The Participatory Universe and the Power of Being a Conscious Observer

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We seem to live in a participatory universe, in which the observer and the observed co-create reality.

    Time and time again, experiments have shown that the simple act of consciously observing something, changes it properties in important ways.

-Dr. Jason Holland, Lifespark

And we’re not talking here about reality on some kind of subjective or emotional level. As notable physicist Dr. John Wheeler emphasizes, “No phenomenon is a physical phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.”

That’s a pretty hard concept to wrap our brains around. But time and time again, experiments have shown that the simple act of consciously observing something, changes it properties in important ways.

In the classic double-slit experiment, a particle (like a photon, electron, or atom) is fired toward a plate that has two openings or slits in it.

The particle presumably has two choices in this set up. It can either go through the top slit or the bottom slit, right?

But what really happens is that when no information is recorded about which slit the particle passed through, it seems to violate all common sense notions about the physical world and passes through both slits at the very same time. Strangely, in the course of this journey, the particle actually interacts with itself, creating a tell-tale interference pattern on whatever surface it ultimately lands.

As strange as that sounds, what’s even stranger is that when a recording device is then introduced (that can observe which slit the particle passed through), the behavior of the particle completely changes. It now adheres to a more familiar reality, with the particle acting like a tiny bullet that can only go through the top or bottom slit, but not both. And the interference pattern observed before completely disappears (see picture below or you can conduct the double-slit experiment at home).

Multiple versions of this experiment have been tested producing identical results. The most miraculous perhaps being the delayed choice double-slit experiment, in which observations of light rays (photons) made in the present moment appear to influence their past history.

Just as Einstein regarded entanglement as “spooky,” he was equally bothered by the notion of physical reality being dependent on an observer. On one occasion, he apparently pressed his colleagues, asking, “Do you really believe that the moon is not there unless we are looking at it?”

But for me, it’s an incredibly empowering thought to consider that the moon and the starry sky might only here because conscious observers, like us, are here to perceive them. That strikes me as an awesome responsibility.

So, next time you look up and feel small, remember that you are significant and more connected than you know. Ancient stardust is flowing through your body. The particles that make up that body are also likely to share countless entanglements with far off distant ones. And none of it would seem to exist without conscious observers like you!

READ RELATED: The Universe Is Inside Us: We Are All Made of Stardust!

READ RELATED: Quantum Entanglement Simplified: Discover What Microscopic Particles Can Teach Us about Finding Meaning in Life

Tell us what has helped you to feel significant and connected in this vast universe. We want to hear from you in the comments below.


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