The observer effect

Quantum physics’ the observer effect says that there is no reality until that reality is perceived. This profound insight tells us that we alter every object in the world simply by paying attention to it.


In previous ages such a statement would be considered blasphemous, or at least most fantastic and highly improbable. The world then was ruled by firm laws of physics for some, and yet for others the world was ruled by a firm hand of God. Religions and science have determined the scopes, reaches and boundaries of the world and everything else within — including human existence and our right to live, breath, see, to hope, even to dream — was interpreted through the resulting worldviews. Fearful, we too have helped create such a limiting world around us.

But something strange has happened just over a century ago. Astounding insights by remarkable men in modern physics, confirmed by numerous experiments, have revealed us a wholly different stage of the reality theatre we’re all playing on. Humanity has made a gigantic leap: from the simplistic, deterministic reality of the pre-20th century world, through the relativistic world of the early- and mid-20th century, into the quantum world of today. We rightfully call it a quantum leap.


Quantum leap profoundly changes our perspectives, and anything we knew (or at least we thought we knew) must now be revalued, realigned, repositioned. Any modern metaphysics that tries to embrace the totality of human existence, its possibilities and the experience of it, must as well embrace the quantum view of reality. Anything falling short of that is not even worth considering as a candidate for a serious, comprehensive worldview.

How this considers you, or me? To paraphrase a modern physicist, our knowledge of a situation changes the situation instantly. By becoming aware, we alter the outcome of the situation. In following paragraphs I’ll continue my previous article (Stubbornly persistent illusion) and scatter some remarkable insights of modern physicists and philosophers of science. I’ll use them as reference points in my forthcoming essays as well, where I’ll reflect upon them in further exploration of different subjects.

To express the scope of quantum physic in one page is impossible, of course, hence I encourage you to explore books and online material to your best ability. Now you know it, you’ve been warned, and let’s see how it will change your reality.


The observer and observer’s universe

When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images.
Niels Bohr, physicist, Nobel prize laureate and one of the pioneers of quantum physics

A physicist is just an atom’s way of looking at itself.
— Niels Bohr

A tendency to exist
The probability wave meant a tendency for something. It was a quantitative version of the old concept of “potentia” in Aristotelian philosophy. It introduces something standing in the middle between the idea of an event and the actual event, a strange kind of physical reality in the middle of possibility and reality.
Werner Heisenberg, physicist, author of the uncertainty principle in quantum physics

Fold, unfold, fold again .. unfold again
Classical physics says that reality is actually little particles that separate the world into its independent elements. Now I’m proposing the reverse, that the fundamental reality is the enfoldment and unfoldment, and these particles are abstractions from that. We could picture the electron not as a particle that exists continuously but as something coming in and going out and then coming in again. If these various condensations are close together, they approximate a track. The electron itself can never be separated from the whole of space, which is its ground.
David Bohm, physicist, venerable contributor to philosophy and neuropsychology too

State of flux
The quantum theory shows that the attempt to describe and follow an atomic particle in precise detail has little meaning. The notion of an atomic path has only a limited domain of applicability. In a more detailed description the atom is, in many ways, seen to behave as much like a wave as a particle. It can perhaps best be regarded as a poorly defined cloud, dependent for its particular form on the particular environment, including the observing instrument. Thus, one can no longer maintain the division between the observer and the observed (which is implicit in the atomistic view that regards each of these as separate aggregates of atoms). Rather, both observer and observed are merging and interpenetrating aspects of one whole reality, which is indivisible and unanalysable.

In this totality, the atomistic form of insight is a simplification and an abstraction, valid only in some limited context. The new form of insight can perhaps best be called Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement.
— David Bohm


When you look at it, and when you don’t look at it

In quantum physics there is something called a “wave”, an intangible, irreducible field of probability, from which all physical matter and energy arise. The “waves” of quantum physics are ways of thinking. They’re not what’s going on in the physical world. Particles — that’s real in the real world. Waves are convenience; they’re a way of thinking. Waves of possibility. Waves of probability. When you aren’t looking it’s like a wave. When you are looking, it’s like a particle.
Fred Alan Wolf, physicist and author of many books on nature of consciousness and quantum theory

Reality is not just the physical world; it’s the relationship of the mind with the physical world that creates the perception of reality. There is no reality without a perception of reality. Would you be here, exist in a physical form, if no one observed you? In a real sense, the answer is no.
— Fred Alan Wolf

Mere observation is enough to alter the history of anything or anyone, even a whole country. By observing, each observer separates into a self and a thing. Often that thing is one’s own face, body, or personality/belief structure.
— Fred Alan Wolf

The observer effect
The observer effect says that there is no reality until that reality is perceived. This profound insight tells us that we alter every object in the world simply by paying attention to it. In this alteration, both the object of our attention and the mind of the observer change. Because we usually don’t pay attention to ourselves in the perception process, our immediate experience usually won’t seem to indicate that our actions of perception changed anything. However, if we construct a careful history of our perceptions, they often show us that our way of perceiving indeed changes the course of our personal histories.

Thus the world is really not as it seems. It certainly seems to be “out there” independent of us, independent of the choices we might make. Yet quantum physics destroys that idea. What is “out there” depends on what we choose to look for.
— Fred Alan Wolf

Observables and observation
Observables are the consequences of our actions. We “do” to observe. We must bring out or cause something to occur in order to observe anything at all. Observation or measurement implies an observer with intelligence, a mind capable of discerning and thereby getting an impression or a perception of things. And that is what makes something go from anything possible to something actual. In other words, observation must be the creator of reality. This popularised the idea “you create your own reality” and that quantum physics and consciousness are related. This gets spiritual when you consider who or what the ultimate observer can be.
— Fred Alan Wolf

Recorded seeing
We don’t see what we see; we see what we remember we see. And you can replace this phrase with “smell”, “taste”, “hear”, “sense”, and perhaps even think. When we see objects “out there”, we not only see them, we replay all the previous information connected to them through past information “recordings”.
— Fred Alan Wolf

Consciousness can alter reality
With all the new medicines coming out, and the new insights we’re gathering about what constitutes health, quantum physics may just be what we need to really grasp how ancient spiritual views of the body and modern scientific views prove that consciousness can alter the reality, and so all illness (both physical and social we can add) may become as outdated as smallpox is today.
— Fred Alan Wolf

The power of illusion
The notion that all these fragments are separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion. Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today. Thus, as is now well known, this way of life has brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder and the creation of an overall environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for most of the people who live in it. Individually there has developed a widespread feeling of helplessness and despair, in the face of what seems to be an overwhelming mass of disparate social forces, going beyond the control and even the comprehension of the human beings who are caught up in it.
David Bohm

Both past and future are not certain
Physicists Albert Einstein and Richard Tolman showed that if quantum mechanics describes events, then even the past is as uncertain as the future.
— Fred Alan Wolf



We create past, and change past, same as we create future and change future. Sounds impossible, because we ‘know’ that past is gone, and is, well, behind us. However, the logical proof of this notion above is quite simple: if the past is gone, and determined, how can such a deterministic set called ‘past’ be a cause for the indeterministic future? Or to put it in parable: if we had apples only in our kitchen yesterday, how we can make an apple, cherry and pear pie today? How we can have more possibilities now than we had them in the past? That past is gone and determined is thus an illusion, but we choose to believe it because our memory is selective and attention span usually short. We obviously didn’t see we have cherries and pears on the shelf somewhere and believed there were none.

To paraphrase Fred Alan Wolf, the past is within vast fields and windmills of our mind. Every day we discover something new about our past, and that in effect changes the course of our future. Thus past indeed is undetermined because it will appear differently as we observe it differently. And vice versa — we imagine some future possibilities that reflect in us some memories from the past, which then cast a new light on a thought, “Ah, I should have done it this way …”. And we do it. We do it now. In one go we change both past and change the course of future.

Nothing is determined.

— Zvonimir Tosic

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  1. […] fundamental to the existence of the universe. It’s a groundbreaking concept known as ‘the observer effect‘. The observer effect says that there is no reality until that reality is perceived. In the […]