Journal Club – “The octave potencies convention: a mathematical model of dilution and succussion”

January 1st, 2000 by Ben Goldacre in journal club | 2 Comments »

This is part of the Homeopathy journal club described here:

www.badscience.net/?p=490

doi:10.1016/j.homp.2007.03.008    How to Cite or Link Using DOI (Opens New Window)
Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved. The octave potencies convention: a mathematical model of dilution and succussion

David J. AnickCorresponding Author Contact Information, a, E-mail The Corresponding Author
aHarvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, Centre Bldg. 11, 115 Mill St., Belmont, MA 02478, USA
Received 22 February 2007;  accepted 27 March 2007.  Available online 31 July 2007.

Several hypothesized explanations for homeopathy posit that remedies contain a concentration of discrete information-carrying units, such as water clusters, nano-bubbles, or silicates. For any such explanation to be sustainable, dilution must reduce and succussion must restore the concentration of these units. Succussion can be modeled by a logistic equation, which leads to mathematical relationships involving the maximum concentration, the average growth of information-carrying units rate per succussion stroke, the number of succussion strokes, and the dilution factor (x, c, or LM). When multiple species of information-carrying units are present, the fastest-growing species will eventually come to dominate, as the potency is increased.

An analogy is explored between iterated cycles dilution and succussion, in making homeopathic remedies, and iterated cycles of reseeding and growth, in bacterial cultures. Drawing on this analogy, the active ingredients in low and medium potency remedies may be present at early dilutions but only gradually come to ‘dominate’, while high potencies may develop from the occurrence of low-probability but faster-growing ‘mutations.’ Conclusions from this model include: ‘x’ and ‘c’ potencies are best compared by the amount of dilution, not the amount of succussion; the minimum number of succussion strokes needed per cycle is proportional to the logarithm of the dilution factor; and a plausible interpretation of why potencies at approximately regular ratios are traditionally used (the octave potencies convention).

Keywords: dilution factor; succussion; mathematical model; logistic curve; competition

Article Outline

Introduction
Modeling succussion
Two active ingredients
Multiple active ingredients
High potencies
Conclusion
References


Introduction

Homeopathic remedies are made by iterated dilution (in water or ethanol–water) and succussion (vigorous repeated pounding of the closed vial against a firm surface), starting from a mother tincture (‘MT’), most often a plant or animal extract. Hahnemann experimented mainly with 1:9 (‘x’), 1:99 (‘c’), and 1:50 000 (‘LM’) dilutions. These have become, by convention, the dilution ratios that are used in commercially available remedies. We will call the volume increase during dilution the ‘dilution factor’ and denote it as H. Thus, H=10 for ‘x’ remedies, H=100 for ‘c’ remedies, and H=50 001 for ‘LM’ remedies.

The number of dilution–succussion cycles is the potency of the remedy, denoted P. Within homeopathic practice, while it is theoretically possible to give a patient any potency of a remedy, only certain potencies are normally available and stocked. For the ‘x’ series these are the ‘6’, ‘12’, ‘30’, and ‘200’ potencies, while for the ‘c’ series one can get ‘6’, ‘12’, ‘30’, ‘200’, ‘1000’, and ‘10 000’. Although in other homeopathic traditions different series may be used, there is a similar progression. LM’s start with LM1 and every potency is available (i.e. LM2, LM3, LM4, etc.) up to LM10 or so. The potencies most frequenty dispensed in practice (at least in the Anglo-American tradition), by far are the 6c and 12c (‘low potencies’), 30c and 200c (‘medium potencies’), and 1000c and 10 000c (‘high potencies’). Homeopaths generally believe that remedies gain strength with more dilution–succussion cycles, although there are believed to be qualitative differences: ‘stronger’ is not necessarily ‘better’. Posology, or how to decide what potency to give, is a complex subject about which there are many theories. In general, higher potency remedies are used when the remedy choice is more certain, when the patient’s vital force is stronger, and when the problem is chronic rather than acute.

Is there any rationale for the sequence: 6, 12, 30, 200, 1000, 10 000? The sequence bears some resemblance to a geometric progression, and the use of fixed potencies with (supposedly) approximately equal ratios is called the ‘Octave potencies convention’ (OPC). I wondered, could there possibly be a rationale for the OPC? The usual thinking about this is that the remedy’s qualities change gradually with potency, eg a 12c and a 13c are nearly the same, and 13c and 14c are nearly the same, but enough small changes accumulate in going from 12c to 30c, that 30c may bring different results in the clinic from 12c. While a 12c and a 13c are ‘nearly the same’, a 1000c and a 1001c would be considered to be clinically interchangeable.

Various hypotheses have been put forward to ‘explain’ homeopathy in terms of conventional physics and chemistry. ‘Local’ hypotheses posit that remedies differ from untreated water in that they contain a population or concentration of an active ingredient. For some explanations, the active ingredient is a (hypothetical) persistent structural feature in what is chemically pure water, such as a zwitterion,1 a clathrate,2 or nano-bubble.3 The ‘silica hypothesis’ posits that SiO2 derived from the glass walls of the succussed vials is condensed into remedy-specific oligomers or nanocrystals, or else that silica nanoparticle surface is modified in patches to carry remedy-specific information.4

The mathematical model developed here is compatible with any of these explanations. Let Q denote the concentration of ‘active ingredient’. Depending on the hypothesis, Q could be the concentration of a particular zwitterion, of a particular species of nano-bubble, of a particular silica oligomer (or family of oligomers), or of a specific silica nanoparticle surface feature. Note that the concentration of active ingredient in ordinary solvent is zero or is assumed to be negligible. Right after dilution, the concentration will be Qdil=Q/H.

The fundamental assumption underlying our mathematical model is the following. Since a 1000c and 1001c are (essentially) identical, we assume that the effect of diluting a remedy of concentration Q, followed by succussion, is to regenerate (approximately) the same concentration Q of the same active ingredient. The model will shortly be made more complex by postulating multiple species of active ingredients, but let us start with the assumption of a single active ingredient. Then succussion must raise the concentration from Qdil back up to Q=HQdil. If succussion did not raise the concentration by a factor of (on average) H, then after repeated cycles the concentration would dwindle to zero.

Modeling succussion

How does succussion raise the concentration by a factor of H (typically H=100)? The answer depends on what the active ingredient is alleged to be. For the nano-bubble hypothesis, a nano-bubble might, during the pressure wave of succussion, organize the adjacent H2O into another copy of the same nano-bubble, and both bubbles might survive as structural features after the pressure wave passes.

For the silica hypothesis, silica might be released into solution as Si(OH)4 monomers by the mechanical agitation of succussion, and the specific silica nanocrystals might catalyze the formation of more copies of themselves out of the newly released monomers. It is beyond the scope of this article to assess or justify whether such notions are plausible.

Our starting point is to suppose that if any local hypothesis for homeopathy is valid, then there is some mechanism by which some structural feature replicates itself when succussed. We do not need to know what the feature is, or how it makes more copies, to develop the model.

Succussion consists of a series of ‘succussion strokes’. During each stroke several things happen: pressure rapidly surges then returns to 1 atm, the solution is turbulently mixed with air, Si(OH)4 enters solution, and so on. Let S denote the number of strokes used in each cycle. We postulate that in the course of S strokes, the concentration climbs from Qdil to HQdil. We cannot say what happens during a single stroke since we do not know the specific mechanism, but the hypothesized mechanisms suggest that each unit (ie each zwitterion, each nano-bubble, each silica nanocrystal, etc.) uses the added ‘raw material’ (ie the added water or newly dissolving air or Si(OH)4 monomers) to create more copies of itself. Thus, we assume that succussion strokes induce replication of the active units.

To call it ‘replication’ suggests a 2-for-1 process, but the process may not be 100% efficient. Instead of 2-for-1 we postulate that one succussion stroke raises the concentration of active units by a factor we call R. If Qm is the concentration after m strokes with Q0=Qdil, then Q1=RQ0, Q2=RQ1, and so on. This cannot continue forever, or Qm would blow up exponentially. Replication ceases when the solution runs out of usable raw material. For instance, if the units are nano-bubbles, there will be some limit on how closely they can crowd together, and once the population reaches the crowding limit they will not be able to replicate further. This situation is a familiar one in population biology: growth starts exponentially but then is capped by a finite carrying capacity. Mathematically it is modeled by assuming the actual growth rate is proportional to the amount of raw material accessible for further growth, which in turn is proportional to the difference between Q and a maximum concentration C. We obtain the discrete logistic equation,

Qm+1-Qm=(R-1)Qm(C-Qm)/C. (1)

This equation does not have a simple solution in its discrete form, but the very similar equation

Qm+1-Qm=(R-1)Qm(C-Qm+1)/C (2)

has the very nice exact solution

Click to view the MathML source (3)

which exhibits the expected S-shaped curve asymptotic to C as m→∞. After S succussion strokes the concentration is HQ0, ie QS=HQ0, and putting this into Eq. (3) shows that the concentration at the end of each cycle is given by

Click to view the MathML source (4)

According to Eq. (4), if RSnot double greater-than signH, then QS will be close to the maximum allowable concentration C, but if RS<H, there is no (positive) solution, and the concentration will die out to zero with repeated dilution–succussion cycles.

This already tells us something interesting about the number of succussion strokes needed. If our growth rate reflects ‘perfect’ replication when very dilute, ie R=2, then to get RS>H we require a minimun of 7 succussion strokes per cycle for H=100 (since 27>100 but 26<100), and a minimum of 16 strokes for the LM series. For a slower growth rate like R=1.2, we need at least 38 strokes per cycle to bring the concentration u to 90% of the maximum when H=100, and 72 strokes per cycle for LM’s. (These stroke counts are obtained by setting QS/C=0.9 in Eq. (4) and solving for S).

Although we have no experimental evidence to give us a range for R, Eq. (4) suggests that we should not skimp on succussion, with 40 strokes as a reasonable minimum when making ‘c’ potencies. Hahnemann himself held changing views about the optimum value for S. In the 5th edition of the Organon he recommended S=2 but revised the figure upward to S=100 in the 6th edition [5, p. 270].

Two active ingredients

If there were just a single active ingredient, dilution would reduce and succussion would restore the concentration each cycle. Nothing would change with dilution–succussion cycles and there would be no point in repeating dilution and succussion. But suppose there are two active ingredients, each of which would, if it were alone, increase according to Eq. (1). Approximate Eq. (1) by a continuous version, with the stroke count parameter ‘m’ being replaced by a ‘time’ parameter t. The difference equation (1) becomes the familiar logistic differential equation,6

Click to view the MathML source (5)

where we have scaled the concentration so that X=Q/C, and instead of R we encounter r =ln(R). The solution is X(t)=(1+(X(0)-1-1)e-rt)-1, which is the continuous form of Eq. (3).Let us add a second species of active ingredient, eg a different nano-bubble type or a different form of silica crystal. Let us assume that when some of each is present, the two species ignore each other. Each species replicates at its own rate as if the other were not present. There is still interaction, however, since both species draw upon the same raw material, of which there is a fixed amount. This sets up a competition scenario. The differential equations are

Click to view the MathML source (6)

where without losing generality we assume s>r. There is no elementary solution but the trajectories can be found by dividing the two equations, giving dY/dX=(s/r)(Y/X), hence

Y/Y(0)=(X/X(0))s/r. (7)

Let us further assume that the number of succussion strokes is large enough that the limiting concentrations are nearly attained; this is modeled by letting t→∞. Then the final concentrations are given by the intersection of trajectory (7) with the line 1–XY=0.

Suppose we conduct a series of dilution–succussion cycles for this two-component model. Let (XP,YP) describe the concentrations at the end of the Pth cycle, P denoting the potency. The relationship between (XP+1,YP+1) and (XP,YP) is as follows. Starting with (XP,YP), after dilution the concentrations are (XP/H,YP/H). Putting X(0)=XP/H and Y(0)=YP/H into Eq. (7), we see that (XP+1,YP+1) is found by intersecting the line X+Y=1 with the curve HY/YP=(HX/XP)s/r.

To proceed it is easier to work with the ‘pH’ values, x=−log(X) and y=−log(Y) (‘log’ is log10). Set h=log(H) (so h=2 for ‘c’ potencies). Referring to Figure 1, dilution takes us on a line of slope 1 from (xP,yP) to (xP+h,yP+h), and succussion takes us in a straight line of slope s/r from there back to the curve 10x+10y=1. (xP+1,yP+1) is the intersection of that curve and line.


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Figure 1. Log concentrations in alternating succussed and diluted stages of a two-ingredient remedy undergoing a transition from ‘X’-dominated to ‘Y’-dominated, for s/r=1.2. Succussed remedies lie on the blue curve, 10x+10y=1 (X+Y=1). Dilution raises both x and y by h=2.

Iterating the process, we ‘walk’ along the curve, at some point transitioning from values where y>x (meaning that X>Y and ‘X’ is the dominant species present) to values where x>y (ie ‘Y’ dominates). After the transition xP→∞ while yP→0, ie ‘X’ continues fade to zero while ‘Y’ converges to the maximum concentration. Before the transition, ie where y>x, the curve 10x+10y=1 is nearly vertical and a good approximate formula relating (xP+1,yP+1) to (xP,yP) is

Click to view the MathML source (8a)

while after the transition (where x>y) it is nearly horizontal and

Click to view the MathML source (8b)

Using only the fact that the curve 10x+10y =1 has a negative slope, we obtain the inequalities

Click to view the MathML source (9)

Clearly, what happens with increasing potency is that the slower-growing species ‘X’ is gradually replaced by the faster-growing species ‘Y’. Exponentiating Eq. (9) we see that the concentration ratio YP/XP increases by a factor of between 10h(s−r)/s and 10h(s−r)/r, or between H(s−r)/s and H(s−r)/r, with each dilution–succussion cycle. Pre-transition the ratio increase is very close to H(s−r)/r, while post-transition it is very close to H(s−r)/s. Thus, the transition potency can be predicted fairly easily if one knows the growth rates and the initial concentration ratio at a low potency. If s/r is only slightly bigger than 1, it takes more cycles to reach the transition and the transition occurs gradually over several cycles. If s/r is substantially bigger than 1, the transition is reached quickly and occurs abruptly. Of course, there is no transition at all if the initial concentration of ‘Y’ exceeds that of ‘X’: in this case the slower growing ‘X’ just declines, out-competed by ‘Y’.

Translating this to the clinical context, the implication is that, remedies where the two-component model applies will feature one species below the transition potency, and a different species above it. For example, if the transition occurs at P=20, then potencies below 20c should all have approximately the same clinical action, since the are all dominated by the same pre-transition active species, whereas those above 20c will be similar to each other but different from the pre-transition potencies. Because of this, having any one pre-transition remedy and any one post-transition remedy should suffice in the clinic. Having a ‘12c’ and a ‘30c’ would cover it.

The number of cycles needed to get from a potency whose concentration ratio is WP=YP/XP to the transition potency, is about −log(WP)/(h(s−r)/r). Without needing to know any values for s, r, or WP, this formula tells us that the number of cycles needed is inversely proportional to h=log(H). Starting from the same point, ‘c’ potencies attain the transition twice as fast as ‘X’ potencies, and ‘LM’ progress faster than ‘c’ by a factor of log(50 001)/log(1 0 0)=2.35. More generally, our formulas show that each ‘c’ dilution–succussion cycle has almost exactly the same effect as two ‘X’ cycles. To the extent that this type of model turns out to be valid, it appears to answer the long-standing argument in homeopathy as to whether dilution or succussion matters more in ‘potentizing’ remedies. This model predicts that it is the total amount of dilution that determines a remedy’s properties. Succussion at each stage must exceed a minimum threshold, but succussing significantly beyond that threshold will not make much difference.

Our mathematical model of two structural ‘species’ with different growth rates competing for raw material and limited by a maximum concentration has a perfect analogy in population biology. The analogy would be two living species that compete for a resource base but one reproduces faster than the other. A series of cycles occur, driven by periodic natural disasters that decimate each species’ numbers by the same factor of H each time. As they recover between disasters, the faster-growing species gains some ground each cycle and eventually replaces the slower-growing one.

Bacteriologists use this model deliberately to select for variants with desired traits. Bacteria with resistance to a toxin T will be ‘faster-growing’ in the presence of T. A baseline low mutation rate means that some low initial concentration of the bacteria is of the T-resistant ‘species’ (not necessarily a distinct species in the biological meaning). After culturing it to maximum growth with T, a small amount (eg 1%, corresponding to H=100) is re-seeded onto a new dish and then recultured. After many cycles the T-resistant species comes to dominate. ‘Dilution’ is like seeding a sterile culture dish while ‘succussion’ is like growth and selection.

Multiple active ingredients

The model can be extended to n species of active ingredient, n>2. The concentration of the ith species is denoted Xi, or if we also include the potency in the notation, as Xi,P. The growth rate of Xi is in (Ri), and −log(Xi) is denoted xi. The system of equations governing succussion is

Click to view the MathML source (10)

We omit details of its solution. The effect of one dilution–succussion cycle is described by

xi,P+1xi,P+h(rDOM-ri)/rDOM, (11)

where rDOM denotes the growth rate of whatever species happens to have the greatest concentration at potency P. Note that Eq. (11) reduces to Eqs. (8a) and (8b) when n=2. The effect of one dilution–succussion cycle on the concentration ratio for any two of the species, say for Xi,P/Xj,P, is to change the ratio by a factor of H(ri-rj)/rDOM, ie

(Xi,P+1/Xj,P+1)/(Xi,P/Xj,P)≈H(ri-rj)/rDOM. (12)

Depending on their initial concentrations, several of the n species may dominate in turn, but as P→∞, eventually only the fastest-growing species remains.Figure 2 illustrates the model with n=4 species and H=100. We suppose that the four species are present at the 4c potency, having been generated by some process that utilizes components from the MT. Perhaps compounds in the MT might catalyze the formation of specific silicates through directed polymerization of Si(OH)4 monomers. Again, how the MT and early potencies would do this is not relevant to our model. Initial (ie in the 4c potency) concentrations and growth rates (Ri) are taken to be: X1=0.99, R1=1.2; X2=0.01, R2=1.3; X3=10–8, R3=1.35; X4=10–12, R4=1.36. These are entirely made-up numbers but they are not implausible. Note that initial concentrations correlate inversely with growth rates. As a result we can expect that each species may lead the ‘race’ for an interval of several potencies, but ultimately X4 will ‘win.’


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Figure 2. Log (conc) vs potency, for four-component model.

Figure 2 displays log(Xi,P) as a function of P. Figure 2 was generated by a computer program that used the four-species analog of Eq. (1) to compute exact predictions of concentrations using S=40 succussion strokes per cycle. Each of the first three concentrations dominates for a while but then at a transition gives way to the next faster-growing species. Transitions correspond to points where the top two curves cross: at P=6.5, 23.5, and 79. With a log scale for the ordinate, each curve consists of a succession of nearly straight line segments. This behavior is explained by Eq. (11), which predicts that the slope should change at transition points (where rDOM changes) but should remain nearly constant between transition points.

Figure 3 shows the same information but displays Xi,P as a function of log(P). Note that for each of ‘6c’, ‘12c’, ‘30c’, and ‘200c’, a different species is dominant. Vertical lines have been added at these positions. Potency intervals are defined by which species dominates, and the potencies falling within any interval would be expected to be clinically equivalent. Interval boundaries occur at transition points: in this example the intervals are 4c to 6c, 7c to 23c, 24c to 79c, and 80c and up. Thus, there are just four essentially different remedies derivable from this MT.


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Figure 3. Conc vs log(potency), for four-component model.

Figure 3 illustrates the ‘best case scenario’ for the octave potencies convention: there are four species, each of which dominates one interval of potencies, and the potencies efficiently make available one potency from each interval. (For this MT, all potencies beyond 200c would be virtually identical to the 200c potency and would be unnecessary.) This illustrates what one would ideally want from a prescribing convention: one example of each dominant species is included, without redundancy. Given that the number of species and their growth rates must vary from MT to MT, it would be inconceivable that one number sequence (ie 6, 12, 30, 200, 1000, 10 000) would work in this ideal manner for every MT. Still, it may do a good enough job of balancing the need for simplification against comprehensive coverage, for the majority of MT’s.

High potencies

Dr JT Kent, developer of the octave potencies concept, [7] and [8] actually continued the sequence beyond 10 000: the continuation was 50 000, 105, 5×105, 106. These ‘very high’ potencies are not often used today. Does our model support a role for high (1000 and 10 000) and very high potencies? As we have noted, use of a potency above 200c only makes sense if there is a transition that occurs at a potency higher than 200, and likewise a potency above 1000c adds something new only if there is a species whose transition to dominance occurs above P=1000.

In Figure 2, the last transition (at 79c) resulted from two growth rates that are very close (R3=1.35 and R4=1.36), along with a very small initial concentration of X4 (10–12). For the model to yield a transition beyond 200c, there would have to be an even smaller difference in growth rates or a much smaller initial concentration (of the species whose transition to dominance occurs beyond 200c).

Tiny differences in rates are certainly a mathematical possibility, but this strikes me as unlikely to be the explanation for the majority of high potency remedies. Tiny initial concentrations likewise work in the model, but if we go below 10–17 or so we run into the Avogadro limit. (Concentrations have been scaled so that the maximum concentration C of a structural component is set to ‘1’. Measurements of silica[9] and [10] and other considerations place C in the micromolar range. If C is 10 μM then XP=10–17 means 10–22 M, and in a 10 mL sample there would be 10–24 mol, ie probably none, of this active ingredient.)

There is a way around this, and that is to suppose that the species with the late (ie >200) transition is not present in the initial low-potency mix at all: it only appears later in the potentizing process, presumably as a result of imperfect replication of one of the other species during a succussion step. Drawing on the biological analogy, the late-transitioning species would arise as a mutation of an earlier-transitioning species. If the mutation rate is low, it could take many cycles of dilution and succussion until the mutation first appears. To survive, the mutation would need to have a selective advantage (which in our model means a faster growth rate).

If this is correct, the high potency remedies (and possibly some 30c’s or 200c’s as well) feature an active ingredient that arises out of a lower-potency active ingredient and eventually replaces it. Ballpark numbers might be that the mutation has only a 0.5% chance of arising in any given succussion–dilution cycle, and once it arises it takes 50 cycles to become dominant. Many of the cycles between 200c and 1000c may be doing nothing except ‘waiting’ until the chance event of this particular mutation occurs. However, with enough repetitions even a 0.5% event is almost sure to occur eventually. It has a 1–(0.995)750=97.6% chance of occurring somewhere between the 200th and 950th cycle, and of achieving dominance between the 250th and 1000th cycle. According to this explanation, high potency remedies contain their intended active ingredient only with a certain probability, though the probability may be quite high (over 95%). The explanation for the need for a 10 000c would be that it depends upon the emergence of an even lower likelihood mutation (around 0.05% occurrence rate per cycle), and so on for the very high potencies.

Conclusion

Kent’s octave potency sequence is widely accepted in homeopathic practice. In the clinic, when homeopaths refer to ‘the next higher potency after 30c’, they mean 200c, not 31c. Our model suggests a reason this may be literally correct: the 31c is essentially identical to 30c, but somewhere between 30c and 200c a transition occurs to the ‘next’ active ingredient. One cannot derive Kent’s specific potency list from the model, but it does support Kent’s principle of stocking discrete potencies that occur at approximately geometric (‘octave’) intervals.

We started with a single assumption, namely that each succussion stroke amplifies the structural active ingredient by drawing upon finite resources (space, H2O, Si(OH)4, or silica surface). This assumption led to a relationship (Eq. (4)) among the growth rate, dilution factor, and stroke count. Based on Eq. (4) we recommended a minimum of 40 succussion strokes per cycle, for ‘c’ potencies.

When there are multiple species of active ingredients with different growth rates, we assumed there was no interaction other than competition for the finite resources. The choice of language was intentional, to draw attention to a parallel in mathematical biology. This assumption can be questioned or altered. For example, there could be other interactions including cooperative ones between the species. Also, instead of a small number of distinct species there could be a continuum or near-continuum of species (eg nano-bubble or nanocrystal size might be a continuous parameter) that is better handled with a diffusion–selection model.11 A ‘gradual evolution’ derived from selection among a near-continuum of homeopathically active silicates has been hypothesized.4 Our assumption of a small number of distinct active ingredients leads to a picture that in general is like Figure 2 and Figure 3: most potencies contain a single ‘dominant’ species with the other species occurring at levels one or more orders of magnitude lower. Each species remains dominant for an interval of potencies, until it is replaced by a different species that grows faster but starts at a lower level. The transitions can be predicted well using Eqs. (11) and (12). The locations of the transitions are proportional to log(dilution factor), meaning that a 60x will be equivalent to a 30c, a 200x like a 100c, and so on.

The strengths of this model are its generality—it works the same regardless of what the actual structural ingredient turns out to be—and its power to explain a complex clinical practice from simple starting assumptions. The model may not apply if the mechanism turns out to be ‘non-local,’ ie does not involve discrete information-carrying units (eg coherence or quantum entanglement[2], [10] and [12]) or, obviously, if remedies are ultimately proved to be mere placebos or markers that support the ritual of healer–client interaction. The great weakness of the model is that it is inspired solely by clinical conventions with no direct experimental support. Still, we have provided a new way to think about the dilution–succussion cycle, which could some day suggests experiments to test the model.

References

1 D.J. Anick, Stable Zwitterionic water clusters: the active ingredient in homeopathy?, J Am Inst Homeop. 93 (1999), pp. 129–135.

2 In: J. Schulte and P.C. Endler, Editors, Ultra High Dilution, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht (1994).

3 R. Roy, W.A. Tiller, I. Bell and M.R. Hoover, The structure of liquid water; novel insights from materials research; potential relevance to homeopathy, Mater Res Innovation (9–4) (2005), pp. 93–124.

[4] D.J. Anick and J.A. Ives, The silica hypothesis for homeopathy: physical chemistry, Homeopathy 96 (2007), pp. 189–195. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (242 K)

5 Hahnemann S. Organon of Medicine. Fifth and sixth editions. New Delhi: Jain Publ. Pvt. Ltd.; reprinted 1995 (transl: Dudgeon RE and Boericke W).

6 L. Edelstein-Keshet, Mathematical models in biology, SIAM Classics Appl Math 46 (2004).

[7] Bhatia M. Homeopathic Potency Selection. Hpathy Ezine, April 2004: left angle bracketwww.hpathy.com/philosophy/bhatia-potency-selection2.aspright-pointing angle bracket.

[8] Thomas AL, Homeopathic Posology. Similima 18: left angle bracketwww.similima.com/org18.htmlright-pointing angle bracket.

9 J.-L. Demangeat, P. Gries, B. Poitevin and J.-J. Droesbeke et al., Low-field NMR water proton longitudinal relaxation in ultrahighly diluted aqueous solutions of silica-lactose prepared in glass material for pharmaceutical use, Appl Magn Reson 26 (2004), pp. 465–481. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

10 H. Walach, W.B. Jonas and J. Ives et al., Research on homeopathy: state of the art, J Alternative Complementary Med 11 (2005), pp. 813–829. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

11 G.F. Webb and M.J. Blaser, Dynamics of bacterial phenotype selection in a colonized host, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99 (2002), pp. 3135–3140. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

12 L.R. Milgrom, Are randomized controlled trials (RCTs) redundant for testing the efficacy of homeopathy? A critique of RCT methodology based on entanglement theory, J Alternative Complementary Med 11 (2005), pp. 831–838. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

Corresponding Author Contact InformationCorresponding author. DJ Anick, Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, Centre Bldg. 11, 115 Mill St., Belmont, MA 02478, USA.



Homeopathy
Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 202-208
The Memory of Water

Journal Club – “Conspicuous by its absence: the Memory of Water, macro-entanglement, and the possibility of homeopathy”

January 1st, 2000 by Ben Goldacre in journal club | 6 Comments »

This is part of the Homeopathy journal club project described here:

www.badscience.net/?p=490

doi:10.1016/j.homp.2007.05.002 How to Cite or Link Using DOI (Opens New Window)
Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved. Conspicuous by its absence: the Memory of Water, macro-entanglement, and the possibility of homeopathy

L.R. Milgrom1, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author
1Department of Chemistry, Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2AZ, UK
Received 23 February 2007; revised 8 May 2007; accepted 14 May 2007. Available online 31 July 2007.

In order to fully comprehend its therapeutic mode of action, homeopathy might require both ‘local’ bio-molecular mechanisms, such as memory of water and ‘non-local’ macro-entanglement, such as patient–practitioner–remedy (PPR) descriptions.

Keywords: homeopathy; locality; non-locality; memory of water; macro-entanglement

Article Outline

Introduction
Locality, non-locality, and philosophy
Local hypotheses and the memory of water
Non-local hypotheses and macro-entanglement
Quantum theory and homeopathy
Entanglement in the homeopathic process
Conclusion: a therapeutic Uncertainty Principle?
Acknowledgements
References


Introduction

Despite increasingly sterile debates over ‘whether’ homeopathy works,1 the ‘how’ and ‘why’ have yet to be seriously addressed by science. One need not look far to see why.

Formerly a successful allergy researcher,2 Jacques Benveniste spent the last 20 years of his life out of the scientific mainstream because of his fascination with the ‘Memory of Water’.3 Despite democratic appearances, when it comes to dealing with what it considers ‘heretical’ (eg, homeopathy), science can be as narrow-minded, unforgiving, and vicious as any inquisition. Disregarding the burning stakes of peer opprobrium however, some are seeking answers to the question of how homeopathy might be possible.

Two types of hypothetical ‘mechanism’ are under consideration. Labelled ‘local’ and ‘non-local’, they depend, respectively, on conventional scientific positivism,4 or appeal to generalised quantum theoretical concepts of complementarity and entanglement.5 Local hypotheses envisage homeopathic remedies behaving in a way similar to any other medicine, ie, ‘pharmacologically’. The problem is that most homeopathic remedies are diluted out of molecular existence. In order therefore to comply with the causal principles of positivist science, a mechanism has to be envisaged by which some kind of information transfer (usually thought of as electromagnetic) can occur to a molecular substrate (eg, water), via homeopathy’s unique method of remedy production.6 Involving successive iterations of dilution followed by violent agitation collectively known as succussion, it is this information transfer to the solvent which has been called the Memory of Water (MoW).

Non-local hypotheses,7 are concerned less with the remedy per se, proposing generalised forms of quantum entanglement as the basis for homeopathy’s efficacy. They suggest instantaneous, acausal correlations are somehow established between various combinations of patient, practitioner, and remedy, ultimately leading to an observed change in the patient’s state of health. These ideas are in their infancy and even more controversial than MoW: indeed, to many the idea that quantum theory might be applicable in our macroscopic domain is anathema. The received conventional wisdom is that non-deterministic quantum theory describes the world of sub-atomic particles, atoms and molecules, while deterministic Newtonian (classical) and Einsteinian (relativistic) theories are sufficient for the macroscopic world of material objects. Non-local hypotheses however, have the advantage of being generalisable outside homeopathy to other healing disciplines.

The purpose of this paper is to review the two types of descriptions of homeopathy’s effects. Then, viewing these different approaches as complementary, not contradictory, and realising that some local explanations are also ‘tarred’ with the brush of entanglement (albeit at the molecular level), to consider how a more complete picture of the homeopathic process might be possible, ultimately leading to new experimental tests.

Locality, non-locality, and philosophy

Most, but by no means all, of science is based on a set of assumptions about the universe collectively known as Local Reality.8 This may be summed up as follows:

• The universe is real and things in it exist whether we observe them or not.
• It is legitimate to draw general conclusions and predictions from the outcome of consistent experiments and observations.
• No signal can travel faster than light.

This is very much a ‘common sense’ view of the universe as (a) it defines ‘reality’ as something obviously ‘out there’ separate and independent of us and (b) it is ‘local’ because parts of the universe out of speed of light contact cannot possibly be in communication. For most of the time, this assumption of Local Reality ‘works’: it is an accurate descriptive model of how most things in the universe interact. However, recent quantum physics experiments on photons, electrons, atoms, and even molecules demonstrate beyond doubt that particle interactions result in non-local correlations.8 This means that although there is no signal transfer in the classical sense between these particles, nevertheless, they can be instantaneously ‘connected’ over vast distances and across time itself, a phenomenon known as quantum entanglement.9 It is as if at a deep level, everything in the universe is instantaneously linked together in a vast holistic matter-energy network of interacting fields which transcends ordinary concepts of space and time. And we, composed of trillions of particles are an inseparable part of it: far from what reason seems to tell us.

The three Local Reality points above have been expanded into seven propositions, which are essentially ‘articles of faith’,10:

(1) The universe is consistent over all space and all time.
(2) The universe is understandable, ie, predictable.
(3) What is valid here is valid elsewhere.
(4) The universe is material and not spiritual.
(5) Everything that is physical is observable.
(6) The universe can be described and ascertained mathematically.
(7) Experiment validates theory.

This ‘catechism’ arises out of science’s primarily inductive logical structure. Philosophers have described two types of reasoning called deductive and inductive logic. In the former, one can draw true conclusions from true starting premises. For example, consider the following statements:

All swans are white.
The creature in front of us is a swan.
Ergo, from these two premises, we can conclude (especially if we choose not to look) that:
The creature is white.
With inductive logic however, we move from the particular to the general from premises about objects we have examined, towards conclusions about objects that we have not yet examined. Thus:
Every swan I have ever seen has been white; Ergo….
The next swan I see will be white.

What this simple example demonstrates is that many of our beliefs are based on extrapolations from observed (past or present) events to situations which are unknown, unobserved, or in the future. It was the 18th century philosopher Hume who pointed out that inductive reasoning is based on custom or habit, and in so far as it predicts the future will resemble the past, cannot actually ‘prove’ anything, for instance the impossibility of a swan being black. Hume also pointed out that the principle of induction cannot itself be proven by induction. The word ‘proof’, in fact, should be applied strictly only when reasoning deductively, as in mathematics. As most science is rooted in inductive logic, if follows that it too is predictive and actually incapable of proving or disproving anything.

In addition, Peirce drew attention to abduction which refers to the creative process prior to induction and deduction, by which scientists arrive at their initial hypotheses in the first place.11 It involves ordering disparate pieces of information into a first hypothetical structure and may be likened to pattern recognition: something humans seem particularly good at. Reductionist scientific theories generally overlook or are incapable of considering the process of abduction.

So what tends to happen in practice is that the more often a premise’s predictions turn out to are fulfilled, the more it is taken as ‘proof’ that the premise must be true. Eventually, the ‘truth’ of the premise becomes ingrained: it changes from ‘Every swan I have ever seen has been white’ to ‘All swans are white.’ From that moment, black swans are ‘impossible’.

Most people assume that science starts from secure reproducible observations out of which ‘facts’ about the world are distilled, an ideal enshrined in logical positivism. Its core beliefs are that scientific questions can be answered completely objectively; that experiments allow scientists to compare theory directly with facts; and that science is a sure route to ‘truth’. In this respect, it is scientifically established ‘evidence’ that is now supposed to provide the only basis for the ‘facts’ on which medical decisions are to be based, regardless of practitioners’ empirical ‘hands on’ experience and intuition.[12] and [13]

However, since the second half of the 20th century, logical positivism has been under sustained attack as being too simplistic from Post-Modernist philosophies of science.14 There is no such thing as unbiased observation free of any sociological or cultural conditioning, even in science and even under the most stringent experimental circumstances. Therefore, our acceptance or rejection of ‘evidence’ is also open to serious question. Our tendency is to reject evidence which does not fit with currently-held theory. Consequently, positive results from even the highest standard scientific trials are rejected by those who will not accept homeopathy’s claim that remedies diluted out of molecular existence might have any effect. For black swans, read homeopathy.

Kant, in the 18th century, pointed out that observation depends on our individual senses, assumptions, and background beliefs.15 He suggested that our picture of the world is structured by a combination of sensory data (‘phenomena’) and fundamental concepts of reason, eg, ‘causation’, that are culturally ‘hardwired’ into our minds. Consequently, we cannot know anything about how the world ‘really is’. Recent interpretations of quantum theory16 take this idea further by suggesting there is no world ‘out there’ separate from and independent of our observation of it. Or even more starkly, information is all there is.

Local hypotheses and the memory of water

Benveniste did not coin the phrase ‘Memory of Water’ (MoW), as research into solvent effects dates back to the 1960s. However, his research was highlighted by Nature in 1988,3 and subsequent failed attempts to repeat it.17 A multi-centre European trial involved modifications to Benveniste’s original method (eg, the use potentised histamine instead of anti-IgE), and was statistically significant only on pooling the results from all the laboratories involved.18 Though still controversial, MoW is based on the same conventional scientific notions of atoms and molecules that inform chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology. I shall deal with this on a general basis only as excellent and more detailed contributions will be found in this issue from Anick, Chaplin, Elia, Rey, Rao and others.

As Albert Szent-Gyorgyi pointed out, ‘Water is the mater and the matrix, the mother and the medium of life.’4 Without water, life as we know it would be impossible. Yet, water is more complex than the simple chemical formula H2O suggests. Oxygen, at the top of Group 16 in the Periodic Table, is a gas while the other members of this column (sulphur, selenium, and tellurium) are solids. With the di-hydrides of these elements we notice another major difference. H2S, H2Se, and H2Te, are highly toxic, inflammable, evil-smelling gases, while H2O is a clear, tasteless, odourless, life-giving and sustaining liquid (see Table 1). This is due to electrical forces originating within the oxygen atom. Apart from establishing the main chemical bonds between each oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, they also give rise to extra more complex forms of weak bonding (hydrogen bonds and even weaker van de Waal’s interactions). At room temperature these loosely bind individual water molecules into large rapidly-changing (in the order of pico-seconds) dynamic ‘structures’ (Fig. 1).4 These, in turn influence interactions between chemical and biochemical entities.

Table 1.

Some physical constants for dihydrides of the Group 16 elements

Compound Molar mass (g/mol) Melting point (°C) Boiling point (°C) H2O 18 0 100
H2S 34 −85.5 −59.55
H2Se 81 −65.73 −41.25
H2Te 130 −49 −2


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Fig. 1. Molecular models of water: (a) shows a so-called ‘space-filling’ model and a representation of the electronic charge distribution over the water molecule. The green-to-pink envelope represents the distribution of electrical charge within the molecule, biased towards the oxygen atom. In (b), we see the more classical ‘ball and stick’ model. The red ball represents the oxygen atom while the white balls represent hydrogen atoms, the white spheres without inscribed ‘H’s’ are hydrogen-bonded hydrogen atoms from a neighbouring (unseen) water molecule: the short white ‘sticks’ between the balls represent static chemical bonds between hydrogen and oxygen atoms. In (c), we see a representation of how water molecules might loosely bind to each other via hydrogen bonding (the longer white sticks) to form a coherent but short-term structure.20

Adopting a theatrical metaphor, if nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and hormones, etc are the principal ‘actors’ in the unfolding biochemical ‘drama’ that is life at the molecular level, then water provides the stage, set, theatre, and direction. From this perspective, it could be that conventional bio-medicine places too much emphasis on bio-molecules at the expense of the solvent in which they perform. Because of individual patterns of electrically charged and neutral atomic constituents, each type of bio-molecule will have associated with it an ever-changing ‘halo’ of loosely bound and interconnected water molecules.19 At the charged sites on each bio-molecule, water molecules will congregate, while few water molecules gather at the neutral sites. Thus, electric fields generated by bio-molecules will be modified and modulated by their surrounding ever-changing but coherent ‘halo’ of water molecules, and this could be transmitted extremely rapidly partly via water’s rapidly switching network of interconnecting hydrogen bonds, throughout the whole solvent and received by other bio-molecules.

There is much about water yet to be discovered, so that even if scientific attention were to shift away from bio-molecules to their aqueous medium, the experimental and theoretical problems would be enormous. For example, within a single cell, there are huge differences in the water content and properties of its various parts, from the jelly-like consistency of the cytoplasm, to the more fluid content of vacuoles. Modelling such diversity is likely to be a computational nightmare.19 However, modelling water itself shows that its molecules can form short-term coherent ‘structures’, whose life is of the order of pico-seconds (10−12 s) similar to icosahedra (Fig. 2) around central cavities that may contain, or may have once contained solute species.20 From here, it is not hard to imagine that such dynamic aqueous ‘structures’ could be the bearers of a ‘memory’ of things once dissolved but now dissolved out.


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Fig. 2. Two coherent icosahedral water ‘structures’ formed from dynamic hydrogen bonding between water molecules. These diagrams represent ‘snapshots’ and are not meant to depict long-term chemical structures.20

Using chemical terminology, MoW might be considered a supra-molecular phenomenon involving many water molecules. This means that MoW would be an emergent dynamic property of bulk liquid water (ie, involving many trillions of water molecules: in other words, the whole is more than the sum of its individual molecular parts). This would defy explanation in terms of the usual ideas of static chemical bonds and purely additive behaviour between individual water molecules alone. Certainly water molecules’ ability to dynamically switch hydrogen bonding to each other would be of crucial importance here, as are other weak intermolecular interactions (eg, van de Waal’s forces). Chaplin gives a compelling description of this behaviour on his website.20

Sceptics often quote the laws of thermodynamics as grounds for the impossibility of MoW. They are correct if one attempts to understand MoW effects in terms of a system at thermodynamic equilibrium. However, the principles of equilibrium thermodynamics cannot explain what happens to a system far from equilibrium, especially at what are called critical points. These are temperatures and pressures where, for example, a gas is just about to liquefy. In this critical state, a gas is much denser than under normal equilibrium conditions. It remains as a single phase system but is exquisitely sensitive to even the slightest externally-induced fluctuations, which can cause separation into gaseous and liquid phases.

Now, highly metastable far-from-equilibrium critical states develop patterns of chaos and self-similarity better described by Prigogine’s seminal work on non-equilibrium thermodynamics than by classical thermodynamics. Such states occur during the chemical reactions within living cells.21 Hankey has presented a plausible hypothesis that might help explain MoW effects in terms of such critical points acting as local dynamic attractors of a system. This led him to a novel model of the life force, capable of predicting the correct relationship between it and cure in several systems of complementary medicine, including homeopathy.22

The key to such models is the recognition that fluctuating instabilities at critical points necessarily exist in quantum form, and require quantum descriptions to predict their effects. It turns out these quantised instability fluctuations can serve the highly unusual function of ‘lifting’ quantum properties out of their confinement within the microscopic domain of atoms and molecules, and into our macroscopic world of bulk material properties. Under these exceptional circumstances, macroscopic systems may exhibit similar properties to microscopic quantum systems, such as coherence, and this has been observed and recognised with low-temperature superconductors and super-fluids.23

Interestingly, support for the MoW concept has come recently from the field of materials science.24 Using a large interdisciplinary research base, Roy et al examined the structures of many non-crystalline, inorganic, covalently-bonded condensed liquid phases, including liquid water. They predicted that at ambient conditions, typical samples of water likely contain many dynamic water structures. These consist of a statistical mixture of single water molecules (monomers) and different-sized water molecule clusters (oligomers), the largest consisting of several hundred H2O units. From this, they arrived at the important conclusion that it is solution structure not solution composition which is important in determining the plausibility of MoW effects. From the materials science perspective, although an ultra-diluted solution (where the solution is diluted out of existence) up having the same composition as the original solvent water, their structures could be entirely different.

In quantum physics there is also support for the MoW concept. For example, Smith has for many years argued for electromagnetic coherence and memory effects in water.25 While Del Guidici et al predicted that given a large enough number of water molecules (of the order of 1015–1017, an amount visible to the naked eye), the sum total of all the hydrogen-bonded interactions between the water molecules could, under the right circumstances, lead to a dynamic, rapidly fluctuating yet correlated state where they all resonate together, spontaneously organising themselves into so-called ‘coherent domains’.26 Del Guidice et al went on to show that such dynamic and correlated ‘coherent domains’ could not only be triggered by homeopathy’s potentisation process (ie, serial dilution and strong agitation), but that they would survive removal of all trace of the original dissolved substance. In other words, a possible theoretical mechanism for MoW effects exists and fits neatly with Roy et al‘s conclusions on the importance of solution structure over composition.

Critics of MoW incorrectly assume that that the physical and chemical properties of a solution are not dependent on its history. Samal and Geckler have reported such historical dependence in a series of experiments, using solutions of a wide variety of substances including common salt, starch and DNA at different non-homeopathic dilutions.27 This work demonstrated that molecules of a substance aggregate on dilution rather than getting further apart as common sense might suggest. Also, the size of these molecular aggregates relates to the starting concentrations of the original solute: in other words, they show an historical dependence.

In a completely different field, Rey obtained thermoluminescence data from highly agitated ultra-high dilutions of lithium and sodium chloride, suggesting reproducible differences from pure water diluted with itself.28a However, replication of this study by van Wijk though to some extent reproducing Rey’s original findings, failed to show statistical significance until the solutions had been standing for several weeks prior to obtaining thermoluminescence data.28b This could suggest the possibility of the data being artefactual as a result of the D2O used in the experiments leaching traces of silica from the glassware. Such silica leaching artefacts have previously been noted in high-dilution experiments.29 However, Elia has obtained thermodynamic and conductivity data which strongly suggest that the process of sequential dilution and succussion is capable of permanently modifying many of the structural features of water. Elia concludes that, thermodynamically speaking, such systems are far from equilibrium and capable of self-organising themselves as a result of only small perturbations, confirming Roy et al‘s conclusions.30

It is perhaps sufficient to say that an explanation for the efficacy of highly diluted homeopathic remedies within the ‘local’ paradigm of the molecular sciences, though difficult is not as improbable as homeopathy’s critics claim.

Non-local hypotheses and macro-entanglement

In which case, why bother with quantum theoretical non-local hypotheses? Simply because deterministic local hypotheses could have the effect of confining attention to the medicine as the sole therapeutic agent, at the expense of the perhaps equally important contextual dynamics of the patient–practitioner relationship. Having said that, it is worth pointing out that some local explanations of homeopathy’s effects, eg Del Guidice et al and their concept of ‘coherent domains’ of water molecules moving in some correlated fashion, are strongly suggestive of entanglement at the molecular level.26 Consequently, it is worth remembering that the sections in this paper headed ‘local hypotheses’ and ‘non-local hypotheses’ are not intended to suggest that they are mutually contradictory. On the contrary, it is far more likely that both will be required in order to fully explain homeopathy’s effectiveness: a prediction consistent with the complementary nature of quantum theory.

Biomedicine takes little account of patient individuality or therapeutic context. From this point of view, perhaps the time has come for the discussion of homeopathy (indeed of all therapeutic modalities) to move out of the narrow confines of deterministic biomedicine. Theoretical models need to be developed that more fully encompass and make sense of its experiences, while at the same time not losing sight of the ‘local’ importance of the medicine. But why invoke non-local explanations based in something as seemingly exotic as quantum theory? How could it possibly apply to ‘macroscopic’ objects, especially people? And does not that play right into the hands of sceptics who accuse homeopaths of clutching at ill-understood scientific straws so that they can justify the patently unjustifiable? It is probably worth noting that homeopathy’s sceptics do not have a monopoly on the understanding or indeed misunderstanding of quantum theory. As the Nobel-pzrize winning physicist Richard Feynman once famously remarked, ‘Anyone who thinks they have understood quantum theory has probably got it wrong!’31 For example, a common assumption is that quantum theory and its implications apply only within the confines of particle physics, not in our macroscopic world.

It is true quantum theory’s algebraic language is dominated by an incredibly small number called Planck’s constant (6.626×10−34 J s), commensurate with observations and measurements of events occurring at the sub-atomic through to the molecular domains. However, it turns out that one of the strangest outcomes of quantum theory—the notion of entanglement—need not be size-limited.32 Entanglement is said to occur when the parts of a system are so holistically matched, measurement of one part of the system instantaneously (ie, not limited by the speed of light) provides information about its other parts, regardless of their separation in space and time.9 What is important is whether the elements of the system are correlated (ie, act as one coherent indivisible whole), and whether such a system’s processes can be described using a ‘non-commuting algebra of complementary observables’.33 This means when two separate operations of observation are performed sequentially, the overall result depends on the sequence and what is being measured. This is readily understood when considering a set of operations involved in, say, cooking. Here the operational sequence is paramount, for in a different order, instead of a tasty meal, one is likely to end up with any number of disagreeable and inedible offerings. Expanding on this concept leads to another key idea from quantum theory: complementarity.31

Thus, a single explanation or model might not adequately explain all the different observations that can be made on a quantum system. For example, in order to explain how electrons are diffracted when they strike the atoms in a crystal lattice, it is necessary to assume that each electron behaves as a wave. However, when considering the photoelectric effect and electrons being expelled from a solid when struck by photons of the right energy, it is necessary to assume that the electrons and the photons are behaving as particles. This results in the well-known apparent contradiction of particle-wave duality. The point is, in order to fully explain quantum phenomena it is necessary to have two different but complementary concepts. It is almost as if the answer one obtains on performing the two observations depends entirely on how the (experimental) question is asked; and both are necessary in order to acquire a complete picture of a quantum process or system.

But notions of complementarity and entanglement have implications far beyond the specific meaning ascribed to them in the orthodox quantum theory of particles, atoms and molecules. Using less formal approaches, examples have been cited from engineering, the cognitive sciences, especially psychology, and philosophy.5 Atmanspacher et al took the radical approach of developing a more generalised version of quantum theory which relaxes several of orthodox quantum theory’s axioms, including dependence on Planck’s constant. Called Weak Quantum Theory (WQT),5 it differs from orthodox quantum theory in that:

• Complementarity and entanglement are not restricted by a constant like Planck’s constant.
• WQT has no interpretation in terms of probabilities.
• Complementarity and indeterminacy are epistemological in origin not ontological.

As a result, WQT explicitly allows quantum theory’s application into such macroscopic areas as philosophy, psychology and information dynamics and into possible explanations of the dynamics of healing.

Quantum theory and homeopathy

Classical physics and quantum physics differ in an important respect. The former enshrines common sense, for everything considered physical is observable and therefore measurable: this is the leitmotif for all reductionist science and underpins the whole of biomedicine. However, in quantum physics this is not always be the case: not everything considered physical is observable or measurable.33 So, in quantum physics, there is the concept of the wave function which is not a directly observable entity as such: only its effects are. A wave function is considered to be a multi-dimensional descriptor of a system’s state, whose existence may only be inferred from the observable effects it produces in our ‘reality’.

The reason for this is not because of any fault in measurement; it depends on the mathematical language we use to describe those measurements. Thus, measurement of a quantum state, as with any experiment, provides data in the form of what are called real numbers, eg, the numbers we use everyday like 1, 2, −6, π e, 1/2, √2, etc. But because mathematicians and physicists think in many more than four dimensions, they need a much more versatile number system. And in mathematics, the real numbers are seen as a special case of much larger number sets. One of these is called the complex numbers,34 used to fully describe the multi-dimensionality of quantum states in a way that the real numbers cannot. Complex numbers are irreducible aggregates of real numbers and ‘imaginary’ numbers, based on √-1, which cannot be understood in terms of real numbers.

Real numbers are part of the larger set of complex numbers but not vice versa. Trying to fit a state or a system whose full description requires complex numbers into the real number set is like trying to squeeze a three-dimensional cube into a two-dimensional plane: it does not fit and some information invariably gets lost, notably in this case, the cube’s three dimensionality. It is a similar loss of information in trying to make sense of a quantum state’s complex number description by translating it into the real numbers of hard data, that leads to much of what is considered to be ‘quantum weirdness’.33

The consequences of the quantum description of reality for our view of the universe are profound. Ultimately it means relinquishing any notion of knowledge of things ‘out there’, ‘in themselves’, separate from our observation of them. We have to come to terms with the unsettling fact that in quantum theory, like the parts of a complex number, the observer and the observed are intimately and irreducibly connected. But what is it about quantum theory that could resonate with homeopathy and other forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAMs)?

In homeopathy and other CAMs there is a notion of an all-pervading vital force (Vf) which strives to hold the whole organism in balance.35 However, this Vf is not a directly observable entity: like the wave function in quantum theory, it is observed only indirectly through the effects it produces, in this case the patient’s state of health. Thus, through this descriptive similarity of wave function and Vf, there is a similarity in discourse between quantum physics and homeopathy and other CAMs which include a concept of Vf. Perhaps quantum theory’s language of non-commuting operations, non-locality and entanglement could be used to describe the homeopathic process.36

Entanglement in the homeopathic process

There are several ways ideas derived from quantum theory can be used to describe the homeopathic process which may be ordered nominally in terms of the complexity of entanglement between different types of entities.7c Space limitations do not allow for their detailed consideration here, but see Weingaertner’s contribution in this issue on possible non-local correlations between the different particles of solvent and solute.37 Weingaertner’s model attempts to understand the homeopathic process solely in terms of the potentised medicine as a pharmacologically-active substance, so only one type of entity is considered (Fig. 3).


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Fig. 3. Diagrammatic representation of ‘sequential box’ model. It proposes the theoretical possibility of keeping a constant volume of mother tincture physically present in every potency. MT=mother tincture; 1×=ten times bigger box 9/10ths full of solvent into which MT is poured and succussed, and so on into 2X….NX.37

Walach’s semiotic model combines WQT with two-way entanglement (Fig. 4) between the patient and the remedy,[7b] and [38] while Hyland has developed a two-way patient–practitioner entanglement model called Extended Network Entanglement Theory.39 In the entanglement metaphors I am developing (Fig. 5), three-way patient, practitioner, remedy (PPR) entanglement is considered.7 These are based on ideas derived from Greenberger–Horne–Zeilinger three-way entanglement of particles,40 and quantum field theory.41


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Fig. 4. Walach’s double entanglement model. Two semiotic processes linked by the Law of Similars. On the left, object=the remedy substance, Rphi; sign=remedy, Rx; meaning=remedy picture, Sx. On the right, object=the patient’s ‘disease’, Dx; sign=the patient’s symptoms, Sx; meaning=the required remedy, Rx.[7b] and [38]


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Fig. 5. PPR entanglement represented geometrically. In (a), Walach’s two semiotic triangles for remedy and patient (also wave functions, ψRx and ψPx) are joined by a third for the practitioner ψPr, which are entangled into the PPR ‘state’ represented by ψPPR in (b). The multi-dimensional geometry of this state is represented in (c)–(e) and shows the action of the homeopathic operator Πr in ‘reflecting’ this state (d). But the reflection is not passive: by opening out the polyhedra in (d) and superimposing them, it is seen that the reflecting plane also twists the reflection through 60° (e). The ‘space’ in which these wave functions and ‘operations’ take place is a therapeutic state space created by the homeopathic operator Πr, which also functions within it.[7] and [42]

Here, the homeopathic process is regarded as a set of non-commuting complementary observations made by the practitioner. These are local (observations of the patient) and global (observations of the practitioner’s own inner state, how that fluctuates during the consultation, and the state of the patient–practitioner relationship), resulting in the prescription of an homeopathic medicine. Patient, practitioner, and remedy comprise therefore a three-way entangled therapeutic entity, so that attempting to isolate any of them ‘collapses’ the entangled state,42 represented geometrically in Fig. 5.

In addition, the Vf may be envisaged as observable only from the amount and severity of the observed signs and symptoms it produces. From this, it is possible to construct a mathematical metaphor for the Vf as a multi-dimensional quantised gyroscope (Fig. 6).43 The slower the Vf gyroscope ‘spins’, the less upright it stands against the braking effects of disease: it begins to ‘wobble’, or, in this metaphor, to express symptoms. Conversely, the therapeutic remedy increases the Vf’s spin rate, throwing off the disease. Thus remedies and diseases may be understood as accelerating and braking ‘torques’ acting on the Vf gyroscope.43


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Fig. 6. Schematic of the Vf gyroscope: a real gyroscope in 3-D space precesses around the z-axis sweeping out gradually increasing ‘orbits’ in the xy plane. The metaphorical Vf gyroscope precesses in fixed quantised ‘orbits’ as shown and the y and z axes are complex. Symptoms are observed along the real x-axis. Thus, the Vf only ‘appears’ when it expresses symptoms in real space and time, represented by the x-axis in the figure.43

Mathematically, Vf, diseases, and remedies can be represented as ‘wave functions’ (without yet specifying the ‘particles’ involved or ‘interactions’ between them), leading to the prediction that the more potent a remedy, the greater its effect on the Vf. At very low potencies, when a homeopathic medicine is used in a material dose as in conventional medicine, the gyroscopic metaphor approximates in such a way as to deliver predictions about the lack of therapeutic efficacy of highly-diluted homeopathic remedies in line with those of conventional medicine.44

In other words, the Vf gyroscope metaphor may be pointing towards a more inclusive paradigm about the effects of remedies that contains both homeopathy and conventional medicine and explains their apparent contradictions. In this sense, the metaphor could be said to parallel theoretical developments in conventional science, where new theories supersede older ones, yet generally include them. Perhaps it suggests that conventional medicine is a smaller subset of a much broader holistic paradigm that includes homeopathy.

Conclusion: a therapeutic Uncertainty Principle?

One application of the PPR entanglement metaphor I have described is to provide a rationale for why RCTs of homeopathy often return equivocal results.45 It suggests the double blind RCT ‘collapses’ the three-way patient–practitioner–remedy entangled state in a way analogous to that by which observation collapses a particle’s wave function in the Copenhagen Interpretation of orthodox quantum theory.46 Thus, while unobserved, a particle exists in an indeterminate state; its evolution in time expressed as a wave function. Observation causes the wave function to ‘collapse’ to a particle whose complementary position and momentum are related via Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. The profound meaning of this is that the act of observation in part creates that which is observed. Or, even more starkly, “The price of knowledge is the loss of an underlying ontological physical reality”.47 In a similar way, the observational procedure of the RCT may ‘collapse’ the three-way entangled state, leading to the loss of the underlying homeopathic effect, a therapeutic equivalent of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

But some trials of non-individualised homeopathic remedies have generated positive results.45 This could be due to some surviving relic of entanglement from the production process, ironically as a result of a water memory effect. The work of del Guidice et al mentioned earlier, suggested the formation of ‘coherent domains’ within water’s dynamic hydrogen-bonded ‘structure’.26 Such mass correlation over huge numbers of water molecules suggests a form of molecular entanglement.

The tantalising prospect emerges that there could be several levels of entanglement operating during the homeopathic process: the molecular (created during production of the homeopathic medicine), contextually integrated into that occurring between patient, practitioner, and remedy.48 Consequently, although double-blind RCTs on non-individualised homeopathic remedies rule out the possibility of over-arching three-way PPR entanglement, the residual molecular entanglement built into the remedy via water memory effects could survive, explaining the positive effects observed in many homeopathic clinical trials.

Ultimately, it will be necessary to find experimental protocols that demonstrate entanglement in the therapeutic process. This is not easy, but clues have been uncovered in double-blind homeopathic pathogenetic trials (HPTs, provings). Many HPTs have not been conducted in a double-blind placebo-controlled manner. After symptoms have been gathered, collation of the data allows a remedy picture to emerge, traditionally one of the central ‘pillars’ of homeopathy.49 In two recent double blind placebo-controlled provings, although there were differences in proving symptoms between remedy and placebo groups, there was also overlap or ‘leakage’ of symptoms between them.[49] and [50] Walach et al concluded that as a result of blinding, remedy and placebo groups had become entangled, another demonstration of a possible therapeutic Uncertainty Principle, perhaps? Interestingly, there has been some independent confirmation of this result recently by another research group,51 and an explanation couched in terms of the PPR entanglement metaphor.[45a] and [52]

Another approach might be to set up a therapeutic analogue of the famous Aspect experiments of the 1980s that demonstrated entanglement between photons.8 These experiments depended on the violation of Bell’s Inequalities (our ‘intuition’ based on local realism, makes predictions which differ markedly from those made by quantum mechanics: these predictions are enshrined in Bell’s Inequalities: if they are violated, then the predictions of quantum mechanics, e.g., entanglement, must be true and our intuition wrong). A way forward might be to use the much more general Information Theoretic Bell’s Inequalities—if local realism does not hold, then two systems must carry information inconsistent with the inequalities. The design of suitable experiments is currently being explored.53

In conclusion, what this all seems to be pointing to is that, far from being competing, contradictory explanations, ‘local’ MoW and ‘non-local’ contextually ‘entangled’ effects (like wave-particle duality in orthodox quantum theory) could be complementary and both are necessary in order to make sense of homeopathy’s effects.

Acknowledgements

I thank Bill Scott, Kate Chatfield and Professor Harald Walach for introducing me to the consolations of philosophy.

References

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2 Schiff M. The Memory of Water: Homeopathy and the Battle of Ideas in the New Science. London: Thorsons (HarperCollins), 1995, and references therein.

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(c)L.R. Milgrom, Patient–practitioner–remedy (PPR entanglement, part 4. Towards classification and unification of the different entanglement models for homeopathy, Homp 93 (2004), pp. 34–42. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (197 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

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(b) Zeilinger A. Quantum teleportation and the nature of reality. 2004. Online document at: www.btgjapan.org/catalysts/anton.html (accessed 9th February 2007).

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18 P. Belon, J. Cumps and M. Ennis et al., Histamine dilutions modulate basophil activity, Inflamm Res 53 (2004), pp. 181–183.

19 I.R. Gould, Computational chemistry: applications to biological systems, Mol Simulation 26 (2001), pp. 73–83. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

20 Chaplin M. Water structure and behaviour. www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/ (accessed 9th Ferbruary 2007).

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22 A. Hankey, Are we close to a theory of energy medicine?, J Alt Complement Med 10 (2004), pp. 83–86. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

23 Kleinert H. Gauge Fields in Condensed Matter; Vol. 1. Superflow and Vortex Lines. Singapore: World Scientific; 1989. pp. 1–742.

24 R. Roy, W.A. Tiller, I. Bell and M.R. Hoover, The structure of liquid water; novel insights from materials research; potential relevance to homeopathy, Mat Res Innovat 9 (4) (2005), pp. 559–576 (On-line; www.matrice-technology.comwww.matrice-technology.com).

25 C.W. Smith, Quanta and coherence effects in water and living systems, J Alt Complement Med 10 (2004), pp. 69–78. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

26 E. Del Guidice, G. Preparata and G. Vitiello, Water as a free-electron dipole laser, Phys Rev Lett 61 (1988), pp. 1085–1088.

27 S. Samal and K.E. Geckler, Unexpected solute aggregation in water on dilution, Chem Commun 21 (2001), pp. 2224–2225. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

(a)L. Rey, Thermoluminescence of ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride, Physica A 323 (2003), pp. 67–74. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (306 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus
(b)R. van Wijk, S. Bosman and E.P.A. van Wijk, J Alt Complement Med 12 (2006), pp. 437–443. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

29 L.R. Milgrom, K.R. King, J. Lee and A.S. Pinkus, On the investigation of homeopathic potencies using low resolution NMR T2 relaxation times: an experimental and critical survey of the work of Roland Conte et al, Br Hom J 90 (2001), pp. 5–13. Abstract | PDF (150 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

30 V. Elia and M. Niccoli, New physico-chemical properties of extremely diluted aqueous solutions, J. Thermal Anal Calorimetry 75 (2004), p. 815 and references therein. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

31 (a)J. Gribbon, Q is for Quantum, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London (1998).
(b)J. Al-Khalil, Quantum: a guide for the perplexed, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London (2003).

32 L.J. Landau, Experimental tests of general quantum mechanics, Let Math Phys 14 (1987), pp. 33–40. MathSciNet | Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

33 S.Y. Auyung, How is Quantum Field Theory Possible?, Oxford University Press, Oxford (1995).

34 M.R. Spiegel, Schaum’s Outline of Theory and Problems of Complex Variables, McGraw-Hill, New York, USA (1999).

35 S. Hahnemann In: K. Hochstetter, Editor, The Organon of Medicine (6B ed), Chile, Santiago (1977).

36 D. Gernert, Towards a closed description of observation processes, BioSystems 54 (2000), pp. 165–180. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (155 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

37 O. Weingärtner, What is the therapeutically active ingredient of homeopathic potencies?, Homp 92 (2003), pp. 145–151. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (156 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

38 (a)H. Walach, Generalised entanglement: a new theoretical model for understanding the effects of complementary and alternative medicine, J Altern Complement Med 11 (2005), pp. 549–559. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus
(b)H. Walach, Homeopathy as semiotic, Semiotica 83 (1991), pp. 81–85.

39 M.E. Hyland, Extended network generalised entanglement theory: therapeutic mechanisms, empirical predictions, and investigations, J Altern Complement Med 9 (2003), pp. 919–936. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

40 D.M. Greenberger, M.A. Horne and A. Shimony et al., Bell’s theorem without inequalities, Am J Phys 58 (1990), pp. 1131–1143. MathSciNet

41 L.R. Milgrom, Towards a new model of the homeopathic process based on Quantum Field Theory, Forsch Komplementärmed 13 (2006), pp. 167–173.

42 L.R. Milgrom, Patient–practitioner–remedy (PPR) entanglement, part 3. Refining the quantum metaphor for homeopathy, Homp 92 (2003), pp. 152–160. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (185 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

43 L.R. Milgrom, ‘Torque-like’ action of remedies and diseases on the vital force, and their consequences for homeopathic treatment, J Altern Complement Med 12 (2006), pp. 915–929. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

44 Milgrom LR. Is a unified theory of homeopathy and conventional medicine possible?. J Altern Complement Med submitted for publication.

45 (a) Milgrom LR. Journeys in the country of the blind: entanglement theory and the effects of blinding on trials of homeopathy and homeopathic provings. Evid Based Complement Alt Med 2006:doi:10.1093/ecam/nel062.
(b)L.R. Milgrom, Are randomised controlled trials (RCTs) redundant for testing the efficacy of homeopathy? A critique of RCT methodology based on entanglement theory, J Altern Complement Med 11 (2005), pp. 831–838. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

46 N. Bohr, Can a quantum mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?, Phys Rev 48 (1935), pp. 609–702.

47 H. Stapp, Harnessing science and religion: societal ramifications of the new scientific conception of human beings, Network 76 (2001), pp. 11–12 and references therein.

48 L.R. Milgrom, The sound of two hands clapping: could homeopathy work locally and non-locally?. Homp 94 (2005), pp. 100–104. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (111 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

49 H. Walach, J. Sherr, R. Schneider, R. Shabi, A. Bond and G. Rieberer, Homeopathic proving symptoms: result of a local, non-local, or placebo process? A blinded, placebo-controlled pilot study, Homp 93 (2004), pp. 179–185. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (142 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

50 H. Möllinger, R. Schneider and M. Löffel et al., A double blind randomized homeopathic pathogenic trial with healthy persons: comparing two high potencies, Forsche Komplementarmed 11 (2004), pp. 274–280. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

51 G. Dominici, P. Bellavite, C. di Stanislao, P. Gulia and G. Pitari, Double-blind placebo-controlled homeopathic pathogenic trials: symptom collection and analysis, Homp 95 (2006), pp. 123–130. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (186 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

52 L.R. Milgrom, Entanglement, knowledge, and their possible effects on the outcomes of blinded homeopathic provings, J Altern Complement Med 12 (2006), pp. 271–279. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

53 G.B. Schmid, Much ado about entanglement: a novel approach to test non-local communication via violation of local realism, Forsch Komplementärmed 12 (2005), pp. 206–213.

Corresponding Author Contact InformationCorresponding to: Department of Chemistry, Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2AZ, UK.



Homeopathy
Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 209-219
The Memory of Water

Journal Club – “The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions”

January 1st, 2000 by Ben Goldacre in journal club | 1 Comment »

This is part of the Homeopathy Journal Club, more info here:

www.badscience.net/?p=490

doi:10.1016/j.homp.2007.05.005    How to Cite or Link Using DOI (Opens New Window)
Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved. The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions

Otto WeingärtnerCorresponding Author Contact Information, a, E-mail The Corresponding Author
aDepartment of Basic Research, Dr. Reckeweg & Co. GmbH, Berliner Ring 32, D 64625 Bensheim, Germany
Received 8 March 2007;  revised 14 May 2007.  Available online 31 July 2007.

Abstract

This paper discusses the nature of the active ingredient of homeopathic ultramolecular dilutions in terms of quantitative physics.

First, the problem of the nature of an active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions is analysed leading to the recognition of the necessity of characterizing the active ingredient as a non-local quality.

Second, non-locality in quantum mechanics, which is used as a paradigm, is formally presented.

Third, a generalization of quantum mechanics is considered, focussing on the consequences of weakening of the axioms.

The formal treatment leads to the possible extension of the validity of quantum theory to macroscopic or even non-physical systems under certain circumstances with a while maintaining non-local behaviour. With respect to the survival of entanglement in such non-quantum systems a strong relationship between homeopathy and non-local behaviour can be envisaged. I describe how several authors apply this relationship. In conclusion, the paper reviews how quantum mechanics is closely related to information theory but why weak quantum theory and homeopathy have not hitherto been related in the same way.

Keywords: potencies; non-locality; entanglement; weak quantum-theory; information

Article Outline

Introduction
Necessity of a general principle
How non-locality arose
What is entanglement?
Weakening the axioms of quantum mechanics
WQT and homeopathy
Entanglement and information in quantum physics and beyond
Discussion
Acknowledgements
Appendix A. The sequential box model (SBM)
Appendix B. Entanglement
References


Introduction

When I started basic research on homeopathy more than 20 years ago I endeavoured to describe homeopathic potencies according to the laws of physics as far as possible. This soon led me to the hypothesis of a field being responsible for the homeopathic phenomenon. In investigating this hypothesis I learned from biophysics that such a field has to be closely related to electromagnetism, because of the ability of living organisms to react in a specific way on electromagnetic signals.1 I concluded that the mechanism of homeopathic effects must be similar to resonances between electromagnetic waves and started to search for stored patterns of electromagnetic origin or, more generally, of physically measurable properties which differ between potencies and their solvent.

The results of the series of experiments that were carried out with a variety of standard physical–chemical methods2 were disappointing. Almost none of the experiments could reproduce results reported in specialist literature, and for no experimental arrangement could the results be forecast. However, the totality of experiments with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) showed a clear tendency in favour of a difference between potencies and their solvent in the water- and OH-portions of the ethanol–water-molecule.3 I was quite pleased with this tendency, which is now being investigated by other researchers,4 but I realized that looking for effects without having any clue of their significance is hazardous. Therefore, I started building models for the ‘Therapeutically Active Ingredient’ (TAI) and it soon became clear that models for the TAI have to have holistic character.5

While playing with models, I developed a construct which I called the ‘Sequential Box Model’ (SBM, see Appendix A). SBM is a thought experiment illustrating that the homeopathic phenomenon can be treated within physics with no consideration of the degree of dilution. Furthermore, the SBM explicitly underlines the long-standing presumption that for a TAI to emerge during the potentization procedure a quality beyond ordinary correlation between particles has to occur or be in existence already.

About this time the idea of the so-called ‘quantum computing’ was proposed in computer science.[6] and [7] This involves the idea of non-local correlations between states of entities. For my work, such non-local behaviour was the missing link between the SBM and a possible TAI, particularly as it was already known that non-local behaviour can occur in non-quantum systems under certain circumstances. The relationship between non-local behaviour of events in nature and the homeopathic phenomenon may give a clue to the ‘nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions’ (NAIUD). It is the aim of this paper to analyse this relationship without going too far into technical details.

Necessity of a general principle

When we talk about the active ingredient of ultramolecular dilutions as used in homeopathy, we mean a non-material quality which—according to the principles of homeopathy—can be traced back to a substance. Moreover, this quality is understood to be able to make the symptoms of a patient disappear when administered via a vehicle. Many people call this quality ‘information’. Let us first look at the set of events that are required for a therapeutic active ingredient to develop out of a substance. In this context, the existence of a TAI is temporarily assumed as being proven by successful treatment (Figure 1).

1. First of all, a proving (homeopathic pathogenetic trial) must have been conducted resulting in a drug picture with specific symptoms.

2. A mother tincture is prepared from the substance.

3. Apart from some specific procedures for the preparation of low potencies that depend on the nature of the substance itself, the mother tincture is potentized stepwise with no consideration of the degree of dilution. Dilutions far beyond Avogadro’s number are used in daily practice.

4. When a homeopathic potency is prescribed, this is done according to the law of similars without consideration of the occurrence or not, of any molecule of the original substance in the medicine administered.

5. An artificial disease is triggered off resulting in healing.

These points demonstrate that the active ingredient of homeopathic potencies might have a variety of possible originators, especially when we only look at the squares and arrows in Figure 1 separately. There is no reason as to why two or more of these originators should complement one another. But if we look at Figure 1 as a whole, the necessity of a general principle becomes obvious. For such a principle, the symptoms of the homeopathic drug picture, the principle of releasing hidden energies of the substances by potentizing, the law of similars and the triggering of an artificial disease are specific projections. The problem is, how to specify this principle, especially with respect to the following questions:

1. Could such a general principle possibly be derived from the presence of a physical field?

2. For ultramolecular dilutions, interactions between molecules of the solute and those of the solvent do not make sense in terms of current scientific understanding. How can this be resolved?

3. Are there any reliable arguments for a concept of a global influence being responsible for an active ingredient in homeopathic potencies? Rupert Sheldrake’s morphogenetic field8 might serve as an example of such a concept.

In physics, fields are inevitably linked to interaction between material partners via interaction-particles. Photons, for instance, are the interaction-particles of the electromagnetic field.9 Thus, potentization as well as treatment with potencies—procedures that implicitly do not depend on matter–matter-interaction—are not primarily based on physical fields.


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Figure 1. Schema of events which are required for a TAI to: (a) develop out of a substance, and (b) proved to be existent by successful treatment. Arrows represent procedures, they map states onto states.

Both procedures, however, suggest mind–matter and matter–mind correlations.

1. Neither a specific chemical nor a specific physical property of the original substance is known to be transferred during the preparation of potencies although mother tinctures, which of course contain many molecules of the original substance, are mandatory for a starting point of this procedure. Potentization here appears to embody a procedure that relates matter to mind.

2. No common donor–acceptor-mechanism is known to be responsible for the effects of potencies. Treatment appears to embody a procedure that relates the ‘mind of matter’ to the ‘mind of illness’. The latter of course itself is strongly related to biological matter and is often looked upon as a relationship belonging to psychosomatics.

Are these correlations better described by interaction mechanisms that are not linked to particles? A possible alternative is non-local correlations, known from specific effects in quantum physics. Roughly speaking these correlations have the following characteristic:

1. Non-local correlations between systems or entities represent a real simultaneous behaviour of the correlation partners because no interacting particles (which have a finite speed and therefore cause a time delay) are necessary for interaction.

2. Non-local correlations are not able to interchange matter but only non-material information.

3. Non-local correlations are, in principle, independent of spatial distances.

How non-locality arose

Although Einstein was one of the founders of quantum physics, he did not accept quantum mechanics as to be a complete description of the phenomena of the micro world. He explained the reason for this attitude in a paper which he published with Podolsky and Rosen in 1935. In this famous paper, the three physicists described a thought experiment in which two physical quantities have simultaneous reality.10 For Einstein, this was a counter example for the completeness of quantum mechanics as a description of nature and for the rest of his life he did not change this attitude. He was not willing to accept counter-intuitive features in the description of nature. Schrödinger later on called this counter-intuitive property of quantum systems ‘entanglement’. Only three decades later, John Bell11 gave a theory-based criterion by which it was possible to decide whether a system is a quantum system or not. This criterion was applied in 1982 by Aspect and co-workers to an experimental arrangement in which they showed, for the first time, that entangled states can occur in quantum systems.12 Since then many properties of systems in micro-physics have been demonstrated in experimental arrangements based on entanglement.[5], [6] and [7] All have one thing in common: ‘Entanglement in quantum systems’.

What is entanglement?

Entanglement is a highly counter-intuitive quality of quantum systems. The fact that entanglement is irrelevant to Newtonian physics does not justify the assumption that quantum physics is the only field where entanglement occurs. At least theoretically, entanglement can occur in any system that fulfils a certain set of axioms. Entanglement comes in various guises and it is not easy for non-specialists to see whether a phenomenon belongs to the category of entangled systems or not. For our purposes, it should suffice to get a clue what entanglement is, without too much technical fuss. Readers who are interested in a more precise explanation are referred to Appendix B.

As an example let us imagine a secluded island exclusively inhabited by females. Being asked what human beings are, the inhabitants of this island would most probably point their fingers at themselves. Similarly, the inhabitants of another island exclusively inhabited by males would identify human beings with males. For the rest of the world, human beings are females as well as males. This is a description of a factual connection, where a generic quality in a system has a different meaning in its subsystems. Furthermore, if we look at pairs of human beings there might be couples among them in the rest of the world, in total contradiction to the local meaning in the two islands.

A generalization of this example leads to the following. Let p1 be a particle in a system A and let p2 be another particle in a system B. System A and system B are assumed to be disjoined, ie have no common points/particles. System A rules the behaviour of particle p1 and system B does the same for particle p2 (see Figure 2).


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Figure 2. Schema of two entangled systems A and B. p1 and p2 are assumed to be correlated. Seen from (A+B) correlation can be observed. Seen from A or B only local observations are possible.

It might be that states of the totality of the two systems occur which cannot be recognized in system A or in system B alone, but are exclusively linked to the recognition of (A+B) as a third generic system. In the above example as well as in the following generalization constellations, in which global observations are not compatible with local ones, are possible. This is the idea behind entanglement.

Weakening the axioms of quantum mechanics

Quantum mechanics deals with states zi and observables P, Q of quantum systems. Examples of observables are momentum, angular momentum, etc. Observables are thought to act as maps on the set of states. So, an observable P maps a state z1 into another state z2. Onto z2 a second observable Q may be applied resulting in a state z3. Unlike in classical mechanics in quantum mechanics one does not always have P(W(z))=Q(P(z)) or equivalently:

Pring operatorQ-Qring operatorP≠0,

where ‘ring operator’ is to be interpreted as ‘apply to’, where ‘0’ on the right-hand side of this inequality denotes the ‘zero-operator’ and where states ‘z’ have been omitted. Such a relation is known as a ‘commutation-relation’ of the two observables. Using states and observables as well as their relation to each other, quantum mechanics can be described as an algebraic system whose behaviour is ruled by a set of axioms that reflect the physical properties.In 2002, Atmanspacher et al. published13 the idea that weakening the axioms of quantum theory (weak quantum theory, WQT) could lead to theories that are no longer quantum systems or even physical systems at all, but which still have the property of possible entanglement. To be more precise, Atmanspacher et al. considered systems that comply with the following conditions (see also14):

1. Systems are any part of reality.

2. Systems are assumed to have the capacity to reside in different states. The set of states is not assumed to have the structure of the above-mentioned abstract space.

3. Observables are features of a system which can be investigated. They map states into states.

4. The composition Pring operatorQ of two observables is also an observable. P and Q are called compatible if they commute (ie Pring operatorQ-Qring operatorP=0).

5. To every observable P there is a set of different (possible) outcomes.

6. There are special observables (propositions) whose possible outcomes are either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They follow the laws of ordinary proposition logic and have specific spectral properties (omitted here).

Within these conditions entanglement arises if global observables P pertaining to all of a system are not compatible to local observables Q pertaining to parts of the system (iePring operatorQ-Qring operatorP≠0).

WQT and homeopathy

Since WQT systems are not necessarily quantum systems, WQT could be a tool to develop models for phenomena which are not quantum but have features which resemble entanglement, for instance, homeopathy. Several authors therefore have applied WQT to the homeopathic phenomenon. Walach, one of the co-authors of the original WQT paper,15 presented a model in which the two semiotic processes ‘substance and potency’ as well as ‘drug picture and symptoms of the patient’ are assumed to be entangled by the law of similars. Milgrom has sketched a model for the homeopathic phenomenon in which the three pairs ‘Patient and practitioner’, ‘patient and remedy’ as well as ‘practitioner and remedy’ are assumed to be entangled in pairs.16 In a metaphorical way he derives, in succeeding papers, from this entanglement triangle an astonishing variety of principles of homeopathy.

Both models presuppose the validity of WQT for the specific situation in homeopathy and Milgrom, at least, deduces implications which reflect the way homeopaths think. In terms of logic, the approach of these two models is called the sufficiency part of a proof. The necessity part would be the proof that the assumptions which underlie homeopathy such as the potentization, the law of similars, etc., fit the preconditions of WQT.

I have tackled the TAI problem in a previous paper.17 This is where the SBM (see Appendix A) becomes relevant as a thought model, because it characterizes homeopathic potencies as a real physical system in which an unknown inner correlation is sought. In essence, paper17 showed that sets {Ji1,…,im·σi1,…,im·σi1,…,im} of spin-like states, where indices i1,…,im vary over permutations, fit the axioms of WQT for an arbitrary big system BN in the SBM. The sets {Ji1,…,im·σi1,…,im·σi1,…,im} are a generalization of couplings (Jik·σi·σk) of two spins, in NMR-theory, for instance. The generalization strongly suggests to investigate the possibility of global couplings instead of pair-to-pair couplings.

In summary, a number of arguments exist for non-locality being the general principle underlying the NAIUD. Quantum mechanics, however, cannot be considered, without further investigations, the theoretical frame for the NAIUD. The paradigm is rather non-locality. Quantum physics is merely the scientific discipline where non-locality has proven to occur in reality. Figure 3 gives a schematic classification of phenomena which can be treated within quantum mechanics, and those which have less structure in the set of their states and therefore need another theoretical environment, WQT. Questions concerning the NAIUD might even go beyond WQT.


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Figure 3. (I) The set of phenomena understood by quantum mechanics (essentially quantum physics); (II) the set of phenomena possibly understood by weak quantum theory (ie quantum physics and beyond); and (III) the set of phenomena belonging to homeopathy, possibly not a proper subset of II. Although quantum mechanics is an excellent paradigm for entanglement occurring in nature, quantum mechanics itself is not the frame in which NAIUD can be described.

Entanglement and information in quantum physics and beyond

It is the purpose of this section to explain the considerable difficulties one should be aware of when applying WQT instead of normal quantum mechanics to systems in nature.

This will be exemplified by the difficulties which arise when the attempt is made to translate ‘informational content’ (=entropy) in a quantum system to a system which is not quantum but which can be investigated by WQT. For formally correct representations of the factual connections given here, the reader is referred, for instance, to.6

The key concept of classical information theory is that of Shannon entropy. According to this concept, the entropy of a random variable A quantifies how much information we gain, on average, when we learn the value of A. Conversely, the entropy of A measures the amount of uncertainty about A before we learn its value. Thus, on the one hand, entropy measures the uncertainty associated with a classical probability distribution. On the other hand, in quantum ensembles density operators ρ, which represent the statistics of ensembles of different molecules in different states, formally replace probability distributions.

It was John von Neumann’s brilliant insight that in quantum mechanics the entropy S(ρ) of ρ can be expressed by the formula

Click to view the MathML source

where λx are the eigenvalues of the density operator ρ. If entanglement between two subsystems of a quantum system occurs and if one considers the density operators of these subsystems separately it can be shown that the von Neumann entropy of one of these reduced density operators is a measure of the degree of entanglement. This measure has an upper bound log(s), where s (the Schmidt-number) is the dimensionality of an abstract space in which these states ‘live’. Clearly, the bigger the s, the more the particles or states entangled. Applied to an arbitrary box BN of the SBM this suggests that the bigger the box BN is, the larger s has to be chosen and therefore the larger the measure of the amount of information.These considerations, however, presuppose entanglement of those particles being directly concerned. If we turn to a situation where WQT has to be applied instead of quantum mechanics, many of the basic constituents are no longer present or at least no longer adequately defined. For instance, if the set of states is structured so poorly then the above formula for von Neumann entropy makes no sense.

Discussion

The principle of non-local behaviour of systems in nature, first investigated in the context of the counter-intuitive phenomena of quantum physics, is not necessarily restricted to physics at the micro scale. This is the essence of WQT. Roughly speaking WQT shows that in every system where local and global observables do not commute with each other non-local behaviour is possible. For some authors, WQT was the reason for using non-locality to characterize the nature of the active ingredient of ultramolecular dilutions. Some models have simply drawn consequences from such a possible generalized non-locality, another looks at the real potentization procedure, asking what non-locality might contribute to an active ingredient. But WQT is not known to be powerful enough to describe the NAIUD entirely.

So the question arises, why considered WQT in such detail in connection with homeopathy? The answer is simple. With WQT, for the first time, special emphasis is placed quantitatively on entanglement as an idea. Moreover, WQT has shown to be a powerful tool for the characterization of the physics of the class of mathematical problems which arise when the NAIUD is to be described.

It is a great temptation to use WQT as a special way of describing the laws of quantum physics. People who do so tend to ignore the restraints given of WQT and use it as a theory applicable to everything, including the NAIUD. This is certainly not the right way to describe the NAIUD. An attempt to characterize the informational content of a system to be investigated by WQT, shows that it is not easy to generalize the concept in quantum mechanics to WQT or beyond.

Of course, all these considerations do concern the NAIUD in modelling situations. The question is, why do such work instead of looking for the TAI in experiments? The answer is that model building is a method of finding a way of thinking which allows us to understand a set of phenomena in a wider context. In contrast, experimental work tends to reductionism. I hope that both tendencies will ultimately meet.

Acknowledgement

This paper was partially done within the project ‘Modelling and simulating the therapeutically active ingredient of homeopathic potencies’ which was supported by the Carstens-Foundation.

References

1 Fröhlich H, Kremer F (eds). Coherent Excitations in Biological Systems. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer, 1983.

2 O. Weingärtner, Homöopathische Potenzen, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York (1992).

3 O. Weingärtner, Kernresonanz-Spektroskopie in der Homöopathieforschung, KVC-Verlag, Essen (2002).

4 J.L. Demangeat, P. Gries and B. Poitevin et al., Low-field NMR water proton longitudinal relaxation in ultrahighly diluted aqueous solutions of silica–lactose prepared in glass material for pharmaceutical use, Appl Magn Reson 26 (2004), pp. 465–481. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

5 O. Weingärtner, Über die wissenschaftliche Bearbeitbarkeit der Identifikation eines ‘arzneilichen Gehalts’ von Hochpotenzen, Forsch Komplementärmed Klass Naturheilk 9 (2002), pp. 229–233. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

6 M.A. Nielsen and I.L. Chuang, Quantum Computation and Quantum Information, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2000).

7 C.P. Williams and S.H. Clearwater, Explorations in Quantum Computing, Springer, New York (1998).

8 R. Sheldrake, The Presence of the Past, Times Book, New York (1988).

9 J.D. Bjorken and S.D. Drell, Relativistic Quantum Fields, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York (1965).

10 A. Einstein, B. Podolsky and N. Rosen, Can quantum–mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?, Phys Rev 47 (1935), pp. 777–780. Full Text via CrossRef

11 J.S. Bell, On the Einstein Podolsky Rosen paradox, Physics 1 (1964), pp. 195–200.

12 A. Aspect, P. Grangier and G. Roger, Experimental realization of Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen–Bohm–Gedanken experiment: a new violation of Bell’s inequalities, Phys Rev Lett 48 (1982), pp. 91–94. Full Text via CrossRef

13 H. Atmanspacher, H. Römer and H. Walach, Weak quantum theory: complementarity and entanglement in physics and beyond, Found Phys 32 (2002), pp. 379–406. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

14 Römer H. Weak Quantum Theory and the Emergence of Time, 2004, arXiv:quant-ph/0402011 v1, 2 February 2004.

15 H. Walach, Entanglement model of homeopathy as an example of generalized entanglement predicted by weak quantum theory, Forsch Komplementärmed Klass Naturheilk 10 (2003), pp. 192–200. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

16 L. Milgrom, Patient-practitioner-remedy (PPR) entanglement. Part 1: a qualitative, non-local metaphor for homeopathy based on quantum theory, Homeopathy 91 (2002), pp. 239–248. Abstract | Abstract + References | PDF (240 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

17 O. Weingärtner, What is the therapeutically active ingredient of homeopathic potencies?, Homeopathy 92 (2003), pp. 145–151. SummaryPlus | Full Text + Links | PDF (156 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

Appendix A. The sequential box model (SBM)

Imagine a certain volume of mother tincture is present in a box B0. Then imagine the contents of B0 are poured into another box B1, 10 times bigger than B0 and already 9/10th full of solvent. Imagine then B1 being vigorously shaken as in the preparation procedure of homeopathic potencies. Imagine then the whole content of B1 being poured into another box B2, 10 times bigger than B1 and again 9/10th full of solvent.

This procedure can be continued to an arbitrary box BN and it is clear that:

1. In every Box BN the whole volume of mother tincture is present, ie the problem of high potencies can be, at least in a thought experiment, treated physically.

2. If one attempted to conduct this experiment in reality the procedure would come to an end very soon because of the unrealizable dimensions of the boxes.

3. The higher N grows the less probable is the occurrence of a molecule in a random sample taken out of BN. This means that in BN an additional property has to be present which carries the information of B0. This property has to be non-local.

Appendix B. Entanglement

Mathematicians represent every point in the three-dimensional space of our experience as a sum of multiples of vectors of unit lengths in the x-, y- and z-axes. In the same way, they often represent objects in abstract spaces as sums of multiples of basic elements of these spaces. A direct application of this to quantum physics leads to the following.[6] and [7]

The states of quantum systems are mathematically represented by elements (points in) of an abstract Hilbert-space H. If points in this space are denoted by ψ and if the basic elements of H are denoted by phii (i=1,2,…), representations of states look like

Click to view the MathML source

This is commonly known as the principle of superposition in quantum mechanics, ie a wave function ψ is the superposition of multiples ai of basis ‘waves’ phii. In case of two particles forming two different systems we have the two representations:

Click to view the MathML source

Click to view the MathML source

where the numberings (1) and (2) are used to distinguish between the two. For the sake of clarity, we also index the Hilbert-spaces belonging to each of these representations (and get H1 and H2, respectively) although they are usually identical.The crucial point now is the consideration of a system consisting of the two particles as a whole. In this case, it is necessary to construct another Hilbert-space H=H1circle times operatorH2 out of H1 and H2 in such a way that this new system ‘lives’ in H1 and in H2 at the same time. In order to achieve this, a so-called tensor-product H1circle times operatorH2 is formed. This is a new Hilbert-space whose points have the form

Click to view the MathML source

where Φi,j denote basis elements in H=H1circle times operatorH2 and ci,j their multiples. Entangled states are those (ψ(1)ψ(2)) for which the multiples ci,j cannot be written as

ci,j=aibj,

with ai and bj being the multiples from above and independent from each other.Remarks

1. The above relation between states can be interpreted as the possible arising of additional qualities when two single systems are looked upon as a whole.

2. The set of entangled states in most of quantum systems is not empty. For many systems, the subset of possibly entangled states is much bigger than the non-entangled.

3. The above characterization is not restricted to pairs of particles.

4. States (ψ(1)ψ(2)) in H=H1circle times operatorH2 which cannot be split into products of pure states in H1 and H2, respectively, might be imagined as the pure states of the composite system.

5. The description of entanglement in quantum mechanics, which is a counter-intuitive, strongly depends on a mathematical apparatus with a rich structure.


Corresponding Author Contact InformationCorrespondence: Otto Weingärtner, Department of Basic Research, Dr. Reckeweg & Co. GmbH, Berliner Ring 32, D 64625 Bensheim, Germany.



Homeopathy
Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 220-226
The Memory of Water

Journal Club – “The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions”

September 2nd, 2014 by Ben Goldacre in journal club | No Comments »

This is part of the Homeopathy journal club project described here:

www.badscience.net/?p=490

doi:10.1016/j.homp.2007.05.005 How to Cite or Link Using DOI (Opens New Window)
Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved. The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions Otto WeingärtnerCorresponding Author Contact Information, a, E-mail The Corresponding Author
aDepartment of Basic Research, Dr. Reckeweg & Co. GmbH, Berliner Ring 32, D 64625 Bensheim, Germany
Received 8 March 2007; revised 14 May 2007. Available online 31 July 2007.

Abstract

This paper discusses the nature of the active ingredient of homeopathic ultramolecular dilutions in terms of quantitative physics.

First, the problem of the nature of an active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions is analysed leading to the recognition of the necessity of characterizing the active ingredient as a non-local quality.

Second, non-locality in quantum mechanics, which is used as a paradigm, is formally presented.

Third, a generalization of quantum mechanics is considered, focussing on the consequences of weakening of the axioms.

The formal treatment leads to the possible extension of the validity of quantum theory to macroscopic or even non-physical systems under certain circumstances with a while maintaining non-local behaviour. With respect to the survival of entanglement in such non-quantum systems a strong relationship between homeopathy and non-local behaviour can be envisaged. I describe how several authors apply this relationship. In conclusion, the paper reviews how quantum mechanics is closely related to information theory but why weak quantum theory and homeopathy have not hitherto been related in the same way.

Keywords: potencies; non-locality; entanglement; weak quantum-theory; information

Article Outline

Introduction
Necessity of a general principle
How non-locality arose
What is entanglement?
Weakening the axioms of quantum mechanics
WQT and homeopathy
Entanglement and information in quantum physics and beyond
Discussion
Acknowledgements
Appendix A. The sequential box model (SBM)
Appendix B. Entanglement
References


Introduction

When I started basic research on homeopathy more than 20 years ago I endeavoured to describe homeopathic potencies according to the laws of physics as far as possible. This soon led me to the hypothesis of a field being responsible for the homeopathic phenomenon. In investigating this hypothesis I learned from biophysics that such a field has to be closely related to electromagnetism, because of the ability of living organisms to react in a specific way on electromagnetic signals.1 I concluded that the mechanism of homeopathic effects must be similar to resonances between electromagnetic waves and started to search for stored patterns of electromagnetic origin or, more generally, of physically measurable properties which differ between potencies and their solvent.

The results of the series of experiments that were carried out with a variety of standard physical–chemical methods2 were disappointing. Almost none of the experiments could reproduce results reported in specialist literature, and for no experimental arrangement could the results be forecast. However, the totality of experiments with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) showed a clear tendency in favour of a difference between potencies and their solvent in the water- and OH-portions of the ethanol–water-molecule.3 I was quite pleased with this tendency, which is now being investigated by other researchers,4 but I realized that looking for effects without having any clue of their significance is hazardous. Therefore, I started building models for the ‘Therapeutically Active Ingredient’ (TAI) and it soon became clear that models for the TAI have to have holistic character.5

While playing with models, I developed a construct which I called the ‘Sequential Box Model’ (SBM, see Appendix A). SBM is a thought experiment illustrating that the homeopathic phenomenon can be treated within physics with no consideration of the degree of dilution. Furthermore, the SBM explicitly underlines the long-standing presumption that for a TAI to emerge during the potentization procedure a quality beyond ordinary correlation between particles has to occur or be in existence already.

About this time the idea of the so-called ‘quantum computing’ was proposed in computer science.[6] and [7] This involves the idea of non-local correlations between states of entities. For my work, such non-local behaviour was the missing link between the SBM and a possible TAI, particularly as it was already known that non-local behaviour can occur in non-quantum systems under certain circumstances. The relationship between non-local behaviour of events in nature and the homeopathic phenomenon may give a clue to the ‘nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions’ (NAIUD). It is the aim of this paper to analyse this relationship without going too far into technical details.

Necessity of a general principle

When we talk about the active ingredient of ultramolecular dilutions as used in homeopathy, we mean a non-material quality which—according to the principles of homeopathy—can be traced back to a substance. Moreover, this quality is understood to be able to make the symptoms of a patient disappear when administered via a vehicle. Many people call this quality ‘information’. Let us first look at the set of events that are required for a therapeutic active ingredient to develop out of a substance. In this context, the existence of a TAI is temporarily assumed as being proven by successful treatment (Figure 1).

1. First of all, a proving (homeopathic pathogenetic trial) must have been conducted resulting in a drug picture with specific symptoms.
2. A mother tincture is prepared from the substance.
3. Apart from some specific procedures for the preparation of low potencies that depend on the nature of the substance itself, the mother tincture is potentized stepwise with no consideration of the degree of dilution. Dilutions far beyond Avogadro’s number are used in daily practice.
4. When a homeopathic potency is prescribed, this is done according to the law of similars without consideration of the occurrence or not, of any molecule of the original substance in the medicine administered.
5. An artificial disease is triggered off resulting in healing.

These points demonstrate that the active ingredient of homeopathic potencies might have a variety of possible originators, especially when we only look at the squares and arrows in Figure 1 separately. There is no reason as to why two or more of these originators should complement one another. But if we look at Figure 1 as a whole, the necessity of a general principle becomes obvious. For such a principle, the symptoms of the homeopathic drug picture, the principle of releasing hidden energies of the substances by potentizing, the law of similars and the triggering of an artificial disease are specific projections. The problem is, how to specify this principle, especially with respect to the following questions:

1. Could such a general principle possibly be derived from the presence of a physical field?
2. For ultramolecular dilutions, interactions between molecules of the solute and those of the solvent do not make sense in terms of current scientific understanding. How can this be resolved?
3. Are there any reliable arguments for a concept of a global influence being responsible for an active ingredient in homeopathic potencies? Rupert Sheldrake’s morphogenetic field8 might serve as an example of such a concept.

In physics, fields are inevitably linked to interaction between material partners via interaction-particles. Photons, for instance, are the interaction-particles of the electromagnetic field.9 Thus, potentization as well as treatment with potencies—procedures that implicitly do not depend on matter–matter-interaction—are not primarily based on physical fields.


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Figure 1. Schema of events which are required for a TAI to: (a) develop out of a substance, and (b) proved to be existent by successful treatment. Arrows represent procedures, they map states onto states.

Both procedures, however, suggest mind–matter and matter–mind correlations.

1. Neither a specific chemical nor a specific physical property of the original substance is known to be transferred during the preparation of potencies although mother tinctures, which of course contain many molecules of the original substance, are mandatory for a starting point of this procedure. Potentization here appears to embody a procedure that relates matter to mind.
2. No common donor–acceptor-mechanism is known to be responsible for the effects of potencies. Treatment appears to embody a procedure that relates the ‘mind of matter’ to the ‘mind of illness’. The latter of course itself is strongly related to biological matter and is often looked upon as a relationship belonging to psychosomatics.

Are these correlations better described by interaction mechanisms that are not linked to particles? A possible alternative is non-local correlations, known from specific effects in quantum physics. Roughly speaking these correlations have the following characteristic:

1. Non-local correlations between systems or entities represent a real simultaneous behaviour of the correlation partners because no interacting particles (which have a finite speed and therefore cause a time delay) are necessary for interaction.
2. Non-local correlations are not able to interchange matter but only non-material information.
3. Non-local correlations are, in principle, independent of spatial distances.

How non-locality arose

Although Einstein was one of the founders of quantum physics, he did not accept quantum mechanics as to be a complete description of the phenomena of the micro world. He explained the reason for this attitude in a paper which he published with Podolsky and Rosen in 1935. In this famous paper, the three physicists described a thought experiment in which two physical quantities have simultaneous reality.10 For Einstein, this was a counter example for the completeness of quantum mechanics as a description of nature and for the rest of his life he did not change this attitude. He was not willing to accept counter-intuitive features in the description of nature. Schrödinger later on called this counter-intuitive property of quantum systems ‘entanglement’. Only three decades later, John Bell11 gave a theory-based criterion by which it was possible to decide whether a system is a quantum system or not. This criterion was applied in 1982 by Aspect and co-workers to an experimental arrangement in which they showed, for the first time, that entangled states can occur in quantum systems.12 Since then many properties of systems in micro-physics have been demonstrated in experimental arrangements based on entanglement.[5], [6] and [7] All have one thing in common: ‘Entanglement in quantum systems’.

What is entanglement?

Entanglement is a highly counter-intuitive quality of quantum systems. The fact that entanglement is irrelevant to Newtonian physics does not justify the assumption that quantum physics is the only field where entanglement occurs. At least theoretically, entanglement can occur in any system that fulfils a certain set of axioms. Entanglement comes in various guises and it is not easy for non-specialists to see whether a phenomenon belongs to the category of entangled systems or not. For our purposes, it should suffice to get a clue what entanglement is, without too much technical fuss. Readers who are interested in a more precise explanation are referred to Appendix B.

As an example let us imagine a secluded island exclusively inhabited by females. Being asked what human beings are, the inhabitants of this island would most probably point their fingers at themselves. Similarly, the inhabitants of another island exclusively inhabited by males would identify human beings with males. For the rest of the world, human beings are females as well as males. This is a description of a factual connection, where a generic quality in a system has a different meaning in its subsystems. Furthermore, if we look at pairs of human beings there might be couples among them in the rest of the world, in total contradiction to the local meaning in the two islands.

A generalization of this example leads to the following. Let p1 be a particle in a system A and let p2 be another particle in a system B. System A and system B are assumed to be disjoined, ie have no common points/particles. System A rules the behaviour of particle p1 and system B does the same for particle p2 (see Figure 2).


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Figure 2. Schema of two entangled systems A and B. p1 and p2 are assumed to be correlated. Seen from (A+B) correlation can be observed. Seen from A or B only local observations are possible.

It might be that states of the totality of the two systems occur which cannot be recognized in system A or in system B alone, but are exclusively linked to the recognition of (A+B) as a third generic system. In the above example as well as in the following generalization constellations, in which global observations are not compatible with local ones, are possible. This is the idea behind entanglement.

Weakening the axioms of quantum mechanics

Quantum mechanics deals with states zi and observables P, Q of quantum systems. Examples of observables are momentum, angular momentum, etc. Observables are thought to act as maps on the set of states. So, an observable P maps a state z1 into another state z2. Onto z2 a second observable Q may be applied resulting in a state z3. Unlike in classical mechanics in quantum mechanics one does not always have P(W(z))=Q(P(z)) or equivalently:

Pring operatorQ-Qring operatorP≠0,

where ‘ring operator’ is to be interpreted as ‘apply to’, where ‘0’ on the right-hand side of this inequality denotes the ‘zero-operator’ and where states ‘z’ have been omitted. Such a relation is known as a ‘commutation-relation’ of the two observables. Using states and observables as well as their relation to each other, quantum mechanics can be described as an algebraic system whose behaviour is ruled by a set of axioms that reflect the physical properties.In 2002, Atmanspacher et al. published13 the idea that weakening the axioms of quantum theory (weak quantum theory, WQT) could lead to theories that are no longer quantum systems or even physical systems at all, but which still have the property of possible entanglement. To be more precise, Atmanspacher et al. considered systems that comply with the following conditions (see also14):

1. Systems are any part of reality.
2. Systems are assumed to have the capacity to reside in different states. The set of states is not assumed to have the structure of the above-mentioned abstract space.
3. Observables are features of a system which can be investigated. They map states into states.
4. The composition Pring operatorQ of two observables is also an observable. P and Q are called compatible if they commute (ie Pring operatorQ-Qring operatorP=0).
5. To every observable P there is a set of different (possible) outcomes.
6. There are special observables (propositions) whose possible outcomes are either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They follow the laws of ordinary proposition logic and have specific spectral properties (omitted here).

Within these conditions entanglement arises if global observables P pertaining to all of a system are not compatible to local observables Q pertaining to parts of the system (iePring operatorQ-Qring operatorP≠0).

WQT and homeopathy

Since WQT systems are not necessarily quantum systems, WQT could be a tool to develop models for phenomena which are not quantum but have features which resemble entanglement, for instance, homeopathy. Several authors therefore have applied WQT to the homeopathic phenomenon. Walach, one of the co-authors of the original WQT paper,15 presented a model in which the two semiotic processes ‘substance and potency’ as well as ‘drug picture and symptoms of the patient’ are assumed to be entangled by the law of similars. Milgrom has sketched a model for the homeopathic phenomenon in which the three pairs ‘Patient and practitioner’, ‘patient and remedy’ as well as ‘practitioner and remedy’ are assumed to be entangled in pairs.16 In a metaphorical way he derives, in succeeding papers, from this entanglement triangle an astonishing variety of principles of homeopathy.

Both models presuppose the validity of WQT for the specific situation in homeopathy and Milgrom, at least, deduces implications which reflect the way homeopaths think. In terms of logic, the approach of these two models is called the sufficiency part of a proof. The necessity part would be the proof that the assumptions which underlie homeopathy such as the potentization, the law of similars, etc., fit the preconditions of WQT.

I have tackled the TAI problem in a previous paper.17 This is where the SBM (see Appendix A) becomes relevant as a thought model, because it characterizes homeopathic potencies as a real physical system in which an unknown inner correlation is sought. In essence, paper17 showed that sets {Ji1,…,im·σi1,…,im·σi1,…,im} of spin-like states, where indices i1,…,im vary over permutations, fit the axioms of WQT for an arbitrary big system BN in the SBM. The sets {Ji1,…,im·σi1,…,im·σi1,…,im} are a generalization of couplings (Jik·σi·σk) of two spins, in NMR-theory, for instance. The generalization strongly suggests to investigate the possibility of global couplings instead of pair-to-pair couplings.

In summary, a number of arguments exist for non-locality being the general principle underlying the NAIUD. Quantum mechanics, however, cannot be considered, without further investigations, the theoretical frame for the NAIUD. The paradigm is rather non-locality. Quantum physics is merely the scientific discipline where non-locality has proven to occur in reality. Figure 3 gives a schematic classification of phenomena which can be treated within quantum mechanics, and those which have less structure in the set of their states and therefore need another theoretical environment, WQT. Questions concerning the NAIUD might even go beyond WQT.


Display Full Size version of this image (10K)

Figure 3. (I) The set of phenomena understood by quantum mechanics (essentially quantum physics); (II) the set of phenomena possibly understood by weak quantum theory (ie quantum physics and beyond); and (III) the set of phenomena belonging to homeopathy, possibly not a proper subset of II. Although quantum mechanics is an excellent paradigm for entanglement occurring in nature, quantum mechanics itself is not the frame in which NAIUD can be described.

Entanglement and information in quantum physics and beyond

It is the purpose of this section to explain the considerable difficulties one should be aware of when applying WQT instead of normal quantum mechanics to systems in nature.

This will be exemplified by the difficulties which arise when the attempt is made to translate ‘informational content’ (=entropy) in a quantum system to a system which is not quantum but which can be investigated by WQT. For formally correct representations of the factual connections given here, the reader is referred, for instance, to.6

The key concept of classical information theory is that of Shannon entropy. According to this concept, the entropy of a random variable A quantifies how much information we gain, on average, when we learn the value of A. Conversely, the entropy of A measures the amount of uncertainty about A before we learn its value. Thus, on the one hand, entropy measures the uncertainty associated with a classical probability distribution. On the other hand, in quantum ensembles density operators ρ, which represent the statistics of ensembles of different molecules in different states, formally replace probability distributions.

It was John von Neumann’s brilliant insight that in quantum mechanics the entropy S(ρ) of ρ can be expressed by the formula

Click to view the MathML source

where λx are the eigenvalues of the density operator ρ. If entanglement between two subsystems of a quantum system occurs and if one considers the density operators of these subsystems separately it can be shown that the von Neumann entropy of one of these reduced density operators is a measure of the degree of entanglement. This measure has an upper bound log(s), where s (the Schmidt-number) is the dimensionality of an abstract space in which these states ‘live’. Clearly, the bigger the s, the more the particles or states entangled. Applied to an arbitrary box BN of the SBM this suggests that the bigger the box BN is, the larger s has to be chosen and therefore the larger the measure of the amount of information.These considerations, however, presuppose entanglement of those particles being directly concerned. If we turn to a situation where WQT has to be applied instead of quantum mechanics, many of the basic constituents are no longer present or at least no longer adequately defined. For instance, if the set of states is structured so poorly then the above formula for von Neumann entropy makes no sense.

Discussion

The principle of non-local behaviour of systems in nature, first investigated in the context of the counter-intuitive phenomena of quantum physics, is not necessarily restricted to physics at the micro scale. This is the essence of WQT. Roughly speaking WQT shows that in every system where local and global observables do not commute with each other non-local behaviour is possible. For some authors, WQT was the reason for using non-locality to characterize the nature of the active ingredient of ultramolecular dilutions. Some models have simply drawn consequences from such a possible generalized non-locality, another looks at the real potentization procedure, asking what non-locality might contribute to an active ingredient. But WQT is not known to be powerful enough to describe the NAIUD entirely.

So the question arises, why considered WQT in such detail in connection with homeopathy? The answer is simple. With WQT, for the first time, special emphasis is placed quantitatively on entanglement as an idea. Moreover, WQT has shown to be a powerful tool for the characterization of the physics of the class of mathematical problems which arise when the NAIUD is to be described.

It is a great temptation to use WQT as a special way of describing the laws of quantum physics. People who do so tend to ignore the restraints given of WQT and use it as a theory applicable to everything, including the NAIUD. This is certainly not the right way to describe the NAIUD. An attempt to characterize the informational content of a system to be investigated by WQT, shows that it is not easy to generalize the concept in quantum mechanics to WQT or beyond.

Of course, all these considerations do concern the NAIUD in modelling situations. The question is, why do such work instead of looking for the TAI in experiments? The answer is that model building is a method of finding a way of thinking which allows us to understand a set of phenomena in a wider context. In contrast, experimental work tends to reductionism. I hope that both tendencies will ultimately meet.

Acknowledgement

This paper was partially done within the project ‘Modelling and simulating the therapeutically active ingredient of homeopathic potencies’ which was supported by the Carstens-Foundation.

References

1 Fröhlich H, Kremer F (eds). Coherent Excitations in Biological Systems. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer, 1983.

2 O. Weingärtner, Homöopathische Potenzen, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York (1992).

3 O. Weingärtner, Kernresonanz-Spektroskopie in der Homöopathieforschung, KVC-Verlag, Essen (2002).

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Appendix A. The sequential box model (SBM)

Imagine a certain volume of mother tincture is present in a box B0. Then imagine the contents of B0 are poured into another box B1, 10 times bigger than B0 and already 9/10th full of solvent. Imagine then B1 being vigorously shaken as in the preparation procedure of homeopathic potencies. Imagine then the whole content of B1 being poured into another box B2, 10 times bigger than B1 and again 9/10th full of solvent.

This procedure can be continued to an arbitrary box BN and it is clear that:

1. In every Box BN the whole volume of mother tincture is present, ie the problem of high potencies can be, at least in a thought experiment, treated physically.
2. If one attempted to conduct this experiment in reality the procedure would come to an end very soon because of the unrealizable dimensions of the boxes.
3. The higher N grows the less probable is the occurrence of a molecule in a random sample taken out of BN. This means that in BN an additional property has to be present which carries the information of B0. This property has to be non-local.

Appendix B. Entanglement

Mathematicians represent every point in the three-dimensional space of our experience as a sum of multiples of vectors of unit lengths in the x-, y- and z-axes. In the same way, they often represent objects in abstract spaces as sums of multiples of basic elements of these spaces. A direct application of this to quantum physics leads to the following.[6] and [7]

The states of quantum systems are mathematically represented by elements (points in) of an abstract Hilbert-space H. If points in this space are denoted by ψ and if the basic elements of H are denoted by phii (i=1,2,…), representations of states look like

Click to view the MathML source

This is commonly known as the principle of superposition in quantum mechanics, ie a wave function ψ is the superposition of multiples ai of basis ‘waves’ phii. In case of two particles forming two different systems we have the two representations:

Click to view the MathML source

Click to view the MathML source

where the numberings (1) and (2) are used to distinguish between the two. For the sake of clarity, we also index the Hilbert-spaces belonging to each of these representations (and get H1 and H2, respectively) although they are usually identical.The crucial point now is the consideration of a system consisting of the two particles as a whole. In this case, it is necessary to construct another Hilbert-space H=H1circle times operatorH2 out of H1 and H2 in such a way that this new system ‘lives’ in H1 and in H2 at the same time. In order to achieve this, a so-called tensor-product H1circle times operatorH2 is formed. This is a new Hilbert-space whose points have the form

Click to view the MathML source

where Φi,j denote basis elements in H=H1circle times operatorH2 and ci,j their multiples. Entangled states are those (ψ(1)ψ(2)) for which the multiples ci,j cannot be written as

ci,j=aibj,

with ai and bj being the multiples from above and independent from each other.Remarks

1. The above relation between states can be interpreted as the possible arising of additional qualities when two single systems are looked upon as a whole.
2. The set of entangled states in most of quantum systems is not empty. For many systems, the subset of possibly entangled states is much bigger than the non-entangled.
3. The above characterization is not restricted to pairs of particles.
4. States (ψ(1)ψ(2)) in H=H1circle times operatorH2 which cannot be split into products of pure states in H1 and H2, respectively, might be imagined as the pure states of the composite system.
5. The description of entanglement in quantum mechanics, which is a counter-intuitive, strongly depends on a mathematical apparatus with a rich structure.


Corresponding Author Contact InformationCorrespondence: Otto Weingärtner, Department of Basic Research, Dr. Reckeweg & Co. GmbH, Berliner Ring 32, D 64625 Bensheim, Germany.



Homeopathy
Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 220-226
The Memory of Water