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Legendary Thinker, Physicist Evan H. Walker, Remembered this Weekend

 

The American intellectual, physicist and artist, author of The Physics of Consciousness, Dr. Evan Harris Walker of Aberdeen, Maryland died on August 17 at Harford Memorial Hospital.  He had recently celebrated his 70st birthday. A memorial will celebrate his life on September 9 (for more information, contact the family at mccomasfuneralhome.com).  

 

The Birmingham, Alabama native pioneered the effort to pin point how consciousness arises in the brain. Although it has become a rather fashionable topic, not long ago, anyone publicly concerned about the nature of consciousness was not favorably looked upon.  Walker went on to receive the Outstanding Contribution Award from the Parapsychological Association in 2001 for his quantum theory of consciousness.

According to University of Amsterdam physicist Dick Bierman, "Dr Walker was the first to realize that some aspects of Quantum Physics could have dramatic consequences for the field of Parapsychology. He developed a precise quantitative theory on the basis of these notions." Bierman lamented that "for most researchers, especially in the US and especially those with a psychological rather than a physics background, this theory came too early and Walker didn't get the appreciation he deserved. In Europe, however, several researchers were heavily influenced by Walker's theory and currently - even in the US - his ideas are 'borrowed.'"

 

Friend and Aberdeen Proving Grounds colleague Robert Paul describes him as “an intellectual rouge of the first magnitude” of outstanding teaching ability, and a creative genius whose stories he still delights to tell.  “During these years I came to recognize his passionate beliefs and considerations of the most serious matters.  He spent many lunches in his religious studies group and engaged anyone in deep philosophical discussions about religion, politics, and philosophy.”

 

Having just finished a new book, exhibited his art in Montreal, and traveled to Europe, Dr. Walker was reportedly as “young at heart and vibrant” as ever.  He was preparing for a cruise in the Baltic Sea with his old professor when he suffered a mini-stroke and passed away in the hospital a week later.  His wife, Helen Marie Walker jests that she would not be too surprised if he went on the cruise anyway!

 

Many who have had Near Death Experiences report a sort of life review; as in end of the movie American Beauty, a collage of a myriad of important or emotional moments in one’s life.  If the late American physicist Evan Harris Walker had this experience last August 17, when he departed, what memories might have he revisited? Certainly, priceless moments with his wife, his brother, and other family members; perhaps, he smiled at what had appeared to have been intractable disagreements, insurmountable obstacles, and bitter disappointments. 

 

Surely, he would revisit that fateful stroll through the University of Maryland campus when a spontaneous expansion of consciousness set him on a life-long quest to solve the mind-body problem. This flash of insight pointed to electron tunneling across synapses – the tiny gaps between neurons; small enough for the weird, non-local quantum effects to come into play.

 

In The Physics of Consciousness, he summarizes his work. “One of the central features of the controversy has been the argument that characteristics of QM [Quantum Mechanics] imply that an observer's thoughts can affect an objective apparatus directly, which in turn implies the reality not only of consciousness but of psi phenomena. I have written several papers saying that such a feature of QM is not a fault, but rather represents a solution to problems that go beyond the usual purview of physics. Thus, I have developed a theory of consciousness and psi phenomena that arises directly from these bizarre findings in QM.” 

 

Although others had suggested a possible connection between consciousness and quantum mechanics, Walker was the first to produce an equation to characterize this possible relationship.  His Modified Schrödinger’s Equation addressed the so-called measurement problem in quantum mechanics.  He modified the Dirac Equation so that “time and events create a space-time illusion and where an information term generates the standard model.”  Based on the estimated number of synapses in the brain and the rate of electron tunneling across them, Dr. Walker was convinced that he showed that his equation could be used to calculate, with remarkable accuracy, how much information the brain is capable of processing.

 

An endless fountain of creativity, Dr. Walker could be found ideating on outrageous inventions and purely theoretical arguments. However, Evan Walker did not stop at theory.  He was among a minority of scientists who openly admitted to witnessing and producing so-called anomalous or paranormal phenomena on numerous occasions.  Despite that, he was not militant in a field that is highly divided.  On citing Near-Death Experiences and other phenomena, a minority contends that consciousness survives death and is extra-biological while the majority of scientists defend that consciousness is nothing but illusory epiphenomena produced by the brain and that paranormal phenomena either do not exist or are caused by physical processes. 

 

“Instead of arguing endlessly about which metaphysical bias has more merit, Dr. Walker realized that, either way, consciousness and the brain are, at least while we live physically, inextricably connected.” International Academy of Consciousness out-of-body experience junior researcher Nelson Abreu first met Dr. Walker at the biennial Toward a Science of Consciousness conference in Tucson, Arizona.  “Even if consciousness can exist by itself without the brain, it would still need to trigger all the electrochemical activity we can detect in a live brain.  Dr. Walker’s work has special appeal to a new generation of scientists who want to compromise neither rationality nor meaning.”

 

Does consciousness survive biological death? No one was more fascinated with this enigma than Dr. Walker, and friends kid that he is fully expected to report on his findings – somehow.  At about the time of this death on August 17, the son of his nephew Michael P. Walker happened to see Dr. Walker on TV on the PBS documentary Einstein’s Wife, explaining why he thought Mileva Maric collaborated in Einstein’s seminal achievements.  “`Uncle Bookie’ used to have a game where he would ask you to come up with a word and see if it came up on radio or TV within the next few minutes.”

 

“I recently asked him how we would know if someone ever actually changed history retroactively, as that new history would be all we remember,” says Michael Walker. “He said there would be some subtle indicator or something that looked like a coincidence. He told me that, one might notice the cars in a parking lot were arranged in such a way as to spell out a name or, someone or something might appear in an unexpected place as in Woody Allen’s movie, Zelig or Forest Gump standing next to the President on TV. After all, who could resist a little time traveler’s ‘graffiti’?”  The magic of Evan Walker at its finest.

 

How would Dr. Walker feel about his life? Dr. Walker would relish being right that we are more than a chance and a purposeless result of physics.  He would be joyful that he had the insight and the courage to pioneer the field of Consciousness Physics. 

 

He would brim with satisfaction for having written not only the well-known book The Physics of Consciousness but even more so for leaving behind a magnificent manuscript for Magic of Mind.  Tired of appealing mainly to the brain-based crowd, Dr. Walker’s last tome pulls all the stops and rushes forward with all his artistry, intuition, and scientific insight.  From his highly enjoyable historical reviews and analytical, scientific thought to his stimulating technical speculation and unstoppable creativity, the fullness of Dr. Walker’s jolly and irreverent personality comes through like never before.

 

Just three weeks before the mini-stroke that foreshadowed his death, Dr. Walker was in Montreal presenting a solo exhibition of some of the earliest digital art at the Galerie Gora. Using the computer as a tool to extract the elements of Reductionist art, Dr. Walker created “Postmodern Ana,” a new synthesis of artistic expression. Continuing from the work of Mondrian and Pollack, Dr. Walker devised a way to construct new realities of vast complexity or simplicity, of order or pandemonium.

Although physics was at the base of everything for Evan, his genius did not stop there. He would always seek for an ultimate beauty in balance. This is embodied in his canvases, both in the recent Synthesism paintings and also in earlier Realism work, with women as his subject: refined, polished and elegant. Dr. Walker was a man capable of finding beauty in all facets of life, a true da Vincian polymath. A student from Florida State University produced a lovely interview on Dr. Walker’s Post-Modern Ana and his insights on post-modern art.  Another recent DVD memento of this inventor of dreams is his address at the 2005 Meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration.  His legacy also continues through Maryland-based Walker Cancer Research Institute and the numerous intellects and hearts he has touched.  


HOMEPAGE



By Nelson Abreu (Miami); contributions by Anastasia Glover (London)