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Star Consciousness: An Alternative to Dark Matter

by Dr. Gregory L. Matloff

Gregory Matloff is a major figure in what might be called the ‘interstellar movement,’ the continuing effort to analyze our prospects for travel to the stars. Greg is Emeritus Associate Professor and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at New York City College of Technology as well as Hayden Associate at the American Museum of Natural History. Centauri Dreams readers will know him as the author (with Eugene Mallove) of The Starflight Handbook (Wiley, 1989) and also as author or co-author of recent books such as Deep Space Probes (2005), Living Off the Land in Space (2007) and Solar Sails: A Novel Approach to Interplanetary Travel (2010). My own acquaintance with Greg’s work began with the seminal JBIS paper “Solar Sail Starships: The Clipper Ships of the Galaxy” (1981), and the flow of papers, monographs and books that followed have set high standards for those investigating our methods for going to the stars, and the reasons why we should make the attempt.

In the summer of 2011, Dr. Matloff delivered a paper in London at the British Interplanetary Society’s conference on the works of philosopher and writer Olaf Stapledon, the author of Star Maker (1937). One of Stapledon’s startling ideas was that stars themselves might have a form of consciousness. Greg’s presentation went to work on the notion in light of anomalous stellar velocities and asked what might make such an idea possible. His paper on the seemingly incredible notion follows. –PG


The Dark Matter hypothesis has been invoked as an explanation for the fact that stars revolve around the centers of their galaxies faster than can be accounted for by observable matter. After decades of failed experimental searches, dark matter has remained elusive. As an alternative to the Dark Matter hypothesis, a idea first presented by author Olaf Stapledon is developed in this paper. Stars are considered to be conscious entities maintaining their galactic position by their volition. It is shown that directed stellar radiation pressure and stellar winds are insufficient to account for this anomalous stellar velocity. Previous research rules out magnetism. A published theory of psychokinetic action that does not violate quantum mechanics is discussed, as is the suggestion that stellar consciousness could be produced by a Casimir effect operating on molecules in the stellar atmosphere. It is shown that a discontinuity in stellar velocities as a function of spectral class exists. Cooler red stars in the solar neighborhood move faster than hotter, blue stars, as would be expected if the presence of molecules in stars was a causative factor. Further research in experimentally validating the psychokinetic effect and demonstrating the role of the Casimir effect in consciousness is required to advance the concepts presented here beyond the hypothesis stage.

Introduction: Elusive Dark Matter

The motions of our Sun and other stars around the centers of their galaxies cannot be fully accounted for the presence of observable stellar or non-stellar matter. Possible modifications to Einstein-Newton gravitation do not seem appropriate since general relativity has easily passed every experimental test to date. Cosmologists hypothesize the existence of a non-reactive, non-observable but gravitating substance dubbed “dark matter” to account for the discrepancy. Dark matter seems to out-mass ordinary matter, according to many estimates [1].

But science requires observation or experimental validation for even the most beautiful of theoretical constructs. The continuing failure to detect or observe candidate dark matter objects or particles presents astrophysics with a very serious anomaly. Perhaps, as was the case in the late 19th century with the failure to confirm the ether hypothesis, the solution to the dark matter paradox may require a change in paradigm.

Image: Gregory Matloff (left) being inducted into the International Academy of Astronautics by Ed Stone.

Here, we reintroduce a 1937-vintage hypothesis of the British philosopher/science-fiction author Olaf Stapledon. In his monumental visionary novel Star Maker, Stapledon develops the thesis that stars are conscious and their motions around the galactic center are due to voluntary stellar adherence to the canons of a cosmic dance [2]. This is admittedly an extraordinary hypothesis. But if dark matter remains elusive and undetected no matter how expensive and elaborate the equipment seeking it, exotic alternatives cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Stellar Kinematics

Kinematics arguments presented here are elementary. Because of the low velocities (relative to the speed of light in vacuum), Newtonian dynamics is assumed. The reference frame is centered on the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Following Newton’s Second Law, force is defined:

F = MA

where M = mass and A = acceleration. Linear momentum is defined:

P = MV

where V= a star’s orbital velocity around the galactic center and kinetic energy is defined as:

KE = 0.5MV2

The Sun revolves around the center of the Milky Way galaxy at ~220 km/s [3]. Let us posit that a solar-type star must alter its velocity by 100 km/s in 109 years by applying a non-gravitational force. This amounts to an acceleration of ~3 X 10-12 m/s2 or about ~3 X 10-13 g.

A solar-type star has a mass of about 2 X 1030 kg [5]. The (assumed) constant value of the non-gravitational force is about 6 X 1017 Newtons. While this seems like a huge force, it is roughly a million times less than the Sun’s gravitational force on the Earth.

Another means of considering this force’s magnitude is to assume that a 100-kg human is able to produce the same acceleration on herself during a 100-year lifetime. The average magnitude of this force on the human is about 3 X 10-10 N. During the person’s life, the force alters her velocity by about 0.01 m/s or 1 cm/s. This is far below the threshold of detection.

But what might be the cause of this elusive stellar force? Magnetism has been ruled out, at least for many astrophysical objects [4]. So we can consider two other physical candidates—a directed stellar wind and a unidirectional radiation pressure force.

Assume that a star can generate a continuous, unidirectional flux of ionized particles. The velocity of this “jet” is the typical solar wind velocity of 400 km/s. By the Conservation of Linear Momentum, the star must expel one-quarter of its mass in the uni-directional jet to alter its galactic velocity by 100 km/s. Such an astronomical event has never been observed and would be very disconcerting (most fatal) if it occurred on the Sun. The solar wind of ionized particles is clearly inadequate to alter a star’s velocity by 100 km/s.

Now let’s see if the radiation pressure on the star produced by its radiant output could produce a velocity change of 100 km/s in a billion years, if all the solar electromagnetic flux was concentrated in a narrow beam. If the star’s mass is equal to that of the Sun—2 X 1030 kg [5], the required change in stellar linear momentum amounts to about 7 X 1018 kg-m/s. If the star has a solar radiant output of about 4 X 1026 watts [5] and we apply the standard equation for a photon’s momentum (P) [6],

P = E/C

where E is the photon energy and c is the speed of light, we see that the total maximum radiation-pressure-induced linear-momentum change on the star is about 1.3 X 1018 kg-m/s. A star can clearly not affect the required linear momentum change in this fashion.

Magnetism, particle flow, and photon flow all fail to produce the required alteration in star kinematics. But there is at least one theoretical possibility that remains.

The Psychokinetic Option

One physically possible explanation for anomalous stellar motion is psychokinesis. The hypothesis is here presented that the “mind” of a conscious or sentient star can act directly upon the physical properties (in this case the galactic velocity) of that star.

Although no claim is made that psychokinesis (PK) is part of mainstream physics or psychology, at least one serious theoretical study indicates that it is possible within the currently accepted framework of quantum mechanics [7].

According to the arguments presented in Ref. 7, consciousness (or “mind”) can directly influence the properties of a physical system by utilizing the energy present in quantum mechanical fluctuations. Consciousness may do this by affecting collapse of the wave function of the system to the desired quantum state.

Such anomalous phenomena as alteration in the output of random number generators and levitation could be explained by such a process [7]. Although energy is conserved in this model of PK, the authors of Ref. 7 acknowledge possible violations of the second law of thermodynamics.

If a 2 X 1030 kg star changes its velocity by (a somewhat arbitrary) 100 km/s in a 109 year time interval using this technique, its kinetic energy changes by 1040 Joules and the average power required for the stellar velocity change is about 3 X 1023 watts. This is about 0.1% of the Sun’s radiant output.

In order to demonstrate that such a process could be applicable to stars, it is necessary to present arguments that at least some stars are conscious. Perhaps a good place to start is to consider what some researchers have said about consciousness in humans and other life forms.

Consciousness in Humans, Animals, Plants and Stars

Defining consciousness is not easy. We are all rather certain of our own consciousness and relatively convinced that other humans are conscious as well. Most would agree that whales, dolphins, chimps, cats and dogs are conscious organisms as well. But how about snakes, corn, amoeba, and bacteria? Do in fact the mechanisms that support consciousness in the higher animals, in fact, require billions of years of organic evolution to develop? Or does consciousness in some form permeate the entire universe?

Some, like Walker, conclude that consciousness cannot be defined. Instead, it must be thought of as the immediate experience of the world around us and our internal thoughts and emotions [8]. Bohm believes that conscious thought is a process rather than an object [9]. Kafatos and Nadeau argue that this process in some perhaps pantheistic sense permeates the entire universe [10]. Many theories have developed to fit this elusive phenomenon into the framework of physical science. Some are reviewed and developed in Refs. 11 and 12.

The concepts developed in this paper accept that consciousness, like gravitation, is built into the structure of the universe [10]. Like gravitation, it cannot be explained by invoking fields or matter independently but requires the interaction of both.

Many of the quantum-physics-based theories of organic consciousness postulate that a universal consciousness field interacts with electrically conducting nanostructures within the cell or nervous system. In higher animals (such as humans) the ~20-nm inter-synaptic spacing in the brain’s neuronal structure have been suggested and analyzed by Evan Harris Walker as locations of the quantum-level events contributing to consciousness [13]. But all living eukaryotic cells contain microtubules. As suggested by Lynn Margolis, a form of “microbial consciousness” may be centered upon these nano-structures [14].

Various quantum phenomena within these nanostructures have been suggested as the primary “active agents” of consciousness. These include quantum tunneling [13], quantum entanglement [15], and the Casimir Effect [16]. It is known that the Casimir Effect—a pressure caused by vacuum fluctuations—is a component of molecular bonds [17].

We propose the following Casimir-Effect approach to stellar consciousness. It is assumed that the interaction with vacuum fluctuations produces a form of consciousness in all molecular bonds, although this is weaker than the forms of consciousness affected by the interaction of vacuum fluctuations with organic nanostructures such as microtubules and the inter-synaptic spacing. Admittedly this is a pantheistic approach to the universe. All molecules to a certain extent are conscious. Stars cool enough to contain stable molecules are therefore conscious, at least to some extent. Over a very long period of time, they can apply psychokinetic effects to maintain their galactic position and remove at least some of the requirement for the thus-far undetected dark matter.

Some Evidence Supporting the Hypothesis of Conscious Stars

The ideas presented above might fit in the realms of philosophy and science fiction rather than physics unless there were some observational supporting evidence. A literature search was conducted to determine whether there is a kinematical discontinuity in stellar proper motion depending upon star surface temperature and occurring in the stellar spectral classes for which molecular lines and bands appear.

Since the 1950’s, such a discontinuity has in fact been recognized. Dubbed Parenago’s discontinuity, it refers to the fact that red, cooler stars have faster motions in the direction of galactic rotation than do blue, cooler stars. Figure 1 presents from two sources a plot of the solar motion of main sequence stars versus star B-V color index [18, 19]. The data set from Binney et al is derived from Hipparcos observations of more than 5,000 nearby stars [19].

Table 1 presents the spectral types corresponding to the B-V color indices on the abscissa of Fig. 1 [20]. The Parenago discontinuity occurs at around (B-V) = 0.6, which corresponds to early G dwarf stars such as the Sun. Note that estimated main sequence residence times for various spectral classes are also given in Table 1 [21].

TABLE 1 B-V Color Indices, Corresponding Spectral Classes and Main Sequence Residence Times for Dwarf Stars


Binney et al [19] present the hypothesis that the faster galactic velocities of cool, red, long-lived stars is due to the fact that gravitational scattering causes a star’s velocity to increase with age. This seems unlikely since F0 stars reside on the main sequence for a few billion years. In the Sun’s galactic neighborhood, stellar encounters close enough to alter stellar velocities are very rare due to the large star separations involved. For stellar encounters to cause Parenago’s discontinuity, these would likely occur while the stars were resident in the open cluster from which they originated. Since open clusters disperse within a few hundred million years [1], such stellar encounters seem to be an unlikely explanation for Parenago’s discontinuity.

The explanation presented here is based upon telescopic observations of molecules in the spectra of stars of various spectral classes. Molecules are rare or non-existent in the spectra of hot, blue stars. As star radiation temperature decreases, molecular signatures in stellar spectra become more apparent. In dwarf stars, N2 rises in abundance as photosphere temperature falls below 6000 K [22]. The spectral signature of CO is present in the Sun’s photosphere [23]. As stellar photosphere temperatures fall to around 3200 K (M2 stars), spectral signatures of many molecules including TiO and ZrO become observable in the infrared spectra [23].


Although it is provocative that Parenago’s stellar velocities around the galactic center increase with molecular abundance in the stellar photosphere, this paper does not claim to prove stellar consciousness as an alternative to dark matter. There are many other more conventional alternative explanations for anomalous stellar kinematics that must be considered as well [24].

But the validity of some of the assumptions presented here will be confirmed if future work demonstrates that PK effects can be reliably repeated in a laboratory environment. Other assumptions will be validated if future nano-scale computers achieve some level of consciousness when the size of computing elements reaches molecular levels.

If stellar consciousness can be demonstrated to be a reasonable dark matter alternative, major challenges will be presented to the SETI community. How exactly do we communicate with conscious, possibly sentient entities with lifetimes so long that a century seems like a second? And if we can’t do this successfully, how do we prevent the catastrophic wars between planetary and stellar intelligence in Star Maker as human interplanetary capabilities mature?

Some may argue in favor of Decartes’ separation of consciousness from the physical world. This approach is no longer valid at the molecular level since consciousness seems to be necessary for quantum mechanics and quantum mechanics is a well-validated physical theory [12].

Adam Crowl has pointed out to the author that the hypothesis presented here addresses one line of evidence for dark matter—the flatness of galactic rotation curves. A second line of evidence—observations that galactic clusters do not have enough visible mass to keep from dispersing—is not addressed by the arguments presented here [25].

Some may disagree with the inclusion of PK as a candidate “propulsion system” for conscious stars. As described in an excellent recent review by an MIT physics professor, this very controversial topic was investigated during the 1970’s by a distinguished group of theoretical physicists centered upon Stanford University. Debate still swirls regarding their courageous attempt to obtain mainstream support for their research [26].

Any scientific hypothesis must be falsifiable. The Hipparchos data used to prepare Ref. 19 utilized statistics for 5610 stars near the celestial south pole. According to the project’s website, the forthcoming ESA Gaia mission is planned to produce a kinematics census of a billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. It will be interesting to learn whether this flood of data supports or refutes Parenago’s discontinuity.


The author appreciates the comments and suggestions of A. Crowl, which have been incorporated in the text. He is also grateful to K. Long who presented a version of this paper for him at the Nov. 23, 2011 Olaf Stapledon Symposium at BIS headquarters in London. Comments of anonymous referees are also appreciated.


1. E. Chaisson and S. McMillan, Astronomy Today, 6th ed., Pearson Addison-Wesley, San Francisco, CA (2008).
2. O. Stapledon, Last and First Men and Star Maker, Dover, NY (1968).
3. D. Scott, J. Silk, E. W. Kolb, and M. S. Turner, “Cosmology,” in Allen’s Astrophysical Quantities, 4th ed., ed. A. N. Cox, Springer-Verlag, NY (2000), Chap. 26.
4. F. J. Sanchez-Salcedo and M. Reyes-Ruiz, “Constraining the Magnetic Effects on HI Rotation Curves and the Need for Dark Halos,” Astrophysical Journal, 607, 247-257 (2004).
5. K. Lodders and B. Fegley Jr., The Planetary Scientist’s Companion, Oxford University Press, NY (1988).
6. A. Messiah, Quantum Mechanics, Wiley, NY (1958).
7. R. D. Mattuck and E. H. Walker, “The Action of Consciousness on Matter: A Quantum Mechanical Theory of Psychokinesis,” in The Iceland Papers, ed. A. Puharich, Essentia Research Associates, Amherst, WI (1979), pp. 111-160.
8. E. H. Walker, The Physics of Consciousness, Perseus Books, Cambridge, 8. MA (2000).
9. D. Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, UK (1980).
10. M. Kafatos and R. Nadeau, The Conscious Universe, Springer-Verlag, NY (1990). Also see R. Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind, Oxford University Press, NY(1989).
11. H. P. Stapp, Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics, Springer-Verlag, NY (1993).
12. B. Rosenblum and F. Kuttner, Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, Oxford University Press, NY (2006).
13. E. H. Walker, “The Nature of Consciousness,” Mathematical Biosciences, 7, 131-178 (1970).
14. L. Margulis, “The Conscious Cell,” in Cajal and Consciousness (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 929), ed. P. C. Marijuan, pp. 55-70 (2001).
15. R. Penrose, “Quantum Computation, Entanglement and state Reduction,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London A, 356, 1927-1939 (1998)..
16. B. Haisch, The God Theory, Weiser Books, San Francisco, CA (2006).
17. “Van der Waals Force,” www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_der_Waals_Force (accessed Oct. 22, 2011).
18. G. F. Gilmore and M. Zeilik, “Star Populations and the Solar Neighborhood,”” Allen’s Astrophysical Quantities, 4th ed., ed. A. N. Cox, Springer-Verlag, NY (2000), Chap. 19.
19. J. J. Binney, W. Dehnen, N. Houk, C. A. Murray and M. J. Preston, “The Kinematics of Main Sequence Stars from Hipparcos Data,” in Proceedings of the ESA Symposium ‘Hipparcos-Venice ’97,’ ESA SP-402, Venice, Italy 13-16 May 1997, pp. 473-477 (July, 1997).
20. J. S. Drilling and A. U. Landolt, “Normal Stars,” Allen’s Astrophysical Quantities, 4th ed., ed. A. N. Cox, Springer-Verlag, NY (2000), Chap. 15.
21. R. A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence and Civilization, 1st ed., Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA (1979). http://www.xenology.info/xeno.htm.
22. L. H. Allen, “Interpretation of Normal Stellar Spectra,” Stellar Atmospheres, ed. J. L. Greenstein, Un1versity of Chicago Press, Chicago, ILL (1960), Chap. 5.
23. G. F. Sitnik and M. Ch. Pande, “Two Decay Processes for CO Molecules in the Solar Photosphere,” Soviet Astronomy, 11, 588-591 (1968).
24. S. Capozziello, L. Consiglio, M. De. Laurentis, G. De Rosa, and C. Di Donata, “The Missing Matter Problem: From the Dark Matter Search to Alternative Hypothesis,” arXiv:1110.5026v1 [astro-ph.CO] 23 Oct 2011.
25. A. Crowl, “Personal Communication” (Nov. 18, 2011).
26. D. Kaiser, How the Hippies Saved Physics, Norton, NY (2011).


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tulse June 13, 2012, 11:15


    (It’s not the first of April, right?)

  • Abelard Lindsey June 13, 2012, 11:49

    I used to go swimming off of Malibu beach in the late 80’s with a guy who believed this about the stars.

  • Erik Anderson June 13, 2012, 11:57

    Seriously? This is beyond the pale. :-(

  • ljk June 13, 2012, 12:24

    Dr. Matloff – You have not gone far enough. Whole galaxies are the true and ultimate living beings of the Universe (and if the Multiverse concept is true, then whole universes may be the real ultimate life forms – just ask Lee Smolin).

    Look at how they fight and reproduce among one another, consuming smaller galaxies just as large animals on this planet tend to hunt smaller species for dinner. The stars which make them up are more akin to cells, though this does not preclude that they are “aware” in and of themselves, as we are talking beings of immensities and strangeness well beyond what we are used to on this one paltry little planet.

    So what does this make planets in this concept? And life on our scale? Viruses? Flotsam? Perhaps this is why we don’t see advanced ETI roaming around the Milky Way galaxy and broadcasting all over the place: When such life becomes large and noisy enough to be noticed on a cosmic scale, the galaxy finds ways of removing it before the celestial virus takes over itself; perhaps a sun is instructed to lash out with a massive solar flare at the offending little creatures. Humanity and all other Earth life are still around because we are much too small and dim to be seen as a threat yet, or to be taken notice of at all on galactic scales.

    Whatever the case with this idea ultimately becomes, this much is true: Life forms such as the ones on Earth are hardly the most recognizable or important reasons for the existence of the Universe. Just look at images of the Virgo Supercluster of galaxies to get an idea of what truly “matters” in the Cosmos. Add to this the fact that our Universe is 13.7 billion years old and we also pale into near nothingness on the time scale.

    This idea of Dr. Matloff’s also brings home again that our ideas of alien life are probably why we haven’t found any yet, because we keep thinking they will be like us. Of course there may be other viruses – I mean intelligent beings – out there like us, but I also wonder if we are so deeply buried and so young in the Cosmic Forest that few can recognize the trees or the grander picture for what they may really be.

    And now, here are some relevant quotes from one of the greatest novels ever written, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville:

    “So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.”

    “There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own. However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small difficulties and worrying, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker.”


  • Mike June 13, 2012, 12:32

    It’s proving difficult to account for the missing mass problem and many different ideas have been proposed to try explain it. But I’m sorry to say that this idea has the scent of crackpot about it. I don’t say that lightly. On the other hand I will accept pretty much anything if evidence can be found to support it. I think there are huge gaps in our understanding of reality and the physical world. But to try to make sense of it all requires disciplined study and evidence. The Scientific Method.
    So if evidence can be found to indicate that stars are conscious entities I would be amazed and delighted. And very surprised.

  • Tim Whitworth June 13, 2012, 12:58

    Perhaps the rate of galactic rotation is increasing?

  • wikk June 13, 2012, 13:09

    “since consciousness seems to be necessary for quantum mechanics” lost me for good there. I don’t have a PhD nor am I a physicist of any kind, but as I understand it the many worlds interpretation certainly requires no such thing, and I’m fairly confident the modern decoherence based understanding of QM has none of this “consciousness collapses the wave function” nonsense. It is admirable that Dr Matloff tries to justify invoking sentience and PK to explain an unknown phenomenon with some rigor, and I agree that we need to consider alternative explanations if the dominant framework fails to get us anywhere, but I think even giving this proposal serious consideration takes things too far. The most useful rule of thumb or trick of induction for science seems to be “don’t assume something you don’t understand is a mental phenomenon”. Aside from biological life on earth with one example of a sentient species this has proven correct on every scale we’ve examined from the smallest subatomic particle to the largest cosmic structure

  • Scott G. June 13, 2012, 14:34

    Here’s a question: if dark matter (or whatever it is that causes stars to revolve around the centers of their galaxies faster than they should) did not exist, would spiral galaxies still have the same shapes (and simply rotate slower) or would they appear different somehow?

    And a note on consciousness (I heard this recently and found it interesting). Color does not exist in the real world. There is no color in reality, it’s merely a construct of our minds. There is nothing inherently red about light at a wavelength of 680 nm (or inherently blue about light at 470 nm); these things only exist in our minds. In fact, we don’t even know for sure if each person experiences colors in the same way.

  • Christopher L. Bennett June 13, 2012, 14:46

    @wikk: You’re right — the idea that consciousness is necessary for quantum processes is a misunderstanding. It’s any interaction of a superposed particle state with a larger ensemble of particles that causes decoherence/correlation (which gives the appearance of a “collapse” into a single state); measurement by a conscious observer is simply one example of such an interaction, and the kind that quantum physicists preferentially discuss because scientists tend to talk specifically in terms of the experimental process.

    The idea of stars being sentient has come up in a few SF works since Stapledon. The one I remember is an early Star Trek novel, The Starless World by Gordon Eklund (a bit of a misnomer; the title refers to a Dyson shell world with no stars in the night sky, but of course it has a sun in the center which happens to be sentient, so it’s not completely starless).

  • andy June 13, 2012, 14:49

    …and Centauri Dreams jumps off the deep end. :-(

  • Greg Matloff June 13, 2012, 14:54

    First off, the comments so far are great. Before I address them, a little history. At New York City College of Technology, I still teach astronomy in a program I originated. In the first term, students learn a bit about relativity. In the second, they learn a bit about cosmology. So one semester, when I presented Dark Matter, a very bright guy who remembered the ether controversy before relativity expressed the opinion that Dark Matter is a sham since after 70 years it has not been detected. Like the ether theory (in his opinion), it is a failed attempt to save the system. This has always remained with me.

    Second, I have had previous opportunities to change the paradigm. The first was with interstellar solar sailing, which I investigated in response to a dare. Boy, was I surprised (and gratified) that this has developed into the preferred mode of near-term extra-solar travel. My second experience was when I consulted on Buzz Aldrin’s novel with John Barnes “Encounter with Tiber” in the early 1990’s. For plot reasons, Buzz asked me to try to determine whether a Jovian planet could exist 1 AU from a Sun-like star. Although I thought that this was ridiculous, I located and applied the appropriate equation. Lo, hot Jupiters are possible! But I lacked the courage to submit the result for publication–it seemed too heretical. But I had predicted the existence of such planets before they were discovered but did not have the courage to publish.

    When I began my consideration of Stapledon’s conscious stars for the BIS symposium, I thought that it would be a purely philosophical inquiry. When I discovered Perenago’s Discontinuity, it blew my mind.

    Knowing what some people would call me, I considered withdrawing the paper. But to paraphrase Howard Bloom. an author friend, a scientist is duty-bound and honor bound to release his results not matter how controversial, as long as they are falsifiable.

    Now I will answer the comments so far:

    Tulse: I am quite serious about this. Science demands inductive confirmation of deductive ideas. For 70 years, this has not been forthcoming for the Dark Matter hypothesis. And since attempts to confirm it have degenerated into seeking moving targets of ever-changing Wimps and Machos, it riskes degenerating into a well funded pseudo science and alternatives must be presented. If you don’t like my approach, fine. I admit quite readily that it may be in error. But it can be falsified and/or verified by future observational work and computer progress. Therefore, it is speculative science, not pseudo-science.

    Abelard Lindsey–I learned from an on-line literature search that the concept of stellar consciousness predates Stapledon by a very long period of time. It is mentioned in the Kabbalah, that is perhaps 7 centuries (or more) old.

    Erik Anderson–I am quite serious about this. It is not a joke. We have three choices so far regarding Dark Matter:
    (1) It really exists but continues to hide from us after 70 years no matter how sophisticated the search,
    (2) So modification of Newton/Einstein gravity theory is necessary in spite of evidence that different modifications to these well tested theories are necessary for galactic and cosmological distances,
    (3) Stellar volition is at least a partial explanation.
    Take your choice. But Occam’s Razor does not yield an easy choice for the simplest alternative.

    ljk–You may very well be correct. I may not have gone far enough. But I felt limited by the necessity to find some observational validation and methods of falsification/confirmation.

    Mike–Yes, it is a strange idea. But it is no more a crackpot idea than the concept that 70% of the universe remains unobserved after 70 years of vain and expensive searched. It is also not a crackpot idea or pseudo-science because means have been proposed in my short paper of validating or falsifying the concept. So please get on board with the Gaia team to study kinematics of a billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy and perhaps discount the Discontinuity.

    Tim Whitworth–Who knows?? Perhaps people working in cosmology or galactic morphology have some data on the constancy of galactic rotation.

    wikk– Your honesty regarding the vagaries of quantum mechanics is very refreshing. To a certain extent, I share them. I have had the honor to know several quantum physicists who were members of the SRI study group in the 1970’s–Harris Walker, Hal Puthoff, Edgar Mitchell and Jack Sarfatti. I am very much impressed by there keen minds and recommend Ref. 26 in my paper. The reference I cite for the role of consciousness in quantum mechanics, the very readable and informative Ref. 12, is by two physics professors. Some have tried to remove consciousness from quantum mechanics, but to my knowledge no theory of this type has succeeded as yet.

    I hope that I have answered all your questions and very much welcome further dialogue.

    Regards, Greg

  • FrankH June 13, 2012, 14:56

    This is a wacky, untestable theory… but what’s remarkable is that it isn’t much more untestable than the current lambda-CDM model, which requires truly ridiculous assumptions to match observations (galaxy rotation and mass/luminosity and low surface brightness galaxy masses, for example) and requires supersymetric dark matter particles… which are a prominent no-show at the LHC.

    Dark matter seems to hinge on just one observation:


    and all its other failings are brushed aside.

  • andy June 13, 2012, 15:02

    Regarding jumping off the deep end it may be worth noting that material from the Journal of Cosmology was posted on this blog fairly recently too, a website with a rather dubious reputation (as PZ Myers put it “the ginned-up website of a small group of crank academics obsessed with the idea of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that life originated in outer space and simply rained down on Earth”).

  • Michael June 13, 2012, 15:04

    Could this missing mass be made up of elementary particles that are the remains of past universes that have decayed into the background.

  • Greg Matloff June 13, 2012, 15:19

    Scott G.

    As I understand it (not being a galactic morphologist), Dark Matter is invoked to explain why stars in galaxies revolve differently than planets in solar systems. In planetary systems, innermost planets revolve faster. In galaxies, revolution is almost as if stars are on the spokes of a rigid wheel with outermost stars moving faster. Cosmologists invoke a spherical halo of dark matter in which normal matter is “submerged” to explain this discrepancy. So yes, dark matter is invoked to explain the shape of galaxies.

    What you say about color is very interesting. I have heard my wife C Bangs, who is an artist, debating with her friends, collectors, gallerists and colleagues the reality or non-reality of color. It’s easier for physicists who just talk about frequency and wavelength.

    Regards, Greg

  • Abelard Lindsey June 13, 2012, 15:26

    How would the big blue stars feel about their short life-spans in comparison to the red dwarfs?

    “The bulb that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you, Vega, have burned very bright indeed.”

  • Greg Matloff June 13, 2012, 15:27

    Frank H.

    It is not yet a theory, merely a hypothesis. But it is testable. The following tests can be made:
    (1) kinematics of a billion stars will either prove or discount the Discontinuity.
    (2) computers are shrinking and becoming more powerful. If they begin to display independence of action when components reach molecular size and complexity approaches that of a human brain, then watch out.
    (3) In this paper, I discuss the possibility that PK is a possible mechanism of anomalous stellar motion. I am privileged to have become acquainted with principles on both sides of the great debate on this topic. My own feeling is that no body is lying but deception by certain individuals is not impossible. Although the phenomenon is not now accepted by mainstream science, I hope that courageous folks can repeat the study under better circumstances. If PK does not pan out, a search for uni-polar jets in young stars could still support the concept.

    Regards, Greg

  • Greg Matloff June 13, 2012, 15:37

    Christopher L. Bennett

    I refer you to my Ref. 12 of the Rosenblum, Kuttner book on consciousness in quantum mechanics. I became aware of the Sci-Fi by Benford & Eckland. Also, a colleague reminded me about Lem’s Solaris, which is about a planetary consciousness.


    Yes perhaps. But no more off the deep end that “conventional” explanations for Dark Matter and such untestable concepts as String Theory (perhaps more correctly called String Hypothesis). Even though my hypothesis is unconventionaql and challenges Rene Descartes’ 4-century-old separation of psyche and physics, it is testable, verifiable, and falsifiable. So it should rightly be considered Speculative Science. And if you don’t like it–that’s fine. But any alternative you come up with must also be testable, verifiable, and falsifiable.

    Regards, Greg

  • Greg Matloff June 13, 2012, 15:42

    Dear Abelard Lindsey

    Hot blue stars have few or no molecules in their upper layers. Therefore, I posit that they are less conscious than their cooler colleagues. As someone who has contributed to SETI, I have wondered about how we might communicate with a stellar consciousness to learn how it feels about something or what its favorite form of entertainment is. This would be a challenge since a human lifetime is but a second in the life of a star! But your question might make the framework of a very interesting Sci-Fi piece.

    Regards, Greg

  • ljk June 13, 2012, 15:48

    Since we are already swimming in the deep end of the speculation pool, I would like to toss in one of my favorite ideas for the nature of dark matter: They are the Artilects, the high-end intelligences that have amassed galactic matter and now account for most of it in the Universe.

    And they are coming for the rest of the visible stuff.

    Cue ominous music.

    As I said earlier in this thread, in one key way it does not matter if no galaxy or star or any other celestial body is alive in any way – the Universe is so vast, so ancient, and so dominated by objects and collections of objects that are immense in themselves, that the little microbes crawling about that speck of dirt called Earth and all the other potential ones like it are neither the most important things nor the reason that the Universe exists.

    Carl Sagan once said that we humans with our consciousness and inquisitive nature were a way for the Universe/Milky Way galaxy to “know itself”. I have to wonder now if Sagan was just trying to put a coat of happy paint on the real situation, the one where science has shown that we are tiny, essentially irrelevant parts to an existence that probably would not know we even exist if it is alive and aware.

    I wonder how many intelligent species that make this revelation survive the initial shock, forget whether they can handle their technological adolescence.

  • Greg Matloff June 13, 2012, 15:52


    Thanks for letting us know about J. Cosmology an Hoyle/Wickramassinghe. Although I am not familiar with that website, I did hear Chandr Wickramassinghe present during the 1996 IAU in Capri. Although their results are not generally accepted by the mainstream, the controversy opened some minds. If my paper does the same regarding Dark Matter, then it has succeeded. Although it may be wrong, alternatives must be presented.


    According to my understanding of “conventional” cosmology, past, future, or co-existing universes leave no trace in our cosmos. That is why the debate regarding Tipler’s Cosmological Anthropic Principle vs. Smolin’s Multiverse sells so many books–it cannot be resolved by experiment or observation.

    Regards, Greg

  • Bryan June 13, 2012, 15:59

    I can’t help but say that I’m rather disappointed with the comments made by Centauri Dreams readers here. Consciousness is a mysterious component of our universe, and perhaps the most mysterious. A good primer on the difficulty of the subject would The Conscious Mind by David Chalmers, in which he discusses what is termed “The Hard Problem”. From there, one might want to study what Stuart Hameroff is saying – in particular – his conclusions that consciousness is likely comprised of “proto-consciousness”.

    After having adopted the philosophy of consciousness as a pet interest of mine, and debated and discussed it with friends, it seems that the idea of consciousness emerging from information and organization seems less likely than the idea of consciousness being a fundamental building block of our Universe, just like atoms are. In short, in every atom, there must be some proto-consciousness. The alternative is to accept the notion that the Chinese Room is conscious of its thought processes due to the manipulation of cards, or that economies are conscious due to the transfer of information.

    Which is? The transfer of information, regardless of the medium or an inherent quality that exists naturally in every atom within the Universe?

    I lean towards the latter, with the caveat that effective organization amplifies it, just like organized military units will be more effective than unorganized units.

    Hats off to one of the most interesting articles ever on Centauri Dreams.

  • andy June 13, 2012, 16:05

    and requires supersymetric dark matter particles… which are a prominent no-show at the LHC.

    The dark matter hypothesis does not require supersymmetric particles – you need particles that interact gravitationally but not via the electromagnetic interaction (plus a few other constraints). Some supersymmetric theories predicted particles that would match the criteria of what you would need as a dark matter particle, but that is not the same as saying dark matter requires supersymmetry.

  • bigdan201 June 13, 2012, 16:16

    Living, conscious stars? Just when I thought I’d heard it all!

    At first glance, it’s hard to swallow. It sounds like something from one of the odder corners of the internet. But as strange as it sounds, it must be considered as a possibility. Stars are large, stable structures which are awash in energy, so why not? The basic requirements are there, even if it’s a very different form of life than what we’re familiar with.

    I got into a discussion on free will & consciousness not too long ago. My point was that I considered sentience to be an emergent property, arising when there is enough complexity and plasticity to support it. Stars seem to have that potential, although it’s difficult to visualize their cognitive processes.

    If I have this correct – brighter, hotter stars are not conscious, but dimmer stars such as red dwarfs are? and this is because of greater molecular content in red dwarfs?

    I’d still like a better understanding of how a stellar mind achieves cognition, and these PK mechanics (although we need more info on the inner workings of stars in general I believe).
    I’d also like to see consistent demonstrations of this effect before placing it at the forefront of proposed ideas.
    Naturally, when you have intractable gaps in our knowledge base, extreme ideas have to be considered. But extraordinary assertions require extraordinary evidence. For example, groundbreaking ideas such as Evolution and Relativity were subjected to storms of ridicule and disbelief, before they won out by virtue of rock-solid evidence and rationale. You’ll need similar strength behind this revolutionary idea before it can enter mainstream science.

  • Stan June 13, 2012, 16:19

    This is a scientist’s version of dark sexual fantasies. They’re okay so long as you don’t act on them. Matloff just made the mistake of acting on his.

  • coolstar June 13, 2012, 16:26

    Once the scent of crank or crackpot is associated with a name that pretty obviously spells the end of credibility……There’s absolutely NO NEED to propose looney tune ideas to explain stellar or galactic motions. Dark matter works just FINE and will almost certainly be detected in the lab within the next decade, at the 2 sigma outside.

  • Joy June 13, 2012, 16:35

    FWIW (less than zero to most people) many thousands of sane and very intelligent people have undergone hypnotic past lives regression, and gone even farther into “LBL” (life between lives) regression. Most people return with personal insights only. However a few percent of people gain insights into cosmological matters. What is surprising, is how consistent the various reports are, even for clients who have not done any reading (books by Michael Newton et al) in this field. The experiences are completely subjective, but independent “observers” support a surprisingly consistent cosmology…

    Dark matter is the the gravitational influence of (non baryonic) “soul” substance from (extra-dimensional) soul space. Dark energy is the gravitational influence of the oneness.

    Laugh as much as you please, but this view is much more strongly supported by “observations” than string theory, which is no more than mathematical self pleasuring.

  • ljk June 13, 2012, 17:14

    Comparing the neurons in a mouse brain to the entire Universe:


  • tchernik June 13, 2012, 17:26

    I am a long time follower of this site, but never commented, however this topic compelled me to.

    I wanted to say that I find this to be very daring speculation, of the type I tend to like: with some possible ways to falsify it, and the author certainly gives them. I specially liked the Parenago discontinuity bit, as I was not aware of such thing even existing (I’m not an astronomer, so bear with me).

    My first impression of this is that I was in another web site by mistake, so odd among the usual topics found here this comment was, but then I read about the Philosophy of Olaf Stapledon congress, and everything fell into place. This comes from a paper from that congress, where extreme flights of speculation are allowed in the manner of Olaf Stapledon’s work.

    My next reaction was a feeling that it won’t be long before a strong backlash would come, because current philosophy of science and standard informed common sense is strongly averse to even discussing the possibility of consciousness as anything else than an epiphenomenon of brain activity. The informed secular opinion is right now strongly materialistic, by virtue of decades or centuries of trying to distance themselves from religious nonsense.

    Unfortunately this means that almost all scientists that have dared to follow other opinions have met derision and ridicule (David Bohm for example) in the hands of the very same people that previously applauded them.

    Regardless, if the assertions made by the author can be falsified and proved to be true, this theory may be the most economic explanation and therefore, it may have to be eventually accepted as true. There is only so much stubborn skepticism can hold in the face of evidence.

    But then again, the Parenago discontinuity can simply be a fluke on our experimental knowledge from Hipparcos , and therefore, the upcoming Gaia mission may bring a final closure to all this speculation. Which would be a pity, but that’s what separates serious speculation from New Age mumbo jumbo.

  • Markham June 13, 2012, 17:42

    Greg, out-of-the-box concepts that fit within what we know of the Universe and physics deserve analysis on their merits, regardless of whether they fit within our existing frameworks of understanding. I for one enjoy seeing idea’s that challenge what we accept and love seeing how they might fit within what we know of physics (and do not know).

    The lack of progress in Dark Matter (or Dark Energy for that matter) has always smacked to me of the early hunt for ‘ether’. When progress crawls perhaps one needs to go back and revisit assumptions.

    One thing that occurs to me though is that if consciousnesses requires nano-structures to manifest does complexity or regularity or something ‘else’ engender a higher level of consciousness? (or perhaps just a different type) Would a crystal exhibit a different form of consciousness than DNA strand or a rock? or a human with our chemical memory storage systems? I suspect a key point of dispute with this concept is the way human consciousness seems to be a gestalt distillation of many active subsystems. Maybe what is really needed is a slightly different descriptive term than consciousness… awareness?

    Also left out of your thesis is why would all the conscious stars ‘want’ to travel faster the further out they are? Consistency (assuming it exists) implies commonality in cause… struggling to see why they all would do that.

    For further interesting sci-fi discussions about this type of awareness, reference this post on the Charles Stross blog site by Rudy Rucker that posits awareness in the in-animate: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2011/12/rudy-5-gnarly-power-chords.html

  • Greg Matloff June 13, 2012, 17:53


    I like your speculation about the Artilects. It has a lot in common with Pullman’s Dark Matters fantasy trilogy, the first of which became a movie. I met Carl Sagan a few times and greatly admired his intellect and humor. Even if the universe abounds in other types of consciousness, the human type that can explore and manipulate its environment and marvel at the universe is rare and precious indeed. I hope that we are not essentially alone as communicating intelligent beings, but the results from SETO do not look good. Howevert, the keynote speaker at October’s SETI symposium in San Marino will be the author of a recent book in which he re-examines the “Wow” signal–with more optimistic results.


    Thank you so much for the support. It is interesting to be called a crackpot by some and brilliant by others. I seem to have touched a nerve with this and look forward to how others will develop it. So your interest (and I hope future contributions) are very greatly appreciated.


    We have been treated for years to new concepts of Dark Matter and why we can’t find it. Maybe the next big accelerator will prove its existence! Or maybe the concept has reached the point that even though it is wrong, it cannot be disproved!


    You are right about cool, red stars vs. hotter, blue ones. As for gaps in knowledge–there are many. So at this point, what I have presentede should be viewed as a tentative counter-hypothesis to Dark Matter. It is not yet evolved enough to be considered a mature physical theory.


    If you would like to believe that about me, I can’t change your mind. As i mentioned in previous communications, I debated not presenting these results just because of the name-calling that would ensue. If it were not for Parenago’s Discontinuity, I would not have submitted this, at least as a scientific speculation.


    The difference between me and you is that to you the existence of Dark Matter is significant in your belief system. It’s existence or non-existence has no effect in mine. But if the establishment physicists who seek it in endlessly larger and more expensive machines continue failing to find it, sooner or later reason must prevail. And has happened with ether, it will be replaced by something else. I care not a twit if my hypothesis is correct. I care a great deal that the proper result is arrived at.
    If you are involved in the established hunt for it, I wish you all the luck in the world. If you find it, please spend your Nobel money wisely!


    I cannot say if you are correct or not. That is because I cannot think of a scientific way to check or falsify the results of past-life regression. This does not mean that such a method does not exist. All the best in finding it!

    Regards to all, GREG

  • Greg Matloff June 13, 2012, 18:10


    Although I am not a consciousness physicist, the late Evan Harris Walker was a dear friend who collaborated with me on a number of more prosaic space-flight papers. One thing I came away with is that consciousness is a very, very profound issue. Yes, there may well be a universal field of (should we call it) proto-consciousness. But complexity of neuronal (or other interconnections certainly plays a role. Thanks for the info about mice. I will check into the link and ask my cats to be gentler next time they catch one.


    Thanks for the support. Stapledon was described by his protege Arthur C. Clarke as perhaps the most civilized person that Clarke had ever met. His philosophy, coming on the eve of World War 2 in “Starmaker” certainly is profound, to say the least. Unfortunately, we can’t even really define it in a human. I never met David Bohm, but I certainly can appreciate what he went through!


    I agree with you about Dark Matter. But I think (and I may be wrong) that Dark Energy is on firmer ground. I don’t know about how to define consciousness in a crystal.I don’t know about how to define consciousness in a crystal. I don’t know why conscious stars would want to travel the way they do. Perhaps Stapledon knew but didn’t tell! Thanks for the link. I will check it.

    Regards, Greg

  • jkittle June 13, 2012, 19:05

    hummmm… a frankly nutty idea… and not really connected in the sense that it explains the observations. as one of the other posters point out, it begs the question why would some stars one to swim faster.
    Now, I still do not mind this stuff mixed in with the more sober stuff we sometimes talk about here… after all I have some Really Nutty Ideas of my own, I just do not talk about them ( as much) . Provided Paul G continues his excellent job of monitoring the chatter here, I think we will stay above the frost line.
    dark matter is still an open question and one that needs a bit more observational science to build the pile of evidence… though early speculation can help us look for new patterns in the data.
    Now – did you notice the resent press release that examination of the Kepler data does not seem to confirm the idea that stars with high metalllicity from low mass planets at a higher rate.. I nother words even low metallicity stars form planets easily. This has real implications for SETI and the presence of civilizations in the universe. Llow metallicity stars formed first and our sun is a second or even third generation system, born in part from the ashes of earlier stars. If planet formed early then life almost certainly formed in early generation star systems thus there should be a lot of really old planets where life arose… long ago. Where are these creatures? do we have any experimental evidence of ” Dark Civilizations” wait! maybe the mass of artifacts made by these early civilizations form the Dark matter we seek (HAHAHA!)
    Thus we have the grand unification of Fermi’s question and dark matter.!

  • tchernik June 13, 2012, 19:09


    I agree with you. What you mention is the substract-independent theory of consciousness, that is based on the assumption that consciousness is a computable process. Which simply means that you could build an extremely complex Turing machine that would replicate each and every one of the behaviors and internal states we relate to consciousness.

    We don’t really know if this assumption is true, because we haven’t created a program that behaves as a conscious being yet, or copied a thinking brain full-state into a computer and see if a consciousness can come out of it.

    This philosophical view has its own problems too, and I remember some of them are the reason why people like Jaron Lanier (of early Virtual Reality work fame) got away from it: if the substract-independent mind hypothesis is true, you could always create and homomorphism between any discrete representation of a mind within a computer, and some arbitrary, existing by mere chance, physical phenomenon. Like the random fluctuations of rain drops during a storm.

    This is also related to the problem of Boltzmann brains: the possibility of having a sentient being emerging, completely formed and with memories of a past life, in the middle of empty space caused by the normal random quantum fluctuations in the vacuum, by merely waiting enough time or traveling long enough in space.

    The part he (and I) found appalling, is that, by simple maths, it was much more likely that we were Boltzmann brains than actual human beings living on planet Earth (“abnormal” observers would outnumber “normal” ones (us) by a huge amount), a ghastly notion that would strike most of us as deeply unintuitive, and that we would resist with all what our senses, minds and hearts tell us.

    Another author made use of these ideas to create one of the best novels of computer science hard sci/fi out there (IMHO) : Permutation City by Greg Egan.

    In this novel, Greg Egan posits the Dust Theory, that says that every self-consistent/computable universe actually exists because any instantaneous state of such universe can be represented by random fluctuations in a pre-existing universe, even if such random fluctuations were extremely rare or spaced in time or space, and then he proceeded to show how we could create one to our liking.

    All this makes for very entertaining sci/fi, but also IMHO, for appalling philosophy.

  • ethanol June 13, 2012, 19:28

    As long as we are dispensing with more conventional sources of propulsion (solar wind etc) in favor of psychokinesis, why attribute the source of this conscious impulse to the stars themselves? Why not nebula, or a tyrannical hegemony of nomadic planets? Why not space bees, or an exceptionally psychic species of sea-sponge living somewhere in the sombrero galaxy? Does psychokinetic influence fall off following the inverse square law? Does the energy required for the impulse have to be consumed at the source of consciousness, or merely within its range of effect? The biggest flaw in this hypothesis is not the idea that stars might be conscious (although I still think thats a little batty). Rather it is the reliance on a mechanism so hypothetical that we cannot reliably attribute any specific attributes (including existence) to it. It seems that this hypothesis can be effectively reduced to “The motion of the stars is explained by psychokinesis” full stop.

  • Keith Cooper June 13, 2012, 19:30

    Dark matter attempts to explain many phenomena on a range of scales, not just the motion of stars on the outskirts of galaxies. Any dark matter hypothesis has to explain anomalous motions of galaxies on the edges of galaxy clusters, or what we see when galaxy clusters collide, such as in the Bullet Cluster, where dark matter becomes decoupled from the galaxies and its influence can be detected by gravitational lensing. There are also dark matter dominated dwarf galaxies, satellites to the Milky Way, that have very few stars. Meanwhile, globular clusters seem to lack dark matter. I’m not quite sure I see where Dr Matloff’s hypothesis explains these particular facets of the Universe.

    As far as I understand things like galaxy structure, I’d also challenge the notion that dark matter is invoked to explain the spiral structures of galaxies. Despite Zwicky’s evidence in the 1930s, dark matter didn’t come into vogue until Vera Rubin in the 1970s. Lin and Shu’s density wave model for the spiral arms predates that by a decade. The stochastic formation model (which describes the fluffier looking galaxies like M33) was developed in the 1970s. Then there is the swing amplification work done by people like Alar Toomre. None of this relies on dark matter as far as I’m aware. Galaxy rotation curves are flat – stars in the outer regions move at roughly the same speed as the inner stars, not faster, because of an implied uniform mass density.

    I’m not necessarily bashing the idea of conscious stars – I expect alien life, if it exists, to be quite different to us and if we accept that lifeforms such as Hoyle’s Black Cloud or creatures living around black holes or on neutron stars, both of which have appeared in hard SF, could potentially be feasible, in a sort of speculative way, then consciousness in the stars is no weirder – though short of talking to the Sun I’ve no idea how this hypothesis could be proven, or how it could be falsified (in a neat way, though, it does remind me a bit of David Brin’s Sundiver). But invoking it as an explanation for galactic rotation curves seems to me to be wide of the mark.

  • Michael June 13, 2012, 20:20

    One of the things I’ve always found extremely disappointing is the tendency for many (if not most) scientists and scientifically minded laymen to jump all over each other in the effort to out-ridicule someone who dares to present an idea that lies outside the ‘mainstream’.
    In case you’ve never bothered to notice, or perhaps noticed and didn’t give it enough thought – just about all of the really interesting ideas we take for granted in science today were considered at some point fairly radical ‘crackpot’ ideas by the prevailing intelligentsia.
    You’d think we’d have learned by now that no radical breakthroughs (especially those of interest to followers of this site) will come about without breaking some existing assumption or mathematical construct held dear by the scientific establishment.
    I love this sort of ‘wild-eyed’ speculation and I hope Centauri Dreams can feature more of it in the future.

  • wikk June 13, 2012, 20:49

    A pleasure to see your responses to all the comments. I also appreciate that your proposal is different to the kinds of hypotheses that ljk’s comments characterize; a fuzzy connection from surficial characteristics of a phenomenon to some familiar but complicated phenomenon like life, or worse with something you’d like it to be like gods. The main failure is the unspoken redifinition of the word consciousness, life, etc. And your responses so far make it pretty clear that you’re not doing that. The other component of a theory deserving of attention is, of course, some meaningful way in which it being true makes the world different from it being false, ie a testable prediction, such as the one Scott G proposed. You need some aspect of stellar behavior that is only possible/much more likely if a star is an intelligent agent attempting to optimize its environment according to a set of goals. I’m not entirely reassured that your theory has this as I can’t really decide whether the Parenago discontinuity is really good evidence for your hypothesis, but it seems pretty clear you think such evidence is necessary at some point. As with the kinematics data I suspect I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to specialist knowledge of quantum mechanics, but I really think the many worlds interpretation rules out the kind of consciousness/universe interaction via wave function collapse since it doesn’t involve collapsing wave functions at all. Of course entanglement and the Casimir effect may have something to do with consciousness, but besides being nearly trivially true as a general statement since everything is, of course, a result of quantum mechanics it doesn’t say anything about any kind of control or even linkage consciousness has over the physical world.

    The crux of my issue with this kind of research is in the second part of my other comment; I just don’t think this is the right way to go about preforming induction on the world. From a rigorously probabilistic standpoint a hypothesis of non-mentality should usually be privileged over one of mentality because based on our current understanding of the universe almost all mental systems are vastly more complex than non-mental ones, even in subsentient life. Every time we’ve examined a non-biological phenomenon it has proven to be non-sentient, assuming you don’t arbitrarily redefine sentience, so barring striking new evidence our best bet is to continue to use this prior.

    Any naturalistic theory of how consciousness works seems to depend on consciousness being made up of physical parts, and it is our mutual (based on your rejection of cartesian dualism) belief in naturalism that allows us to meaningfully discuss and investigate this possibility. While I’m pretty sure the complex structures that appear necessary to generate consciousness are not favored by the consensus understand of stellar mechanics, I highly doubt we know enough to come close to ruling it out categorically. As Mike said I would be absolutely elated and humbled to find out you were right, it just seems like the current evidence is not nearly strong enough to overcome the vast unlikelihood of a novel sentient entity, so I think work like this should carry a strongly worded disclaimer such as “warning: this is probably not true. If you were a betting man you shouldn’t bet on this over the ‘dark matter or some other boring physical phenomenon’ hypothesis, but its not prima facie completely wrong so I’m going to flesh it out a little”

  • Alex Tolley June 13, 2012, 21:15

    So why do stars rotate in the same direction – some sort of herding instinct? And does the red vs blue star velocity differential suggest a possible predator-prey relationship.

  • Daniel Suggs June 13, 2012, 21:40

    Very interesting paper, and the comments are good reading.

    ljk, tonight’s new “Through the Wormhole” on the science channel at ten Eastern is advertised to be about galactic sentience. Should be interesting and fits your first comment. I wont be on here for that hour.

  • David June 13, 2012, 22:43


    I will bring in Penrose and it is Penrose with Hameroff and his media team led by Deepak Chopra. But I will say as a biologist and an evolutionary Biologist I cant make any damn sense of conscioussness. Its possesion by animals has made me a vegetarian. Now we really do find plants communicate by hormones and might be like something( I highly recommend Nagles “what is it like to be a bat?” You can googhle it . It is online)
    I dont buy past life regression but I agree with Carl Sagan that the past life stories of children are really facinating. For a radically different view of the living universe there is Tipler(Physics of Chritianity)
    Looks like Physics is theology again (penrose-buddhist ,tipler -christian and of course all the new athiests)
    Nalgel is calssified as a new mysterian Consioussness is a mystery that cant currently be explained. I guess that makes him and me the new agnostics

  • Avatar2.0 June 13, 2012, 23:15

    Christopher L. Bennett
    “the idea that consciousness is necessary for quantum processes is a misunderstanding. It’s any interaction of a superposed particle state with a larger ensemble of particles that causes decoherence/correlation (which gives the appearance of a “collapse” into a single state); measurement by a conscious observer is simply one example of such an interaction, and the kind that quantum physicists preferentially discuss because scientists tend to talk specifically in terms of the experimental process.”

    The problem with this is that decoherence is not entirely successful at solving John von Neumann’s measurement problem.

    The many worlds interpretation does solve it, but at a huge cost – for every wave collapse, a very large number of alternate realities is created; and you can’t reduce the number of the newly created realities without resurrecting said measurement problem.

  • Erik Anderson June 13, 2012, 23:44

    Figure 1 actually plots -V, not V. In reality, the local population of cool/red/old stars ~lags~ solar motion. These stars are deemed to have “fast” heliocentric velocities merely because the Sun outruns them — not because their orbital velocities are faster. Epic Fail.

  • Rob Henry June 14, 2012, 0:45

    At first I liked Matloff’s non-adherence to poorly supported paradigms that have somehow become part of science. As I read further I came to believe that this particular postulate of his is either crackpot or that Matlock forgot to include some links between different postulates in his hypothesis.

    1. If psychokinesis exists its properties are unknown. I also think the current evidence that some very small such effect might exist looks worth perusing further but allowing a star to use 0.1% of its energy to that ends we must postulate that its conscious control of matter is around a million times better at directing available (metabolic) energy than the best possible tested human proponents might be.
    2. Supernatural conscious stars could tap into the potential of chaos in their conventional encounters with other stars to the same effect (actually more so). This would take infinitesimal energy (and I mean that literally), so why invoke all that extra effort.
    3. We have to invoke a cosmic motivation here – and we should try to work out what it could be here and make further testable predictions based on it.
    4. The thermalisation effect of stellar encounters will always impart a greater velocity difference on smaller stars, so rather that handwaving and saying that the effect is small (after leaving open clusters), you really must model it and give a figure as to how small.

  • qraal June 14, 2012, 1:01

    Hi Greg
    I see you’re handling the back-reaction with your usual gentlemanly style. Greg asked me to review his paper, prior to the Stapledon Symposium, and I pointed out a couple of minor issues. What people should understand about it, first and foremost, is that it is creative speculation which drives all investigations into things interstellar. Without that, lesser imaginations would never dream of reaching the stars. It’s a dream shared by a lot of us, but we have many “knowledgeable” critics who tell us how absurd it all is. Maybe it’s out-of-the-box, but it’s never absurd.

  • Anthony Mugan June 14, 2012, 2:59

    Can I say thank you to Dr Matloff for the putting forward such a courageous paper and to this forum for hosting it. I aim to add a fuller comment in a day or two as rather pressed for time today but for now I would concurr with those who are saddened by the tone of some comments and I feel that science more widely would benefit from having a ‘sandpit’ where ideas outside the current paradigm can be safely aired. It is highly likely that the current paradigm is incomplete.
    Perhaps an issue here is that whilst I am ultimately sceptical concerning the proposal of conscious stars there are a number of steps to the argument that each lie outside the current paradigm and probably most people haven’t considered the earlier steps ( eg the role of consciousness in quantum observation ) very fully. This needs more time than I can spend today so will expand and ask a couple of questions later. Thanks again

  • Sedjak June 14, 2012, 4:16

    This is my first comment, and I feel both honored, amused, and excited for it to be on this topic.

    To jump on Michael’s bandwagon, here is that famous quote by Arthur Schopenhauer we’ve all heard a million times —
    “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident”.

    I’d add a preamble — “Zero, it is ignored or avoided.” As an example we have the current revolution in the science of the initial peopling of the Americas. Anthropologists never bothered to dig (or at least look closely) below layers older than 13,000 years because the conventional wisdom was that Pre-Clovis people were a myth. Recent digs have overturned that cherished truth. Another, is the recent biologists’ notion that “junk DNA” had no function which we now know to be patently false.

    Science could probably be decades ahead of where it is now if scientists really clarified both their assumptions and anomalies and tested them rigorously without so much personal attachment to theories and hypotheses.

    Speaking directly to Matloff’s hypothesis, I do believe it is testable right now. One could start at the sub/atomic level to test if human volition can affect the entanglement of particles (or a Bose-Einstein condensate), which could suffice partially for PK and star volition.

  • Ronald June 14, 2012, 4:25

    Hmmm, very daring and very speculative. How long before we start endorsing astrology again, this way?

    Then again, even Einstein himself, at least in a later stage of his life and career, when he denied any belief in a personal god, stated that, if he had any god at all, it would be Spinoza’s god. The Jewish-Dutch philosopher Spinoza, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Spinoza) one of the greatest in his kind, who also inspired more famous Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau, is generally (and arguably) considered a supporter of a pantheistic view on life and the universe.

    On the other hand, though I am only a simple system analyst (with a background in biology), I would think that any life, consciousness and intelligence, or at least the material expression of it in our universe, depends on very large and complex organic macromolecules and not on huge amounts of relatively very simple atoms, such as hydrogen and helium. Admittedly these hydrogen-helium creatures look very impressive because of their immense energy production, but it is all the same just based on sheer mass of simple small atoms.

    And ascribing any consciousness or intelligence to them seems to me as coming very close to the sun-worshipping of the Egyptians or the deification of volcanoes.

  • torque_xtr June 14, 2012, 7:10

    A traditional scientist would say, first, that the stars are very simple things, and second, some complex organisation of matter is needed to build consciousness and chemistry doesn’t allow to build such structures in the stellar conditions by means of chemical bonding between atoms. Some CaH or TiO molecules in atmospheres of M-stars, chaotically flying around and desperately trying not to break apart under the continuous pounding of energetic hydrogen atoms and UV photons are as far from a single procaryote than that microbe is from human brain, in terms of needed organisation of matter.
    But of course, the more a theory cannot be proven, the more attention should be paid to alternative explanations, if they are fallible and provable in principle. If the stellar consciousness theory proved to be right, than it would mean only that we have missed some really big part of understanding what is needed to build consciousness and how it can be built.

    @Scott G.
    “In fact, we don’t even know for sure if each person experiences colors in the same way.”
    A mind-bending thought, but there could be a way to test it… Make a color-swapping goggles from cameras, digital filters and projectors and give it to testing group. If a person continuously wears the goggles and gets accusstomed to it, then there is no inherent pattern of color experience, or it isn’t too strong. If, more, a person can re-associate all color-related things in the mind to new perception of colors, and, say, after removal of goggles associate all that poetic images traditionally associated with red, to blue instead of red, then possibly people percept different rainbows and “red”, “green” etc. are only names. But if a testing person won’t able to get accustomed, than possibly there is strong inherent pattern of color perception. An analogous experiment with image-flipping goggles is known, but I haven’t found any info about color-swapping experiments.

    As for psychokinesis, some time ago when I believed more in such things, I tried to move a dust grain under the 400x microscope by my willpower. The table was protected from my breath and any other air movement. Since the grain did not move again and again after trying all imaginable…invocations, I concluded that either human psychokinesis has an upper limit of few thousands of electron-volts, or I don’t have needed abilities, and that was quite a disappointment…

  • Brett Bellmore June 14, 2012, 7:38

    Even granting the PK, how does this theory cope with convection in stellar atmospheres? It appears to me that thought, or anything more than a little computation, requires persistent structure. Turbulence seems inconsistent with that. Indeed, even granting the possibility, WHY would stars evolve consciousness? What would drive them to do this?

    Maybe the stars are being pushed around by pixies? No, I think Occam is waiting with his razor to dispose of that theory, having left yours in bloody gibbets on the floor.