don't need much in a way of funds.
SL. What sort of devices were built with your discoveries?
BJ. Yes well one of the main ones was the superconducting quantum interference detector (SQUID), which involved two Junctions in parallel. It was like a double slit experiment. It measured a phase difference. It turns out that the phases are governed by magnetic fields, so it was in fact a very sensitive magnetic field detector. Apparently the Australian Government [mining industry] has made quite a bit of money from it, because they've been able to prospect for materials using these magnetometers. It proved to be a way of measuring voltages very accurately. It’s had application in terms of measuring fundamental constants and in some infrared detectors, apparently people [have been] able to use them for detecting weak infrared signals.
SL. After your Nobel Prize there were another 8 Nobel Prizes awarded to scientists working at the Cavendish Lab. Before that there had been 20 Nobel prizes between 1904 and 1973. But after 1982 there's been a long period of silence of 37 years until the award of a Nobel Prize to Didier Queloz last year . Do you think these kind of silences is due to the sort of direction of the Cavendish lab or to something else? What do you think?
BJ. I’m not sure. I suppose there is an element of chance. Was Didier Queloz at the Cavendish or he was in astronomy wasn’t he?
SL. He did this research at Geneva [University]. I mean when he did the discovery it was 1995, he did that in [an observatory in] France. He wasn't with the Cavendish. He joined the Cavendish afterwards.
BJ. Well I can't say but I suppose there's a cumulative effect if you have enough very good people that attracts more people. Maybe it [the Cavendish Lab] hasn’t got the reputation it's had in the past. Mott and Hewish and so on were around then.
SL. You told me how you got interested in TM [Transcendental Meditation]. How was that influential for your subsequent research activities after the seventies? Did that have an impact in your research?
BJ. Yes, well, I was interested in sort of consciousness deeper states. That did influence my research. Well one thing I felt more in connection with the psychic phenomena, which you might get on to separately, but that makes me feel that regular physics wasn't really taking into account the mind enough. Eventually I decided I'd create what I call the Mind-Matter Unification Project, discussing how mind and matter fitted together.
SL. In this talk that I mentioned before, you spoke about “intelligence”. About a week ago I did a podcast with the very famous researcher on intelligence and IQ, called James Flynn, who describes intelligence as… by intelligence he means “that you can do tasks that are required by your environment quicker and better than the next person”. But I guess your definition of intelligence is different. So what do you mean by intelligence?
BJ. Well it is actually very much like solving tasks, processes almost like artificial intelligence. Achieving a goal requires very specific methods and that's how I see intelligence. And mind partly uses intelligence. But the intelligence is more for the creative aspect and once your creativity has enabled you to solve a problem, you can apply those solutions to other problems.
SL. Was the talk an attempt to bring physics into TM or TM into physics or something else?
BJ. More of the concepts behind TM, which come from the Vedas. I’m collaborating with people who studied that in detail. What I find is that conventional physicists sort of start from physics and try to put mind into physics and biology, whereas with the Vedas you start from the structure of mind. It’s starting from the opposite end, so really you need to work with both.
SL. So it was an attempt to find some sort of suggestions from these texts and so that you might get ideas for physics basically…
BJ. Yes, my point is that there are various levels of mind and ordinarily we only study ordinary mind, but with meditation and so on you get into contact with the deeper aspects of mind and that might tell you where all comes from.
SL. You spoke about science orthodoxy. We know that Nobel prizes are awarded for breakthrough discoveries and often they involve going against the orthodoxy. Also before Nobel Prizes, we can think about… Einstein got a Nobel Prize but he went against the orthodoxy especially with the theory of relativity and so on… but before that Galileo, for example, went against the orthodoxy. So how would you define scientific orthodoxy and the consensus and acceptance and when do you think orthodoxy is necessary and when is it a bad thing?
BJ. That's all I said… Nobel Prize isn't necessarily anything unorthodox. It may just be a perfectly orthodox new discovery…
SL. Yeah, yeah, in some cases yes…
BJ. I view the scientific community a bit like a club and that seems it has its rules and it doesn’t want to break the rules. For example you mustn't in any way express support for intelligent design as you might be out of a job. Memory of water is a bit similar. You must dismiss homeopathy. The paranormal is a bit different because it turns out that…
SL. The paranormal?
BJ. The paranormal, yes. Quite a number of scientists do believe that there is something to the paranormal, telepathy and so on, but they have to keep quiet about their opinions or it might be counted against them. So you don't hear very much of orthodox scientists…
SL. But if I'm not wrong the American government was researching on paranormal activities, I guess…
BJ. The American government was researching … the department of defence, was researching on something called “remote viewing”. This was actually used with the people [made] hostage in the American embassy in Iran, and they actually used it to find out information about them. And President Carter apparently mentioned this once.
SL. What do you think is the role of media in consolidating or discrediting scientific research? Because the media is a huge power right sometimes they might discredit other times they might boost certain scientific discoveries…
BJ. They may often concentrate on the spectacular. I would say it tends to be orthodox, perhaps they don't want to be attacked. So you very rarely find articles supporting things like the paranormal. But it's variable. I think they've not been as helpful as they might be.
SL. I guess you can also influence media if you have enough resources. So let's say that there was some billionaire that was supporting paranormal research. Maybe that would have a good treatment by the media.
BJ. It could be yeah. I think several media especially… I don't know… about cold fusion I think it's considered disproved. That's another issue that was considered disproved but on superficial grounds. I mean a lot of people tried to reproduce the results of Fleischmann–Pons. Some were successful, the Bombay Atomic Research Center for example, others failed. The ones who failed didn't appreciate that if you're working with materials you may get variable results. So since they didn't get it to work, they said it's nonsense. That somehow got to be the accepted fact. But the journals are relevant as well. I mean, the journals have more influence than the media. If journals block certain things, like telepathy, research can't get the publicity it otherwise would.
SL. That brings us to the discussion about the gatekeepers. One of the gate gatekeepers are publishers, but also [the physics preprint server] ArXiv. The way I see this economy of science is that since the introduction of the h-index in 2005 there has been a lot of change in academia. Basically now we have a system in which, well there was this system before, a system in which universities compete to get the best students, the best talents, the best postdocs, professors, and so on. What makes a university attractive is often the ranking. Rankings are based on several parameters, for example one can look at the Nature Index. Basically scientists compete and are often evaluated for position based on their h-index, on the impact factor of the papers that they publish. My opinion is that scientists and universities work more or less like social media. It's a popularity contest. The other problem with the big journals like Nature or Science is that they set what is a popular topic. So if Nature or Science decide “OK this is popular” that has a huge impact on the scientific research community because scientists will move to another field. I can tell you briefly, in my case I was working with the Bulk-Heterojunction solar cells, so plastic electronics, and then perovskites came, right, and then we all moved to perovskites. Why we moved there? Because you have more chances to publish in high impact factor journals, you have more chances to get jobs and so on. So it's a vicious circle, from my perspective. So what do you think about this system? Do you think something has to be fixed or it's fine as it is?
BJ. It is certainly a problem of maybe a vicious circle or positive feedback. String theory is one thing for example. That is the… in field … and so maybe it's easier to get funding for it and so on. Other directions may have more problems getting funding or getting published. Nature may be particularly receptive to ideas that seem popular. But I should say that there are journals like the Journal of Scientific Exploration, which are open-minded, they have careful refereeing but they won't block a paper just because it's [generally] considered wrong. But of course hardly anybody knows about the Journal of Scientific Exploration. It has particular emphasis on unorthodox ideas I suppose, but maintaining quality.
SL. But that's the thing that maybe someone checks “Oh, what's the impact factor of the journal?” and then they say “that's low, we want to publish in high impact factor journals because then we can get jobs and so on”… so it's crazy. You also spoke about the filters with ArXiv, that sometimes it's even difficult to put preprints in ArXiv.
BJ. Yes I hope with a new director things may improve, we don't know. But it's been my experience that on the whole they've accepted papers. But the problem is that there many sections of the ArXiv. They typically block my papers from appearing in the sections I feel are most relevant. So I feel my ideas are relevant to quantum theory, but they won’t let them be published there.
SL. Does it depend on the section for which you have access or is it a general practice? Because I think I have access to condensed matter and maybe if you want to… I don't know what access you have in there, maybe depends on the field…
BJ. Yes that’s quite likely to be true I mean I talked to an experimenter and he said people never had any problem. But I don't know the exact … problem … but one thing … Ginsparg [the director in charge] uses some software, which was supposed to decide if a paper was scientific or not.
SL. A software?
BJ. Yeah, a program. It's like as if it was trained on a certain kind of paper. So any novel paper would tend to get dismissed by the software. But then it goes to moderators and I don't know quite well who the moderators are. But they …don't… they emphasize it's not refereeing. They look at it rather quickly. It seems that there is a tendency to block innovative ideas. It should be the means of propagating innovative ideas, but it's rather the reverse.
SL. You can upload archives [preprints] on ResearchGate now and they give you a DOI and doesn't look like they block anything there.
BJ. Yes, so I upload things to ResearchGate no problem. That's not an official archive. But I also use PhilPapers, which is a philosophy archive. I never had any problem there. If my papers have a philosophical side, I upload them there.
SL. When we spoke I referred to a book called “Against Method”, I don't know if you’ve read it, and the author says that there is no such a thing as the scientific method, so all approaches to science should be allowed including explicitly supernatural ones and that there are no methodological rules, which are always used by scientists. It makes a reference to the story of Galileo that went against orthodoxy and so on. So do you think science should look at the different aspects of knowledge or even religion and superstition and so on, what do you think? To get ideas I mean…
BJ. There is a clear distinction between scientific knowledge and religion, so I don't know if you're saying you should count religious knowledge in there. I mean spiritual knowledge is okay but one must… it's clear that it's not done by the scientific method, where you test hypotheses by some rigorous method. But I would emphasize that there's not just observation, but theory and there may be different kinds of theory and basically the important thing is that it should make predictions. But I think in the early days it may not have to make predictions it may be [just] a thing that’s of interest. That’s maybe gone too far I think, like string theory, because those theories don't seem to be able to make any testable predictions. But it's a bandwagon effect and people find them very interesting. So you can't say that that's really scientific method.
But I think with Mind-Matter Unification we will gradually get some clearer theories and these will be connected with experiment more and more like with any other theory, which applies well to how people develop and how intelligence works. So I don't see this as “not-science”.
SL. I think the guy was referring to the fact that when you go to school they teach you how scientific knowledge is, according to Popper, and what the guy is saying is that, well, there are many different approaches. Science is not only done with the rigorous Popper’s method, but there are many aspects including environment, culture, even the time you spend in the pub with your friends discussing about things, maybe you meditate and so on, and you might get ideas from different points and that's what the guy meant I guess.
BJ. I don’t know what point he’s trying to make. You may get knowledge from talking to friends, but it’s important to distinguish that knowledge from scientific knowledge.
SL. Yeah, I think it was a referring to intuition, I guess…
BJ. Well again intuition is a help, but not the same as science.
SL. Yeah that's a starting point. Just a starting… then you need to be rigorous and so on of course, you need to build up a theory, do measurements…
BJ. Regarding Popper, it has been pointed out by people like Lakatos and Kuhn, that real science is different you don't …and theory might be disproved but you may be able to patch it up and that’s part of science. Kuhn was talking about developing from a totally new start and developing a new paradigm. I think that is partly the difficulty, new paradigms they find problems…
SL. Do you think scientific research in academia should be done for the sake of knowing or done to support certain discoveries that might help building gadgets or do you think this building gadgets should be only done by companies? So we have two things knowledge for knowledge and knowledge for something.
BJ. I don’t see why it can’t be done in universities and it might help bringing money into universities.
SL. What sort of funding mechanism would you suggest to finance unorthodox science? Because I guess if you're doing unorthodox science people might say oh that's wacky science, you shouldn't be doing that, but maybe you want to do it so how do you get money for it? Because you need money to build a lab and so on…
BJ. Well I think official Research Councils should be open. Of course there are funders, there are philanthropists, who do fund unorthodox research. They have their own biases of course. My research tends to be too unorthodox for conventional sources and too orthodox for unorthodox sources, perhaps, I don’t know.
SL. I saw your talk was at Trinity College last November where you talked about the “New Scientific Paradigm”. So there are some areas in which physics seems to be stuck, it's not really progressing. What sort of field are you trying to address? What sort of aspect do you want to address with this “New paradigm”?
BJ. Well I don't like the term “New paradigm” and I think it's just extending physics by realising that there's some directions it's not looked into. Like you might have something new, like magnetism, which was introduced by Faraday and you recognise that there's some limitations in what the physics community addresses.
The way I see it, the problem is mind and intelligence. The point is you asked about some biological systems, the conventional picture is that ordinary physics covers it all. We know what biological systems are composed of. We know other things like chemical reactions. So it's all explained. But in fact it is not really all explained because there are points of detail, coordination and things like that, which are important in determining behaviour. So for a start you need to put in coordination, which is something that biologist scientists fit in. Also semiosis, which is about meaning. That's another direction in biology called biosemiosis.
My point is that there are really two cultures. Some biologists study these significant aspects of biology, but physicists don't know about them, it's not regular physics. The reason why it's important is, I think it's important at the fundamental level because the mysteries of quantum mechanics in fact could be understood in these terms. Some of people like Karen Barad particularly emphasized parallels and suggested we can understand quantum physics if we take into account things like agency and the way … coordination again.
So in other words we are not understanding the quantum domain probably because we… our theories don't take mind into account and therefore we end up with statistical theories. But the theories don't have to be statistical. I think it'll be great advance in physics when this is acknowledged and we start to do theories which take into account things like meaning and coordination. That’s the thing I'm interested in doing.
SL. Yeah, so from one side we have a quantum mechanics that does sort of quantitative measurements, and on the other side we have biology that does qualitative measurements. You're trying to get ideas from biology from biosemiotics so that you might use this qualitative description into quantum mechanics so that we can understand it, right?
Yes, that’s an important point. Physics tends to insist that you have quantitative theories. But you can perfectly well use modelling to test the theory.
My other point is in the biological side you have great variability so your quantitative theory will not apply in general. So you need a different kind of theory. Biology has come up with different kind of theories. So it needs a kind of synthesis and I think the quantitative sides have come out of some kind limit when shaping factors lead to precision.
SL. This concept of the fact that we don't understand quantum mechanics is a very old problem in fact since the inception of quantum mechanics there were some physicists that said well we don't understand these statistical concepts and so on. Instead other physicists said “just shut up and calculate”. I think Feynman mentioned this problem. Now, as far as I understand, if you want to investigate the meaning of quantum mechanics, there isn't much funding for that. There is more funding on using quantum mechanics. We can use quantum mechanics, but we don't understand it.
You left out David Bohm, because he's somebody who did combine the two. He worked on physics and on deeper issues and his collaborator Basil Hiley has worked on details and I think they had made progress. Some physicists have been taking that direction but they're not mainstream. Apparently Oppenheimer led a movement to ignore Bohm.
SL. I was reading an article by Sean Carroll. He summarises the thing that we don't understand quantum mechanics in two points. He said that well of course the first problem is the measurement problem that a quantum system does one thing before we measure it and then another thing after we measure it. Then there is the ontological problem that we don't know if quantum mechanics represents the world as it is or if we need more. For example quantum mechanics doesn't involve anything about relativity and we don't know how to combine quantum mechanics and relativity.
Quantum mechanics does involve relativity. It's putting the general theory … putting that in that is the problem. You say “there's a problem combining quantum theory and general relativity”. But the problem is that observation is not probably taken into account. It's just something that happens. Whereas people like Barad would say the observation is important. People like John Wheeler talk about the subject and object. So you say the subject side is important. That goes in the direction I'm talking about. The ontology, well, I think the point there is that reality is too complicated to be able to be described in mathematical terms, so quantum mechanics is not going to be able to help.
SL. So coming to the mind-body dualism… then you said “we should the unify mind and matter” and so on. So I was looking at into this thing, this mind-body dualism. I think it comes from Descartes. As opposed to this duality there is there are monist theories… You say that we should unify mind and matter right?
Well I'm saying physics should take into account both mind and matter. It's not doing a good job on mind as well.
SL. So how would you define mind? What’s mind? Is it something that emerges from physics or is it something separated? What do you mean by mind?
BJ. Well we already have information and it's recognised that information seems to be important in quantum mechanics. The question is what is done with information. That's the sort of… physics tends to regard this as a technical matter. But on that regard, I think it's fundamental ... processes involving mind, which achieve particular things. So that's the side of physics, which ... if you simply observe matter then that sort of leaves that out. So in other words it's your selectivity. The paradigm is saying we do certain experiments in these experiments certainly look at certain things. So the paradigm needs to shift a bit. But I think it doesn't have to become … okay I mean really a new paradigm looking properly into to mind.
SL. But in this case mind refers to what we more or less understand as a human mind or it does it mean that is mind in objects and things?
BJ. It’s much more general. What I emphasize is that matter does all sorts of things.
SL. So you spoke about biology and you draw the parallels between biology and quantum mechanics. So different approaches in that table. I think that table was originally in a paper that you wrote in 1988, I think, where you show a table: quantum mechanics and biology …
BJ. Yes that's important, it suggested that…
SL. And then you spoke about the unified approach…
BJ. There is a parallel with Mind-Matter Unification, in that there is network science. Network science developed its own rules so it would be a bit like that. But mind has its own special features, which may not be in network science, we could call it, as Alex Hankey does, complexity biology.
SL. I think you were referring also to the fact that quantum phenomena don't appear in biological systems but then there is some research that has been done in the past 20 years that show that people discovered some quantum effects in biological systems in the field of quantum biology. Have you seen anything about that? Especially when it comes to the olfaction or the way the birds orient themselves…
BJ. The usual idea being that quantum effects don’t occur at room temperature but that is not necessarily correct. Even the chemical bond is a quantum effect at room temperature. A closely related thing is entanglement. People are beginning to feel that quantum entanglement is a much more widespread process. It just doesn't just occur in special conditions. Entanglement remains and it's a bit of a mystery. Well I think it connects with mind.
SL. The other thing that I was interested in is… because you mentioned the Winograd language… so this guy, Winograd, developed a program called SHRDLU, which is a sort of natural language understanding that was developed in LISP. This kind of approach to artificial intelligence is called traditional AI. Basically these guys that were thinking that could develop an AI system using logics and semiotics and all these things. But then Dreyfus said that probably this is not the best approach for AI because… he was quoting Heidegger that said that human intelligent behaviour cannot be formalised. In fact this was sort of confirmed with the success of neural networks. In fact neural networks are very different from standard logical… I would say LISP programs… and neural networks, the problem the neural net is that you don't know what it is doing, you have no idea of what is doing…
BJ. Yeah it is an evolving system and that again points to the fact that the intelligence and mind might not be treatable with the usual method involving precision, it’s more a question of certain principles. I might mention in this context Scott Kelso’s coordination dynamics. He has a review paper on this, where he compares the usual approach with how coordination dynamics works. You study this kind of system in a very different way. You look for things which are connected. You don't presume that it’s something very specific, in advance. That’s a rather different paradigm as well.
SL. I was trying to understand the “circular theory” but I didn't understand. What's this circular theory that you were mentioning? I think you were doing drawings…
BJ. Well Ilexa Yardley contacted me over 10 years ago with ideas. People felt that there is some sense to them. It's about units and how they connect to each other, how structures develop. I think she has an intuitive idea as to how things develop. Well she has her own version of coordination. It's two… the way two systems work together [oppositional dynamics]. That seems to be an important concept. It does seem to be an important process. Also she talks about how we're familiar with the idea that you sometimes see a system as a unit and sometimes as a pair of things and there is coordination, which makes them act as a unit. In some other way two go into one and so on. So it seems to be intriguing ideas I would say. She’s partly assisted the work I'm doing. In fact we haven’t really developed it yet, but I think this idea as to saying something about structure, which may be very important. So it’s work in progress.
SL. Another thing that I found very interesting especially because it looks nice and cool is the Cymatics, especially if you do music you find that very interesting. Basically there is a guy called John Stuart Reid that developed this device. Well he is not the first one that discovered this effect. I think was Faraday the first one that discovered this effect. Would you explain what it is?
BJ. Well it’s simply the effect that if you apply sound to a liquid, usually water, that structures build up. Faraday apparently discovered this. What John Stuart Reid did was to invent a gadget he called the CymaScope, which enabled you to take pictures of it and investigate it rigorously. You get a vessel, where you vibrate the bottom and then you have a light source reflecting off it so you can see how it happens. You can then explore, how different kinds of sounds have different effects. It might be music or sound of different frequencies. So that is real rigorous science you might say, experimentation. You also find something rather interesting, which well it was an experiment with dolphins, where dolphins were apparently aware of their surroundings by reflecting sound off objects. So he found that the dolphin’s sound applied to water, that could also generate a picture [representing the object the dolphin had in front]. That's a fascinating effect and may suggest that water can have some kind of intelligence, which gets one into the question of memory of water and so on…
SL. So in this case what does it mean intelligence?
BJ. Water has a complicated structure I don’t think anyone would disagree with that … some people would say the structure cannot have a memory because things happen very quickly. That's a fallacious argument because you may get organisation, which persists. So the idea of having memory of water would be that if you applied a sound signal to water you could set up particular structures or you could do it with a biologically active substance. So there's a kind of informational activity present in water. Benveniste suggested that the signals may have biological effects.
This thing I've been talking about, extending physics by taking signals into account that may be extremely important in biology. It's suggested you can actually treat diseases like cancer by applying appropriate signals and in fact there is evidence I think that cancer cells may be affected by selectively by signals. But then water would be a part of this. I'm not very clear of what the details are right now, but there is almost certainly something there to be discovered.
SL. You also spoke about homeopathy, you said that there is a memory effect, but they don't last longer or do they? Because I mean if you're doing a medicine they're supposed to last longer, right? But if they disappeared and it means that you're just drinking water or maybe there is a different story?
BJ. Yeah that's a fallacy saying that liquids cannot hold memory. Liquid crystals show that. There could be an organised structure. That's a typical faulty argument used against memory water, it’s saying that memory can’t persist.
SL. You close that they talk you give last November at the Trinity College saying that the various concepts fit well together like pieces of a jigsaw. How do they fit together? That's my question or it's still being developed?
BJ. It may be consistent with second law of thermodynamics. We know that in a crystal atoms fit together in a particular way. In the same way presence of movement may fit together. It certainly must happen. So you can say maybe it's a natural development and that can occur… what happens when people learn, develop new ideas, is that something appears, which fits together nicely with what's there, all together, I mean. This is not contradicting the second law of thermodynamics any more than crystallisation is. I gave jigsaws as an example, but it's the idea that things can fit together. An example is a statement and its meaning or, shall we say, you have a description of activity and the activity itself that was put together, while activity is occurring you describe it or you work on the description so these are things that fit together. So this seems to be a key idea and it may happen on a very large scale and this particularly happens with language. I think it is complicated with language. There is yet another piece of the whole puzzle.
SL. Probably you don't want to talk about politics, so I’m not going to mention what… but I'm going to ask you what do you think should be the role of scientists in society? Do you think scientists should influence politics or they should stay away from politics?
BJ. Well I think there's no reason why individual scientists shouldn’t influence politics and this is sort of happening with the second SAGE committee; scientists who want to collect the evidence and persuade the political scene. I can't see anything wrong with that.
SL. I told you that there is a paper, probably you read it, in Nature where they mentioned this group, I think they had some links with Google, where they tried to reproduce the old 1989 cold fusion experiment. These sort of measurements are now are called the low energy nuclear reactions (LENR). They mentioned that they failed to reproduce it. Then they said in the process of all these things we discovered new measurement methods and we published many papers. They were talking about a call for action, that it's a good idea to keep investigating on cold fusion because it might be promising. I have being following Rossi’s development with the E-Cat since the past 10 years and I think the problem there is that the guy is also trying to commercialise the device that he claims can generate an excess of heat. I was checking before we did this interview and I found that this group of Australians basically offered the Rossi $1 million to get the device and open it up so that they could check whether it's fine or not and he refused. So what do you think? What's going on with cold fusion now?
BJ. Well they pointed out that it's still good to do experiments, and so we shouldn’t conclude, much as you said, from the fact that they weren’t successful. Yeah, so how is it now? Well I think I said it got discredited but research went on in the background. Things didn't work out as well as people hoped because people hoped that you could find out how to produce large amounts of energy. But then it turned out it was a very difficult. There were methods which were fairly reliable, but they didn't produce a lot of energy.
That's a problem now. The problem is that some people are claiming they they're developing methods and patenting them. Sometime in the future they will have this source of energy but they don't want to talk about it presumably because they want to be the people who make money from it. So that's what the situation is now. Let’s all hope that it will come to fruition and we will be using it to make clean energy and have to rely less on fossil fuel all or the other methods, which may take a large amounts of space or something (solar energy).
I mentioned that there's almost certainly a commercial aspect here and it may be that people involved with conventional energy have assisted a little bit in suppressing the reputation of cold fusion.
SL. So the final thing I wanted to discuss is the PowerPoint you sent me. I think it was prepared by your postdoc (Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar) about the “Vedic and the Quantum”. I'm not an expert of this text but I understood that the Vedas are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India that were conceived 1500 years BC and I understood that you… I might be wrong, than you correct me, okay, so this is my interpretation so … that you're trying to find scientific elements within the Vedas…
BJ. That’s being used in connection with spiritual practices but they're primarily, as Maharishi pointed out, a sort of textbook about the nature of consciousness and in fact Maharishi would say that they are actually present in consciousness, part of a structure of reality and that happened to create it. I studied a little bit of it …
SL. So my question is that because I've seen this in other monotheistic religions, where basically you have people that take new discoveries and then they try to find some hints of these scientific discoveries within the old texts to justify that those ancient texts might have some scientific truth. So my question is whether that's the sort of approach of providing scientific truth to this text and then maybe say “OK, there is science in this text, let's dig more into this text maybe we find more science”. Is that the sort of idea?
BJ. Yes, I am not sure saying this was predicted by the Vedas. I think to an extent they are an account of consciousness it would be useful to use them guide one’s theories. They are actually incredibly complex so one would have to be selective, but still I think we may find important principles that maybe the first nine words of the Rigveda contain all, in a sense.
SL. What's the motivation of this work, does it link to the previous work or it's a completely new kind of research program?
BJ. Is it just one aspect of getting mind into physics, a useful source of ideas, which you won't find in conventional cognitive science.
SL. Your postdoc mentions the Integrated Information Theory (IIT), he’s suggesting that a fly might have some sort of consciousness, like a fly is conscious, anything can be conscious right? Even a robot could be conscious one day, who knows in future? And this integrated information theory that tries to quantify consciousness. So do you think consciousness can be quantified… formalised?
BJ. To some degree perhaps.
SL. I think I saw that in an interview that you were mentioning that you're kind of supporting a kind of view of “intelligent design”. What sort of position do you have because there are many positions right?
BJ. I think I would be careful about the phrase. The way I see it is that the process of building up reality starts from a very basic level and to some extent the ordinary universe studied by physics is a product of a certain process of mind. So I would not exclude the idea that ordinary life is a product of some kind of idea and that the evolution of man is also the product of such a process. The arguments against that idea are not very good and people admit that they’re not too clear about the origin of life. So I think in the end one will get a better account by taking that kind of model than by having Darwinian models or neo-Darwinian.
SL. So it's also a guiding process that guides evolution…
BJ. Yes that’s how it would work exactly. The way your mind that directs everything you do. It intervenes at various points. We've learned something in the mind intervenes so in a way this aspect of mind would intervene in evolution to produce the intended result.
SL. But some people would think oh this is some supernatural activity, other people would think oh maybe it's some extra-terrestrial (alien) activity I mean now so you think it's some sort of intelligent thing embedded within physics right or you think…
BJ. Well it depends what physics is, there isn’t just words “natural” and “supernatural”.
SL. And this topic is highly politicised…
BJ. Yes, indeed, especially in regards to teaching in school in the USA.
SL. So thank you very much professor for your time and I hope we can do this in person one day.
BJ. Okay thank you.