Updated: August 15, 2008
We have all read books and seen movies about people (and aliens) with supernatural, mental powers. Well, at least some of us have read books ... Regardless of the source of enlightenment, the underlying motive is the same: living beings of terrestrial and extra-terrestrial origin can communicate and/or manipulate objects by thought only. Usually, the genre of these books and movies is science fiction - meaning there's some technobabble involved and the events take place in a virtual reality that has little chance of being replayed in our world. However, this is not quite true ...
In this article, I'm going to do something rather unorthodox - I'm going to contradict myself, deliberately, in order to prove that: 1) Telepathy and telekinesis are indeed possible. 2) Telepathy and telekinesis are impossible. While this may be slightly difficult to digest in classic terms of a common mind, it fits well into the quantum world that we're going to dive in. To be or not to be is the old, classic way. To be AND not to be is more applicable.
What am I talking about, you say?
Simply put, the human mind does not require mechanical tools - like eyes, mouth or arms - to interact with the outside world. However, for any such interaction to be 'felt' in any significant way, these mechanical means are a necessity. On quantum level, everything works well. On a macroscopic level, it does not. Let's elaborate - telepathy first.
You have all undergone the following experiences - at least once: You're thinking about something or singing a song inside your head when someone nearby begins humming the same tune. You're thinking about someone when the phone rings.
Cold logic tells us that these events occur mainly between related people, who are quite likely to enjoy the same repertoire of songs. Likewise, it's not unusual that friends want to call one another. All in all, it fits the chaos of unpredictable human behavior. Let's take this one step further, though.
For all things physical to 'exist,' some sort of information propagation and interaction must exist. We must agree that thoughts are real and that they lead to results. Defining the thought can be tricky and belongs to philosophical and meta-physical circles, but whatever it is, it's some sort of energy, being registered by different sensors inside and outside our heads.
Nevertheless, up until now, the thought has not been measured or quantified. We can see the side effects of the brain activity, but there has been no conclusive observation of the thought, per se. Now comes the conjecture of this article: thoughts are carried by the weak force.
Here's how it goes. Information inside the brain is transmitted via electrical current, gated by voltage-dependent sodium channels in the cell membranes. This process is quite stochastic and does not explain rational thought on its own. However, were this processes also responsible for yet another interaction, that of momentum transfers between interacting particles in the cell membrane, it could lead to the creation of the change-neutral Z bosons, one of the carriers of the weak force, which decays into neutrino and anti-neutrino.
The Z boson is heavy and short lived and dies shortly thereafter. The neutrino and anti-neutrino are almost massless and have a very small cross-section, which means they rarely, if ever, interact with other particles. Theoretically, they should never ever do anything significant within our bodies. Luckily, the extent of interaction of neutrino particles with matter has hardly been studied and is not very well understood, making this article all the more exciting.
|Can you guess what I'm thinking? Focus!
Suppose that our brain receptors are also capable of collecting neutrinos. Neutrino flavor could be used to encode information, in a sort of a binary language, transmitted, let's say, via neutrino oscillation. Combined with the current running through carefully mapped neural network, this could be analogous to information traffic that takes places on the Internet. Active neurons are the routing grid, while the neutrinos are the actual packets of data. The reception and the decoding still remain a mystery - a subject for another article.
This could explain why we suddenly have 'random' thoughts or the fact we cannot 'feel' the flow of thoughts. If they are indeed triggered by a balanced reaction between nerve cell voltages and light-fast neutrinos, then there's no way of grasping them.
This might also point out why thoughts are so elusive. Neutrinos are hard to detect. And no human has been placed inside a particle accelerator, making impossible an attempt at a simulated brain activity session recorded via external sensors.
How does this relate to telepathy? Well, neutrinos (and anti-neutrinos) are not limited to the confines of our cranium and could easily escape, without getting caught in our receptors. These neutrinos could then propagate to another person's head and trigger a 'hacker' reaction, by producing unsolicited thought chains. All together, this method of brain functioning could explain many things, sudden, random thoughts, deja vu - and also how we're able to 'pick' another's thoughts.
What are the chances of this happening?
It depends on many factors, including the brain activity of the host directly relating to the number of neutrinos created, the proximity to another person, and lastly the other person's ability to collect 'stray' neutrinos and turn them into useful information.
Distance plays a major factor. A given, constant number of neutrinos will propagate, on average, as a spherical wave, covering an ever larger area, causing the particle flux to drop proportionally with the square of distance. In practical terms, a person one meter away from the host has a 100 times higher chance of getting hit by a telepathy neutrino than one 10 meters apart. Getting hit by a neutrino emitted by someone a few kilometers away becomes an almost impossibility. This means that telepathy is most likely to occur between people close together, mostly likely friends or relatives, which fits the existing logical explanations.
The person's ability to collect 'stray' neutrinos can also be attributed to the relation between people. Friends and relatives are more likely to have similar ideas, thoughts and habits, sharing a similar neural pattern. Which means their brains are more likely to purposefully exploit 'stray' neutrinos that those of a complete strange. Again, this can explain why siblings, especially twins, can sometimes seem to have 'magical' telepathy powers, when they are merely using one another's packets to form useful traffic. It also explains why we have a hard time concentrating when there are lots of people around us. This is particularly true for men, whose brains are bigger and thus more susceptible to telepathic jamming.
Likewise, this explains why telepathy has never been put to any good use. Distance is the key, as well as the compatibility between transmitter and receiver. And even then, only fractions of useful information is decoded properly, making any precise and controlled use of telepathy rather impractical. We have had a great success with songs because they use are using harmonic waves that can be easily interpreted by a relatively small amount of data, as manifested by Fourier series.
We're on the same ground here, however, this time, we're using our neutrinos in collimated beams to transfer momentum to foreign objects. Given the neutrinos' reluctance to interact with matter, this makes this rather difficult, but not impossible. The real limitation is the actual quantity of energy that we can dedicate to the task at hand.
The energy that each neutrino carries is minuscule. An electron neutrino has a mere 2.2eV, approx. as much as a photon of visible light. Heavier neutrinos, which are most likely never generated inside our heads, do have higher energies (approx. 170KeV and 15MeV). We'll talk about them separately, merely as a force multiplier.
Moving an object that weighs 1kg to a height of 1 m requires approx. 10J of energy - due to gravity force of about 10N for the said object. Assuming that we want to do this in a reasonable amount of time, let's say 1 s, we'll require 10W of power from our brain.
|No matter how hard you try, you ain't never gonna get those objects moving, unless you get excited and your fingers accidentally touch them
A simple calculation yields that we need a focused beam of approx. ~ 3·1018 neutrinos, all of which fully interact with our object, a 100% yield in layman's terms.
Let's make a comparison with our Sun. On average, 50 trillion neutrinos, generated in the Sun pass through the human body every second. For the sake of simplicity, let's assume that the human body measures 1m2. Similarly, Sun irradiates approx. 1,000W of power per square meter on Earth surface.
The last piece of information that we need is the distance from the Sun, approx 1 AU (150 million km). This means that the average flux of neutrinos at Sun's surface is 6.75·1034 neutrinos, through a human size target, every second. So, adjusting to our desired target (3·1018), we need 'only' 4.4·10-17, a mere 1.7·1010 Watts! Heavier neutrinos would bring this down by a few orders of magnitude, but nothing dramatic.
The trickiest part in the puzzle would be how to achieve a narrowly focused beam of particles using the brain muscles only, but this might be possible if a conscious control of the brain activity were to be achieved. Lastly, let's not forget the neutrino-matter interaction.
So even if our brain were capable of much more efficient neutrino generation, the power would still be considerable, way, way beyond what the human body can contain. And even then, the efficiency of telekinesis would be miserable. And would probably work for very, very small distances and small objects. It might be possible to stir a flake of dandruff on one's scalp using thought power only - but then, you don't need telekinesis for that. However, this might explain why we can sometimes feel other people "staring" at us; it's the pressure of their wicked neutrinos tingling the sensitive receptors in our brains.
Back to aliens and superheros
So now let's examine our fictional characters. Aliens with big heads? Well, not big enough. So telepathy might work for them, but certainly no telekinesis. Superheroes? Gimme a break. They would supernova before turning famous. Superman would probably drain the Universe of every possible neutrino before making one of his spectacular rescues.
Nothing physical bars either from occurring. But they are beyond the current ability of our brains. One day, we might master the subtlety of thought, but moving objects by surreptitious blinking and furrowing of the brow will probably never work like in the movies. For now, we can make excuses with our favorite songs and enjoy cheap FX tricks.