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Hendrik de Waard Lecture
In series
20:00 – 21:30

Academy Building
Broerstraat 5

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Consciousness, a Quantum Phenomenon?

Cristiane de Morais Smith

It is one of the most fundamental questions in science. How can we explain human consciousness? Long before winning the 2020 Nobel Prize for his prediction of black holes, physicist Roger Penrose worked together with anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, theorizing that  consciousness should obey the rules of quantum mechanics. This idea generated much controversy, with strong opponents and persuasive supporters, but the issue has not been settled. Instead of entering the polemic, Cristiane de Morais-Smith and her research group decided to investigate quantum transport in artificially designed fractal structures. They might be taking the first steps on a long journey that will be the unification of physics, mathematics and biology, to reach a deeper understanding of the human body and its functioning, as well as to inspire designs of more efficient quantum algorithms. Can consciousness be explained by quantum physics?

Cristiane de Morais Smith is a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Utrecht working on condensed matter physics, cold atoms, and strongly correlated systems. Her research focuses on connections between low-dimensional quantum systems, ranging from graphene and carbon nanotubes to high-temperature superconductors. She was awarded the Vici grant in 2007 and the Swiss Vidi equivalent in 2001.

Hendrik de Waard Lecture
This lecture is organised by the Hendrik de Waard Foundation in cooperation with Studium Generale Groningen. The Hendrik de Waard Foundation was founded after the retirement of the late professor of physics Hendrik de Waard in 1987. Annually, the foundation organises a lecture to inform and intrigue the general public about recent developments in science.

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