Quantum Issues in Architecture

January 1st, 2005 | Filed under: Backgrounds | 1 Comment »

Quantum Theory
Quantum theory, dealing with the strange behavior of subatomic particles and the role of the observer, came into focus by the late 1920s in the Copenhagen Interpretation. Until recently, it remained in the domain of subatomic particles. In the early 1970s interest in Bell’s Theorem of 1964 began to spread and in 1982 Alan Aspect produced experimental confirmation that observation of a particle can instantaneously influence a remote particle, a phenomena called “entanglement.� Even more disturbingly, we can photograph a particle here today, put the photo in a drawer, look at it six months from now, and influence a particle across the universe back at the time of the taking of the photograph. On a quantum level, neither space nor time exist as we have understood them.

Why is quantum theory important to architecture? Most directly, architecture exists in reality, and reality as we understand it today must at least in part be described by quantum theory. In addition, architecture is generated by the structures of consciousness of the people of its culture, and the structures of consciousness of people today in our quantum culture has changed from what it was just a few years ago.

There are numerous excellent general introductions to quantum theory. Here are three of them:

Thirty Years that Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory
by George Gamow
An excellent, charming introduction and history by someone who was there. It was written in 1966, so it does not address recent issues, but the basics remain the basics.

Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics
by Nick Herbert
An excellent introduction that pauses to explain the science and mathematics behind each of the steps. Its main focus is on the implications of quantum theory for our understanding of reality. It also is a good introduction to Bell’s Theorem.

Entanglement: The Unlikely Story of How Scientists, Mathematicians, and Philosophers Proved Einstein’s Spookiest Theory
by Amir D. Aczel
The focus of this book is Bell’s Theorem and its origin in the EPR Paradox. Not only is it excellent on both, it also provides a comprehensive introduction to quantum theory and brings us up to date on the latest (2003) experimental confirmations of Bell’s Theorem.

Key texts in quantum theory
There are three major mathematical ways to deal with quantum physics: matrices (Heisenberg), waves (Schrödinger), and Hilbert Space (von Neumann.) There are numerous texts in quantum theory, but here are key ones for each of these three approaches. You can find discussions of each on Amazon.

Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory
by Werner Heisenberg

Collected Papers on Wave Mechanics
by Erwin Schrödinger

Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics
John von Neumann

The Cosmos
Although quantum theory was firmly established by the late 1920s and highly developed by the 1950s, many fields, including cosmology, could avoid quantum theory by claiming that it applied only on the micro scale, not the macro scale, and certainly not on the scale of galaxies. In the 1980s, Hawking’s work with black holes established quantum theory as fundamental to cosmology and more recently string theory and M-brane theory sees our universe as an undulating sheet, brushing against other universes.

Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes On the Cosmos
by Seth Lloyd
Understanding the universe as information processing.

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
by Brian Greene
Superstring theory as the means to bring together relativity and quantum theory. This book forms the basis of a recent Nova television series on superstring theory.

The Illustrated Brief History of Time
Updated and Expanded Edition
By Stephen William Hawking:

A Brief History of Time was one of the must successful examples of popular science writing ever, presenting the current state of thinking in cosmology, including the origins and ends of the universe, black holes, gravity, time travel, etc. There are now several editions, some illustrated. The illustrations are essential for the visually minded.

The Universe in a Nutshell
by Stephen Hawking
Basically an abridged Brief History of Time focusing on recent developments.

The Social Sciences
The social sciences model themselves on the physical sciences, but have only recently begun to absorb Maxwell’s field theories. Recently some social scientists have begun to see human being and society as quantum phenomena.

Quantum Mind and Social Science
By Alexander Wendt
“This book project explores the implications for social science of thinking about human beings and society as quantum mechanical phenomena. In the past there has been some very limited discussion of this question, but only as an intriguing analogy and thus it had essentially no impact. My suggestion is that man (sic) and society really are quantum phenomena….�


Quantum Mind.org
Stuart Hameroff has created a huge site presenting the notion that consciousness is a quantum phenomena. If you print out all of it, including its thirteen-part lecture series, you will have approximately three inches of paper.

“Perhaps the most perplexing problem in science, the nature of consciousness reflects on our very existence and relation to reality. Most approaches to the problem of consciousness see the brain as a computer, with neurons and synapses acting as switches or “bitsâ€?. In this view consciousness is thought to “emergeâ€? as a novel property of complex computation. However this approach fails to adequately deal with enigmatic features of consciousness and more radical approaches may be necessary…â€?

Quantum Computation
A quantum computer could theoretically be more powerful than would be the entire universe if every particle in it were a computer. David Deutsch contends that the only possible explanation for this is that quantum computers harness the power of their infinite siblings in infinite parallel universes.

“The discovery that quantum physics allows fundamentally new modes of information processing has required the existing theories of computation, information and cryptography to be superseded by their quantum generalizations. The Centre for Quantum Computation conducts theoretical and experimental research into all aspects of quantum information processing, and into the implications of the quantum theory of computation for physics itself.�

Quest for the Quantum Computer
by Julian Brown
From Amazon: “Just how smart can computers get? Science journalist Julian Brown takes a hard look at the spooky world of quantum computation in Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse—and his report is optimistic. Based in large part on the groundbreaking work of David Deutsch…�

David Deutsch
David Deutsch is a pioneer of quantum computing.


Quantum theory, along with information theory, relativity, DNA, materials sciences, nanotechnology, etc. brings us a radically new reality.

The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes-And Its Implications
by David Deutsch
This just might be the single most important book of the 21st Century (although it was published in 1997.) In it Deutsch, a pioneer in quantum computing at Oxford University, presents a fundamentally new view of reality that takes seriously four fundamental ideas of science that are fully accepted, but whose implications are widely ignored. These are: quantum theory, evolution, computation, and the theory of knowledge.

“It’s Much A Much Bigger Thing Than It Looks�
A Talk with David Deutsch on Edge.org
“However useful the theory [of quantum computation] as such is today and however spectacular the practical applications may be in the distant future, the really important thing is the philosophical implications — epistemological and metaphysical — and the implications for theoretical physics itself. One of the most important implications from my point of view is one that we get before we even build the first qubit [quantum bit]. The very structure of the theory already forces upon us a view of physical reality as a multiverse. Whether you call this the multiverse or ‘parallel universes’ or ‘parallel histories’, or ‘many histories’, or ‘many minds’ — there are now half a dozen or more variants of this idea — what the theory of quantum computation does is force us to revise our explanatory theories of the world, to recognize that it is a much bigger thing than it looks. I’m trying to say this in a way that is independent of ‘interpretation’: it’s a much bigger thing than it looks.â€?

“Quantum Constructor Theory�
A Talk with David Deutsch on Edge.org
“We build computers and skyscrapers and space ships, and we clone animals, and so on. At root you can regard all of these too as computations, … a quantum constructor theory is needed.
EDGE: Why specifically a quantum constructor theory?
DEUTSCH: Because quantum theory is our basic theory of the physical world. All construction is quantum construction.�

Personal Fabrication
A Talk with Neil Gershenfeld on Edge.org
“We’ve already had a digital revolution; we don’t need to keep having it. The next big thing in computers will be literally outside the box, as we bring the programmability of the digital world to the rest of the world. With the benefit of hindsight, there’s a tremendous historical parallel between the transition from mainframes to PCs and now from machine tools to personal fabrication. By personal fabrication I mean not just making mechanical structures, but fully functioning systems including sensing, logic, actuation, and displays.â€?

One Comment on “Quantum Issues in Architecture”

  1. 1 Terabanitoss said at 8:56 am on May 3rd, 2007:

    Hi all!
    You are The Best!!!

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