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Gary Gordon: "Georgina - you should perhaps be more selective in identifying phenomena..." in The Reality of the...

Joe Fisher: "Dear Gary D Simpson, The Category of this thread is listed as: Ultimate..." in Alternative Models of...

Joe Fisher: "Dear Georgina, Thank you for your reply, it has caused me to burst into..." in Alternative Models of...

Pole Smith: "I am so delighted to be here and to find this awesome post. Hauz Khas..." in Retrocausality,...

Pole Smith: "One of the perfect stuff to read and I am so delighted to have this awesome..." in Retrocausality,...

lionel john: "This looks to be a completely new idea. I had never thought of such a thing..." in We Are All Connected

Fine Like: "The best website for online dtdc tracking is now live and ready for use..." in Wandering Towards a Goal:...

Lorraine Ford: "Hi Georgina, Yes, I read your posts. But, in the end, the only issue that..." in Wandering Towards a Goal:...

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Watching the Observers
Accounting for quantum fuzziness could help us measure space and time—and the cosmos—more accurately.

Bohemian Reality: Searching for a Quantum Connection to Consciousness
Is there are sweet spot where artificial intelligence systems could have the maximum amount of consciousness while retaining powerful quantum properties?

Quantum Replicants: Should future androids dream of quantum sheep?
To build the ultimate artificial mimics of real life systems, we may need to use quantum memory.

Painting a QBist Picture of Reality
A radical interpretation of physics makes quantum theory more personal.

The Spacetime Revolutionary
Carlo Rovelli describes how black holes may transition to "white holes," according to loop quantum gravity, a radical rewrite of fundamental physics.

July 24, 2017

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Wandering Towards a Goal: Winners Announcement
By BRENDAN FOSTER • Jul. 4, 2017 @ 13:08 GMT

We asked the question: how do mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intentions. So how does it happen? Well, we’re not going to just tell you the answer. You’ll have to read it for yourself — in our winning essays, which we are now happy to announce!

We have an unusual outcome this time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the contest question turns out to be rather controversial, with not just the essayists but also the panelists holding quite diverging views. Despite a lot of effort and good-faith attempts to find common ground, in the end the jury was deadlocked along several dimensions. In the end they decided the fairest representation of their collective opinions would be — a tie for first (and second) place. In fact, a 3-way tie.

Sharing the top spot are the entries from Larissa Albantakis (A Tale of Two Animats), Carlo Rovelli (Meaning and Intentionality = Information + Evolution), and Jochen Szangolies (Von Neumann Minds). The panel elected to pool the prize money for the top 3 spots, a total of $20,000, and split it evenly. Thus each of our 3 top winners will receive $6,666.

Visit our page of winners to also see our third and fourth prize winners, and find links to each winning essay. Also awarded was a special “community choice” award for the entry from George Ellis (Wandering Towards a Goal), which was well liked by many and, thanks to George’s involvement, had high levels of community engagement and forum interaction, which is a lot of what makes these contests worthwhile.

We look forward to our next contest, which we hope to announce soon.

Thanks to our sponsors, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, for making it possible. We also thank our diligent review panel. And last of all, we give great thanks to all of our entrants — we appreciate the effort you put into writing the entries, as well as reading and discussing them. We hope you will join us again for the next one.
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We Are All Connected
By BRENDAN FOSTER • May. 5, 2017 @ 21:25 GMT

Can you write a song about physics that is actually a good song? Not a joke song or a spoof song; not a song whose only purpose is to teach you the parts of an equation. A song that is on its own simply a good song, but that is also somehow about physics.

To do that you have to understand at a deep, intuitive level what physics tells us about our world. And then you have to translate that into music.

I know of one person who can do it. Sabine Hossenfelder has just released two new songs, "Catching Light" and "Schrödinger’s Cat". To go with the songs, there are two excellent videos that include short explainers of the physics from Sabine. I am happy to say the videos were funded by an FQXi mini-grant.

As well as a songwriter and videomaker, Sabine is a physics research fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, where her research is supported in part by an FQXi grant for her project on spacetime defects.

There is more information about the videos on Sabine’s blog.

(And for an earlier song, which won “best/worst earworm” in our FQXi video contest, watch “I saw the future”.)
29 comments | view comments

Towards a Goal — Two Weeks to Go
By BRENDAN FOSTER • Feb. 21, 2017 @ 14:45 GMT

We are not slouching towards our goal, we are not wandering towards it, we are stepping firmly towards it.

We have just under two weeks left until the closing date of our 2017 essay contest, Wandering Towards a Goal, and we have over 80 entries so far. (60 posted, and the rest in processing.) Historically, the number of entries at this moment in the contest triples over the last two weeks. At this rate, we may end up with 240, which smashes our past record.

The due date to enter is next Friday March 3, 2017, just before midnight Eastern Time. Take some time to read our summary of the theme, and the full rules; then think deeply and creatively; then write your essay!

You can also read submitted essays and leave comments and questions for the authors.

Good reading, good writing, and good luck.
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Review of “A Big Bang in a Little Room: The Quest to Create New Universes” by Zeeya Merali
By IAN DURHAM • Feb. 9, 2017 @ 16:51 GMT

In all the talk of the multiverse that gets tossed around these days, there's a subtle but important point that is often lost: there are really two completely different notions of a multiverse. What one thinks of when someone utters the word "multiverse" likely depends on whether one is most influenced by cosmology or by quantum physics. To the latter, the multiverse is typically viewed in the context of the Everett-DeWitt interpretation of quantum mechanics in which every process that includes more than one possible outcome, leads to a bifurcation of the universe in which the process occurred, into multiple universes, one for each possible outcome of the process. In such a multiverse (whose core idea is due more to DeWitt than Everett), everything that can happen, will happen.

In the inflationary multiverse, each "universe" is really a patch of space that becomes isolated due to eternal inflation. This is subtly different than the Everett-DeWitt model which suggests an actual bifurcation of reality. As it turns out, the difference could also have ethical and moral implications, some of which are discussed in Zeeya Merali's new book A Big Bang in a Little Room: The Quest to Create New Universes (Basic Books, 2017; $27.99).

Merali's book explores the quest by some physicists to produce new, "baby" universes in a lab. As preposterous as it sounds, the idea is largely grounded in accepted physics, though does remain highly speculative. In an Everett-DeWitt model, new universes are constantly being created ad infinitum as we blithely go about our day. There appears to be little we could do to affect change in any branching universe within this multiverse model. On the other hand, the inflationary universe model of the multiverse holds the promise of intentionally planning the creation of a baby universe which raises the thorny question of whether we would be responsible for the suffering of any living beings produced in that universe. We would, to some extent, be playing God.

These and other issues are tackled head-on in Merali's book, but in an engaging and subtle manner. The book is largely constructed from a series of interviews with physicists around the globe who are either actively thinking about how to create baby universes or who played a role in the development of inflationary theory. As someone who has been interviewed by Merali multiple times, I can personally attest to her ability to make the interviewee feel at ease and this sense clearly comes across in the book. Interviews are more like discussions with Zeeya.

One get’s the sense, though, that this project was less about writing a book and more about her own quest to more fully understand the universe. At times, one gets the impression that she is wrestling with some deeply personal questions. Far from detracting from the narrative, however, I think it adds to the human aspect of the story.

I did have a few minor quibbles here and there, but Merali is an accomplished scientist herself having received her PhD in physics from Brown University under noted cosmologist Robert Brandenberger, and so some of my quibbles might be considered "professional differences." In all, it was an enjoyable book that addressed an exciting area of modern physics research in a thought-provoking way. For anyone interested in the "big questions," this book is essential reading since it deals with perhaps the biggest question of all: can we—should we—humble human beings create a universe?

A Big Bang in a Little Room: The Quest to Create New Universes is available to buy here.
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2016: The Physics Year in Review
By ZEEYA MERALI • Dec. 30, 2016 @ 23:34 GMT

Free Podcast

Counting down the biggest physics breakthroughs of 2016, with Ian Durham.


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Cutting things fine, but just before we say goodbye (and good riddance!) to 2016, we're taking a look back at the physics highlights of the past year.

As usual, I'm joined on the year-end podcast by quantum physicist and FQXi member Ian Durham of Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, who has chosen his top 5 physics stories of the year, plus a couple of bonuses.

The first part of the countdown is now up, with the rest to follow soon. See if you agree with his choices, and can guess what's next on the list.

Free Podcast

Concluding our list of the top physics breakthroughs of 2016, as chosen by Ian Durham.


Go to full podcast

Updated on New Year's Eve to add the second and last part of our countdown, revealing the top 4 physics breakthroughs of 2016.
60 comments | view comments

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