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FQXi BLOGS
September 26, 2016

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Essay Contest 2013: It From Bit, or Bit From It? [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Mar. 25, 2013 @ 19:29 GMT
Without further ado, I am happy to announce the start of FQXi's 2013 Essay Contest!

Our new topic:

It From Bit or Bit From It?

The past century in fundamental physics has shown a steady progression away from thinking about physics, at its deepest level, as a description of material objects and their interactions, and towards physics as a description of the evolution of information about and in the physical world. Moreover, recent years have shown an explosion of interest at the nexus of physics and information, driven by the "information age" in which we live, and more importantly by developments in quantum information theory and computer science.

We must ask the question, though, is information truly fundamental or not? Can we realize John Wheeler's dream, or is it unattainable? We ask: "It From Bit or Bit From It?"

Possible topics or sub-questions include, but are not limited to:

What IS information? What is its relation to "Reality"?

How does nature (the universe and the things therein) "store" and "process" information?

How does understanding information help us understand physics, and vice-versa?

------

I couldn't write a better introduction to the contest than FQXi Member George Musser, over at the site of our contest partner Scientific American. As George puts it, "Going to a physics conference these days is like landing in The Village of the old TV series The Prisoner, where all anyone talks about is information." Well, now is the time to break out and join us for the discussion here at FQXi.

You can find out more including official rules and entry information at this link. There, you'll also find links to our previous contest entries, including our previous contest Questioning the Foundations.

Entries are due June 28, 2013. Good luck and good writing.

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Mar. 25, 2013 @ 20:35 GMT
Once again, an excellent topic. Thanks Brendan.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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James Putnam wrote on Mar. 25, 2013 @ 20:40 GMT
Good! Thank you Brendan. Tom, I imagine you are chomping at the bit for this one, or is it chomping at the it?

James putnam

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T H Ray replied on Mar. 26, 2013 @ 10:26 GMT
Hi James,

I already wrote my "it from bit" essay in the last competition and it got no attention. Though I welcome the choice of topic, I'm a little amused at the presentation, as if information theory has suddenly emerged as the "hot" subject. If one follows the trends in interdisciplinary science, one knows that for at least 20 years, conference papers and proceedings volumes have been chock full of information theory. The Santa Fe Institute published *Complexity, Entropy and the Physics of Information* (edited by W.H. Zurek) in 1990. New England Complex Systems Institute has also published leading edge research in the field for about 15 years. Commercially, Springer has been a steadfastly supportive publisher.

I don't fault FQXi for catering to its membership; however, I have disabused myself of any notion that the organization is other than a conservative vehicle for science popularizers. While that's a good thing in itself, it doesn't really push any original research boundaries. On the other hand, I've seen talented science writers like Merali, Orem and Dickau raise important questions from this platform and thresh some pretty high quality wheat from the chaff -- so it's well worth the participation. Just my two cents.

Tom

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James Putnam replied on Mar. 26, 2013 @ 13:21 GMT
Tom,

There is flexibility here that exceeds the examples you gave. Here one does not have to adhere to the severe limitations of either mechanical ideologies or political ideologies in order to have their work included. No great leader complex along with its inevitable reliance on censorship.

Here it is proper that experts evaluate the work. Here the variety of experts bring a variety of viewpoints by which to judge other's work. That and repitition and time will tell. I thought your essay was great, but, you haven't written the final essay on It from Bit. No one has written the final essay on anything. Repitition and development are inescable. I consider It from Bit to be inadequate. I think you have demonstrated amazing talent. But, where is the essay that establishes intelligence rather than assumes it. Where is the essay that removes the fog of complexity as fundamental rather than relies upon it.

Ok, I have drifted into preaching my point of view. Yours is different but I look forward eagerly to reading another presentation of your viewpoint.

James Putnam

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T H Ray replied on Mar. 26, 2013 @ 13:36 GMT
"Where is the essay that removes the fog of complexity as fundamental rather than relies upon it."

You could have something there, James. If you prove the existence of a naked singularity. Personally I find the fog comforting. :-)

Tom

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Mar. 25, 2013 @ 21:38 GMT
Yes indeed!

Another great topic Brendan. I look forward to writing on this.

I'm sure we'll see a comment from Tom very soon, James. I just sent him an e-mail about the new contest, before signing on here.

Good luck to all!

Jonathan

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Mar. 26, 2013 @ 00:44 GMT
Brendan

I congratulate you and the FQXI team for choosing another excellent topic - I look forward to writing my essay and joining the discussion fray! I am a bit alarmed to see that unfairly reserving most (all?) the first selection of 40 winning essays to fqxi members seems as if designed to keep out 'newcomers' from ever entering the charmed circle! No matter it will be fun, and useful.

Vladimir

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Georgina Parry replied on Mar. 26, 2013 @ 02:30 GMT
The automatic Member finalists must leave at least 5 comments or questions, which means having some involvement with the competition over and above just submitting an essay. That's an improvement. I hope it does encourage their active participation and not just just cursory comments.I think it would have been nice to reserve a few finalist spots especially for non members but I suppose some drastic action was needed to prevent too many hopefuls entering.

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 06:42 GMT
But Georgina you know what happens to an inbred population: increased danger of retardation!

I understand how difficult it is for fqxi to keep up standards but discouraging new ideas - which is what this policy seems to amount to - is self- defeating.

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John Merryman replied on Mar. 29, 2013 @ 16:07 GMT
Vladimir,

Looking at the big picture, it's not such a bad thing. You have academic hothouse inbreeding among multiverses, string theory, inflation, wormholes, blocktime, etc. and yes, you do get intellectual degradation, but for those of us looking for an actual revolution, that is a good thing. Give them all the rope they want. Or maybe I should say, string.

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John Merryman wrote on Mar. 26, 2013 @ 00:51 GMT
It is the nature of the beast that with fundamental questions, we keep revisiting the same issues from multiple angles. Safe to say, this one has strong views from both sides and much contentious middle ground. It is a rather pockmarked battle ground.

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Mar. 26, 2013 @ 09:25 GMT
"The past century in fundamental physics has shown a steady progression away from thinking about physics, at its deepest level, as a description of material objects and their interactions, and towards physics as a description of the evolution of information about and in the physical world."

That is, genuine physics is dead and physicists will have to extract career and money from surrogates. The previous contest, "Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?", was the last breath of the dying science. No basic physical assumptions proved wrong - everything is true and... dead.

Pentcho Valev

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Eric Reiter replied on Apr. 5, 2013 @ 21:50 GMT
I sort of agree with what you wrote if one understands that you are saying 'no basic physical assumptions proved wrong' in the eyes of FQXI judges. With that understanding, I agree. FQXI treated my 2012 essay as if an experiment means nothing. The experiment showed photons were wrong, the particle atom was not always correct, and the Born rule was violated. That means all the assumptions behind 'it from bit' arguments are severely challenged. Experiments mean something, and mine was the only essay based on detailed original experiment. Also, there were many other good essays last year with arguments that showed many fundamental assumptions are doubtful.

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Apr. 7, 2013 @ 02:47 GMT
Paul - yes the early bird gets the worm!

John - I agree that repeating arguments teases out the meaning eventually.

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Paul Reed replied on Apr. 7, 2013 @ 05:36 GMT
Vladimir

I am no sure they do in this context, but I had a window of opportunity (Easter break) and it is ridiculousy cold. My observation of entries was that the early ones got left behind as the momentum picked up. This is a function of site layout and how one sees the 'latest action' and then joins in. And part of that problem is the way the identification of potential winners is organised. Discussing points with other entrants has the virtue of causing you to explain yourself, etc. But that should be it. After that your entry should be judged on the submission and the subsequent points you have made which substantiate it. There should be no form of 'beauty parade' amongst the entrants, which basically just leads to this 'good essay, oh have you read mine' type comment. You might have noticed, I don't do politically correct or attempt to curry favour!

Paul

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MIKE EMERY wrote on Mar. 26, 2013 @ 19:55 GMT
PLEASE FORGIVE THE ALL CAPS - I'VE PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENTS.

THE QUESTION ABOUT INFORMATION IS A PERFECT START - ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THAT THE BONN UNIVERSITY HAS FOUND THAT THIS ENTIRE UNIVERSE FITS INTO A COMPUTER SIMULATION, WHICH IS HOLOGRAPHICALLY MANIFEST HERE. THAT EVERYTHING THAT YOU SEE IS AN APPARITION MANIFEST HERE VIA LIGHT SHINNING THRU A 2-D DIFFUSION PATTERN. I.E. A PRODUCT OF CONSCIOUSNESS CREATING IMAGES ONLY.

THERE IS PLENTY OF OTHER EVIDENCE OF THIS - LIKE THE NINEVEH / WILCOCK GALACTIC CONSTANT, WHICH SHOWS THAT THIS GALAXY RUNS LIKE A SWISS WATCH - PERFECTLY.!!!

YIKES - SNICKER

LOVE AND BLESSINGS

MIKE

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Ryoji Furui wrote on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 00:38 GMT
Hello,

I am Ryoji Furui, an entrant of last contest. I would like to show my updated paper as attached file which include ideas from last contest. I would like to have any of feedback. And unfortunately I have no idea to complete an essay for this time but just have short answers for each question examples appearing below.

I hope this contest would be meaningful one again.

Thank you,

Ryoji Furui

------

1. What IS information?

Information can be termed by some definitions. In physics, all theories or experimental data or any past, present and future projects related physics can be information within general terms. On the other hand, there is a limited case used in physics with a pair of another word,"observer(s)". In this case, infomation is limited to observed events.

2. What is its relation to "Reality"?

Reality contains unobserved events.

3. How does nature (the universe and the things therein) "store" and "process" information?

When we observe nature, we "store" it in our memories, expressions or works. This "process" (quantized) is generated foundamentary by neuron firings in the term of biological science.

4. How does understanding information help us understand physics, and vice-versa?

As we get more or precise infomation, we understand physics more or precise, and vice-versa.

attachments: 1_r321.pdf

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Apr. 4, 2013 @ 23:53 GMT
Ryoji San

In my opinion the points you made are interesting and quite relevant to the subject of this contest. I encourage you to expand it into an essay and send it in.

Gambattekudasai (= more power to you)

Vladimir

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Paul Reed replied on Apr. 6, 2013 @ 04:49 GMT
頑張ってくださ
356; (がんばってくだ
2373;い)

Ganbatte Kudasai: Do your best, please. (formal)

Facts Holmes, facts!!!

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Apr. 7, 2013 @ 02:43 GMT
Haha - Paul - Watson, I have been living in Japan for the past 42 years. Gambatte Kudasai is used in different contexts most of which defy a precise English translation. "Do your best" is close enough. "Bon Courage" is another.

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Domenico Oricchio wrote on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 12:22 GMT
It is intelligent to choice automatically the members like finalist; this permit to increase the visibility of the contest (the visibility is for all), and it is intelligent the request of members comment (this request pull in the members in the contest blog).

I ever think that is not important to win the contest, but share our ideas in a increasingly wider blog.

Saluti

DOmenico

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David Chapman wrote on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 15:09 GMT
Anyone working on this essay might find a workshop that is taking place in Milton Keynes, UK, on the 8th-10th April useful:

"The Difference That Makes a Difference 2013: An interdisciplinary workshop on Information: Space, Time, and Identity"

Although the deadline for registration has passed, there are still places available and booking is possible if you email registration@dtmd.org.uk

I hope you will excuse me publicising the event here. It is not a commercial venture - far from it! - and I do think it is relevant. The emphasis at the workshop is on interdisciplinary conversations as part of our project exploring an interdisciplinary understanding of the nature of information.

David Chapman

Senior Lecturer in the Communication and Systems Department of The Open University, UK.

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Alan Lowey wrote on Apr. 2, 2013 @ 11:27 GMT
The Mysteries Of The Bermuda Triangle would have been a much better topic imo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzeJaGwVykw

Bruce Gernon's electronic fog experience is very relevant to Flight 19. The calculated speed of 2000mph is simply the speed of the lunar earth tide at this latitude. A dark matter 'rocking stone' embedded in the crust with a 2g graviton cone of influence could simply have flung the aircraft *and* surrounding pocket of air across the Florida Strait, causing the effects described.

[quote]

2- The lunar shadow moves faster than sound.

During a solar eclipse, the moon casts a shadow on the Earth, the surface speed of which is relative to the observer's position on Earth. Speed is slowest at the equator, where the shadow moves at 1,074 mph. Near the north pole, that speed can reach 5,000 mph. These speeds dwarf the speed of sound (768 mph). If shadows could actually make sounds, a solar eclipse would produce a sonic boom on earth.

[/quote]

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Eric Reiter replied on Apr. 5, 2013 @ 22:34 GMT
I agree. Clearly, 'It from bit' is from the probability interpretation, the Born rule. That is what 'IT' is about, right? The Born rule was demolished by my many experiments outlined in my 2012 essay. The problem is that the FQXI judges acted as if my experiments never happened. They happened, and they will happen any time I or anyone wants to show it. So even the Bermuda Triangle would have been a better subject this year. People think that information can occur without energy, and I know why they think that way. 'It from Bit' is an act of desperation due to misunderstanding past experiments. The misunderstanding was due to interpreting past experiments through a narrow quantum mechanical polarized thought window. It is not hard to take any modern experiment, like quantum erasers, or any of it, and either point out the flaw in the experiment or show how to interpret the experiment with the loading theory, or even some other theory. Then one can argue that experiments of others do not draw the clear distinction. My experiments seem to be the only ones that clearly defy QM and therefore draw the required clear distinction. Evidently, FQXI judges do not care about arguments based on experiment. The essayists judging did seem to care because I came in #14 out of ~285, thank you.

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John Merryman replied on Apr. 6, 2013 @ 03:07 GMT
Eric,

Yours was a valiant effort, but it is not going to get anyone inside the circle to step outside it. Consider what all they have been willing to swallow in order to preserve the current model, as well as support their careers. If you can't be refuted, you can be ignored. Don't give up though. Nature lets us blow bubbles, but eventually they all pop.

Consider the point I keep making; That the basis of time is not a vector from past to future, no matter how you measure the interval, but is the changing configuration of the physical, that turns future into past. For example, ask yourself if it is more logical that the earth travels a fourth dimension from yesterday to tomorrow? Or that tomorrow becomes yesterday because the earth rotates?

If you find the second more reasonable, then time is an effect of action and not some mathematical basis for it, so there is no conceptual foundation for expanding space. No Big Bang, no Inflation, no blocktime, no wormholes, no dark energy. Redshift is not due to light traveling as a point particle that can only be redshifted by recession. Not to mention they assume a constant speed of light against which to measure this expanding space!!!!

No multiworlds either, as it is the actual collapse of probability that turns potential into actual, not moving along that vector of time from the actual to the probable.

The question is how to organize a broad theory from the many ideas questioning the current model and how to position it as a viable alternative, as people finally grow tired with the increasingly erratic and eventually unstable nature of the field.

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Apr. 7, 2013 @ 02:34 GMT
Eric,

Glad to see you here promoting your work. By all accounts, and through my experience of trying to communicate my ideas to the mainstream, it will take patient, unflagging effort to change people's minds. The premises by Einstein, Born and others upon which much of present theory is built, has to give way to a simpler set of assumptions nearer to how nature actually works.Your experiments described in unquantum.net proving the true nature of light quantum emission and absorption clearly defy the Born rule (probabilistic interpretation).

John,

I agree that "the changing configuration of the physical" is the basis of time. If so why complicate the picture by notions of 'future' and 'past'. The universe has this one state and it changes. As to "how to organize a broad theory from the many ideas questioning the current model" - I have presented an outline theory Beautiful Universe that needs a lot of development, but to my naive thinking its one or two premises can be the basis for such a new physics. I am currently trying to simulate the lattice interactions but it is daunting work for a person in my isolated situation.

Vladimir

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Marcel-Marie LeBel wrote on Apr. 6, 2013 @ 17:58 GMT
A good question usually contains precise parameters already limiting and defining the answer. This question is too vague for it point to any specific path...

Secondly, the great/wide/important questions of the FQXI contests are always great/wide/important simply because they carry a serious philosophical overtone. Well, guess what. Any philosophical treatment or approach is, at FQXI, the first one to get shot like ducks in season. The power of philosophy is that of standing back for the big picture and the freedom to discuss avenues and approaches with a certain amount of rational to back it. The weakness of philosophy is that it is not a truth system; it can only deliver an opinion. Yet, many of these opinions have been at the basis of new headways in physics. Whenever a paths gets muddled or foggy, we go back to question our board of original assumptions (last contest). With luck, we get to modify or even knock off a few of these assumptions and start a new path based on the new vision.

I haven’t read Wheeler’s book. Anyone care to explain in a tweet of words what was Wheeler’s problem is with his “it”. (Carefull! Those menacing cursor diving in low flight above the “report post as inappropriate”)



Seriously! I’ve got nothing. I keep reading your posts for some ideas....

Thanks

Marcel,

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T H Ray replied on Apr. 6, 2013 @ 20:11 GMT
Marcel,

Perhaps you will find helpful this excerpt from John Horgan's 1996 book *The End of Science.* One of my favorites -- a collection of interviews with prominent scientists. Though I disagree with Horgan's premise of "ironic science," his journalism is excellent and honest.

Tom

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Marcel-Marie LeBel replied on Apr. 6, 2013 @ 22:54 GMT
Tom,

Thanks for the very rich reference. (I read the book years back and did not remember this part..I still have it :-).

I like in this excerpt the place where Wheeler says: "As the island of our knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." He does recognize the huge difference between knowledge and understanding! I like that.

To attain the ultimate theory may be impossible for science. Not so, I believe, for a structured philosophical truth system.

He said that we create our reality! I totally agree! Not the stuff it is made of, which has been around for billion years. We create in our minds shapes, forms colors, everything from a furiously agitated explosion of a single process (substance) motivated by the simplest logical operations.

This text gives me lots of ideas and I thank you again Tom for showing it to me.

Good thinking/Good writing

Marcel,

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John Merryman replied on Apr. 7, 2013 @ 00:39 GMT
Marvel,

If it was easy, there would be no challenge.

Tom,

That seems awfully philosophical. I guess if it's an approved source, it's acceptable.

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Apr. 7, 2013 @ 15:11 GMT
Hi fellows,

Let me try an impossible task: to motivate you to take seriously "it from bit" idea, but of course without taking bits themselves seriously.

Here is a simple question:

Why is it that all objects/processes in Nature fall into the structurally similar classes (of stars, galaxies, stones, trees, etc)? Of course, classes evolve as are all objects. Why has the Universe been organized that way, via classes, from the very beginning?

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Apr. 7, 2013 @ 15:39 GMT
Apology for a misprint.I mistakenly dropped the word at the end of the question:

should read "the structurally similar classes of objects".

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James A Putnam replied on Apr. 7, 2013 @ 16:54 GMT
Hi Lev,

"Why is it that all objects/processes in Nature fall into the structurally similar classes (of stars, galaxies, stones, trees, etc)? Of course, classes evolve as are all objects. Why has the Universe been organized that way, via classes, from the very beginning?"

I think that the answer is:

Efficiency of purpose. Those limitations and those profound resulting objects, are evidence that the universe is controlled right from its beginning with all effects having been prescribed for. It occurs that way for the originally set purpose of maximizing the use of the genetic code. The purpose of the genetic code is to maximize the variety of life within the constraints of a limited code. The code has to be limited because it is confined by the existence of its originally set purpose. Purpose involves setting limits. The limits result from all effects being due to a single cause. A single cause, and the fundamental unity that it represents, is limited in its capabilities.

The organization of the mechanical aspects of the universe results from limitation of what is possible to result from a single original theoretical cause. Unity is the restriction that limits the kinds of varieties that are possible; while allowing for variations of kind within a limited number of types of effects. The types of effects are limited to a number that is possible in a fundamentally unified universe. Unity is confining, yet, purpose requires unity. Infinite possibilities without a limited number of classes are incompatible with purpose. Infinite variety is necessarily confined by finite classes so that the original purpose may be served.

James Putnam

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John Merryman replied on Apr. 7, 2013 @ 21:43 GMT
Lev,

Have you ever seen this TED talk by Jill Taylor Bolte?

She is a neuroanatomist who had a severe stroke in her left hemisphere. If you watch it, consider how she relates the functions of the left brain and right brain, to the relationship between bit and it. The raw input of energy from the present, vs. the linear organization of it. Early on she makes the observation about how reality is one big soup of energy and how the left brain organizes it. She says it is all just perfect and here. Basically, as Wheeler says, the answer must be in here somewhere, but questions and answers arise out of linear cause and effect, the functions of the left brain. If it is only the right brain, there is no answer, because there is no question. Thinking is a function of making distinctions and we have found, at the quantum level, there are no clear distinctions, no complete linear cause and effect. Just light bouncing around. When we apply our basic logical assumptions to fundamental realities, the resulting insights are difficult to write into clear and concise formalisms.

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Apr. 8, 2013 @ 12:34 GMT
Thanks Tom!

What gradually dawn on me is that the concept of structured event (as we proposed it) might be the key to understanding both the temporal and 'informational' part of reality: it seems that the appearance of any spatial event must be guided by its blueprint, 'informational' structured event. If it will turn out out to be true, Paul, than indeed we have "it from bit" (but, of course, without any hollow bits).

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Apr. 8, 2013 @ 12:55 GMT
Apologies! I accidentally started a new thread (I haven't been here for a long while ;-) ).

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Apr. 8, 2013 @ 13:36 GMT
Lev, you know I'm a fan. This is nice " ... it seems that the appearance of any spatial event must be guided by its blueprint, 'informational' structured event ..." for several reasons -- one of which is that it accommodates the classical time reversibility of a continuous field. This has vast implications for the quantum mechanics that lies at the foundation of computability -- as well as for the possibility of quantum computing without superposition -- and for QM interpretations that have been marginalized, such as John C. Cramer's transactional interpretation, the Bohm-de Broglie pilot wave theory, Wheeler-Feynman absorber theory and even Everett's many worlds hypothesis -- because all of these share the advantage, over Bell's theorem, of obviating nonlocality by mathematical completeness.

I mean by that, self aware domain sensitivity -- "guided by its blueprint" -- as opposed to assigning nonlocal meaning to vanishing functions obtained by linear numerical implementation of a model. I think ETS restores a dynamic center to the computational art, more in line with how we observe that nature actually works -- much like the non-vanishing torsion of Joy Christian's topological framework that explains quantum correlations locally and naturally.

Tom

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John Merryman replied on Apr. 8, 2013 @ 15:24 GMT
Lev,

Then there is the opposing argument that the blueprint arises as a description of the event. Bit from it. It seems as the speciation of complex structure multiplies, it does so in an upward and outward fashion, that is not readily visible from the top down perspective, even to the system itself, since the eventual collapse of this structure is more a fracturing between the hard and evident parts, as the original soft, formative processes evaporate.

Blueprints are static renderings, but nature is inherently dynamic, yet this dynamic is also interactive, so there does arise distinctions and they develop. To assume a foundational blueprint would be a form of Platoism and this simply poses the question of where it comes from, only kicking the can down the road. Wouldn't it be more effective to try to figure out how that blueprint comes into being, as a solidifying structure of dynamic processes?

That the blueprints evolve upward, rather than being handed down from above.

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John Merryman wrote on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 19:25 GMT
Tom,

"I don't know, John. What do you think?"

I've been trying to tell you what I think. Obviously not much of it sinks in.

"the singularity is an attempt to reconstruct the concept of nothing from that mathematical placeholder."

Why?"

The idea of space as three dimensional originates from modeling it as a three vector coordinate system, which requires the...

view entire post


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Paul Reed replied on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 06:44 GMT
John

You are not measuring space, but things, which implies space. However, this is not where the concept of 3 dimension stems from. This is just the ultimate simplification of reality that retains ontological correctness at that level of conceptualisation. In reality there are far more. Dimension is a specific aspect of spatial footprint. At the existential level, the number of...

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John Merryman replied on Apr. 13, 2013 @ 10:52 GMT
Paul,

Are there an infinity of objects?

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Paul Reed replied on Apr. 13, 2013 @ 16:29 GMT
John

Not for us. But what has that got to do with it?

Paul

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T H Ray wrote on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 21:19 GMT
John,

You write, "The idea of space as three dimensional originates from modeling it as a three vector coordinate system, which requires the zero point."

Where did you get that idea? Just making it up as you go along? You said "the singularity is an attempt to reconstruct the concept of nothing from that mathematical placeholder."

I asked, "Why?"

Now you're saying...

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T H Ray replied on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 21:20 GMT
Sorry, didn't mean to start another thread.

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John Merryman replied on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 23:53 GMT
Tom,

I fully appreciate the pushback. I know I'm not an expert. Yes, I do try to put together a bunch of ideas I know I'm not fluent in and am in water far beyond my depth. Why? Am I delusional? Possibly.

So why do I do it? Because I get into these conversations making one very basic and simple point and then get terribly wound up in the consequences.

The point is whether time is this vector from past to future, or the effect of dynamic change. So laugh. Go believe your fabric of spacetime and all its wormholes, multiverses and all wonder of unicorn thinking.

Me, I think there is something seriously wrong with the picture and if I try to come up with some impressionistic ideas from the various puzzle pieces floating around, it really is no crime. Even to the professionals, given what they come up with. We all do live in this reality. Why do various groups think they have a monopoly on understanding or owning it?

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John Merryman replied on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 23:59 GMT
"Why do various groups think they have a monopoly on understanding or owning it?"

And then abuse that monopoly beyond all possible reason.

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 02:50 GMT
While searching for Wheeler's paper Bit from It I stumbled upon fqxi member Cristi Stoica's interesting blog entitled

"Bit from It" vs. "It from Bit"

Sounds familiar! He should have been credited when the contest was announced. The link opens two browser windows - just close the one that does not contain the 'Unitary Flow' bliog.

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John Merryman replied on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 10:35 GMT
Vladimir,

It does seem to me this contest raises the same essential arguments as the analog, vs. digital contest.

My view of what Cristi is defending, of Wheeler's argument, is the inherent subjectivity of knowledge. That objective knowledge is fundamentally a contradiction of terms. There is no "God's eye" view, or as Tegmark states it, the bird's eye view. Knowledge is focus and specificity. Information is a unit of knowledge. We build our store of knowledge out of these discrete units/measurements. That is what the rational left brain does. It is up to the non-linear right brain to sense the connectivity of these points of information.

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Paul Reed replied on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 11:26 GMT
John (Vladimir)

“It does seem to me this contest raises the same essential arguments as the analog, vs. digital contest”

Obviously. Because although the form of words differs, the question really revolves around what is physical existence, and how does it occur. Without that, one cannot discern whether it is ‘digital or analog’, the differentiation between occurrence and information thereof, and then how one can extrapolate the former from the latter, etc, etc.

Put simply, one needs to know what ‘it’ is first, otherwise everything else can become ‘noise’, and trying to address one aspect at a time is not an efficient way of proceeding. Indeed, reading the piece, yet again bring into focus the essential issues which need to be resolved in a cohesive manner:

-there is only one form of physical existence, it does not operate in radically different ways depending on size, or whatever. An example being Tom’s cat/dog. The real point here is that these do not exist, physically. They are a conception of existence at a much higher level than what actually occurs, ie they are based on superficial physical attributes. Dog/cat, is really a sequence of physically existent states, which gives, like all such ‘objects’, the illusion of persistence.

-we can only have knowledge of/information about, ie we cannot ‘directly access’ reality. Hence we are comparing knowledge with other knowledge and eventually arriving at something which we can deem to be the equivalent of ‘it’, because we are in an existentially closed system. But this does not mean that ‘everything is information’, it is still independent, but possibly limited. Just that the differentiation between it and information can only have meaning within that closed system.

-the processing by the sensory system/brain of the independent physical input received is of no consequence to the physical circumstance, all it does is enable awareness of the input which the creation of a perception of it.

Paul

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 15:33 GMT
John, Paul

Yes its is similar to the digital/analog question.

It is true that we can only observe things subjectively, but ..well I am still working out what follows the 'but' in my essay !

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Mikalai Birukou wrote on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 15:54 GMT
Brendan,

I have entered my essay into contest on the 7th of April, using email/password from year 2011. The webform didn't seem to take any time to upload a pdf file, making me suspicious of a possible technical fault. Can you check that a file was actually received on your side. And if no, I am attaching it to this comment.

Mikalai.

attachments: essaybitisit.pdf

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Paul Reed replied on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 04:59 GMT
Mikalai (Brendan)

Agreed. I could not get the counter to work neither did the form give the appearance that it had received any substance. But I presumed this was my lack of techical knowledge, as I got a 'received' response, and I also presume they are awaiting a number of receipts before publishing. Mine was submitted on the 2nd

Paul

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Mikalai Birukou replied on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 15:57 GMT
It all worked. The essay is up.

Thanks to FQXi team.

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 14:42 GMT
Brendan,

I thought that by announcing the priority given to FQXi members in this contest, the acceptance criteria might also be tightened, but it appears that exactly the opposite is the case! Is the number of the entries so important that it overrides the most important consideration---the quality of the entries?

No wonder that one of the main points discussed after the last contest---the quality of the essay evaluation---cannot be adequately dealt with when the number of essays is so artificially inflated!

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Philip Gibbs replied on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 08:13 GMT
I thought the idea was that the community rating sorts the quality. I would not like the contest if the essays were pre-filtered any more than the rules require.

You are being too hard on entries so far. I think there are some interesting points being made already. If you don't have time to read them all carefully then wait for the initial rating to sort them or filter by your own criteria.

Since you are so critical of our efforts I hope you will be entering soon to show us how it can be done better :-)

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 14:36 GMT
Dear Phil,

Yes, I'm preparing an essay, and I didn't mean to be super-critical at all.

I have witnessed what was happening during the last three contests (and I participated in two of them), and I'm sure that in each case, a large number (and the quality) of essays was the main obstacle towards a more *enjoyable, interesting, and productive* contest.

The structure of the human mind is such that beyond certain number, say around 40 essays, our mind is loosing its effectiveness in analyzing and comparing the content. Incidentally, for similar reasons, the sizes of classes in primary and secondary schools are generally kept under that number. But, alas, these considerations don't seem to be the guiding ones for the organizers. ;-) The declaration that the number of entries was, let's say, over 150 or 200 becomes overriding consideration. Unfortunately, it may seem from the 'outside', that what matters is the size of the finally selected set of essays (which is under 40) and not the number of original entries.

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Paul Reed replied on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 06:05 GMT
Lev

Agreed. But the issue there is the concept of community rating. Apart from the essay per se, the ensuing debate gives those particpating the opportunity to 'exlain themselves' both by a critque of others and a defence of the critique of others. That should then easily enable those effecting the judging to separate of the 'wheat from the chaff', and the issue of number of enries is thereby not such a problem.

But the rating system skews all this, because the debate which follows becomes a case of 'good point, oh by the way in my essay...', vote for me and I will vote for you, friends voting for friends, amateurs effecting judgements which they have no knowledge to substantiate, etc. Given the structure of the forum, ie its visibility when you enter it, then the 'celebrity' syndrome comes into play, ie he/she is a celebrity because he/she is a celebrity. An essay attracts more noise because it has noise. It is also inherently flawed to have participants rating each other, literally. As I said above, the rating is in the critique/defence thereof amongst the participants, not giving it marks out of 10.

Paul

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Anton Lorenz Vrba wrote on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 00:48 GMT
I note a refreshing change in this years competition - the community rating is displayed.

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Apr. 30, 2013 @ 05:56 GMT
I think ‘Bit’ is the core of paradox, when we think of other than particle scenario.

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John Merryman wrote on May. 11, 2013 @ 14:06 GMT
This contest does seem to be coming up a bit light, this time around. So far, 31 entries. Last contest, by about the 7 week mark, there were 74 entries.

I think the main reason being the question is simply not as broad. Also that the rules made clear that winners would be significantly skewed to FQXI members had to be a little discouraging to outsiders.

Admittedly I did not invest nearly as much time writing my entry, as I spent trying to figure out what to write, so both issues affected my participation.

I do notice I've quickly garnered several negative scores, but far more limited response, so it seems most look upon this as a contest, rather than an opportunity to exchange ideas. That's understandable, but given the stated preferences in the rules, futile.

Possibly if FQXI wants to maintain interest in outside participation, by those interested in ideas and not just winning contests, they should make scoring contingent on commenting. This would mean other participants have to make a comment under their own name in order to score an entry. If people have opinions, they should at least express them. This current method seems promote spineless spamming.

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Lev Goldfarb replied on May. 11, 2013 @ 21:31 GMT
John,

As I suggested above, I wouldn't worry about the number of participants: I think the topic *is* popular/fashionable and we probably will see many entries.

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John Merryman replied on May. 12, 2013 @ 14:49 GMT
Lev,

I'm not disparaging the topic. It would be difficult to ask a broader question than the last; What of our basic assumptions are wrong? There will undoubtfully be many entries closer to the deadline and it will likely be around the number of entries in the contests prior to the last.

Mostly my peeve was getting a few bottom scores from people without the grace to comment. It falls in the category of spam. While it is convenient for FQXI to have this free grading system, some accountability would go a long way to maintaining a healthy debate atmosphere.

I have to say in previous contests, I've tended to mostly score contestants I've conversed with and then mostly middling to high scores, since I've only engaged in others entries where I did have some grounds for agreement. So I can see where, on the surface, this wouldn't serve the purpose of weeding out bad entries and generally paring down the field to a more manageable level, since most people are not likely to engage in conversations they see no interest in, yet the result will be a lack of scores for those entries that don't attract attention and that would be a form of grading in itself.

As it is, one of the main issues has been the degree of tactical scoring in previous contests and this might serve to reduce that.

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Lev Goldfarb replied on May. 12, 2013 @ 17:48 GMT
John,

As you might know I have been talking about these issues for several years now, mainly because I have been on the receiving end. But alas, the organizers do not seem to attach to the organizational side---and probably to the contest themselves---sufficient importance to make it a much more *enjoyable* experience for us, the participants. It is quite possible that this attitude may have already had a negative effect on all possible participants, including FQXi members, and hence the present attempt to woo these members by offering them "free entrance".

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on May. 29, 2013 @ 09:48 GMT
Seems to be a loss of momentum and focus here.

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Akinbo Ojo wrote on May. 31, 2013 @ 12:46 GMT
Hi All,

I am new to this forum but I have enjoyed the flow and exchange of information. I note the criticisms about how essay entries are judged and this can only make things better. I had looked forward to submitting and an entry and I almost cancelled this when the topic came out!

But in retrospect, it is a topic that will take us near the 'secret of the Old One' as Einstein wished. I have made my entry.

I would suggest a step-wise judging process. First 40, then say a month later, remaining 20, then last 5, then winner. At each step, members and public must be negative in their criticism while the finalist in the 'witness box' answers and rebuts their criticism (I know the FQXi advocate courtesy and positive commentary). The aim is that the 'dialectic and reductio ad absurdum arguments that will arise from discussing the Winning Essays must lead to something of a concrete statement at the end of the contest, i.e. at the end there should be a well publicized foundational authoritative FQXi STATEMENT on 1. How the universe stores and processes its information, 2. Is IT actually from BIT or viceversa? 3. The following underlying assumptions are probably wrong.

Anyhow, I believe we are getting there...

All the best and regards,

Akinbo

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Jun. 1, 2013 @ 04:34 GMT
Brendan,

Are all comments being displayed as they appear? "http://www.fqxi.org/community/blogs" doesn't seem to be keeping up with the comment flow.

Thanks,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Jun. 1, 2013 @ 18:46 GMT
Obviously not those related to the essays.

Quite appropriately, some 'sanitation' measures have been implemented. ;-))

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Jun. 2, 2013 @ 17:36 GMT
Brendan,

Is it possible to add the "edit" option--present for the blog posts--to the essay's posts?

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 17:35 GMT
Grievance time! This is not against FQXi, but against some individual(s) who give community scores to the essays. I notice some new essays were delivered up yesterday 6/10/13. Almost instantly they were all awarded a score of one. I have yet to look at any of these new essays; I might get to that this evening. However, I have a difficult time thinking that all of these essays are of such poor quality, and a #1 should really mean either utterly wrong, false or of poor reasoning, that the authors should be treated this way. This has happened as well with previous essays delivered up. I would like who ever is doing this to cease. Maybe the moderators should check the voting records to see if there is anyone who has given ones to all or most essays and to have these scores removed.

LC

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 18:45 GMT
Lawrence,

I'm surprised that you just now noticed these things, when they have been occurring in all the contests I participated in (2nd, 3d and the present 5th).

I have consistently complained that such scoring practices completely poison the atmosphere of a contest but to no avail.

However, if one were to immediately isolate such practice in this contest from this point on, what all of us will do with our previous 1's and 2's? For example, I have three 1's and two 2's.

As I mentioned repeatedly, this situation is directly associated with the lack of *real* (not written) entrance requirements for the contest, about which I also mentioned in my recent post here.

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Lawrence B Crowell replied on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 19:06 GMT
I had noticed this, it is just that now the scoring of ones was so blatant and obvious that I was annoyed. It was a blanket napalming of papers with a score of one with probably no regard or real reading of these papers.

BTW, how do you find out what the individual scores you are awarded?

LC

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 19:34 GMT
I have been doing it on a regular basis, after each score. ;-)

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adel sadeq wrote on Jun. 17, 2013 @ 23:00 GMT
Hi All,

I will be submitting my essay soon. But what I want to know is what kind of people who are categorized as "community". Are they all physicists or philosophers or general scientists or what? I am curious that is all, my guess is they are a mixture that is what the scoring reflects,not very perfect to say the least, in my opinion. From past essays I noticed that the judges did not take the community scores into account, or am I wrong.

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Don Limuti wrote on Jun. 18, 2013 @ 19:12 GMT
Hi Adel,

First check the FAQ's for the contest. Here is my take of the contest, and please anyone (Brendan) if I got it wrong, please correct.

1. The community consists of all contest entrants and all FQXi members. I believe there are about 100 to 200 members. You can find out who they are by googling FQXi.org members.

2. The members are all philosophers and physicists most associated with a university. It is an interesting mix from all over the world. Almost all members have bios and info online. See who you are sympathetic with and use them as your three desired judges.

3. All FQXI members can vote, their votes count more than those of entrants. Most members are not in the contest and can vote after the contest closes. There may or may not be a little home cooking going on (FQXi members vote for FQXi entrants) but it is a natural effect. There are a lot of difficult to read entries, and it is a lot easier to read stuff written by your colleges. I have the notion that we do not get to see the final community scores, but only the scores at the end of the contest. There is a period of time after the contest ends where only FQXi members can vote.

4. This contest has a new interesting rule. If a member enters it is a requirement that they comment on 5 essays written by non members.

5. I hope to enter this contest also.

Hope this helps,

Don L.

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adel sadeq replied on Jun. 18, 2013 @ 23:02 GMT
Hi Don,

Thanks for the info, that was really helpful. My essay involves a system with a lot of simulations that I have done two years back. Trying to remember a lot of stuff for the final write up has been a nightmare, I guess that is why I was lazy to find out about the members on my own.

But do you really think these guys really care about what we think, I will be surprised if they do. I did have a brief communication with Dr Tegmark who was kind to reply. Also, since members cannot vote that explains some of the erratic votes so far. Thanks again.

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Jun. 18, 2013 @ 22:59 GMT
I checked the essays this afternoon and the new ones posted today all have score point = 1. The one-point troll has struck again! This person could not have read all these essays! I have no idea whether these new essays are good or bad, I have not looked at them yet. Yet it is clear there is somebody, or several people, who wants to give ones to suppress the average scores.

LC

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Jun. 19, 2013 @ 08:47 GMT
Lawrence,

I am not the troll, and you might agree with me on that scoring without previous discussion is unfair. I guess, the troll rather criticized that virtually all essays did not fit into his own view.

What about my own essay, I would appreciate a huge number of lowest scores on condition the scorer did previously take issue and revealed at least one weak point in my argumentation. I do not appreciate lazy and coward rejection of my arguments just because they are at variance with a particular opinion or the common belief that for instance Einstein's or Wheeler's theories are definitely not wrong.

On the other hand, I feel myself in position to judge for instance the fact that an author used ten times in his abstract the expression "onto..." as an indication of weakness. I would not score Wheeler ten but also not one because I consider him honest.

Regards,

Eckard

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Jason Mark Wolfe replied on Jun. 20, 2013 @ 08:22 GMT
Maybe those 1's should be dropped, with appropriate explanation. Maybe future contests should include a justification for why it got the score it got. A human answer is less generic, more unique, then just a number.

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Jun. 19, 2013 @ 12:46 GMT
I suddenly realized that it would have somewhat improved the scoring situation if the contest rules contained a short list of recommendations for how and when to assign low scores (1 - 3 or 1 - 4). For example, a score of "1" in the cases satisfying *all or most* of these (tentative) conditions:

1. The essay does not really address the proposed topic

2. The essay is organized extremely poorly

3. The essay is written in a very poor English

4. The essay is very difficult to read

5. The essay does not contain any original ideas

6. The essay shows a lack of basic scientific knowledge

Of course, the essays satisfying all these conditions should not be admitted to the contest. And quite possibly they are not admitted, so that we should not have the scores of "1" at all!

Perhaps the *choice* of scores, then, should not contain "1".

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Jun. 20, 2013 @ 10:37 GMT
The feature of the voting that I find to be of most concern is that there is a big disadvantage of having a larger number of ratings from the community. For example, it would be better to enter the final with 10 ratings and an average of 4 than 40 ratings and an average of 5. This is because the expert panel are likely to vote good essays higher but the number of ratings from the community is used as a weighting so the low community vote counts against those with more ratings. For example, if both these essays get 6 ratings from the panel (weighted x 3) with an average of 7, then the one with the community rating of 4 will win. He will have an overall average of 5.9 compared to an average of 5.6 for the one with the community rating of 5.

This could be fixed by calculating the community rating and panel rating and taking the straight average of those two numbers.

One effect of this is that it is better to enter the competition at the last minute rather than right at the beginning. If you are near the top from the start you get more ratings and this holds your score down compared to those who enter late when the panel votes. I still prefer to enter early because I want to be involved in the discussion for as long as possible but it is a shame that this gives a big disadvantage.

By the way I don't think we have any FQXi member entries yet. The number of entries usually doubles in the last week though.

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Jun. 20, 2013 @ 14:50 GMT
I agree: this is *another* obvious flaw.

However, as I mentioned several years ago, given the variety of the participants, the main flaw is to allow the participants themselves to rank the essays.

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adel sadeq replied on Jun. 21, 2013 @ 16:41 GMT
Hi Philip,

I had the alias name of qsa before, and I posted many questions to you. But what I am wondering now is how are the winning essays picked. Do the judges panel make the decision or the voting by the "community" or is it a mixture of some sort.

Do you really think the FQXI community members care for the essays and vote in any substantial way. They are all who's who and I doubt they have the time for us. Thanks.

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Philip Gibbs replied on Jun. 21, 2013 @ 17:08 GMT
It is a mixture, details are given in the rules see http://www.fqxi.org/community/essay under "Judging"

I know others disagree but I think that overall the scoring works quite well but there are some small changes that could improve it.

I don't know how many of the FQXi members give ratings. Probably it is not that many since they changed the rules to try to encourage more to rate.

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Jun. 24, 2013 @ 09:13 GMT
One of the essays formerly at http://www.fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1613 has disappeared. Is it a technical fault or was it withdrawn?

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Marcus Meijer replied on Jun. 24, 2013 @ 10:59 GMT
Philip,

I have asked FQXI to eliminate my entry.

You can find the correspondence in the attachment.

Henk

attachments: Fwd__Re__eliminating_essay.rtf

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Philip Gibbs replied on Jun. 24, 2013 @ 11:49 GMT
Sorry to hear that Sydney. All the best.

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Marcus Meijer replied on Jun. 24, 2013 @ 12:28 GMT
Thanks, Philip.

Although, I don't regret because I personally do not think this contest is some serious science.

Therefore, I sent my essay to viXra (http://vixra.org/abs/1305.0089) and started a blog (http://www.odavdw.blogspot.com).

Henk

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Jun. 29, 2013 @ 19:30 GMT
Hi Folks,

It's good to see an active exchange of ideas, and a lot of familiar names in the roster of authors contributing essays this year. I got my submission in on the last day, this time, but not at the last minute. I don't expect to see it today, therefore, but I don't imagine it will be the last one to appear either.

I look forward to again being a part of the FQXi Physics essay contests, and sharing this space with all of you. Good luck to all. And a special thank you for the encouragement of friends.

Have Fun!

Jonathan

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Anonymous wrote on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 09:45 GMT
Really, I do not like this system where low evaluations are given without arguments, even without reading of an essay. The first evaluation I got in less than an hour after the essay was published.

I think that it is necessary a few days that a lot of argumenst are exchanged, that evaluation is allowed. Besides, the purpose of this context is exchange of arguments, and this fast evaluations do not serve to this purpose.

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adel sadeq replied on Jul. 1, 2013 @ 00:23 GMT
This problem has come up many times. I think this has nothing to do with evaluation, it is done on purpose for good reason, so that no artificial voting raises the score and offsets older essays with high ranking with many votes. That is my take anyway.

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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Marcel-Marie LeBel wrote on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 17:33 GMT
o.k.! I got a subject for my essay. Instead of tackling Wheeler’s gedanken, I go back to the principal assumption. (I know, I am late since this was the last contest subject). The fact is that the gedanken is based on the wave-particle duality from the double slit experiment. Well, guess what.

At the time, quantum mechanics was full of surprises and we were so ready for the next one. So, the wave-particle duality was quickly accepted as Weird rather than Wrong. Worst, is was translated into a direct ontological equivalence. I mean, appearance of wave is a wave and appearance of a particle is a particle. We got neither. A soliton is both, in a way. Solitons marching in phase will act as waves but at the detector they surrender a specific quantum of energy, Solitons are quantum of EM waves.

The conclusion is that light wave interference is wrong. Only the appearance of...It should have been obvious by the moment we got single particle or photons interfering with themselves... So what does produce the pattern observed in the double slit experiment? Read my essay...if it ever comes out.

Marcel,

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Jul. 1, 2013 @ 03:55 GMT
If the scores given, but not particular essays voted on, was made public for each voting participant there would be a social incentive to give more reasonable and even generous scores and not to give out lots of extremely low scores. I think that would be an unpopular change though, which might backfire by discouraging voting at all.

A check list for each number on the scale 1 to 10 would be helpful as it would make the voting a little bit more objective. Like school student achievement targets, which either are or are not achieved. Maybe that could be considered for future contests.

With 5 looking like the new 10 there seems a built in unfairness at this stage of the contest as an essay might have to be considered exceptionally to merit a vote much higher than the front runners current scores, though they will have already had higher scores than their average given. I guess that is just another advantage to entering early.

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adel sadeq replied on Jul. 1, 2013 @ 04:31 GMT
In the end it is all in the hands of the judges. they can vote down a top scorer who is in the range of 5 by a score of 1 and make a score of 2 a winner by giving it a mere score of 4. But anyway, IMHO I don't see a strong correlation between a good idea and the community score, especially that not everybody scores the same essay.

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Marcel-Marie LeBel wrote on Jul. 2, 2013 @ 16:12 GMT
Honestly! I can't expect to be voted, win, and all the blurb.

All I hope for is to be read, understood and maybe, influence someone's thinking. And if it is really going somewhere.. I hope they just have the decency to acknowledge where it came from.

all the bests,

Marcel,

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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M. V. Vasilyeva wrote on Jul. 3, 2013 @ 12:22 GMT
LOL Brendan could have saved those men the trouble and upload the new essays with the vote of 1 in both community and public rating already plugged in.

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Jul. 3, 2013 @ 15:04 GMT
Dear Marina,

Please don't take it personally, and welcome to our neglected pseudo-scientific house. ;-))

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Jul. 3, 2013 @ 19:12 GMT
I would imagine the moderators know who votes where and what.

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Jul. 3, 2013 @ 19:36 GMT
So what does it change?

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Jul. 4, 2013 @ 15:33 GMT
I want to raise one important but controversial issue concerning the main difficulties with the organization of various "contests" on the hot and controversial topics in physics, including the FQXi contests.

I believe that---in view of the presently (largely unrecognized) pre-transitional period in science---the main difficulty with such contests is the selection of *the right panel of judges*. Put simply, science have *never* experienced the transitions of such magnitude, and for that reason the vast majority of scientists do not even admit such possibility.

1. Most professional physicists, for obvious reasons, are too attached to the conventional formal models and cannot accept the reality of such pre-transitional period.

2. Most non-professional participants, even if some of them may feel it in their guts, are not 'trained' to understand that *the only way* to really push things along requires a proposal of a radically new *formal* language that would suggest *what* has been missing so far.

So the main obstacle *in the scientific community* is the missing realization of the *unprecedented depth* of the present scientific crisis. So we are faced with the 'chicken & egg' situation: the depth of the crisis cannot be evaluated until the new formal language, or formalism, emerges.

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Jul. 4, 2013 @ 18:56 GMT
Lev,

you're so right, but surely you understand the problem in suggesting that people stop using their familiar language and learn a new, better one. I know you're fluent in at least 2 human languages (and speak countless computer ones :), but I am sure you remember the struggles you went through when learning your second human language. The reality is that people are not going to invest...

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Jul. 4, 2013 @ 19:28 GMT
Marina,

"I understand that you propose to limit the participation to the highly educated professionals."

No, not at all!

I am sure that among the 'non-professionals' there are some (and I've seen quite a few) interesting entries that should be admitted.

Marina, as to your rating proposal, you appear to be too generous to the professionals. ;-)

The idea of giving a very short reason for the score is a good one.

In general, as I have already mentioned about two years ago, the present, neglected, format of the contests has encouraged extensive *non-scientific* lobbying instead of the more productive scientific discussions.

Personally, I see absolutely no difficulties with developing a much more productive format for the contests, but I don't want to spend time discussing it now since I have not seen much interest in it by the organizers. ;-)

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Jul. 4, 2013 @ 20:37 GMT
LOL Lev are you suggesting that I'm buttering up to the professionals?

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Anton Lorenz Vrba wrote on Jul. 6, 2013 @ 09:02 GMT
Hi, Am I an Internet anti-talent?

I cannot find the link that takes me to the overview page listing all the entries

All I manage to find is

"Stay tuned ... FQXi will be announcing its new Essay Contest soon!"

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Jul. 6, 2013 @ 09:59 GMT
Anton

Something strange is going on in the fqxi webmaster's computer.

The entries are still there from: this link

but the line saying "rate this essay" is gone from each essay page.

It must be that all these 1 ratings seen here and there have freaked the system !

Have no fear I am sure Brendan and staff will sort things out soon.

Vladimir

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Jul. 6, 2013 @ 16:35 GMT
Indeed,

One can navigate to the list of essays from the front page via the Forum tab at the top, but all other links to the essays on the site now dead-end. This is of course disappointing. And authors newly posted like myself would wish to begin rating essays, once they are read, but hopefully they will sort things out.

Regards,

Jonathan

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Jul. 6, 2013 @ 18:48 GMT
As the must read entry, I nominate William C. McHarris' It from Bit from It from Bit... Nature and Nonlinear Logic.

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WANG Xiong wrote on Jul. 7, 2013 @ 03:44 GMT
web has problem?

can't rate and comment

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Georgina Woodward replied on Jul. 7, 2013 @ 06:07 GMT
Brendan, is it OK to access the competition via the forum page link or would you rather we didn't until the problem is sorted out?

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Joe Fisher wrote on Jul. 7, 2013 @ 15:11 GMT
I would like to thank those fellow essay submitters who took the time to read my essay and had the nerve to rate it. To be judged by one’s peers is one thing; to be judged and positively rated by one’s intellectual superiors is quite another matter.

Joe Fisher

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Anton Lorenz Vrba replied on Jul. 7, 2013 @ 18:04 GMT
Joe, a secret to success is never to admit intellectual inferiority!

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Jul. 7, 2013 @ 19:53 GMT
The essay contest is currently closed. Stay tuned ... FQXi will be announcing its new Essay Contest soon!

No explanations from FQXi? No angry inquiries from contestants? Orwell's world?

Pentcho Valev

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Jul. 7, 2013 @ 20:00 GMT
I was under the impression that voting for essays would continue until the end of July. The conetst rules page seems to be gone. The contest scoring appears to be closed now. Is this permanent or a temporary closing due to a technical issue?

LC

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Jul. 7, 2013 @ 21:27 GMT
My guess is that there was a technical issue..

If they detected evidence of tampering with the rating system, the current state of having everyone locked out of the rating system could be a fail-safe, until they figure out how to selectively lock out the culprits, and prevent further tampering. I guess it's better happening right now, rather than during the final week of voting. But as Lawrence said, the rules had stated that voting will be open through month's end. I imagine the page with the rules is still there, if it was bookmarked beforehand, but all the links even to the list of essays are dead-ends, except the one in the Forum page.

All the Best,

Jonathan

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M. V. Vasilyeva wrote on Jul. 7, 2013 @ 22:35 GMT
LOL who else thought that this was because of something they have said? I saw it Fri evening, but no-one else complained and there was no explanation from Brendan. I thought that my IP was singled out as a potential troublemaker lol. I cleaned up all my posts in this thread, thinking that they were the cause (I could think of nothing else). We will see an explanation tomorrow when Brendan returns to work after the weekend.

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Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jul. 8, 2013 @ 02:25 GMT
Sorry Marina,

I never even got the chance to say anything so edgy as to warrant a response, but I know what you mean. I too thought I'd done something wrong, that had locked me out of the system, but assumed it was a technical issue - rather than a personal one - early on. I do hope they get things running again soon, however.

And of course, there is the question of the lost time - especially for those who had hoped to rate a significant number of essays this weekend.

All the Best,

Jonathan

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Jul. 8, 2013 @ 14:38 GMT
No need to feel guilty Jonathan and Marina! If check the essays listed by the date they were posted you will see there were 17 of them rated 1, a couple had a rating of 2 and a few others where not rated. The older ones had reasonable ratings. That is clear evidence that some misguided soul tried to pull down the newcomers' ratings. What I do not understand is that something like this occurred towards the end of last year's contest - some response other than "closing" the contest should have been planned for this sort of thing.

fqXi should fully refund our ITS and BITS and give everyone (except the wrongdoers) free popcorn!

Vladimir

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Jul. 8, 2013 @ 14:57 GMT
No need to feel guilty Jonathan and Marina! If you check the essays listed by the date they were posted you will see there were 17 of them rated 1, a couple had a rating of 2 (by 2 people) and a few others where not rated. The older ones had reasonable ratings. That is clear evidence that some misguided soul tried to pull down the newcomers' ratings. What I do not understand is that something like this occurred towards the end of last year's contest - some response other than "closing" the contest should have been planned for this sort of thing.

fqXi should fully refund our ITS and BITS and give everyone (except the wrongdoers) free popcorn!

Vladimir

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Jul. 8, 2013 @ 17:39 GMT
rating is back on, phew! I was getting worried.

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Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jul. 8, 2013 @ 18:12 GMT
Yes Phil,

A sigh of relief, and then it's back to the races - trying to catch up with rating all the essays I've read so far. But I'm glad the system is back on line.

Have Fun,

Jonathan

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Chenxi Guo wrote on Jul. 9, 2013 @ 09:20 GMT
Edwin Eugene Klingman:

I agree with your statements: Yet conjectured strings, branes, axions, anyons, super-symmetry, multiple dimensions and universes have only imagined reality. Not so gravity.

I think that gravitation is the cohesion property of matter, it cannot be derived from other theories. What we can do is to depict it in any language you like, that’s it. It’s the nature.

Good luck in the contest

Guo Chenxi

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Jul. 9, 2013 @ 16:20 GMT
I will stick my neck out and predict that, right now, to adequately approach "information" via physical theories is quite futile. Why?

1. Today, the most appropriate, or natural, way to approach "information" is via biological information processing capabilities.

2. At the same time, we all should remember that:

"The fathers of the Scientific Revolution intentionally excluded mind from the scientific agenda: they wanted to (and did) build science based on the much more familiar, spatial, considerations, while the mind, they agreed, is of non-spatial nature."

So, despite the artificial, or inappropriate, use of the term "information" in physics, I really don't see how, today, we can approach "information" based on the present mathematics and physics that were built based on the spatial consideration, while "information" is of non-spatial nature.

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Pentcho Valev replied on Jul. 9, 2013 @ 16:43 GMT
Lev Goldfarb wrote: "I really don't see how, today, we can approach "information" based on the present mathematics and physics that were built based on the spatial consideration, while "information" is of non-spatial nature."

Correct, but who cares? Physics is dead anyway:

Mike Alder: "It is easy to see the consequences of the takeover by the bureaucrats. Bureaucrats favour uniformity, it simplifies their lives. They want rules to follow. They prefer the dead to the living. They have taken over religions, the universities and now they are taking over Science. And they are killing it in the process. The forms and rituals remain, but the spirit is dead. The cold frozen corpse is so much more appealing to the bureaucratic mind-set than the living spirit of the quest for insight. Bureaucracies put a premium on the old being in charge, which puts a stop to innovation. Something perhaps will remain, but it will no longer attract the best minds. This, essentially, is the Smolin position. He gives details and examples of the death of Physics, although he, being American, is optimistic that it can be re,versed. I am not. (...) Developing ideas and applying them is done by a certain kind of temperament in a certain kind of setting, one where there is a good deal of personal freedom and a willingness to take risks. No doubt we still have the people. But the setting is gone and will not come back. Science is a product of the renaissance and an entrepreneurial spirit. It will not survive the triumph of bureacracy. Despite having the infrastructure, China never developed Science. And soon the West won't have it either."

Pentcho Valev

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Jul. 9, 2013 @ 17:19 GMT
Pentcho,

Although we do have to face the present enormous gap between the 'old' scientific patterns and the present unprecedented needs of our "information" society--and this is our greatest tragedy--we still have to be constructive and not just critical and dismissive (we are talking about the greatest achievements of the human mind). Otherwise, our criticisms might be safely dismissed, especially given the present very busy life styles.

Personally, I would not have come to these radical conclusions without some proposal in hand that clarifies the situation.

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Pentcho Valev replied on Jul. 9, 2013 @ 17:44 GMT
Lev Goldfarb wrote: "...we still have to be constructive and not just critical and dismissive. Otherwise, our criticisms might be safely dismissed, especially given the present very busy life styles. Personally, I would not have come to these radical conclusions without some proposal in hand that clarifies the situation."

OK let us try to clarify the situation. I believe that Einstein's 1905 light postulate is false and the speed of light does depend on the speed of the light source, as predicted by Newton's emission theory of light (c'=c+v). FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, let us assume that I am right. How do we proceed? Should the false postulate be immediately replaced by its true antithesis, even if obviously no new theory will replace Einstein's relativity (rather, we will have to return to 18th century physics)? Or, just because we have no new theory in hand we should preserve the old one, with the false postulate being its linchpin?

Pentcho Valev

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Jul. 9, 2013 @ 18:37 GMT
Since my comment above was hidden, I'll continue here..

I agree with your comments citing Mike Adler, about the bureaucrats taking over, Pentcho. But who is to tell them the obvious question "Do you want to have your way, or would you rather get what you want?" Unfortunately; bureaucrats want to have their way, and to blame someone else if it doesn't result in their getting what they want. But trying to extend the 'prediction and control' paradigm to Research has the power to shut the whole thing down - by halting progress entirely.

The example above, of Spain's Minister of the Economy taking over control of the Research community after closing the Science ministry, is only the tip of the iceberg. Zeilinger was emphatic about giving researchers the freedom to explore, as an essential for progress, when I heard him lecture in Paris at FFP11. But Doug Osheroff, at FFP10 in Perth Australia, spelled out in great detail, how one must deliberately look beyond the familiar territory in order to make important discoveries.

So to top researchers at the frontiers, the need for the freedom to playfully explore is obvious. But to a bureaucrat; anything that resembles play should be stamped out, because it must be a waste of time. In other words; they wish we were machines - who can follow instructions on what to discover next. And even if we were, research does not work that way. My crusade at this point is to help make it OK to be human again, and to elevate in our perceptions the value and intelligence of play.

All the Best,

Jonathan

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Pentcho Valev replied on Jul. 9, 2013 @ 19:06 GMT
Jonathan, let me first reply to Tom:

I wrote: " ... just because we have no new theory in hand we should preserve the old one, with the false postulate being its linchpin?"

Tom Ray replied: "Yes, we should. Consider how long Euclidean geometry lasted with its "false" fifth postulate. Einstein's general theory wouldn't be possible unless the postulate were replaced with one from non-Euclidean geometry. Postulates (axioms) aren't false in a self-consistent system. The conclusions one can reach from them are simply limited to that domain -- just as Newtonian physics is limited, and which Einstein's relativity extends."

Tom,

I disagree with you of course but, on the other hand, I appreciate your courage to expose the crux of the problem. Do you claim that the statement:

"The speed of light, as measured by the observer, is independent of the speed of the emitter"

cannot be characterized as "true" or "false" if (the self-consistency of) special relativity is not taken into account?

Pentcho Valev

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Jul. 9, 2013 @ 21:09 GMT
"Do you claim that the statement:

'The speed of light, as measured by the observer, is independent of the speed of the emitter'

cannot be characterized as 'true' or 'false' if (the self-consistency of) special relativity is not taken into account?"

Pentcho, independent of what you (or I or anyone) may believe, *no* rational statement is true or false without the context of logical self consistency.

Science is not a belief system -- we can only objectively measure correspondence between abstract theory and physical result. That Einstein extended Newtonian physics into a domain where it does not apply does not mean that Newtonian physics isn't true, no more than non-Euclidean geometry is untrue in the domain to which it applies. As scandalized as your common sense may be over Einstein's result, special and general relativity meets the test of rational science.

Tom

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Pentcho Valev replied on Jul. 9, 2013 @ 22:05 GMT
I asked: "Do you claim that the statement:

'The speed of light, as measured by the observer, is independent of the speed of the emitter'

cannot be characterized as 'true' or 'false' if (the self-consistency of) special relativity is not taken into account?"

Tom replied: "Pentcho, independent of what you (or I or anyone) may believe, *no* rational statement is true or false without the context of logical self consistency."

Tom, an example: Initially, both the emitter and the observer are stationary and the observer receives light with frequency f, speed c and wavelength L. Then the emitter starts moving towards the observer with speed v and the frequency the observer measures shifts from f=c/L to f'=(c+v)/L. This allows us to claim that the statement:

'The frequency, as measured by the observer, is independent of the speed of the emitter'

is FALSE, and we don't need any "context of logical self consistency". Similarly, we can characterize the statement:

'The speed of light, as measured by the observer, is independent of the speed of the emitter'

as true or false, and again we don't need any "context of logical self consistency".

Pentcho Valev

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Peter Jackson wrote on Jul. 11, 2013 @ 11:02 GMT
Tom, Pencho,

May I show how you both may be part right? There's more than one case. This is using the Doppler 'wavelength change' lambda formula as required in both optics and astronomy (redshift) to avoid nonsense.

Before considering space we consider a dielectric background medium with refractive index n. We'll consider the medium a gas at n~1, or plasma at n=1 so 'propagation'...

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 15:23 GMT
The FQXi essay hockey stick! I graphed some of the first scores because I noticed that the scores seemed to hockey stick upwards near the top 10 to 20 essays. The graph is attached.

LC

attachments: fqxiscoredist.png

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Peter Jackson replied on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 20:44 GMT
Lawrence,

It looks like a normal inverse Bayesian probability amplitude distribution job (iPAD). Interesting, as I believe that's normally considered in the same way as a Gaussian distribution, as a sign of 'normality'. Were you hinting it may be otherwise? It's also consistent with the Godel n-value 'fuzzy logic' distribution in my essay, the LT gamma curve, and a standard 'power curve distribution, which I suggest can all be heuristically linked. Fascinating stuff. I predict the previous years would have a very similar profile. Have you looked?

Peter

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Aug. 2, 2013 @ 18:26 GMT
The site appears to have a break down? Lost all posts and apparently some ratings for the last few days?

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster replied on Aug. 2, 2013 @ 21:00 GMT
In fact, we're currently moving the site over to a new server, and there may be a temporary hole in spacetime while we do that. I believe the data is just passing behind the black hole but not fallen into it.

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster replied on Aug. 2, 2013 @ 21:02 GMT
not to mix metaphors or anything.

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Christian Corda replied on Aug. 2, 2013 @ 21:48 GMT
In any case, I have shown in my Essay that information comes out from black holes. Thus, the problem will be surely solved.

Cheers,

Ch.

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Peter Jackson wrote on Aug. 2, 2013 @ 21:08 GMT
CRASH! Quantum Uncertainty Rules! (or operator glitch bringing backing the score bands perhaps John?)

A days worth of posts and a pile of points (honest Brendan!) lost in cyberspace! I note some essays have suddenly fallen into the abyss (don't panic Jeff B and others).

..Is anybody there...?

......Hellooo.....?

Peter

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Peter Jackson wrote on Aug. 2, 2013 @ 21:12 GMT
Ahh.. Crossed in cyberspace.

Thanks Brendan

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Aug. 2, 2013 @ 23:57 GMT
Brendan,

The post I made to Carlo Rovelli has disappeared, the post I made to Peter Jackson has disappeared, and the long post I made to John Stephan Selye evaluating his essay has disappeared. Luckily I have backups of 2 of the three posts. Have the ratings made also disappeared?

This is a really bad time to move to a new server. Are all the missing posts going to be restored?

Lorraine Ford

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Aug. 3, 2013 @ 04:48 GMT
The loss of posts made me aware of Lorraine Ford and several supporters. Was Ojo correct in that the contest is in Wheeler's honor?

Eckard Blumschein

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Lorraine Ford replied on Aug. 3, 2013 @ 12:55 GMT
Eckard,

I have just realized that another post to my essay forum is missing - one from Antony Ryan. Plus, as has happened to Georgina (see above), I have received email notification of a new post but it has not been added to my essay blog.

Re "Was Ojo correct in that the contest is in Wheeler's honor?": When Akinbo Ojo said that, I was surprised - I had never thought that the contest was in Wheeler's honour.

Lorraine

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Aug. 3, 2013 @ 03:20 GMT
Methinks those posts are lost.

Night all!

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Aug. 3, 2013 @ 15:42 GMT
Any further hints as to what is going on?

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M. V. Vasilyeva wrote on Aug. 3, 2013 @ 18:14 GMT
No, but it seems some posts did fall into a black hole -- and Christian's assurances that information is not lost there has not been supported by the evidence: it looks like some posts have returned but not others.

But the new server is noticeably quicker and that is a good thing!

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Aug. 3, 2013 @ 21:03 GMT
How about not having to log in everytime?

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 4, 2013 @ 00:49 GMT
All the posts are restored!

About logging in -- I thought that had to do with a cookie getting blown away -? It is kinda annoying. But the worst thing is having to keep track how many posts you got and then look for it, if a new post is added to a thread somewhere in the middle. And you can't CtrFind it, cause it is not shown until you click on the link. That's the real pain :(

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Aug. 4, 2013 @ 02:16 GMT
Marina,

I agree that is a pain and it would be nice to link directly to the new posts on a particular thread, but the system does deal with the non-linearity of these conversations in an intriguing manner. I will keep half a dozen windows open, not to totally lose track. Then my old safari program will blow up and shut down. Organization is not one of my strong points, but it keeps me from getting obsessed.

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Aug. 6, 2013 @ 14:29 GMT
Greetings everyone -- regarding the missing posts -- we ironed out a lot of the wrinkles over the weekend, and I don't see any new complaints from people since then. If anyone is still aware of missing posts, let me know.

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Aug. 6, 2013 @ 14:33 GMT
Now on a different note, I want to affirm that vote collusion ["trading" ratings] and cheating or unethical behaviour in general will not be tolerated. If you receive offers to trade votes, please forward them to me [email rather than here in the forum]. We reserve the right to disqualify offenders from the contest.

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Aug. 6, 2013 @ 14:40 GMT
This is the third FQXi contest I participated in.

And this experience is the worst of the three, even though I thought that things couldn't get any worse.

On top of extensive lobbying and vote trading practices, I also encountered within the last three days two strange events, where *each* included 2 (simultaneous?) votes on my essay within the space of about two-three minutes (which appear to be administer by a single person). The last such voting (2 votes) a few minutes ago dropped me from the 32nd to 58th position.

How much worse can things get? ;-)

And why do we need such 'miserable' contests? ;-))

(Those who intend to enjoy the contest, please ignore my post.)

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Aug. 6, 2013 @ 15:00 GMT
Brendan just informed me that it was, indeed, a tricky double-voting.

But this was just the latest one and not the previous one I encountered.

By the way, such participants should be immediately disqualified.

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Anonymous replied on Aug. 6, 2013 @ 16:17 GMT
Lev, Brendan,

Just a while ago I rated an essay the page for which I had opened for several hours. Often, I noticed, if you keep on reading and reading (with distractions and such) or taking your time with the comment, the cookie that IDs you gets lost and, if it's a post, it comes out Anonymous but.. what happens if the page was displaying the direct invitation to vote (without having to enter the code first)?

So, just now, after hours of having that page opened, displaying the direct invitation to vote, having read everything, I rated the essay -- and the sys informed 'you vote was recorded'. So I closed that page, and it turned out that I had another version of it opened in the next tab, this time showing the option to rate by entering the code first. And so I entered the code and rated the same essay. And again it said, 'you vote was recorded' -?

It certainly should have been recorded the second time (with my code), but then what happened with the first time, when I suspect the cookie got lost? If it was recorded, with whose ID that first vote was registered?

If it was not recorded the first time, I cannot be sure the same loss of voting (with my ID) did not happen with some other essays, when I took a long time to study the essay itself (I usually open it in a separate window) and reading all the comments.

Methinks either the 'recording' routine should be changed to inform that the vote was not recorded, due to the loss of ID, or invitation to vote should always start with entering the code first. no?

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 6, 2013 @ 16:23 GMT
Oh, that was me above. And I even did not leave this page all this time (got distracted by a long phone call) What blows away the ID cookie? This does not happen on other sites.

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Aug. 6, 2013 @ 15:32 GMT
Brendan,

Have you thought of removing 1's from all essay votes?

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Manuel S Morales wrote on Aug. 6, 2013 @ 16:32 GMT
I find it curious how some people are quick to make negative assumptions without considering other possibilities. For example, in order to develop an ongoing dialog and to review each other's work after this competition is over, I have requested to continue a dialog, via email, with entrants who's essay I found original, insightful, and interesting to read.

Over the past month, if I find someone's essay worthy of merit, regardless if I wholeheartedly agreed with their opinions or approach, while at the same time in keeping with the FQXi EVALUATION CRITERIA, I would then rate them at 10, or if not of merit, I would not rate them at all. My reason for boycotting the rating system in this manner is that after the first couple of weeks, I came to realize that this rating function fosters a counterproductive 'minefield' atmosphere amongst entrants. On one hand we are encouraged to engage with each other in a constructive dialog and on the other hand we are enabled to undermine each others ratings in secrecy. Going by the number of ratings (69) I have received from entrant's versus entrant's who made comments on my essay page (36), I find the evidence speaks for itself.

On a positive note, I have read so many excellent essays and corresponded with so many intuitive thinkers during this competition that I must commend FQXi for this opportunity for me to communicate with such talented and inspiring individuals. This, I suppose, will be all that I can hope to receive from this experience now that I have spoken out. Nonetheless, I wish you all the best.

Regards,

Manuel

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 6, 2013 @ 17:22 GMT
Manuel,

the forum will be opened to review each others work at least until the announcements of the final judging, which is sometime in Nov-Dec -? Besides, just recently reading some essays from the past years, I saw people leaving comments in the blogs a month or even two after the final announcements. So, why would you want to discuss it elsewhere? Let others benefit from your insightful comments and maybe join the discussion with their input. This is the place to do it.

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Aug. 6, 2013 @ 17:23 GMT
I can *fully* appreciate that for non-professional scientists the opportunities offered by such contests are wonderful indeed. That's fine.

But one should keep in mind that we are talking about a scientific contest by a scientific organization, in which substantial sums of money are involved, which automatically must imply the corresponding *high ethical and procedural standards*.

I'm also quite disturbed by the silence of many professional scientists, including FQXi members. Has the moral/ethical standards fallen that low?

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 00:44 GMT
Lev

your post is unreasonable. The high priests are not expected to get involved in the brawl on the market square just outside the temple of science. All the unethical behavior here comes exclusively from the minority of the non-professional participants. I noticed Philip Gibbs flatly refusing discussing posts even mentioning ratings. That's a good policy to adopt. Lead by example.

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 01:08 GMT
Reasonable???

If this contest is not a scientific one, then what is it?

The guests are invited inside and "the brawl" is now not quite "outside the temple of science".

Moreover, I wish I were that thick-skinned not to notice all this awful mess, but unfortunately or fortunately, I'm not. ;-)

After all, how can you close your eyes to all of this?

And I do sympathize with many participants who, like me, entered the contest in good faith. Of course, this is not their fault.

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 02:34 GMT
Lev

about a months ago, above in this thread, you said that you knew how to fix all that and the only reason you did not disclose your good ideas was because you were not certain anyone would listen. Let's hear it :)

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 05:06 GMT
Dear Brendan,

Votes are deleted again.

Several hours ago you could read under the link to my essay

Community Rating: 4.8 (58 ratings)

Now, you can read

Community Rating: 4.7 (56 ratings)

Could you please explain how I went from 58 votes to 56?

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 05:10 GMT
I attach mht files with the page few hours ago vs now.

You can see that two votes are deleted.

attachments: 1._several_hours_ago.mht, 2._now.mht

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Daryl Janzen replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 06:04 GMT
Sorry Cristi, I should have refreshed the page before I posted that ;)

Is it possible that people are taking back votes? This contest is getting curiouser and curiouser...

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Christian Corda replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 07:48 GMT
Hi Cristi,

This happened also to me. In fact, yesterday my Community Rate had an average score of 6.1 with 60 rates. Today it has an average score of 5.9 with 59 rates. It seems that a score 10 has been deleted.

Best wishes,

Ch.

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Daryl Janzen wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 06:02 GMT
Is anyone else curious why the number of ratings they've got should be going down? I think I lost about four today, at two different times, and both times I noticed that others lost a number of ratings as well.

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Daryl Janzen replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 06:54 GMT
Is it at all possible that someone's found a way of stealing ratings from others? I definitely lost four today, in two rounds when a number of others did as well. Being that my average went down at the same time, I can't imagine that was Brendan deleting extra 1s that someone found a way of casting.

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 07:00 GMT
There is a loophole in the system that permits double votes. However, it may happen unintentionally too.

I believe Brendan deleted the double votes; that's why the # went down.

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 07:31 GMT
I tried to enter to some essay and check if I can give a second rating, and obviously I can't. Anyway, Brendan said last year that the problem with multiple votes was fixed.

If Brendan deleted the votes, he should have told us before doing this what will he do and why. This seems more like a deletion which was intended to pass unnoticed.

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 07:53 GMT
I too have noticed some odd fluctuations, where the number of ratings on my essay went up and then back down. Also; on two occasions now I have found that after I had placed a vote, and received the message that my vote was registered; I found out I'd been logged off at some point, and that my vote was apparently NOT registered. So at the least, we need to make sure the counts increment correctly when we do place a vote, and to double check recent ratings after discovering we've been logged off unexpectedly. So BE MINDFUL, and don't assume things are working exactly as one would expect.

All the Best,

Jonathan

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Hugh Matlock wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 09:31 GMT
Hi Brendan,

I was thinking of a voting algorithm that might help cut down on some of the abusive practices for the next contest. The basic idea is to scale each voter's ratings by their average. (i.e. forced grading on a curve).

If a voter assigns a range of ratings to essays, with a mean of 5, then the effective rating is what happens now.

But if a voter rates all essays with a score of 1, then the mean is 1, and the effective weight of each rating is 5, rather than 1.

When essays are first uploaded, they are initialized with a score of 5. Then the (scaled) ratings they get move them up or down from that average.

Trolls that assign only 1s have the power to move high scoring essays toward the average, but if they want to really have a negative impact they will have to elevate as many as they reduce.

This algorithm requires more work to implement and the system has to recalculate the rating more dynamically, but the overall computational cost is not too high. Maybe it is worth a try.

Hugh

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Stephen James Anastasi wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 09:56 GMT
I must say that I found the progress of my scores quite odd, and it did feel like there was an unseen hand, in that as the comments became more and more positive, my score slowly went down, as if the person voting had gone to a LOT of trouble to explain why they liked my essay, then marked me a 1. Just doesn't feel right.

Suggestion for next year! Use preferential voting. You get say five votes, marked 1st preference to 5th preference. If your first preference gets knocked off, then this person's votes are redistributed to the 2nd choice, and so forth. all votes are tallied at the end of the contest. If you don't rate five people you are disqualified.

Works in Australia.

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Stephen James Anastasi wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 09:58 GMT
Secondly...

This is the slowest website I've ever known. It takes maybe 30 seconds to do anything. If It from Bit, is this run by a differencing engine?

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Peter Jackson wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 10:02 GMT
Marina, Jonathan,

Thanks, that now makes sense. I've scored in one window and found it not registered in the other, but just close the other and it updates. But this doesn't seem to mean the first score wasn't registered!? (I also noted above I seemed to have lost at least 1 score).

It seems there may be 2 cases masquerading as 1 (a bit like nature really!);

If it was the 2nd not first window 'dead' it will have registered.

If the first was dead it seems it may not have. I'm checking to see. I suppose it's safe to rate any essays I thought I had but where I'm told I hadn't?

I can see Brendan and the webmaster up all night on this one (It may need a recursive algorithm to reduce the quantum uncertainty in the system). It does seem to explain why my previous essay finished 10th, then recovered to 7th with corrections some time later!

None the less I think this subject has proven far more productive and important than I first thought and have been stunned by the quality of thinking and writing. There are some brilliant essays sadly way out of contention. I'm tremendously honoured to be well placed in this company.

But this contest should be all about progressing science. Mostly I'm encouraged by the commonality on the matter of the simple binary bit, or even Qbit, not giving us the keys to the secrets of the universe with 0 and 1 but hiding them (It) as 'noise' in layers distributed between them.

But why do most physicists seem to just want to do their own thing all alone?

Pleasingly there are exceptions. Fancy helping build a new paradigm anyone?

Peter

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Stephen James Anastasi replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 10:18 GMT
Build a new paradigm? Absolutely. (No pun intended)

...so long as it starts with the Harmony Set, otherwise I don't see the point. (Not that one can see a point. Not that there really are points. Oh dear!)

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Hugh Matlock replied on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 05:05 GMT
Hi Peter and Stephen,

I would like to build a new paradigm... how about implementing the Software Cosmos on top of the Harmony Set (after enhancement to make it Turing complete).

Hugh

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 14:01 GMT
The peer rating system is so vulnerable to corruption that I doubt that any fix short of secret expert judging can assure anything close to a fair hearing for qualified essayists; it would be virtually impossible, though, to secure a large enough panel of experts to judge the huge number of submissions. I think it's pretty obvious -- based on past contests -- that of the pool that rise to the final cut, a significant number would probably never have been considered for publishing in any serious scientific venue dealing with foundational questions in the first place. This makes it easier for the 3-referee panel to eliminate finalists and concentrate on sorting the good from better and best.

There is an important aspect of the competition, however, that escapes judging. It is the merging and contrasting of original research results that cohere in a theme worthy of publishing as a collection. This is not adequately reflected -- in my opinion -- in the collection of winning essays picked from the final 35 or 40. A "proceedings volume" of sorts would have to be drawn from the complete range of entries containing serious and potentially falsifiable results, or feasible and well organized research programs.

Such a proceedings would help satisfy FQXi's mission to promote leading edge research independent of the contest outcome. It just takes good editing skills and the sage advice of an already-empaneled advisory board. Some such proceedings in other venues have become classics -- such as the 1990 volume (edited by FQXi member Woijczek Zurek) on complexity, entropy and information produced from a conference at the Santa Fe Institute.

My two cents.

Tom

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 17:21 GMT
Tom,

While I don't think you could quite get as much consensus as led to Complexity theory, a possible intermediate step would be to have some form of debate between mathematical platonism and physical realism.

Not a contest of a bunch of individual participants, but essentially two sides, then allow anyone to chose their side, submit a paper and have an open debate and judging of what points are worth further consideration and eventual inclusion in the group entry. Then submit both for broader publication as a topic for public review.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 17:34 GMT
John,

Mathematical Platonism and physical realism are the same thing. In any case, that's not what I'm talking about -- I'm addressing the possibility of an online book that shows the coherence and contrast of leading edge research.

Tom

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 18:57 GMT
tom,

"Mathematical Platonism and physical realism are the same thing."

Than what was the purpose of the entire contest, contrasting It from bit, Vs. Bit from It?????

Maybe you can phrase the debate in more politically correct terms.

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Anonymous wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 14:03 GMT
Regarding NOW-YOU-SEE-IT and NOW-YOU-DON'T ratings:

Please allow me to share my experience in conducting a 12 year online competition which I recently concluded. There are several background server/software events and browser events that take place when a rating is cast. In between each end point lies on average at least eight POP internet connections between each end point. Now lets add to this mix several users rating various essays simultaneously. Depending on the server configurations, i.e., operating system (unix, windows, or mac), single or multiple processor cores, it really comes down to the server's RAM and connection bandwidth. The ram to bandwidth ratio I found to be the straw that brakes the camel's back. Too much bandwidth not enough ram = crash. Plenty of ram and a small bandwidth, thus limiting server access = no crash (most times). Of course the later, generates slow or limited site access during peak times.

In the early years of the Tempt Destiny competition I did shared hosting. This turned out to be problematic for both conducting the competition during peak hours and for the other web sites on the same server. With thousands of visitors voting at the same time on occasion, I had multiple server crashes and reboots. This situation forced me to go with a dedicated unix server over the past ten years. Even then, I still had the server choke on me from time to time.

I can totally sympathize with Brendan's situation for it is no fun being at the receiving end participants fury and thoughts of conspiracy. Brendan has to deal with backup log files and corrupted log files and then piece them all together. My ratings have also been seriously affected by these disappearing ratings. So I thought I'd share my experience with everyone in order to provide some context to the situation at hand.

I hope this helps shed some light on the situation. All we can now do is hope for the best...

Manuel

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Manuel S Morales replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 14:09 GMT
Looks like I posted as 'Anonymous' sorry about that...

Manuel

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 17:09 GMT
Several of you have noted another drop in the number of votes cast for some essays. You may recall from the last contest that we had a glitch that led to duplicated votes appearing in the database. This problem started up again this time, but I'm happy to say we finally realized the cause and have now fixed it.

Of course, we then had to remove the duplicated votes that had appeared, which accounts for the changes you have now seen. I apologize for all of the confusion.

As I said, we believe we have patched the problem, so we should not have to do another clean out after this.

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Daryl Janzen replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 17:18 GMT
Thanks, Brendan. It is nice to know what happened.

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Anonymous replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 17:57 GMT
Brendan, thanks for the efforts!

I recommend that you put a unique constraint on the two-three columns identifying the vote (which probably are the id of the contest, the id of the essay or author, and the id of the voter, or something like this). Unless you have reasons to allow multiple voting.

What can we do to help? How can we replicate the error, in order to test the bug fix? What are the steps leading to duplicate vote?

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Antony Ryan wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 18:24 GMT
Brendan,

Thanks for the explanation!

Antony

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 19:00 GMT
Brendan,

Three out of the four times I've posted something today, I've received this response:

"Internal Server Error

The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

Please contact the server administrator to inform of the time the error occurred and of anything you might have done that may have caused the error.

More information about this error may be available in the server error log.

Web Server at fqxi.org"

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster replied on Aug. 7, 2013 @ 20:20 GMT
Thanks for the notice, I will pass it to the tech dept.

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 03:14 GMT
Dear Brendan,

Quantisation may be introduced in the selection method also, in that grading may be within a quantum. The quanta in the contest may be sequenced to migrate highest graded in a quantum to the next quantum in the sequence and so on in the hierarchy.

This may be practiced as on each quantum of new entries and thus it may be a continuum from next contest onwards. Causality of a new quantum in hierarchy is the effect of completion of grading at the entry quantum.

With best regards and wishes

Jayakar

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KoGuan Leo wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 03:55 GMT
Dear Brendan,

May I offer constructive suggestions to improve your existing system with little modification:

1. I like the idea that contestants involve in the selection progress, thus this system encourages contestants to interact with one another. Wonderful idea, this must be preserved as the main feature of FQXI contest of ideas. This one feature the reason why I enter this contest and I have a wonderful experience over all despite of many glitches in the computer system.

2. Rather than top 40, FQXI expert judges review top 50% of the entries, reduce the cut throat behaviors in this contest and make the environment more gentle and friendlier.

3. To make rating more fair, I suggest the rating starts from 6 to10. Reviewing so many essays in this contest, I do think each contestant deserve 6 grade or higher rating and reduce the abuse of somebody giving 1 rating to so many contestants without giving any reason why and abuse the system by giving 10 rating to friend contestants. Thus, the whole rating system can be rigged by bad behavior of few contestants. Moreover, following tit for tat responses, this encourage other bad behaviors not out of malice but out of competitive spirit to play the game well.

I do think just making two modifications suggested above without changing any policy and procedure, the FQXI Contest will be improved substantially, knowing there is no such thing as a perfect system, nor do we want to.

Thank you for organizing this fantastic Contest despite of obvious shortcomings. Thanks for all the sponsors and especially Brendan and staffs.

Gratefully yours,

Leo KoGuan

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KoGuan Leo wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 04:01 GMT
Dear Brendan,

May I offer constructive suggestions to improve your existing system with little modification:

1. I like the idea that contestants involve in the selection process, thus this system encourages contestants to interact with one another. Wonderful idea! This feature must be preserved as the main feature of FQXI contest of ideas. This one feature is the reason why I entered this contest and I have a wonderful experienced over all despite of many glitches in the computer system and in the rating system.

2. Rather than top 40, FQXI expert judges review top 50% of the entries, reduce the cut throat behaviors in this contest and make the environment more gentle and friendlier.

3. To make rating more fair, I suggest the rating starts from 6 to10. Reviewing so many essays in this contest, I do think each contestant deserve 6 or higher rating and reduce the abuse of somebody giving 1 rating to so many contestants without giving any reason why and further abuse the system by giving 10 rating to friend contestants. Thus, the whole rating system can be rigged by bad behavior of few contestants. Moreover, following tit for tat responses, this encourage other bad behaviors not out of malice but out of competitive spirit to play the game well.

I do think just making two modifications suggested above without changing any policy and procedure, the FQXI Contest will be improved substantially, knowing there is no such thing as a perfect system, nor do we want to.

Thank you for organizing this fantastic Contest despite of obvious shortcomings. Thanks for all the sponsors and especially Brendan and staffs.

Best wishes,

Leo KoGuan

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Wilhelmus de Wilde replied on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 14:10 GMT
dear Leo,

I cannot but agree with your remarks, certainly with the thank you part.

Furthermore I should like to add that now the discussions can become more real, without any fear of the contestants that their remarks may influence the voting of their own essay. The honest discussions can begin now...

I thank everybody who commented on my essay : "THE QUEST FOR THE PRIMAL SEQUENCE" and would like to continue now in deep the discussions.

Thank you Brendan for a difficult task so well achieved.

Wilhelmus

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 04:22 GMT
A wonderful contest folks!

Thanks to everyone who participated, and to the organizers and sponsors for making it possible. I think everyone comes out ahead a little, in contests like this, if their goal is to learn and grow. Wow! A lot of learning and growing going on here. Comparing notes with like minded folks, or squaring off with someone who believes the opposite of what you do. Or just find an expert in a subject that fascinates you, who will actually answer questions. It's all possible here.

I want to extend my gratitude to all who showed their support for my essay and my ideas, and also for the many great conversations online here at FQXi.

Have Fun!

Jonathan

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Manuel S Morales wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 04:22 GMT
It is now 12:23 EST and the competition ratings are still changing? So when is this really suppose to be over? Please advise.

Thanks,

Manuel

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M. V. Vasilyeva wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 05:09 GMT
phew! :)

Congratulations to all the finalists and... It's funny how all the vote-traders stick out like sore thumbs among the luminaries, no? The contrast in quality of the content is shocking. But, on the plus side, I counted very few of them there. It could have been worse. I guess their little friends got ditched in the end.

Well, this works for the entries that are there on their merit. Judges will have an easier job selecting the winners. Which brings the question for those few sore thumbs who are there due to their extensive lobbing and trading: Was it worth it? Did you really think that this community was not smart enough to appreciate your far-out ideas and it would take only a mysterious referee, an Einstein-kinda guy -- for only he would be be able to dig your revolutionary input and finally recognize your undisputed genius. Ah?

LOL The function to ID vote-traders is simple: the lack of formal education in physics is combined with inane, illogical and largely unreadable content, topped with the obscene number of votes.

Shame on you, you fools :) We all know who you are!

.

Thank you Brendan for our smooth sailing this year :)

.

this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

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Daryl Janzen replied on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 05:53 GMT
Thanks for that, Marina!

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 16:02 GMT
Brendan,

Still getting that error notice virtually every time I post or sign in. Only loading a page works directly.

Also, is there any way to stay logged in as long as a window is open? Given that since the server upgrade, it seems to have gone from slow to slower, it does add to the time spent.

Regards,

John

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster replied on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 22:37 GMT
Hi John -- we're tracking down errors, a few were corrected today. Let me know if you still have the problem.

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 16:03 GMT
Hi all -- I'm sure everyone wants to know exactly what the list of finalists is. As is usual, we have quite a few people tied around the cut-off point. We are just now confirming how to make the cut; I'll announce the decision shortly.

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Neil Bates replied on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 21:57 GMT
Brendan,

The issue may not be as simple as just knowing how many non-Member contestants are left in descending order, to make a total of 40 after all Member entrants are included. (And yes I know you may be planning to expand the base.) However, if you could tell us perhaps earlier, how many Members ranked into the top 40 it would be helpful. I heard it that most of them placed there but a specific figure would reduce uncertainty about entrants' chances.

Also, would you please clarify if and how you have identified "amateurs" and if so what plans if any, to recognize them - and how that would dovetail into being able to win ordinary prizes. Finally, I again thank FQXi for giving me a chance to submit an accepted essay in this forum. I do regret having been busy and not participating in the discussions as much as I should have, although I was able to read about 50 essays over the months. It was especially gratifying to get very positive comments from the final top-ranked contestant. Thank you.

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Anonymous wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 21:41 GMT
Hi Brendan,

Another excellent brouhaha. It's not that you intended it to be one, but in my opinion it is impossible to avoid. The essay contest is like the "prisoner's dilemma" various strategies have different outcomes. Unfortunately many of the strategies are unethical and/or illegal.

I think the problem is that there are two few votes on the essays. Anyone voting on an essay can see the result of their vote. They would know by how much they upped or lowered the community vote on any essay. This creates the opportunity for "collusion". You vote for me (and I can tell if you did) then I will vote for you. Now add the opportunity to communicate via emails and a conspiracy becomes very real. Asking for e-mails is just so dopey, when they are so easy to get online. I have a very real feeling that at least one of my essay friends has been slimed via this mechanism. Double voting may be bad, collusion by a group of essay members is worst.

The entrant should only be able to see there own community vote. Perhaps a fuzzy point on a line graph. The entrant would not have enough resolution to tell if someone cast a vote for or against, but yet could tell their relative standing in the contest without knowing where the other contestants stand.

My regret is that I only got to about 100 of the essays, and I know there are good ones that I missed. Is there anything you could provide that would help me see my progress in reading thru the essays? I know this seems silly, but I am probably not the only one who needs an aid of some kind.

It is messy but it kinda works. Thanks for your effort.

Don Limuti

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Don Limuti wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 21:51 GMT
Hi Brendan,

Another excellent brouhaha. It's not that you intended it to be one, but in my opinion it is impossible to avoid. The essay contest is like the "prisoner's dilemma" various strategies have different outcomes. Unfortunately many of the strategies are unethical and/or illegal.

I think the problem is that there are two few votes on the essays. Anyone voting on an essay can see the result of their vote. They would know by how much they upped or lowered the community vote on any essay. This creates the opportunity for "collusion". You vote for me (and I can tell if you did) then I will vote for you. Now add the opportunity to communicate via emails and a conspiracy becomes very real. Asking for e-mails is just so dopey, when they are so easy to get online. I have a very real feeling that at least one of my essay friends has been slimed via this mechanism. Double voting may be bad, collusion by a group of essay members is worst.

The entrant should only be able to see their own community vote. Perhaps a fuzzy point on a line graph. The entrant would not have enough resolution to tell if someone cast a vote for or against, but yet could tell their relative standing in the contest without knowing where the other contestants stand.

My regret is that I only got to about 100 of the essays, and I know there are good ones that I missed. Is there anything you could provide that would help me see my progress in reading thru the essays? I know this seems silly, but I am probably not the only one who needs an aid of some kind.

It is messy but it kinda works. Thanks for making it happen.

Don Limuti

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 05:51 GMT
"The entrant should only be able to see their own community vote."

This will not prevent vote trading.

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Aug. 8, 2013 @ 22:34 GMT
I'd like to now clarify the finalist pool. But first I want to thank everyone who participated up to this stage. I hope everyone will continue to discuss any or all of the entries long after the contest. The amount of discussions and the simple number of ratings cast was at a new high. That's the overall goal of these contests, and so I personally am already pleased with the results.

Now, to clarify about the pool of finalists. In short, we have elected to take all essays with a ranking of 4.3 and above -- that's Christian Corda on down to Deepak Vaid; plus the entry from FQXi Member Howard Barnum, per the new rule on Member entrees.

Without the new rule, the essays tied at 4.3 would have started at position 39, so would have been included. We've chosen to retain those essays, even though the pool is now slightly larger than 40.

Again thanks to everyone. Winners announced in October!

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KoGuan Leo wrote on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 02:38 GMT
Dear Brendan,

Thank you!

Your staffs and you have been working hard to deal with realtime crises. In the end this Contest was done well.

Congratulations to all the winners. Thank you for sharing your wonderful and well crafted essays. To those ideas lovers, exchanges of ideas are better than sex.

I share Don Limuti's sentiments above, I got even to read less than 100 essays due to my many other duties. I started to read his far excellent essay in the beginning, unfortunately I was unable to make comments, because I plan to reread his wonderful essay again and forgot to do so and forgot to rate his fine essay. Fortunately he made the cut. Congratulation Don!

I would like to invite everyone to comment and give suggestions to KQID. I would like to warmly thank you those who made comments and suggestions in my blog especially Armin, Johnathan, Brian, Wilhelmus, John, Vladimir, Thomas, Michel, Edwin, Sreenath, Sridattadev, Joe, Manuel, Lorraine, Cristinel, James and Akinbo. Please continue our discussions.

In the future, we are all physically immortal but right now unfortunately life is short. I believe KQID will enable each one of us not only immortal as information but also as living immortals as well. More importantly, KQID powered Xuan Yuan's Operating System 2.0 (2011-infinity) will bring each one of us peace and prosperity here and now on earth and beyond. That is Xuan Yuan's Da Tong.

Yours sincerely,

Leo KoGuan

I rather be a bumblebee poet than not to be,

Blood and tears of Wang Yaming's glowing red pearls as lanterns in darkness,

I am buzzing my way around to sing and praise Xuan Yuan's Da Tong.

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 03:59 GMT
I would also like to offer my congratulations and thanks to everyone who participated in the contest.

For the future: I think John Brodix Merryman's "two sides" idea of a "debate between mathematical platonism and physical realism" is a really good idea, despite what Thomas Howard Ray said. (See John's post of post of 7 August 2013 @ 17:21 GMT above).

The question is (something like): "Is there a separate platonic reality external to the physically measurable universe". This IS very relevant to physics because the question is: do physicists have to account for law of nature mathematical equations and numbers as a part of physical reality, or can they externalise them to a platonic realm where they don't have to worry about accounting for them. This is about the nature of the foundations of reality.

To restate it: IF physics says that a platonic realm is just a magical mystical myth, THEN physicists and mathematicians have to fully account for laws of nature and numbers AS PART OF PHYSICAL REALITY. If physics says that there IS a platonic realm, then physics has given up and admitted that all of reality is based on a very complex mysterious entity that by definition can't be probed. For physics to be based on SIMPLE mysterious entities is one thing, but for physics to RELY on such a COMPLEX mysterious entity is quite another.

You can't get a much more foundational than this question.

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Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 09:40 GMT
Dear Brendan!

Dear FQXi!

Many thanks to all the staff of The Foundational Questions Institute for the wonderful contests and all the good things that you are doing for the world of basic Science, give the opportunity to make new friends!

Please accept my best wishes for the future development of your Institute!

Thank you so much!

With great respect,

Vladimir Rogozhin

Russia

St Petersburg

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 09:59 GMT
"The question is (something like): 'Is there a separate platonic reality external to the physically measurable universe'."

Lorraine, this may be an issue to philosophy, but it has no relevance to physical science because it simply doesn't matter. All science is based on objective criteria, whether physical measurements or objective mathematical results. No theory qualifies as scientific unless or until the abstract language is shown to correspond to the physical measurement, in fact or in principle. No one knows when an apparently "useless" mathematical result will turn out to apply to physical physical phenomena -- perhaps the most famous case is Einstein's application of Riemannian geometry to the structure of spacetime.

There are ways in which philosophy is important to science; however, philosophy is never a substitute for science.

Tom

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Vladimir Rogozhin replied on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 11:48 GMT
Dear Thomas,

The nature of the information - it is a philosophy. What is the basic structure of the world (nature) - it is a philosophy. The nature of mathematical abstraction - it is a philosophy. That is, The philosophy of information, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of physics, and in general - constructive philosophy of science. Without a lot of lace weaving of conceptual ... "Philosophy as a rigorous science" (David Husserl). The good philosophic legacy A. Einstein: "At the present time, a physicist has to deal with philosophic problems to a much greater extent than physicists of the previous generations" and the philosophic legacy of J. Wheeler "Philosophy is too important to be left to the philosophers". All of the "trouble with physics", because there is no new deep philosophical ideas.

Sincerely,

Vladimir

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 11:57 GMT
Vladimir,

"All of the 'trouble with physics', because there is no new deep philosophical ideas."

That's the trouble with philosophy, not physics.

Sincerely,

Tom

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Pentcho Valev replied on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 12:45 GMT
Vladimir: "All of the 'trouble with physics', because there is no new deep philosophical ideas."

Tom: "That's the trouble with philosophy, not physics."

Correct, Tom. The 'trouble with physics' (some speak of 'death of physics') can only be due to some false fundamental axiom, as Einstein noticed in 1954:

Albert Einstein (1954): "I consider it entirely possible that physics cannot be based upon the field concept, that is on continuous structures. Then nothing will remain of my whole castle in the air, including the theory of gravitation, but also nothing of the rest of contemporary physics."

"The two first articles (January and March) establish clearly a discontinuous structure of matter and light. The standard look of Einstein's SR is, on the contrary, essentially based on the continuous conception of the field."

"And then, in June, Einstein completes special relativity, which adds a twist to the story: Einstein's March paper treated light as particles, but special relativity sees light as a continuous field of waves."

Pentcho Valev

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 10:56 GMT
Lorraine,

Basically we did just have that contest. My comment to Tom's idea of working these ideas into a summary overlooks the fact that there is distinct conflict of opinion inherent in the debate and the next step might be to chose up sides, have each side coalesce around a general argument, then present both sides to the larger audience. As Tom so effectively expresses above and as you and I likely feel from the opposite side, there very strong opinions and arguments for both sides. We are single track minds in a duel/multi track world.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 00:47 GMT
John,

I think we didn't "just have that contest". We never had a contest that specifically looked at the taken-for-granted parts of physics and mathematics i.e. numbers and mathematical equations/laws of nature : these are what many assume live in a platonic realm.

Tom,

what you say is incorrect. Surely physics is not just about objective physical phenomena and measurement?: when it represents reality with law of nature equations, physics posits relationships between aspects of physical reality. So what bit of reality does "+" represent, and what bit of reality does "=" represent? If law of nature equations and numbers don't live in a platonic realm, then surely there are real consequences for the way we understand the nature of physical reality?

Cheers,

Lorraine

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 02:05 GMT
Dear Lorraine,

Your suggestion is a good one, and I agree with both of your above responses.

Best,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 10:00 GMT
John,

"Since you are likely not to agree with anything I have to say, what is your solution?"

You're right. Ignoring your opinion is the only answer. I can't make you investigate the actual value and meaning of mathematics and you seem unlikely to do it on your own.

Tom

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Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 15:00 GMT
Thomas, I agree with you - it is also a "trouble with philosophy" ... Ie "continuous trouble" ...

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 16:16 GMT
Vladimir -- maybe. Though I regret a misstep I made years ago in an online discussion (long before there was such a word as "blog"). I challenged the group to name one new tool of philosophy in the last 100 years (as contrasted to the many new tools of mathematics and science). A respondent humbly noted, "I was going to suggest the digital computer, but I believe that may be outside your criteria."

The respondent was right, however; my criteria were absolute. If we understand the full power of computability, we understand the very soul of human thought. For that reason, I have great respect and admiration for contemporary computer scientists like Gregory Chaitin and Lev Goldfarb, who push computational abstraction to limits unimagined -- and whose results I predict will eventually advance the new frontier of brain science.

Tom

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M. V. Vasilyeva wrote on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 17:56 GMT
I am astonished at the audacity of the obvious vote traders posting here with their sincere thanks, after having made the atmosphere during the contest intolerable for many first- and old-timers. This is killing the spirit of the contest.

Take the example of the first-timer Alexei Grinbaum who wrote, "I dislike very much the mad situation on this website and the rush for completely ungrounded ratings, so I'm quite unhappy with this contest and the way FQXI managed it. Had I known, I wouldn't have submitted anything in the first place."

Considering that his was one of the finest contributions, this is a serious loss to the community. How did it happen that his excellent essay, which was doing so well in the ratings, ended up way below the cutoff point? In the last hours of the contest his entry was bombed with a series of 1's. One person could not have accomplished this. This clearly speaks of a coordinated effort by a group determined to advance by knocking down their competition.

This has to stop!

Remaining silent about this will only make things even worse. The only way of preventing this... i'm looking for a polite word... from happening in the future is to speak about it loudly and clear -- and openly expose those who perpetrate this behavior and in doing so killing the contest.

.

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 22:57 GMT
Oh! and I just remembered that I have friends who developed the software to monitor and expose insider trading in the financial industry. The simplest of those algorhythms can be easily modified to apply to this puny database and spit out the result in seconds.

How about that?

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 03:42 GMT
OK, I didn't want to add fuel to the fire, but seeing that you are concerned and wishing to spare you some worries, I should mention that what you noticed is just the tip of the iceberg: more vote trading and much more extensive lobbying (which you can easily check right now). The lobbying thing began to flourish two years ago, and I did complained bitterly about the contest neglect right then (you can still find it on one of the corresponding blogs). But now, after two years, the active lobbying took off and the vote trading has appeared.

At the same time, you should understand that all this mess became possible because, *quite obviously*, this was allowed to happen by sheer neglect. Despite the appearances, I'm reasonably sure that the top administration does not pay much attention to the contest's organization, which appear to be just the PR gimmicks for them: they are after the big money for the grants and the fancy free conferences. So you should understand better the reasons why this mess achieved such proportions. It could have been *easily* eliminated right from the very beginning, if there was any will, especially after Tom's, my, and many others complaints after the third contest.

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 09:53 GMT
Marina, you are right: 8 hours before the contest ended (I think immediately after I rated his essay, raising it to 4.5), Alexei Grinbaum's score was 4.5 from 35 ratings. Within the last 8 hours, he got 6 more ratings, leading his score from 4.5 to 4.2. So he got 6 votes averaging 2.45. This may look very suspicious, and it is easy to think that is the result of a coordinated effort. (this crossed my mind too, when I got couples of ones sometimes immediately after my essay advanced a bit, and I wondered how is it possible that those disliking me or my essay so much still have ammo.)

But it is also possible that Alexei's jumping from 4.5 to 4.2 in the final 8 hours was a consequence of some contestant's last minute desperate efforts to qualify in the finals by reducing the score of those immediately above them (considering that his essay was little above position 40). And I am not taking side of the 1-givers, I want this possibility out too.

This is a weakness of the system, since it allows people to abuse the rating system by giving small scores, and it is tempting for many to use it. So, let's improve the system. I made a proposal, and I also have some proposals to increase the transparency of other parts of the contest. I raised them since the first edition, and got silence as answer, like you do now. This time, the only answer was from you, but it was not about my proposal. So tell me, what do you want me to do, so that we improve together the system (this sounds like a proposal of collusion :) )

Best regards,

Cristi

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 23:49 GMT
Marina,

What you suggest as a fix would also need a "date and time voted" field. But I think Don Limuti's suggestion (Aug. 8, 2013 @ 21:51 GMT) was a good one.

(edited)

Cheers,

Lorraine

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 01:14 GMT
Loraine,

the problem, as I see it, is that people do not behave as they should, which implies that they require policing and real punishment. Some of the people that were so active in collusions this year already got their feet wet last year. The lack of official notice made them so brazen this year. There has to be a real deterrent to such a behavior. Exposure and disqualification is such a deterrent. And it is achieved by policing. Just like in the financial industry.

It is really sad that it came to this, isn't it? And the most sad part is that it is a _minority_ who manage to ruin the contest for all. They should be exposed and prevented from participating ever again.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 01:42 GMT
Marina,

I think you are right: one or more simple deterrents have to be built into the computer system and the rules. Also analysis of the voting results is a good idea, but might cost more to implement.

Cheers,

Lorraine

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 01:47 GMT
Loraine,

forgot to mention that 'date_voted' is part of the database already -- that's why it says that you voted on... The date may be an important part to show the dynamics, but in the end this is irrelevant, I believe. This is such a simple data array -- can't call it a database even -- that one could see it plainly in an Excell spreadsheet.

EDIT: re cost to implement -- this is such a simple thing in this case. A short procedure will do it -- ain't you an ex-programmer yourself?

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Aug. 9, 2013 @ 23:57 GMT
Marina

You wrote about last contest that is just a game and should not be treated seriously.

Yuri

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 01:24 GMT
Yuri,

first, I don't recall writing such thing about the contest. Second, in Brendan's blog last year you exposed your participation in a collusion by posting that you _knew_ that you were supposed to get 5 10s (don't recall the actual number, but that does not matter). What are you trying to achieve with your game here? In fact, what are you doing here with your customary entry about the number 18 year after year? It's time to grow up ;)

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 02:56 GMT
Marina,

While I see your point, I'm tending not to get too involved, since there is so much about these contests and FQXI which is opaque. Not to get anyone mad at me, but it seems tech is someone's unemployed brother-in-law. I can understand it is the management's prerogative to run these as they wish and they make no bones about tilting it toward members, so nature being what it is, the more unscrupulous of those on the outside forming alliances is not surprising.

Yes, it is destructive to ZQXI, but the internet is inherently fast paced and FQXI has managed to maintain an interesting conversation for about six years, five really, since the first contest. Frankly I'm more interested in what goes on within the walls, than outside them. Often there is little oversight and that can be both good or bad, but overall it has been a good thing. Personally there have been a numbers of sites I've been blocked, for going too far from mainstream thinking. So having this, a organization with many significant mainstream thinkers, maintain such a free-form forum, is a small miracle. So yes, it's not always neat or fair, but that is part of the reality, as I see it.

Ahem, Tech! I don't know what is responsible, since no one else seems to be complaining, but just about every time I post something, I get an error message in return, even though it has posted when I finally get the page reloaded. Along with it being a very slow site to load and having to sign in every time I leave it for more than a few minutes, there seems to be a lot of sand in the gears. I would think FQXI would know what they are doing in the tech department.

Regards,

John M

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 03:34 GMT
I guess you're right, John. Don't worry be happy. Even though, having the database, the tech should know exactly who's doing what. I can understand why they could do nothing during the contest -- that could be seen as interfering with votes. But now that it's over, let them publish the it. Remove the names and publish it. No cost to implement any procedures involved. As I said, the whole DB comes down to a spreadsheet. The collusions should be obvious. Brendan said above that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated. This has to be backed with something real or it will get even worse next year -- if there ever be next year.

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Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 03:56 GMT
I see this as a structural problem. As long as the incentives are set up to reward vote collusion, there will be a portion of the entrants who will engage in it. This just seems so obvious to me that I feel weird having to even articulate it, but I get the genuine impression that when the FQXi organizers sat down to decide on how to create a system for ranking the essays, they failed to consider it, and I must say it seems to me they still don't seem to entirely appreciate how much it will damage their organization in the long term.

For example, let's not forget that though there are perhaps only a few people who were actively soliciting vote trades, they could only rise to the top because they were supported by a sizable minority of votes from other entrants. This percentage will rise with each subsequent essay contest in which the current system is maintained, but at the same time the problems arising from this system will become more obvious to more people. More people will become cynically dismissive of the contest (and by extension, of FQXi) and at some point it will become so obvious that even most (but not all, as long as there are substantial monetary prizes) of the serious scientists will be unwilling to associate themselves with the contest and stop paying attention to it. Eventually, the reputation of the contest will be so damaged that the co-sponsors pull out because they don't want to be associated with it. This will then also damage the reputation of FQXi as a whole.

Perhaps these predictions may seem far out today, but I think what went on in this contest would have seemed just as far out when the idea of author voting was conceived.

But, in the end, it is their contest, they can do whatever they want with it.

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 04:48 GMT
"but at the same time the problems arising from this system will become more obvious to more people."

How much more obvious it could get? ;-))

------------------------------------------

"But, in the end, it is their contest, they can do whatever they want with it."

You are quite right, except their sponsors and the larger scientific community don't know what's going on.

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 04:19 GMT
Marina,

Me essay 2013 completely different from the essay 2012...

Your judgment is not fair.

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Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 06:51 GMT
An open call for FQXi to re-examine to what extent the current set-up of the essay contest is in line with its stated goal and intent

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Under "goals and intent" for the essay contest it states:

1. The goals of the Foundational Questions Institute's Essay Contest (the "Contest") are...

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 08:00 GMT
Armin,

you're unnecessarily complicating the issue. What FQXi has is good and it works, despite some problems, which however are not organizers' fault but the participants'. And even among the participants it is a small --very small-- group of pranks who had nothing better to do this year but to vandalize the contest. Far from being "the cleverest, most conniving or perhaps luckiest colluders", they actually occupy the other end of the intelligence spectrum. Why, one of them confesses openly about colluding and, ignored, continues in the same vain next year, already in a larger group of equally minded companions -? These pranks should be removed.

If FQXi chooses to publish the database, without names, the far-reaching influence of this small group will be plainly apparent and so obvious that everyone would have to agree on their fault. Ok so perhaps not every thief will be caught red handed, but exposition and punishment of just this little group will be enough to deter all others would be colluders in the future. Let all the participants simply know that in the end the DB will be published and all the games will be exposed. Simple.

And then, I don't quite understand your attitude, John's just above and Lev's, always. We are the guests here. FQXi can choose to have _their_ contest among their own members and by invitation only. They are not obliged to accommodate everyone who came as a guest but behaves as a vandal.

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Domenico Oricchio replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 08:06 GMT
I think that the contest is like a democracy: more vote, more justice.

If the rate number is high, each coalition is loser; but it necessary to rate a high number of essays with ethic.

I think that rate ten essays is a right number, for a normal reader; I usually rated all.

A large number of finalists deserves the position, but does not exist perfection in nature.

I want to thank FQXi team for this contest, because it is not easy to find an environment so open to ideas like this site.

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Member Tejinder Pal Singh wrote on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 07:46 GMT
Dear Brendan,

Thank you for the efforts from you and your team in conducting another essay contest. I do believe it is creative and stimulating to take part in the contest, and read what others have to say on the same topic. Undoubtedly, some excellent essays get written.

Unfortunately however, as many other participants have also voiced above, I believe the reputation and...

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 08:34 GMT
Dear Prof. Singh,

I read your proposal, and I think that the post below, which I posted before reading yours, shows that I agree with the most important of your points. Especially the top N and undisclosure of tops until the end. At the end they should be disclosed, to see that they were considered.

About your proposal 1., I think it would be a good idea that "Only the judges get to evaluate and choose the winners", provided that each of the finalists will be analyzed by the jury, and receive reviews. Disclosing the reviews made by jury would show fairness, and seeing their reasons makes us be better prepared next time.

About 2., I suspect that the rule of autoinduction of FQXi members caused the small number of members participating, because they considered unfair to qualify in finals without regard to their ratings.

I like your iv, but we should be careful that 1.+(iv) may give full authority to the judges, and make all other rules illusory.

You mention that there are cases when community and judges don't match. I don't see why this proves that the community is to be blamed for the differences.

I hope we can obtain a better rating system for the future.

Best regards,

Cristi

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Member Tejinder Pal Singh replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 12:20 GMT
Dear Cristi,

Thanks. I read your post below, and I am glad that we broadly agree. Regarding the mismatch between the community and judges, I must confess this is a personal prejudice: in a couple of contests in the past, after the community ranking of forty or so essays was known, i made a guess list of which 18 essays would come out on top, and my guess very closely matched with the decision of the judges, rather than the community. But I accept this is subjective. I am vouching for removing community weightage because of the inevitable conflict of interest. If judges could spare time to give us review reports I agree that will be nice, but I don’t know if they can write and issue forty reports in so short a time :-(

I appreciate Marina’s concern that our proposal will still permit some vote trading, but I cannot think of anything better at the moment.

Best regards,

Tejinder

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 12:39 GMT
Dear Prof. Singh,

Thank you for the reply.

You said "In one contest Louis Crane was ranked thirty plus by the community, and he was eventually awarded the first prize". This proves that your proposal that the judges get all the power is effectively implemented, if they can take the last finalist and make it the first :) Add to this that being FQXi member ensures a place in the finals, and what we get is that it is an illusion that the community votes mean anything. Then, why even bothering to find a good rating system, or to remove the bugs of the software?

"If judges could spare time to give us review reports I agree that will be nice, but I don't know if they can write and issue forty reports in so short a time :-("

If you want them to be the sole judges of the 40 essays, will they have the time to even look at those of the non-members? The need to give a review will ensure that they will read them (as they should, if they are the only judges).

Best regards,

Cristi

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 08:00 GMT
As it is told by many participants in the last 4 editions, the current rating system is bad. While no system is perfect, we can try to find a better one. It would be a good idea if FQXi would organize a discussion of possible rating systems.

Here is a proposal.

I) Each contestant will make a top N, whatever N will be decided by organizers, for example N=20.

II) The tops will be made public only at the end (to prevent strategic lists and open negotiations).

- Now I see two variants:

IIIa) Each essay receives one point for each top in which appears, or

IIIb) Each essay receives "N+1-P" points from each top in which appears in position P. For example, if an essay is in a top in position 1, it receives N points, while if it is in the last position, 1 point.

Note that the points are added, and not averaged. This means that if an essay is in more tops, will get more points.

IV) Keep the results hidden until the end.

Optionally:

V) An essay will be considered for finals only if its author fills the complete top N (or half of it or so).

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 08:01 GMT
Perhaps some of you already had similar thoughts. Here is a discussion of the advantages of the above proposal.

III means that you can ignore an essay and not add it in your list, but you can't downvote it. This resolves the problem of so many ratings of 1.

The first FQXi contest was like I+IIIa, but with N=3, which was too little. Also, another problem was that you could use your 3 points, and then find interesting essays and couldn't vote them. The system I propose allows you to change the top until the last moment (IV).

Because of IV, you can reconsider your top until the end. More important, by not displaying the total ratings until the end, we prevent the rush for votes, and the lack of activity from those with smaller scores.

Point V is intended to stimulate participation.

This will not completely eliminate the association in groups which support reciprocally, but it will diminish the impact, for the following reasons. A group has limited influence, since you can only choose N essays, and you can't downvote. Also, by not displaying the groups until the end, trading will diminish. To trade votes, you need to check that you got the vote, and if you see it worked, the behavior is reinforced. If you don't have the possibility to check, you are less motivated to trade. Also, some will avoid such secret societies, because at the end, it will be visible if you were part in such a group.

What do you think?

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 08:29 GMT
This still does not prevent collusions: I will nominate you and you will nominate me and this friend of ours will do the same for us and we will include him in our nominations. That's exactly what was going on with promises of a 'top rate'.

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 08:42 GMT
Marina, I explained in the previous paragraph that it will reduce the impact of the collusions. They cannot be completely removed even if we would introduce witch-hunting, but at least will eliminate the downvoting. In the absence of the perfect system, we should try to obtain a better one.

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 11:06 GMT
I join others in thanking Brendan, the directors, developers and sponsors for this contest. It is unique in terms of the level of participation and open discussion.

Congratulations to all those who made the cut. I see a few really deserving essays that missed out. This is my fourth contest and the second time I got through to the final. I have been in the position of dropping below the line...

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Armin Nikkhah Shirazi replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 11:28 GMT
Dear Phil,

I generally agree with many things you say but I feel that I need to add a couple of comments here:

You said:"I think that the system as it stands is very good and it achieves the aim of encouraging positive discussion."

I think we can agree that the current system also encourages a lot of worthless discussions (e.g. insincere flattery, requests to read one's essays, spam messages about the contest so that the author gets noticed etc.) But how do you know that at least some if not all the positive discussions would not have occurred. If you do not have baseline is it not possible that what you think reflects what you would like to think?

You said:"As Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government except all the others."

The situation is not comparable unless we lived in a democracy in which every voter also vied for office. And if we did live in such a democracy, I believe corruption would be much more rampant precisely because of the inherent conflict of interest.

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Philip Gibbs replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 12:06 GMT
As a "baseline" look at the first FQXi contest. There was no community rating and very few comments between authors. In my opinion these points are very much connected.

As for hollow flattery and spamming, yes there was some but it is very easy to recognize. I was more impressed by the number of times people commented on my essay in a way which showed they had read much of it and thought about it. In those cases I was much more likely to read or reread the commentators essay. I am sure this was the same for everyone.

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 12:19 GMT
I agree with you Armin.

But I am really surprised at the naivete (is it?) of some of the participants, including Phil, and at the fear of the "authority" of some others (including Marina).

The contests is the only "public" arm of the so-called Foundational Questions Institute, and I don't think it would be wise for them to dispense with its open form.

We have nothing else to fear except the fear itself!!

If the larger scientific community become aware of the situation here, it would be appalled.

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Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 11:16 GMT
Dear Marina,

You said:" You are complicating the issue". If by the "issue" you are referring to the problems that arose straightforwardly because of allowing authors to vote on other works, it seems to me that removing the possibility of author voting simplifies it as much as possible because it eliminates it. Granted, it introduces a new difficulty, of finding a fair and manageable way of...

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Anonymous replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 17:07 GMT
Geez Armin!

All I'm saying, and I will say it for the last time: we are speculating here in the dark. We are speculating about behavior of the participants based on some innate notions, without having checked our assumptions against the real data.

Let's examine the actual behavior of the group as a whole by analyzing this trivial 2D matrix. Only because to some of you it may not be immediately apparent how this analysis may be effectively accomplished does not mean that it is impossible in principle. Let's see what's going on first and then, based on this information, decide how the rules should be modified.

In any case, having done this analysis even once, openly (with names substituted by codes) will not only show what really is going on, most importantly, mere letting everyone know that DB may be revealed in the end, will deter most people from even trying to misbehave. This is the simplest solution, imho.

Good luck in resolving this behavioral problem by means other than fear of punishment, which in this case is public exposure. This issue concerns conscience. When the endogenous version does not quite work, exogenous measures should be applied. Just like it has been done throughout the history, starting with religions that warned that someone is always watching to governments that policed and punished. That's what works.

Sincerely,

-Marina

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 17:29 GMT
That was me above. Sorry Armin for my tone. My message was that you put the cart before the horse. Info first, then action.

EDIT: and it is you who misunderstands me. I suggest no policing except publishing the database in the end.

What can be simpler and what else can remedy someone else's ethical problems? This is the issue here. You want the system be setup in such a way that no matter how deficient a participant's ethics could be, the system should kindly and gently nudge him toward the correct behavior and in fact made it impossible for him --or unnecessary-- to act otherwise.

Think, how reasonable is this? Will it fix the real problem? What is the real problem here? It is the problem with ethics of a minority of obviously immature participants.

I rest my case.

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Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 11:18 GMT
Dear Marina,

You said:" You are complicating the issue". If by the "issue" you are referring to the problems that arose straightforwardly because of allowing authors to vote on other works, it seems to me that removing the possibility of author voting simplifies it as much as possible because it eliminates it. Granted, it introduces a new difficulty, of finding a fair and manageable way of...

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Lev Goldfarb wrote on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 12:44 GMT
In general, I'm quite surprised, to say the least, at the attempts by many participants to placate such ethically (and morally) intolerable situation.

There can be NO justification for it, and the essay situation can easily be brought in line with the scientific standards, IF THE DIRECTORATE CARED AT ALL.

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Aug. 12, 2013 @ 05:12 GMT
Lev,

you speak as if it is the responsibility of the directorate to make sure that every participant behaves ethically. Though I agree with you that the vandals that ruined this contest should have been denied the power of vote and their votes of 1 removed long time ago. I am amazed that nothing was done to stop them. And I would have to agree with you that they don't care, if I see the same people and the same behavior next time.

Prof. Singh spoke about poor correlation between the community vote and the decision of the judges. But this is because the best non-member essays were pushed below the cutoff point mostly by these vandals, even though colluders also had a hand in it. They were knocking down their competition (while my innocuous entry remained under their radar).

I wonder how the final list would look if those vandals' votes were removed. I think, despite the obvious collusions and vote-swapping by other grouos, the list would look more decent, because there would be no 'carpet-bombing' of the best works, like those vandals did.

Armin also pointed that the worst vote-traders are obvious on the list. Anyone with a half-functioning brain can see an average entries up top, the worst sporting an obscene number of votes. Are their authors actually proud of this distinction? It is shameful though for the community, because an outsider, not knowing what was going on, would certainly be bewildered by the 'community choice' and will not think of this contest highly.

History shows, there is only one sure way to make people behave ethically. I know, in your fix of the problem participants don't need to behave at all -- everything is done for them by the judges. It's not realistic though to make judges to evaluate all the entries. This was brought up many times, but you still insist -? This will never happen.

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Anonymous replied on Aug. 12, 2013 @ 15:40 GMT
Marina,

I want to be absolutely honest with you and other participants about what I think of these contests, and I am reasonably sure that my opinion is not that far from the FQXi members' opinions (although, as an insider, I do know more than most of them about the contests).

Although I won the forth prize in the second FQXi contest, knowing what I know now, I'm not proud of it *at...

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Lev Goldfarb replied on Aug. 12, 2013 @ 15:54 GMT
Although I was signed in, the system made me anonymous. ;-)

Spelling error in the above post: in the second sentence of the second paragraph "here" should read "hear". ;-)

By the way, I do not think at all that "it is the responsibility of the directorate to make sure that every participant behaves ethically"--this is absurd. But I do think that they are responsible for 1) consistently neglecting the situation for several years and not making any positive changes to the rules in face of all the previous experience and 2) ignoring various relevant discussions (such as this one and the one after the 3rd contest, for example).

I think that, after all, they might (??) react to this one. I'm hoping at least.

But if the participants were 'afraid' to express their negative feelings nothing would happen.

Of course, given many profuse thanks expressed to the organizers, they may, again, *very conveniently* assume that it is safe to ignore one or two 'crazies', and hence continue to ignore the poisonous and depressing atmosphere maintained during the essays' rating period. Then, who do you have to blame except yourselves?

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Andrew Mendelsohn wrote on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 18:51 GMT
I was not a participant, but was also disappointed in the way vote trading, concerted downrating, and vote influencing played a part in this contest. Several of my favorite essays were pushed below the cutoff at the last minute.

I like Cristi's proposed system. But I would suggest that that the top N selected for later evaluation and the top N each contestant would get to score should not be equal. Rather, FQXI would select the top N1 and the contestants would select their top N2, where N1>>N2. As I think he suggested only a "like" or "top" vote would be possible and these votes would be added, with the top contestants being those receiving the most "likes" or "tops". By making N2 much