Can you be in two places at once?

Ever wish you could be in two places at once? Microscopic systems like atoms, molecules, and even cells can be in two places at once. So, why can’t macroscopic systems, like a human body? Or can we??

In our everyday reality (called the classical world), our physical laws say it’s impossible to be in two places at once. But, according to quantum mechanics, microscopic systems can be in two or more places at the same time, a principle called superposition (also called quantum weirdness—no explanation needed). Atoms and electrons can be in two places at once. New discoveries are showing that molecules in plants and cells in birds also share this seemingly impossible characteristic. And, some theories now suggest that the neurons in our brain and, incredibly, DNA might also use this special ability.

The really neat thing about objects in superposition is that they remain somehow interconnected and can communicate even when they are separated, a characteristic called entanglement. In addition, what affects one will instantly affect the other even if they are separated by great distances.

One question bothering some physicists though is: why can’t larger objects in the everyday world, like a ball or a person, achieve quantum superposition and be in two places at once? The problem with superposition is that, the larger an object, the more easily its fragile quantum state collapses and is reduced to only one of its two locations. No one knows why a superposition collapses, but two of the most well known theories include:

  1. the conscious observer, who by observing or measuring the quantum state, induces it to collapse; and,
  2. the multiple universes view in which, when a superposition collapses, each state branches off to form another universe, resulting in an infinite number of universes.

The Penrose Interpretation

A third theory, known as the Penrose interpretation, was developed by Sir Roger Penrose, a respected and at times controversial physicist. Penrose theorizes that the collapse of large objects from their superposition is caused by gravity. Electrons, atoms, and molecules are so small that their gravity, and the energy needed to keep them in two places at once indefinitely, is insignificant.

However, large objects cannot exist in more than one place because of their significant gravitational fields that cause their superposition to collapse almost immediately. Penrose calculates that a person collapses to one place in a trillion-trillionth of a second. In comparison, a dust speck takes a whole second before collapsing (funny, I could swear the dust specks in my house are continually in superposition, given the number of them…).

Penrose and other physicists are still working on experiments to prove, disprove or refine the Penrose interpretation. But, let’s suppose for a moment that gravity is a factor in the collapse of a superposition, could that help to explain the phenomena of seeing someone’s double?

Seeing Double

On June 22, 1893, Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon walked through the drawing room of his family home in London, looking straight ahead, without exchanging a word to anyone at the party being given by his wife. What made his appearance quite strange was that he was supposed to be on a ship off the coast of Syria. His wife later discovered that he had gone down with his ship, the HMS Victoria, that very same night.

Doppelgängers, bilocation and apparitional experiences are all instances in which an individual appears to be in two places at the same time.

  • Bilocation is the state of being or the ability to be in two places at the same time and is often attributed to saints and religious figures.
  • doppelgänger is a tangible double of a living person that, to some, is a harbinger of bad luck or evil. The word is also used to describe the sensation of having glimpsed oneself in peripheral vision, when it could not have been a reflection.
  • Apparitional experience is a term used in psychology and parapsychology to describe the unusual experience of apparently perceiving a living being or an inanimate object that isn’t physically there.

In most cases, these “doubles” appear to be solid and not transparent, and can be very realistic. An apparitional figure does not usually engage in any verbal or other type of interaction, and just disappears after a very short time. In some traditions, a doppelgänger seen by a person’s friends or relatives portends illness or danger.

If certain conditions are in place, could a brief moment of superposition be the cause of these unexplained sightings? If Penrose’s theory is correct about the importance of gravity in superposition, would it be possible for a person to experience a longer moment of superposition if their gravitational field is momentarily greatly reduced?

People who meditate or who experience sudden trauma or intense emotions often report a feeling of extreme lightness, of pure energy and/or of feeling detached from their physical body. Out-of-body experiences (OBEs), when a person’s conscious awareness appears to detach itself from the physical body and to travel to another location, occur most often during sleep, meditation, anaesthesia, illness, near death or sudden trauma. Could this physical lightness somehow cause a large enough reduction in a person’s gravitational field, allowing their superposition to remain intact for a bit longer than usual?

Other factors must come into play since, otherwise, all people who sleep, meditate, are anaesthetized, have an illness, are near death and suffer sudden trauma would be walking all over the place. Now that would be intense quantum weirdness.

Future posts will talk more about the scientific exploration of quantum superpositions and their potential importance in our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual lives.

Sources and Further Reading

Folger, Tim. “If an Electron Can Be in Two Places at Once, Why Can’t You?” Discover. June 2005 issue; published online June 5, 2005. Accessed February 1, 2011. http://discovermagazine.com/2005/jun/cover
“Penrose Interpretation” on Wikipedia. Accessed February 1, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penrose_Interpretation
Gao, Shan. “On Diósi-Penrose Criterion of Gravity-Induced Quantum Collapse.” International Journal of Theoretical Physics (2010) 49: 849–853. (DOI 10.1007/s10773-010-0266-9) Published online 9 February 2010. Accessed February 10, 2011. http://www.sciencenet.cn/upload/blog/file/2010/8/2010810193411623942.pdf
Romero-Isart, Orio et al. “Toward Quantum Superposition of Living Organisms.” New Journal of Physics. 12:033015, 2010. Accessed at http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0909/0909.1469v3.pdf on  February 7, 2011.
Webb, Richard. “First quantum effects seen in visible object.” New Scientist online. Published 18:00 17 March 2010. Accessed February 7, 2011. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18669-first-quantum-effects-seen-in-visible-object.html
Kruglinski, Susan. “Roger Penrose Says Physics Is Wrong, From String Theory to Quantum Mechanics.” Discover. From the September 2009 issue; published online October 6, 2009. Accessed February 8, 2011. http://discovermagazine.com/2009/sep/06-discover-interview-roger-penrose-says-physics-is-wrong-string-theory-quantum-mechanics/?searchterm=”roger penrose”. Accessed February 7, 2011.
Musser, George. “Twistor Theory Reignites the Latest Superstring Revolution.” Scientific American. June 7, 2010. Accessed February 8, 2011. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=simple-twist-of-fate
Interview for Insight, an Australian magazine sponsored by the Center for Human Development. Reprinted on website of Stuart Hameroff, MD (who is working with Roger Penrose on consciousness). Accessed February 8, 2011. http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/roundabout.htm
Awschalom, David D. et al. “Spintronics” Scientific American. Published May 13, 2002. Accessed January 7, 2011. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=spintronics
Hameroff, Stuart. “Base Pair Qubits.” On his website at http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/dnaquantumcomputera.htm. July 4, 2010. Accessed February 9, 2011. Based on a recent paper by Rieper, Anders and Vedral; arxiv.org/abs/1006.4053: The Relevance of Continuous Variable Entanglement in DNA.
 “Quantum Entanglement Holds DNA Together, Say Physicists.”  Technology Review. 06/28/2010. Accessed February 9, 2011. http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/25375/
 Keim, Brandon. “Everywhere in a Flash: The Quantum Physics of Photosynthesis.” Wired Science. Published February 3, 2010, 2:40 pm. Accessed on February 9, 2011. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/02/quantum-photosynthesis/
Apparitional experience. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Accessed February 10, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apparitional_experience
Doppelgänger. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Accessed February 10, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppelg%C3%A4nger
Bilocation. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Accessed February 10, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilocation

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Touchy Subjects is owned and operated by Brenda Piquette. All information on the Touchy Subjects blog is copyright Brenda Piquette 2010 / 2011. Note: This information is provided for entertainment purposes only and should be verified for accuracy.

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18 Responses to Can you be in two places at once?

  1. Mona Piquette says:

    Brenda ,es-ce que ceci pourrait expliquer la chose que ma maman a vu ???? elle avait une bouteille d’un liquide ??? sur une tablette …A l’heure exacte que Rose , la soeur de mon père est morte , la bouteille s’est brisée en deux … une fente très précise ….

  2. Je ne sais pas; c’est différent puisque c’est une bouteille et non une personne. Je peux faire d’autres recherches pour m’informer.

  3. A moins que ta tante a eu un OBE juste avant ou juste au moment de sa mort et est allée chez vous. Mais je ne sais pas si les gens qui ont des OBEs peuvent manipuler les objects physiques.

  4. Pingback: Can you have only one pole? |

  5. jessica says:

    i had a exspirience when i was at home feeling very spooked when out of the corner of my eye i saw what i thought was a ghost when i had fully looked it was acshally myself with an exspression which i often use asif to laugh at myself .. has left me feeling very weird and also im scared because my house seems to be very actively haunted

    • Hi Jessica – Thanks for sharing your experience. I can’t tell you what you saw but my suggestion when you get scared at home is to speak clearly and firmly to whatever you think is there, which might help to make you feel better. Cracking jokes and laughing also helps (read some Calvin & Hobbes out loud!). Brenda

  6. mothman777 says:

    http://www.prabhupada-books.de/leben/life-book4.html

    Srila Prabhupada. Yes. And, moreover, if in this inferior energy there are so many wonderful varieties of life, just think how wonderful are the superior varieties of life in the spiritual world. Even in this material universe, the inhabitants of some planets are far superior to those on other planets. For example, people on earth practice mystic yoga for achieving wonderful powers, but people on the planet called Siddhaloka have these great yogic powers naturally. On earth it is natural that a bird can fly; but we cannot, except with costly machines. However, on such planets as Siddhaloka, the residents can fly even from one planet to another without machines. They can go to other planets simply at will. Even on earth there are some yogis who can take their bath early in the morning in four places at once–Jagannatha Puri, Ramesvara, Hardwar and Dvaraka.[22] One yogi friend used to visit my father in Calcutta. The yogi told him that when he (the yogi) would simply sit down and touch his guru, he would travel from Calcutta to Dvaraka in two minutes. That is yogic power. So what are today’s airplanes? Durvasa Muni traveled all over the universe and up to Vaikuntha[23] within one year. According to modern calculations, certain planets in this universe are more than forty thousand light-years[24] distant from the earth. This means it would take forty thousand years to reach these planets if you traveled at the speed of light. Even if they had the means, how could the astronauts live for forty thousand years? So, why are they so proud?

    Dr. Singh. The scientists have a theory that they can produce a machine that will travel at the speed of light.

    Srila Prabhupada. That is rascaldom. They say that, but they will never be able to do it.

    • Thanks for the post, Mothman777. Interestingly, re travelling at the speed of light, scientists think there may be wormholes in folded space that could have one end in one place in the universe and the other end very far away in another spot in the universe. The trick, of course, is that you have to be as small as a particle to travel through them and you have to stabilize the wormhole long enough but, if this proves to be true, it might be possible in the future to transpose all of your particles from one end of the universe to the other (for those of us who are not yogis).

      • mothman777 says:

        But you are not made of material particles, so any transfer done by a mere machine might transfer a soulless body, or maybe just construct a duplicate of your present one at some distance that you could transfer into , if you had the spiritual technique to match that, and such a technique does exist, with Tibetan yogis and others being able to take on someone else’s body by agreement for instance, if the other soul who is the original inhabitant no longer wishes to inhabit it.

        The Vedic scriptures talk of space travellers from all planetary systems in this particular universe (out of many trillions) visiting Lord Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu on this Earth around 500 years ago, and their means of travelling would have been in various types of spacecraft of differing technologies, or indeed, simply bilocation or even space travel without spacecraft, as the ancient human Chinese daoists are recorded as having done, it being said that they even travelled in outer space in their present bodies without craft.

        I have spoken with a Muslim preacher who is a direct descendant of Prophet Mohammed, and this preacher tells me that his present day uncle has a siddhi whereby he can instantly teleport from say, Karachi to London in his full physical body and walk around in London, and I believe him, as such material siddhis are available to anyone in any religion.

        http://www.bvml.org/books/CC/antya/09.html Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Antya Lila, Chapter 9, Texts 7-8 This literature contains the history of many different species of humanoid visitors from many other planets all over this universe visiting this planet over 500 years ago, and even reptilians who follow the Vaishnava path of devotion to Lord Krishna are cast in a friendly light here.

        This particular material universe is broadly divided into three different levels of spirituality, with 14 subdivisions in total throughout all 3 levels.

        ‘People from the three worlds used to come visit Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Anyone who saw Him received the transcendental treasure of love for Krsna.

        ‘The inhabitants of the seven higher planetary systems–including the demigods, the Gandharvas and the Kinnaras–and the inhabitants of the seven lower planetary systems [Patalaloka], including the demons and serpentine living entities, all visited Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the dress of human beings.’

        This may be a reference to their cloaking ability, but other species are referred to here as possessing it too, unless simple style of dress is being referred to in the main here, though some of these beings would actually come from material dimensions that are not normally visible on our wavelength of perception, so they would need to assume ‘dress’ to enable human residents of this planet to see them, that is, unless some of them actually visited just in their normal subtle bodies in their subtle material spacecrafts, and those would only have been visible to the devotees with multidimensional vision. All the visiting alien humanoid species danced and chanted Hare Krishna with the incarnation of the Supreme Lord Krishna, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

        Travelling instantly, rather than faster than light, is already possible, not only for the residents of Siddhaloka within this material world, to material dimensions, but also for the accomplished yogis who dwell in Vaikuntha (‘Sach Khand’ as the Sikhs call the eternal spiritual world), who can travel to any destination in any dimension at all. I can vouch for that by my own frequent experience of yogis manifesting to me from Vaikuntha, the spiritual world, to communicate with me when I do yoga, or read their books, that they published in this world when they previously incarnated here before going back to the spiritual world. Lord Krishna Himself manifests also to me, but He is everywhere all at once already of course, and sometimes I see His face clearly, with big black lotus eyes without any pupils in His transcendental form, though the murti forms of Krishna that are constructed in this world usually have human type eyes with white eyes containing pupils, to represent how He manifested during His incarnations on this Earth; recently I have been seeing the face of Lord Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which is a really nice blessing. Krishna is also always present in the beauty in flowers for instance, so He is never that distant from anyone, as well as residing constanty in the anahata, or heart chakra of every soul throughout infinity as their Supersoul.

        I also receive communication from some yogis who have chosen to dwell in the Brahman white light, as well as telepathic communication from very many people in this world, all as fast as the speed of mind, which is instant.

        Such ‘visits’, ‘manifestations’, and possibly bi, or multi-locations, are manifest instantly in response to prayerful thought, often when reading Vaishnava literature, or thinking about Krishna. A yogi is not restricted to manifesting only 4 times when in the Vaikuntha Goloka planet, as with the potency of Sarshti, which all devotees possess there, through which Lord Krishna shares His opulences and nitya siddhis with such a devotee, an advanced devotee can manifest to many thousands of people all at once in this world.

        If we can have some experience of perceiving different qualities of consciousness in different dimensions without even having to use spacecraft, then so much the better, and by affining ourselves with higher atmospheres of consciousness even in this life, then after this life we can be transferred to higher planets, especially to the spiritual worlds.

        Yogis very often manifest to me without me having communicated to them first also, so it is a two-way thing. Krishna is the supreme telephone system operator in this regard, as He is both the substance and the medium through which all communication occurs, the vibration of all souls passing through His soul to communicate with any other. In fact, whenever I read a book by any yogi, no matter what their individual belief system is, I am placed in touch with them by telepathy, which is a very pleasant experience when situated in the grace of Krishna, otherwise telepathy can be a troublesome experience. Travelling, or communicating, to help develop spiritual Krishna consciousness in others is the correct and appropriate reason to travel, or communicate, otherwise one shares only maya consciousness in bondage of misidentifying oneself as a material entity with others. It is best to help others to receive the grace of the knowledge of Krishna as their own Higher Self and ‘God’, that is, the constitutional head of the cosmic body of all souls. Then they are complete beings once again and can share true spiritual pleasure with Krishna and with each other. When one attempts to travel, or communicate with this in mind, then such attempts will have objective meaning and be liberating and successful. It would be much better if astronauts were all Krishna conscious, rather than ‘maya’ conscious, before they travelled, then at least they might have some more interesting experiences with UFO’s, though many inhabitants of UFO’s also are sadly merely ‘maya’ conscious themselves, but at least they could help them progress also perhaps.

        You might find Srila Prabhupada’s book; ‘Easy Journey to Other Planets’ quite good reading, and very liberating. Here is his original and unaltered edition; http://prabhupadabooks.com/pdf/Easy-Journey-to-Other-Planets-Original-India-SP-edition-scan.pdf

    • Mothman777, this is in reply to your post of March 5 – 9:13 a.m. since it won’t let me respond to that comment directly. In regards to travel and particles, there are matter particles (fermions) and there are force-carrying particles (bosons). Physicists are discovering new particles every year and they are very far from knowing all that is to be known about particles, but I theorize that it might be safe to say that everything in our universe and possibly in the multiverse (both known and unknown) is composed of some type of particles. Scientific knowledge is slowly catching up to thousands of years of spiritual knowledge, and science and spirit are actually talking about the same thing. Take particles for instance: humans (in 4D space-time) are composed of force-carrying (energy and spiritual) and matter (physical) particles that must work together. Whether astronauts believe in force/matter particles or Krishna/maya, as long as they have respect for the complex interactions of their entirety and that of the world around them, it will all be good.

      When the time comes (if it does) that our technology is advanced enough to stabilize wormholes and send us through them, we will have figured out how to send both our matter and our force-carrying particles (assuming physicists by that time have discovered all of our force-carrying particles).

      (P.S. If you happen to respond, any way you can shorten your post? I do appreciate your contribution.)

      • mothman777 says:

        Materialist scientists, especially with their current mentality, will never admit to the science of the soul though, or to the reality of a Supreme Soul, a communal Supersoul that creates all matter, as materialist scientists would not like to feel that there is something greater than their power, which they attempt to use to manipulate and exploit, in their wish to become the ‘God’ of their world.

        No machine will ever exist to directly perceive the soul or the existence of the Supersoul within the heart chakras of each creature in this world, or the influence of the Supersoul.

        For that, direct spiritual relationship with God is required, and that is the most appropriate science for all scientists to be addressing at this time before they even consider looking into other some of the sciences that they are currently researching.

      • Well, we can agree to disagree on some points, then, Mothman777. I respect your view. In my view, if scientists respect and are inspired by the complexity and unpredictability of each part of the universe and of the universe as a whole, and they understand that they are part of the smallness and the bigness, then who are we to say they have not touched spirit?

        Thanks for your thoughts.

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  8. Jayne Melanie Collins says:

    Nano knowledge of black holes, worm holes, doppelgangers, and quantum theory. But what I`ve just read has inspired me to research, research, research.

    Thank you.

  9. Pingback: Can you be in two places at once? – standing2016

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