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Robert McEachern: "Eckard, How is the CT relevant to auditory function? Rob McEachern" in Quantum Coherence =...

Steve Agnew: "Contention should be the goal, not acquiescence... "In our new special..." in Action and Excitement and...

Steve Agnew: "...and to prove your universe, you do not have to disprove the current..." in Conjuring a Neutron Star...

Steve Agnew: "Your thesis is all about what space is, but the void of empty space is the..." in Alternative Models of...

Steve Agnew: "We are not so far apart it would seem. A shrinking universe is much more..." in Conjuring a Neutron Star...

Eckard Blumschein: "No Rob (1): I maintain, the distinction between application of CT or FT..." in Quantum Coherence =...

Eckard Blumschein: "Georgina, I still consider your topic (objective) reality a most crucial..." in Alternative Models of...

Steve Dufourny: "Mr Tegmark can make the multispheres if he wants :) but please play in a..." in In Praise of Physics...

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Conjuring a Neutron Star from a Nanowire
Using tiny mechanical devices to create accelerations equivalent to 100 million times the Earth’s gravitational field—mimicking the arena of quantum gravity in the lab.

Inferring the Limits on Reality (that Even the Gods Must Obey)
The fuzziness of the quantum realm could arise from mathematical restrictions on what can ever be known.

The Quantum Thermodynamic Revolution
Combining theories of quantum information with the science of heat and energy transfer could lead to new technologies.

Face Off: Building a Toy Universe to Pit Quantum Theory Against Gravity
Using superconducting circuits to create a curved-spacetime analog with stronger gravity than our cosmos.

Is Gravity Time's Archer?
A new model argues the forces between particles in the early universe loosed time's arrow, creating temporal order from chaos.

August 3, 2015

New Blog Entries
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New Podcast: Pluto, Pentaquarks, Alien Hunts & more
By ZEEYA MERALI • Jul. 29, 2015 @ 19:18 GMT

NASA New Horizons
This month’s podcast is jam-packed, thanks to all the huge physics announcements made in July.

So, Brendan and I begin with a news round up, discussing the Pluto flyby (with some help from cosmologist Andrew Pontzen), the creation of the pentaquark at the LHC, and the discovery of the most Earth-like planet yet, Kepler 452b.

Then we’re back to our usual in-depth interviews. A couple of weeks ago, I chatted with Frank Drake, one of the pioneers of the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), in the run-up to the launch of a $100 million project to hunt for alien communications. I wrote an article for Nature about the project, which you can read here. But in our podcast interview, I had the chance to ask Drake more about his long-running history with SETI, why he sticks with it despite the lack of success, and his work on the Drake equation for estimating the number of technological civilisations on other worlds. He also talks about why he’s scared that the aliens might be sending us information encoded as holograms. And in the extended podcast interview, he tells us about new job opportunities in SETI.

Free Podcast

Pluto, pentaquarks & Earth 2.0; Frank Drake talks about the new 100 million dollar hunt for alien life; conjuring a neutron star from a nanowire; & "Edge of the Sky" talks physics without the jargon.


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The project is funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner. What do you think? If you had $100 million to spend on one question in science, what would choose?

Next up, FQXi member Keith Schwab talks about his quest to mimic the gravitational effects on the surface of a neutron star, by accelerating a nanowire. Reporter Carinne Piekema wrote about Schwab’s experiments for us here, and now you can listen to him discuss how they could help those who want to learn more about quantum gravity.

And finally, a “radical experiment in science communication” — which is what cosmologist Roberto Trotta of Imperial College London calls his new book, “The Edge of the Sky.” In it, he attempts to junk jargon by describing the workings of the universe using only the 1000 most common words in the English language, as he explains to Sophie Hebden.

Enjoy the podcast!



The Physics of What Happens Grantees
By BRENDAN FOSTER • Jul. 20, 2015 @ 16:59 GMT

This past winter, FQXi announced it's fifth Large Grant program, on the topic of The Physics of What Happens – a call for proposals for research and outreach projects on "Events". I am happy to announce that from an initial group of almost 250 proposals, we now have the list of 20 grantees. You may view the list here. These grants will give the research teams funding for the next two years, starting September 2015.

The total amount given out comes to $1.85M. This is a relatively tiny amount in the world of physics, especially considering that this is an international grant program. This fact means that, while our review panel ultimately preferred these 20, many of the other proposals were excellent, worthy projects, which we would gladly support if we had the funds.

For the sake of discussion, I’d like to mention a few research themes that showed up in multiple applications, possibly suggesting the directions that many researchers are looking these days. These hot topics include:

1. Nonlocality (i.e. Is an event defined by what happens in multiple locations?).

2. The Nature of Causality in a quatum world.

3. Noncontextuality, possibly as the prime indicator of quantum-ness (above the previous favorite, entanglement).

We again congratulate our new grantees. We also thank everyone who applied, especially those who were invited to submit full proposals, which took a great deal of time and resources to prepare. We wish to offer another round of grants in the near future, and we wish everyone will take a chance to apply.
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Action and Excitement and Science! - Podcast Special Edition
By BRENDAN FOSTER • Jun. 19, 2015 @ 16:23 GMT

Seeing Without Looking
In our new special edition of the FQXi podcast, we ask, what is the best way to interest and excite the public about physics, especially foundational physics? Do we just stick to the facts, or do we need slogans, explosions, and, ahem, essay and video contests?

The podcast features attendees at the New Directions in the Foundations of Physics meeting, held annually in Washington, DC. This meeting is one of the only recurring meetings that brings together physicists and philosophers in the same room to discuss the state of the art in their fields.

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How do we communicate foundational physics to the public? Panel discussion with physicists and communicators Sabine Hossenfelder, Matt Leifer, Dagomir Kaszlikowski & Brendan Foster, from the New Directions meeting in Washington, DC.


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On the podcast, you’ll hear from three physicists who also direct their energy into presenting physics ideas to the public — Sabine Hossenfelder, from Nordita, a blogger, videographer, and winner of our previous essay contest How to Steer Humanity; Matt Leifer, from Perimeter Institute, a blogger and winner of our contest It From Bit or Bit From It (and runner up in the most recent Trick or Truth); and Dagomir Kaszlikowski from the Center for Quantum Technologies in Singapore, a filmmaker who jointly won our first ever video contest Show Me the Physics.

Following Sabine, Matt, and Dag, the group at large turned to Star Trek, tiny books, physics slogans, and more. On the recording, you’ll hear from Michael Fisher, Alexei Grinbaum, Jos Uffink, Alex Wilce, David Wallace, Melissa Jacquert, and Mile Gu.

Visit the podcast page to listen and find links to much more, including Sabine and Matt’s blogs.
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Your Invitation to the Trick or Truth Award Ceremony
By ZEEYA MERALI • Jun. 9, 2015 @ 11:07 GMT

So, trick or truth? What *is* the mysterious connection between physics and mathematics?

The judges have now ruled and we will be announcing the winners of this year’s essay contest on Wednesday. (EDIT: Winners are announced, see the list here!)

As usual, the ceremony will be hosted by FQXi's directors Max Tegmark and Anthony Aguirre, who will be joined by one of the contest sponsors Matthew Putman of Nanotronics Imaging.

And we’ll be chatting with three top-placed winners.

The event: The FQXi Essay Contest Award Ceremony 2015

The time: Wednesday 10th June, 1pm ET

The place: Here

Thank you again to all entrants and to everyone who read, rated and commented on the videos. You can still enjoy them all here — and place your bets on the winners.

Compilations of beefed up versions of winning essays from some of our earlier contests are now available to buy. “Questioning the Foundations of Physics” is available in hardback form, and also as an e-book, as is "It from Bit, or Bit from It?”. A third volume addressing how humanity should steer the future will also be available soon.
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In Praise of Physics Poetry, Spacetime SQUIDs, & Searching for the Impossible
By ZEEYA MERALI • May. 28, 2015 @ 20:15 GMT

Wolfgang Beyer, Wikimedia Commons
Just to let you know that after a couple of special podcast editions from the quantum foundations meeting in Erice, Italy, Brendan and I are back with the regular podcast.

In this month's podcast, we're celebrating poetry about physics and maths. In April, I visited Penn State University, where I met with Emily Grosholz, a poet and philosopher of math and science, who works at the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos, which is headed up by FQXi’s Abhay Ashtekar. Grosholz shares three of her poems with us on the podcast: In Praise of Fractals, The Dissolution of the Rainbow, and Among Cosmologists. (Evelyn Lamb, who blogs over at Scientific American, has a nice review up of one of Groshloz’s anthologies here.)

Free Podcast

Physics poetry; curving spacetime in the lab; & searching for undecidable problems.


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At the COST quantum foundations meeting in Erice, Italy, that I attended back in March, I met with FQXi’s Sorin Paraoanu. You’ll know about his new research building an artificial space-time from superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs), from Nicola Jones’ recent article for us. In an extended interview on the site, Paraonu talks a bit more about the progress of the experiment, as well as his recent publication in the New Journal of Physics, about testing the Landau-Zener formula for the transition probabilities between states of a qubit.

And finally, reporter Sophie Hebden talks to FQXi’s Jen Eisert about his quest to find undecidable problems in quantum mechanics. Again, you’ll be familiar with some this if you read Sophie’s article, “Searching for the Impossible” — but listen to he podcast piece for more details and to learn about Eisert’s unusual skill for dating architecture.

Enjoy listening!
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Recent Blog Entries

The Reality of the Wavefunction
[picture]A couple of months ago we spoke with quantum physicists Martin Ringbauer and Alessandro Fedrizzi of the University of Queensland, in Australia, on the podcast, about their experiment looking into the nature of the wavefunction. Their results...
May 28th, 2015 | 58 comments | view blog entry & comments

Collapsing Physics, Celebrating Ghirardi
[picture]Yesterday afternoon at the quantum foundations meeting in Erice (supported by COST) we celebrated the 80th birthday (somewhat in advance) of GianCarlo Ghirardi who famously worked on collapse models, in an attempt to deal with the quantum...
March 27th, 2015 | 4 comments | view blog entry & comments

Detecting Dark Matter Using Space-Based Quantum...
[picture]I’m lucky enough to be attending a COST Action workshop on quantum foundations currently taking place in Erice, Italy, with lots of FQXi folk in attendance. (Thank you to the organisers, FQXi’s Angelo Bassi, Catalina Oana Curceanu and...
March 25th, 2015 | 3 comments | view blog entry & comments

Quantum Reality & Networking, & Observing Black...
[picture]Our latest podcast has been posted and we’re catching up with a couple of old friends of FQXi to talk about their recent work, and making a couple of new ones.

First up we have quantum physicist Martin Ringbauer, of the University...
March 15th, 2015 | 0 comments | view blog entry & comments

The Perfect Physics Valentine’s Gift
[picture]Stuck for a last minute present for your loved one for Valentine’s Day?

Not to worry, FQXi has teamed up with Springer to bring you the perfect gift: a compilation of reworked essays inspired by the “Which of Our Basic Physical...
February 13th, 2015 | 7 comments | view blog entry & comments

Wigner's Key
Here's Eugene Wigner, from "Unreasonable Effectiveness":

"The first point is that the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and that there is no rational explanation for...
January 15th, 2015 | 10 comments | view blog entry & comments

A mathematical philosophy - a digital view
I’ve become fascinated with Gregory Chaitin’s exploration of randomness in computing and his impulse to bring these observations to bear on physical, mathematical, and biological theories. His work inevitably addresses epistemological questions...
January 13th, 2015 | 1 comment | view blog entry & comments

2014: Paradoxical Cats and the Physics Year in...
[picture]It's become a bit of a tradition for quantum physicist and FQXi member Ian Durham to join us on the podcast each December to choose his favourite physics stories of the year. As always, Ian's gone for an unconventional top pick. I'd be...
December 27th, 2014 | 3 comments | view blog entry & comments

Trick or Truth? — Essay Contest 2015
Physics and mathematics -- It seems impossible to imagine the history of either one without the other. For gravity theory alone, we see so many examples of this -- from Newton creating calculus, to Einstein mining differential geometry.

December 16th, 2014 | 163 comments | view blog entry & comments

Call for Research Proposals: The Physics of What...
It's good to take a philosophical attitude to life. Let's say you apply for an FQXi large grant. Maybe you get it, maybe you don't. Whatever happens, happens.

But what does *happen* from the point of view of physics? What constitutes an...
December 12th, 2014 | 30 comments | view blog entry & comments

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