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Nature 538, 36 - 37 (7623)
Published online: 2016-10-06; | doi:10.1038/538036a

Article: Theoretical physics: The emperor's new physics

  1. #68881
    2016-10-28 12:59:52 PM
    Maurits Van den Noort said:

    Towards a theory of everything: "The observer's unconscious brain"

    Prof. Maurits van den Noort1*, Prof. Sabina Lim1 & Dr. Peggy Bosch2

    1. Research Group of Pain and Neuroscience, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Republic of Korea
    2. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, 6525 HR Nijmegen, The Netherlands

    We read with great interest the article by Richard Dawid,1 in which the recent book of Roger Penrose1 is critically examined. We agree with Dawid that Penrose focuses more on developing visionary ideas than on providing a detailed criticism of prevalent theories. However, in sharp contrast to Dawid,1 in our opinion, there is nothing wrong with scientists having visionary ideas, on the contrary, nowadays, visionary ideas (and research projects investigating them) are often lacking, in a time where scientists seem to be mostly bothered with achieving long publication lists and keeping their research projects within the economical budget.

    We remember when Penrose published his book entitled, "Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness", back in 1994.3 He received a lot of criticism from both physicists and neuroscientists who found that he speculated too much in his book. However, in our opinion, it is too premature to claim that Penrose is wrong. Recently, we have seen discoveries such as: the brain's dark energy,4 default mode networks,5 etc., and colleagues that would have suggested those theories decades ago, would have been laughed at. Neuroscience is a relatively new research field and, therefore, many discoveries are still to be made, possibly proving Penrose?s Orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR) hypothesis.6

    Unfortunately, it seems that in his new book, Penrose does not tap the missing link between physics and neuroscience enough,2 because a theory of everything7 should not only fit within the laws of classical and quantum mechanics, but should also fit within the fundamental laws of neuroscience (e.g., for instance, what about the observer's8 (un)conscious brain processing and interaction?). We do not know if Penrose prepares a new book, but if this is the case, our title suggestion would be: "Towards a theory of everything: The observer's unconscious brain".

    *Correspondence to:

    1. Dawid, R. Theoretical physics: The emperor's new physics. Nature 538, 36-37 (2016).
    2. Penrose, R. Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe. (Princeton Univ. Press, 2016).
    3. Penrose, R. Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness. (Oxford Univ. Press, 1994).
    4. Raichle, M. E. Neuroscience: The brain's dark energy. Science 314, 1249-1250 (2006).
    5. Raichle, M. E. The brain's default mode network. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 38, 433-447 (2015).
    6. Hameroff, S., Penrose, R. Consciousness in the universe: a review of the "Orch OR" theory. Phys. Life Rev. 11, 39-78 (2014).
    7. 't Hooft, G. et al. 'A theory of everything' Nature 433, 257-259 (2005).
    8. Schrodinger, E. Die gegenwortige Situation in der Quantenmechanik [The present situation in quantum mechanics]. Naturwissenschaften 23, 807-812 (1935).

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