Pseudo-physics 101: How Coins Gain “Consciousness”

Consciousness has become the Holy Grail of pseudoscience and modern mysticism. Every lecture, every post, every book by modern mystics and pseudo/quack-scientists is filled with that word, and their overall consensus is that quantum physics permits a favorable explanation of consciousness. But does it?

examples of quack scienceQuantum physics is based on probability. As powerful and as universal as it is, it can only predict the probability of microscopic phenomena. For instance, if you send a particle of light – a photon – toward a double-slit, quantum theory can only predict the probability of which slit the photon goes through. However, since in a typical experiment we are normally dealing with billions and billions of photons, quantum physics can predict the outcome of that experiment with unprecedented accuracy. This is a well known fact in probability theory: when the size of a random sample of an actual experiment is large, probability can predict the outcome of the experiment; the larger the sample, the more accurate the prediction. That’s why pollsters are so accurate, and insurance companies – and casinos – rely so heavily on statistics.

Mystics and pseudoscientists ignore the probabilistic nature of microscopic physics and extrapolate it to macroscopic physics. And since macroscopic physics relates an effect to a cause, this extrapolation heralds “consciousness,” as does any attempt at trying to find cause and effect in any random phenomenon. The following example illustrates how coins become conscious if you try to “explain” their random behavior!

Take 10 coins. Toss them many many times. You’ll see that, on the average, 20% of the times you’ll get 6 heads and 4 tails. Now take 10,000 coins. Toss them many many times. What percentage of the times do you get 6000 heads – the same fraction of the total as before? 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000003%! There are 87 zeros in this number! (If you are comfortable with simple math, see this for the general formula for the probability and how to get the two percentages quoted above.)

Now consider the following curious situation. Divide the 10,000 coins into 1000 groups of 10 coins. Each individual group has a 20% chance of getting 6 heads if there are no other groups around, but when other groups are present, the chance of getting 6 heads for that group diminishes to the point of annihilation! How is that possible? Are each group of coins “aware” of the presence of the other groups? Is there some kind of collective consciousness of the coins? Are the coins actually conscious?

WARNING! If you try to “explain” the outcomes of random events, you may turn into a crackpot!

Probability does not allow any “explanation.” Period! Any attempt at explaining probabilistic events leads to the introduction of super-physical, super-natural, spiritual, non-scientific, anti-scientific, preposterous, and … crackpot ideas.

4 thoughts on “Pseudo-physics 101: How Coins Gain “Consciousness””

  1. Something isn’t right here. Each individual group of 10 coins does have a probability of 20% of getting 6 heads, irrespective of the other groups. The only probability that diminishes to near zero is the probability that all groups will have exactly 6 heads.

  2. Consciousness occurs because of interaction of environment. What you are talking about is software. A software is of no use without a hardware

    1. Pseudo-scientists don’t care about software or hardware. Consciousness is everywhere. It is like a spirit spreading over all universe. So, if they can “prove” that an inanimate object is conscious, they have – they think – proved that it IS everywhere!

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