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A brief history of my contributions to acausality in quantum physics


Fred Alan Wolf

Have Brains / Will Travel:
a Global Quantum Physics Educational Company,

San Francisco CA, USA

Professor Jack Sarfatti asked me to provide an account of my contribution to what we may call acausality as it occurs in quantum physics. My first inklings about this subject occurred in 1983 when in preparing my book[1] Star*Wave for publication, I read John Cramer’s interesting paper[2] on the subject of backwards-through-time quantum wave function, u* acting as a modulation of the normal forward-through-time time quantum wave function u in standard nonrelativistic quantum physics.  Cramer’s account was a new way to interpret quantum physics and gave a plausible reason for calculating probabilities from the multiplication of u by u*.  In Cramer’s account the forward-through-time u was considered as an offer wave initiating at a point i where an event had occurred.  The backwards-through-time u* was likewise an echo wave initiated by a final event f traveling backwards-through-time to the offer event and thus completing a cycle.

What was in my mind, at that time, incomplete in Cramer’s account was that even though this gave the correct mathematical calculation of the probability in quantum physics describing the probable causal connection between i and f, it in no way described how the sequence i to f was made into an actual pairing of two real events.  If for example there were two possible final events f1 and f2 one would have both probabilities i to f1 and i to f2 to take into account without actually knowing which final event f1 or f2 actually occurred.

It seemed to me at the time that one should know what takes place if both the initial and final events are determined. This led me to further investigate the connection between human consciousness and quantum physical probabilities.

Consequently when I finished writing Star*Wave I had included a discussion of Cramer’s transactional interpretation (TI) as outlined in his paper as a possible mechanism for the way the mind works in relation to the brain.

A few years later I published The Body Quantum.[3] In chapter 25 I once again looked into the transactional interpretation.  I wrote:

Whenever atoms are arranged in a highly repetitive pattern, such as those found in crystals or in the long strands of molecular DNA, the quantum wave functions also take on a similar pattern.  This pattern constitutes a continual kind of observation in which the quantum wave function, in a sense, is observing itself over and over again.  Quantum waves and quantum wave functions can be imagined as constrained by such a pattern, which, in fact, gives the structure its stability.

The quantum wave function, in my view, turns on and off through the observer effect.  When an observations occurs, the quantum wave function “pops,” and a pointlike atom, or part of an atom, is manifested for an instant.  When no observation takes place, the quantum wave function “hangs around,” like a ghost, in the same locale in which it first popped.  This sequence is highly reinforced by the repeating structure.

To try to imagine this concept is difficult because there are many atoms involved.  The quantum wave functions, as I imagine it, are “resonating” with the structure of the molecules, so that each quantum wave function turns on and off with many oscillations.  From the solid molecule’s point of view, this corresponds to its own self-observation.

This viewpoint can be contrasted with a single atom’s self-observation: It, too, can be thought of as being in a self-observation pattern, wherein its quantum wave function turns on and off.  But being an isolated atom means that the pattern will display a higher degree of randomness.  At the atomic level, this pattern appears as the atom itself, vanishing and reappearing in a sequence of random points, blurring, more or less, into a solid object. 

Thus, each quantum wave function pattern is highly specific to the element it represents.  A quantum wave function for the hydrogen atom is quite different in, detail from the quantum wave function of a carbon atom.

When a sugar-phosphate molecule repeats itself as an endless chain of snakelike strands, winding around each other much like a spiral staircase, an infinite hall-of-mirrors effect manifests itself, allowing the living, conscious molecule to appear.  I am describing, of course, the molecule of genetic life, deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.

The second idea is even stranger and more speculative.  There are actually two quantum wave functions involved in a quantum wave function pop, the second of which, the star quantum wave function or star wave (as I referred to it in my previous book[4]), is similar in form to the ordinary quantum wave function, only orientated backward in space-time.  Thus, an ordinary quantum wave function, u, moving from here-now to there-then, is met by a star quantum wave function, u*, from the there-then moving toward the here-now.  These quantum wave functions multiply together, yielding the product u*u; that is, u* multiplying u. Now, it is not speculation that one must multiply ordinary quantum wave function u by its star quantum wave function u* in order to calculate the relative probability that quantum wave function events will occur; that is exactly what quantum physicists do when they determine the likelihood that any event will occur.  The speculation surrounds the idea that u* comes from the future, traveling backward through time, much like the wave that, bouncing off the shore, travels back toward the source of the wave.  I wasn’t able justify this idea by any physical experiment, at least not at that time.

I believed this idea is important because it could explain how the evolution of anything can take place.  My idea is similar to those that Sir Fred Hoyle discusses in his book The Intelligent Universe.[5]  Merely left to the odds, it is extremely unlikely that anything as orderly as a human being would arise at all simply from random processes.  As I explained in Chapter 11, of the body quantum there needs to be some form of intelligence involved.  But the question is, how does that intelligence act?  Of course, I could just postulate that there is a Supreme Intelligence and that this being can act in any way that it sees fit.  As Niels Bohr once remarked to Albert Einstein, when he was trying to figure out how God did it, “Stop telling God what to do.”

I certainly don’t want to do that! But I do want to know how God does it.  Yet, as a physicist, I am somewhat constrained: I can’t postulate just any idea, because a scientific idea, in order to be considered valid, must fit with what we already know (or, at least, “think” we know).  The idea that W* comes from the future may just save the day, however.  As Hoyle puts it:

If events could operate not only from past to future, but also from future to past, the seemingly intractable problem of quantum uncertainty could be solved.  Instead of living matter becoming more and more disorganized, it could react to quantum signals from the future—the information necessary for the development of life.  Instead of the Universe committed to increasing disorder and decay, the opposite could then be true.  (Hoyle, p.  213.)


In a highly organized material containing repeating patterns, the u*u content becomes highly repetitive, producing a probability pattern of reinforced strength.  Thus, crystals of repeating materials, such as sodium chloride, carbon lattices (such as diamond), and other single crystals of metals and metals in combinations with other substances, possess great strength or other unusual properties.

In DNA we have a similar phenomenon of great repetition, with complex patterns of sugar-phosphate backbones interrupted by the much longer, seemingly random steps of base pairs linked :together in complementary codes.  These bases, you’ll recall, occur four types: A, C, G, T.

Here a third idea surfaces: Because of the repetition of the DNA structure, the likelihood of a repeating u*u pattern is highly enhanced, with the u* involved propagating from a near future to the present.  The signal from the future is more or less the same as that from the past, and the pattern, consequently, tends toward stability.  The more stable the pattern, the less likely that the distant future will disturb it.  Again, the idea that there exists a resonance between the quantum wave function and its structure—involving both the past and the future—is at play here.  Signals from the distant future do arrive, however; without them, DNA would never alter its patterns.  But the more stable the reinforcement brought on by the repetition of the strand, the smaller the disturbance produced.  It is the interplay of the endless crystalline repetition of the DNA strands, twisting in space and dancing in time as vibrations with the almost though not quite random patterns of A, C, G, and T bases, that produces stable animal and plant consciousness.  Consciousness, as we commonly experience it, thereby emerges as a consequence of the quantum wave function vibration patterns associated with DNA vibration patterns repeating and resonating with both the future and the past.

Molecules of DNA within shouting distance of each other also vibrate, sending quantum semaphore messages back and forth, and in this manner a resonance arises between neighboring molecules.  This resonance is much like any other resonance phenomenon, such as a building’s vibrations in the wind or the rolling of a ship on the high seas.  With energy being fed from one molecule to the other at just the right frequency to induce the other molecule to respond, the two resonate together.  It is this resonance of waves in different cells that could result in the healing of the cells.

Illness could result from an opposite effect.  When molecules are off-resonance, they fail to communicate with each other; such off-resonance could arise from atomic changes in the molecules or from subtle changes in the probability patterns of the quantum wave functions, possibly brought on by negative thinking.  Influenced by such thinking, perhaps molecules tend to isolate themselves, forming self-contained units of limited capacity.  Such molecular isolation can be understood in terms of our own behavior when we feel depressed or unduly anxious about something, and want to be alone in our misery.

Consequently, illness and negative thinking could create molecular islands of separation within our cells.  Healing energy counters this separation tendency by fostering correlations between molecules: One molecule heals another.

   A few years later I looked once again at this issue acausality in my paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology[6] entitled “On the Quantum Physical Theory of Subjective Antedating.” In this paper I was still wondering how quantum physical probabilities were related to conscious human experience and I found a possible relationship. In brief: a single conscious instant requires in the physical brain both the occurrence of a past and a future event. In this paper I explained if as follows:

Assuming that neuronal adequacy and experience were one and the same, Libet (1985)[7] pointed out the obvious discrepancy between the time of the experience of an event—the subjective referral—and the time of neuronal adequacy required to experience the event. I suggested an alternative proposal. Neuronal adequacy and subjective experience were not one and the same events. Neither were peripheral stimulation and subjective experience one and the same events, even though they seemed to be. The truth actually lies somewhere in-between. Both the stimulation and neuronal adequacy (two events) are needed for the conscious (one event) experience, even though the time of that experience is referred back to the peripheral sensation.

This proposal was based on ideas put forward in my Star*Wave book (1984) and upon the new TI of quantum mechanics stated by Cramer (1983, 1986). According to the TI, a future event and a present event are involved in a transaction wherein a real quantum wave of probability (retarded wave), u, called the “offer” wave, issues from the present event to the future event. The future event is then stimulated to send back through time an “echo” wave (advanced wave), u*, towards the present event. The echo wave is the complex conjugate of the offer wave.

According to the rules of quantum mechanics, the probability distribution (probability per unit volume) for an event to occur, is given by u*u. However, no other interpretation explains how this product arises physically. Following the TI, the echo wave modulates the offer wave thus producing the required u*u probability pattern. Thus, it is necessary for future events to influence present or past events by sending back into time a corresponding echo wave, u*, following an offer wave, u, from the present or past. Specifically, the echo wave contains the complex conjugate reflection of the offer wave multiplying the offer wave in much the same manner as an audio wave modulates a high frequency carrier signal in radio broadcasting. The probability, u*u, which then results in a probability for a transaction—a correlation between the two events—arises as a probability field at the initial event.

The events in question (stimulation and neuronal adequacy) are time-like separated. Thus, according to the theory of relativity, there is no way that these two events could be ever be simultaneously observable as was postulated by Snyder. Hence his attempt to resolve the paradox was not tenable.[8] However, the fact that the observer of those events sees them as simultaneous means that his mind acts as a kind of “time machine”. That is, the experience of the event is “projected” back in time towards the occurrence of the sensation.

Libet had suggested that this may be an illusion, that the real “recognition” of the event only occurred later at the time of neuronal adequacy and that the subject “subjectively” and mistakenly remembered the event as having occurred earlier. Whether or not this is an illusion is at present not experimentally testable. In any case, one must wonder why subjects believe that their knowledge or recognition of an event is a simultaneous occurrence with the event if indeed the knowing and the stimulation are time-like separated.

I believed this backwards-in-time projection between a neural event and a stimulus can be consistently accounted for using the TI of quantum mechanics. In this case, the present event (the peripheral sensation), S, sends a forward-through-time probability offer wave to a future event (neuronal adequacy), N. Most likely, N lies on the area of the cortex normally associated with the sensation. The future event, N, sends a backwards-through-time probability echo wave to the present event, S.

According to the TI, the S to N offer wave stimulates the N to S echo wave. The N to S echo wave then carries a replica of the S to N offer wave back towards the original stimulation. The N to S echo wave arriving at the location of the source, S, is the probability for the correlation of the events. If the two waves ‘resonate,’ meaning that the probability for the S to N correlation is large, then a significant probability for the two events is achieved. In this manner, that which is significantly measurable—has the largest probability—is also that which is brought to conscious awareness. In my view then, all possible future events are in contact with a present event, however, the most probable future events are those that produce the largest value of u*u, and consequently constitute an event in consciousness.

I offered the hypothesis that whenever two events are so correlated, i.e., the probability for the events is not a priori zero, they will be experienced as one and the same event. I suggested that this means, in general, that any two quantum physically correlated events separated in time or space will constitute a single experience.

Upon further thought I realized that although Cramer’s hypothesis took care of providing a probability distribution surrounding in spacetime the offer event it still did not account for which final event corresponded to human experience. Years later in 1998 I looked farther into the work of Libet and his co-workers.[9] Aharonov and his coworkers had been working on a scheme to represent quantum physics in terms of two-time quantum wave functions—that is one not only specified the initial condition of the quantum wave function but also its final state as well. Consequently I based my new work on the work of Aharonov and his co-workers. I wrote the introduction and conclusion of the paper as follows:

I offer a quantum physical resolution similar to that of the Wheeler delayed choice experiment in quantum physics of the delay-and-antedating hypothesis/paradox put forward by Libet et al. (1979) to explain certain temporal anomalies associated with passive perception. I propose a model wherein two neural events cause backward-through-time and forward-through-time neurological signaling in accordance with wave function collapse in the intervening space-time interval. Pairs of causality-violating events must occur in the brain in order that a single experience in consciousness occurs. The model offers a first step towards the development of a quantum physical theory of subjective awareness and suggests that biological systems evolve and continue to function in accordance with a causality-violating, two-valued, transactional model of quantum mechanics. The model makes a new prediction about the timings of passive bodily sensory experiences and imagined or phantom sensory experiences. The predictions of the model are compared with experimental data indicating agreement and new experiments are proposed testing the model.

In his recent book Penrose (1989)[10] poses the paradox of the relationship of awareness and physical events that elicit it as follows, “Is there really an ‘actual time’ at which a conscious experience does take place, where that particular ‘time of experience’ must precede the time of any effect of a ‘free-willed response’ to that experience?... If consciousness... cannot be understood... without...quantum theory then it might... be... that... our conclusions about causality, non-locality, and contrafactuality are incorrect.”

Penrose believed that there are reasons for being suspicious of our physical notions of time in relation to physics whenever quantum non-locality and contrafactuality are involved.

I would add that the same thing must be said with regard to consciousness. He suggests that if, in some manifestation of consciousness, classical reasoning about the temporal ordering of events leads us to a contradictory conclusion, then this is strong indication that quantum actions are indeed at work!

In this paper I examined a quantum theory of the relationship between the awareness of timings of events and their corresponding physical correlates and showed that indeed not only are quantum actions at work, they are indispensable in explaining the temporal paradoxes inherent in the phenomena.

I concluded my article (1998) with these comments:

When it comes to time in physics, we are somewhat at a loss. All of our equations are unique in one very real sense, there is no specific order to the sequences of events we label as the passage of time. Both Newtonian physics and quantum physics share this apparent fault in disagreement with our common sense experiences. We could just as well write equations and set up appropriate spatial and temporal boundary conditions of retrodiction in place of prediction and feel equally satisfied that we had the correct equations. Indeed, if we do simple enough experiments we find that retrodicting is as good as predicting when it comes to determining what shall be happening in the next sequence of events either following or preceding.

In life, with all of its complexity and its ultimate human measure, time marches on. Fallen cracked eggs do not jump off the floor into our outstretched hands. Dead loved ones do not reconstitute themselves and resurrect. We grow older each day not younger. How are we to ever explain this scientifically and fundamentally? It would seem that we are missing something essential when it comes to time.

Two bits of data we know. Conscious experience of events and the second law of thermodynamics. The first bit is subjective in its context while the second is purely objective. We certainly know that we can think a thought, write a sentence, and find the words are uniquely time ordered. We certainly know of the fact that hot bodies cool down and cold bodies warm up. Is there some connection between these data bits?

So far we have no theory that connects them. While much as been done in the objective arena to connect thermodynamics and statistical mechanics to quantum mechanics, even some remarkably clever insights, we still do not have a fundamental theory connecting them. Given Planck’s constant, the speed of light, the gravitational constant, and the mass of any particle you wish to mention, we cannot derive Boltzmann’s remarkable constant of nature.

In the world of subjective experience very little has been done by physicists and for probably very good reason; no one knows what to do, what to measure, or even if it is ethical to perform such measurements (usually involving the human brain) even if we knew what we were looking for. Here Libet’s remarkable experiments need special mention. At least in them we are provided with a clue concerning subjective time order. Perhaps there is something fundamental in the notion that our equations are not time order unique and the theory given here that according to subjective experience we need two or more separate events to have a single perception. Perhaps this theory that a perceived event requires information flowing from end points coming before it and after it, much like a stringed musical instrument requires information coming from its nodal end points to set up standing wave patterns of musical harmony, is a fundamental requirement for both time order uniqueness and subjective experience.

It would seem to me that now we need to look toward altering our concept of time in some manner, not that this is an easy thing to do. Perhaps we should begin with the idea that a single event in time is really as meaningless as a single event in space or a single velocity. Meaningful relation arises as a correspondence, a relationship with some reference object. Hence an object’s velocity is meaningfully measurable with respect to another object’s velocity as the relative velocity between them. In a similar manner as I point out in this paper, the timing of an event is also only meaningful in reference to another timing event. When the end points or reference times for the events are not specified, then only the relative interval becomes relevant. When that interval lies within the limitation of quantum uncertainty, the event referred to within the interval must also lie within that uncertainty. Failure to note this leads to apparent timing paradoxes.

The resolution of temporal paradoxes particularly as they show themselves in future quantum physical objective experiments and in subjective timing experiments will continue to require a new vision of time. Perhaps this paper will assist us in our search for a new theory of time.

According to Aharonov:

Until now we have limited ourselves to the possibility of two boundary conditions which obtain their assignment due to selections made before and after a measurement. It is feasible and even suggestive to consider an extension of quantum mechanics to include both a wavefunction arriving from the past and a second ‘destiny’ wavefunction coming from the future which are determined by two boundary conditions, rather than a measurement and selection. This proposal could solve the issue of the “collapse” of the wavefunction in a new and more natural way: every time a measurement takes place and the possible measurement outcomes decohere, then the future boundary condition simply selects one out of many possible outcomes. It also implies a kind of ‘teleology’ which might prove fruitful in addressing the anthropic and fine tuning issues. The possibility of a final boundary condition on the universe could be probed experimentally by searching for ‘quantum miracles’ on a cosmological scale. While a “classical miracle” is a rare event that can be explained by a very unusual initial boundary-condition, “Quantum Miracles” are those events which cannot naturally be explained through any special initial boundary-condition, only through initial-and-final boundary-conditions. By way of example, destiny-post-selection could be used to create the right dark energy or the right negative pressure.



I am of course pleased to see Aharonov’s conclusion. I originated the idea in terms of brain function in my earlier publications and it is the analysis of the problem as carried out by Aharonov and his colleagues on weak measurement theory and two-time quantum physics that makes the theory feasible.[11] Although we have known for perhaps close to 100 years that quantum physics really cannot be put into a mathematical logical format without realizing that the basic structure of quantum physics is probability theory, the relation between probabilities and physical events, although clear in quantum physics theory, is still fraught with many misunderstanding and needless philosophical meanderings. The main culprit in all of this is the rather dogmatic insistence on temporal causality being a fundamental cornerstone of any physical theory. As time marches on into the next 100 years of quantum physics history, we are beginning to see that causality is not in lockstep with temporal sequence—events that haven’t happened yet do and will have an effect on events that are happening right now. We are not surprised that events that have occurred in the past—no matter how distant or close to the present moment—can and do affect the present. Even though logically the past is no more present than is the future, we might take it for granted that putting causality in lockstep with only a past to present one way flow relationship is merely an old prejudice, one that we have accepted for perhaps thousands of years and most likely caused by our human survival instincts and desire to have a rational universe.

In order to reach any logical form of causality within the range and environment of quantum physics thinking, it has become apparent that both events in the future and past do have a determining effect on the present.  In essence the seemingly magical complex arithmetic of quantum physical calculations become real measureable predictions of the probabilities of events only when we are allowed to run the flows in both directions—from future to present and from past to present simultaneously, so to speak. It takes two events to make one conscious experience.  This appears to be the direction we are taking to finally realize how mind and quantum physical reality relate, if they have any relationship at all.

[1] Wolf, Fred Alan. Star Wave: Mind, Consciousness, and Quantum Physics. New York: Macmillan, 1984.

[2] Cramer, John G. “Generalized Absorber Theory and the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox,” Physical Review D 22 (1980), p. 362.

———. “The Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics,” Reviews of Modern Physics 58: 3 (July 1986), pp. 647–87.



[3] Fred Alan Wolf. The Body Quantum: The New Physics of Body, Mind and Health, for. NY. Macmillan Publishing Co. 1986.Chapter 25. pp 209-18. Also published in England by Heinemann Ltd. and in Germany as Körper, Geist und neue Physik: Eine Synthese der neuesten Erkenntnisse Von Medizin und Moderner Naturwissenschaft Scherz Verlag, 1989

[4] Fred Alan Wolf. Star*Wave: Mind, Consciousness and Quantum Physics. NY: Macmillan October, 1984. Also published as Mind and the New Physics. by Heinemann Ltd. London, England, March, 1985.

[5] Fred Hoyle. The Intelligent Universe. NY:  Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.  1984.

[6] Wolf, Fred Alan. “On the Quantum Physical Theory of Subjective Antedating,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 136 (1989), pp. 13–19.

[7] Libet, B. (1985). Subjective Antedating of a Sensory Experience and Mind-Brain Theories: Reply to Honderich (1984). J. theor. Biol. 114, 563-570.

Libet, B., Wright, E. W., Feinstein, B. & Pearl, D. K. (1979). Brain 102, 193.


[8] Snyder, D. M. Letter to the editor: On the Time of a Conscious Peripheral Sensation. J. theor. Biol. 130, (1988) 253-254.


[9] Wolf, F. A. (1998). The timing of conscious experience. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 12, 4, 511.

[10] Penrose, R. (1989). The Emperor’s New Mind. New York: Penguin Books, p. 442.

[11] Wolf, Fred Alan. “On the Quantum Physical Theory of Subjective Antedating,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 136 (1989), pp. 13–19.

Wolf, F. A. (1998). “The timing of conscious experience.” Journal of Scientific Exploration, 12, 4, 511.

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