Does the answer to life after death lie in quantum physics?
Award-winning author and scientist Vadim Babenko certainly thinks so. With a firm commitment to scientific accuracy and an unquestionable creative genius, this visionary writer paints a radical yet theoretically-plausible picture of an afterlife in his latest science-fiction novel, The Place of Quarantine.
By Timothy Arden
Award-winning author Vadim Babenko calls exclusively upon mathematically-sound theories to create intelligent science-fiction with a heart.
Could human consciousness survive the death of the body? Mankind has been asking this profound question since the dawn of self-awareness, but it has also remained firmly outside the realms of science to answer.
It has been left to philosophers, artists and spiritualists to try and provide insight into this seemingly intractable subject, which in modern times has become one of the stables of hard science-fiction.
Award-winning author Vadim Babenko is the latest in a distinguished line of writers including Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov to explore this most fascinating of themes and, like them, he is also a distinguished academic. There are no appeals to a higher power to be found within his dense yet engaging work; unless, that is, you consider the fundamental fabric of reality to qualify.
The central idea driving his latest novel, The Place of Quarantine, and also his next, as-yet unpublished literary project, tentatively entitled Cogito Man, is an enquiry into the possibility that one of the sources of human consciousness is located not within our brains but somewhere outside – even outside our universe and, thus, beyond the realm of our physics.
“There are many consequences of this assumption,” says Vadim, who was a highly-successful scientist and entrepreneur before becoming a full-time novelist.
“One of the most important is that the death of the physical body, and the associated death of consciousness, do not necessarily coincide.
“Another consequence of note, and which I also explore in The Place of Quarantine, is that our destinies may indeed be interconnected; not by any kind of a god but by some still unknown laws of physics.
In his latest novel, The Place of Quarantine, Vadim Babenko explores a quantum theory suggesting that the mind persists after death.
Vadim added: “And yet another potential consequence is that our consciousness may be affected by forces that do not necessarily follow our direction of time. Moreover, it’s quite reasonable to assume that there are two opposite ‘arrows’ of time, one stretching into our future and one into our past, and our minds may be influenced by events happening along both.
“This particular concept, which I will be exploring further in Cogito Man, is closely linked to our life experiences: those peculiar feelings of predestination or having some form of subconscious precognition.”
These are all heady ideas and certainly outside the boundaries of mainstream science, but Vadim is keen to stress that, as an author, he works exclusively with pre-existing, legitimate theories, not pretending to come up with his own, pseudoscientific ones that “explain everything”. He considers only those scientific works that have a solid foundation in math and are published in respected, peer-reviewed journals.
Wading through such periodicals, packed with abstruse terminology and formidable equations, is beyond the reach of most people, but Vadim is among the few authors who possesses the necessary scientific training to handle such challenging material.
Growing up in Russia, he completed a doctoral degree from the Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology (the nation’s equivalent to MIT), and before turning to literature enjoyed an illustrious career in the fields in artificial intelligence (AI) and then microbiology. After this, Vadim relocated to the United States, where he co-founded InforMax Inc., a bioinformatics company, which went public in 2000.
At this point in his life, Vadim decided to reinvent himself as a novelist. Despite his shining career path, he has always viewed literature as his main talent. His penchant for creative fiction, however, wasn’t as much of a leap as might be expected, and gave the author a new medium to, as he put it, “satisfy my urge for searching for answers to the most intriguing questions”.
Vadim Babenko’s third novel, Semmant, was the first to cross into science-fiction, and received the National Indie Excellence Award.
Though writing is a career path filled with uncertainty, Vadim was able to serve his passage and has since received both critical acclaim and a wide range of literary accolades for his novels. His first two, The Black Pelican and A Simple Soul, were nominated for the National Bestseller and the Big Book Awards, Russia’s most prestigious literary prizes, while Semmant, his third novel and which can be viewed as a bridge into hard sci-fi, won the National Indie Excellence Award (USA) in the Science Fiction category.
The Place of Quarantine is his fourth, and latest, release and tells the story of a brilliant scientist, whose staunchly rational worldview is shaken to the core when he awakens, disoriented and confused, in a mysterious place named ‘Quarantine’. He quickly learns to his amazement that his corporeal life is over. With the support of his roommate and an AI mentor assigned as a counsellor, he slowly remembers his life back on Earth and how he was working on a ground-breaking quantum theory of the human mind that held the promise of proving that the human consciousness can exist independently from the body when it dies.
For the novel, Vadim called upon a real scientific theory describing a ‘quantum model of brain’ that was developed over many years by such renowned scientists as Hiroomi Umezawa, Giuseppe Vitiello, Walter Freeman and others.
The crucial idea, as featured in Vadim’s novel, is that our memory and intelligence are formed by two related mechanisms, not just one based solely on activity within our neural cells. It has been known since the middle of the of 20th century that the memorisation, recollection or thinking of things happens simultaneously across the neocortex—too quickly, in fact, to allow the brain’s neurons time to communicate with each other. This, in turn, points to collective quantum dynamics being involved in the creation of our consciousness and, if correct, offers the hope that the energy that underpins our minds can continue to exist after the point of physical death of the brain.
In other words, and as described by Vadim in The Place of Quarantine:
“Thus, the brain – or, more precisely, the part of it responsible for memory – was considered as a single whole, where all components simultaneously interact with each other. This fundamentally differed from the traditional models based on the individual elements of the whole ‘seeing and hearing’ only their nearest neighbours. The two main things – the nonlocality and stability of memory – were now explained in a natural way: first, the oscillations of quantum micro-objects were distributed throughout the entire brain, so that each point instantly received information from the other points regardless of the distance between them; and second, these oscillations require almost no energy in their ground state. They do not die out like classical macrowaves; they are capable of living in the brain for a very long time…”
Vadim continues: “Firstly, it’s important to point out that the quantum model of the brain is based on the mathematical formalism of quantum field theory and has nothing to do with popular yet scientifically dubious ‘theories’ of quantum consciousness which rely on quantum entanglement and other her quantum mechanical phenomena. Quantum mechanics and quantum field theory are completely different things, even though they share the word ‘quantum’. Only the latter is able to predict the macroscopic features of our brain as a whole.
“Different aspects of this theory of the quantum mind have been published in a host of respected scientific peer-reviewed journals, which means that fellow scientists haven’t found flaws in its math. This makes the theory potentially true. It may be that our brains, indeed, function according to this quantum model.
“It also illustrates another interesting point: serious mathematics is a much more powerful ‘source of miracles’ than any religion or our imagination. The most genuine, most amazing wonders are in math, not anywhere else. We see some glimpses of these miracles in our real lives, and I try to uncover them in my books. The possibility that the consciousness can survive bodily death must rank among the most exciting, and inspiring, of scientific ‘miracles’.”
The Place of Quarantine was published earlier this year to glowing reviews. Vadim is now hard at work on his next novel, Cogito Man, which, he says, will go further in exploring these seemingly incredible yet scientifically-sound ideas.
Vadim Babenko’s next novel, Cogito Man, will focus on a man who receives AI-enhanced intelligence.
Like all his novels, it will at its heart tell a human interest story; in this instance, of an ordinary man from London whose life is turned upside down after being chosen to become a living possessor of “adjusted” intelligence (something of a cross between the human brain and AI).
After the adjustment, he starts to feel that his mind is becoming synchronized with vibrations of another, much more powerful entity that allows him to gain a deeper sense of his ‘destiny’.
Vadim said: “It will be based, again, on the notion that the source of our consciousness is located somewhere outside our physical world, but whereas the previous book was about the connection between our mind and global space, Cogito Man investigates the relationship between human consciousness and global time.
“The scientific theory behind this is, again, not a mainstream one but it is similarly based on precise math. Its foundation is the so-called ‘twin universe model’ of great Russian nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov. He was the first who, in the 1960s, offered a potential solution to the evident asymmetry of our universe, suggesting that the universe was made not of a single entity, but two "brother" universes originating from the same Big Bang singularity, and having two arrows of time in opposite directions.
“Mainstream science long ago embraced Sakharov’s fundamental works on universe symmetry (so-called ‘Sakharov conditions’) but still prefers to ignore his theory of a twin universe – as well as further developments of this concept, including those that consider the two universes existing on two ‘sides’ of the same global space and interacting through gravitation.
“If correct, the gravity-extended ‘twin universe’ paradigm has a potential to explain some crucial mysteries of modern physics without involving cover-ups like ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’. At the same time, it could provide a richer and more complete explanation for what we encounter and observe in our lives and, perhaps, serve as another pointer towards a ‘double’ of our mind existing in global multidimensional space.”
Summing up his impressive, and singular, oeuvre, Vadim says that his main aim as an author is to “try to bridge the extraordinary experiences of real life with the most fearless of real science”.
He concluded: “This is my intellectual passion, even if it looks too bold, too strange and is often compromised by pseudo-scientists.
“I try to do it in the most honest way. The extraordinary I have to make believable – going deep into life itself through language, through the magic of words, and uncovering layer after layer of human experience.
“And the science I have to make believable too. That’s why, even though my novels are works of fiction intended for everyone, I do sometimes use quite serious science language that may be difficult for a reader.
“I’m not a sci-pop author explaining science to laymen. Believability requires authenticity — and my protagonists (scientists included) speak, think and contemplate things in the most authentic way.”
The Place of Quarantine by Vadim Babenko (Ergo Sum Publishing) is available now from Amazon, priced £24.99 in hardcover, £12.99 in paperback and £3.23 s a Kindle eBook. For more information about the author, visit www.vadimbabenko.com
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