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It From Bit or Bit From It
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April 23, 2014

CATEGORY: FQXi Essay Contest - Is Reality Digital or Analog? [back]
TOPIC: It, Bit, and Us by Dean Rickles [refresh]
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Author Dean Rickles wrote on Feb. 15, 2011 @ 20:42 GMT
Essay Abstract

The physical world, in the sense of that system matching the description provided by physical theories, is as digital or analogue as the theories themselves. There is no logical necessity either way, and it seems perfectly possible for reality to be described by a dual system. 'Reality itself,' by which I mean whatever it is that physical theories aim to latch on to, might be either or, more likely, something inscrutable: it seems unlikely that intentional-system- centric notions would have counterparts in reality, independently of minds. Inasmuch as our minds are capable of latching physical theories onto reality, the best that can be hoped for is a purely structural/relational matching, and in this sense reality is indeed digital, for our linchpins are precisely discrete, identifiable events, be they the elementary bits of Wheeler, or the elementary correlations of gauge theory.

Author Bio

Dean Rickles is senior research fellow at the University of Sydney where his primary research focus is the history and philosophy of physics. His books include The Structural Foundations of Quantum Gravity (OUP 2006: coedited with S. French and J. Saatsi), Symmetry, Structure, and Spacetime (Elsevier 2008), The Ashgate Companion to Contemporary Philosophy of Physics (Ashgate 2009), and The Role of Gravitation in Physics: Report from the 1957 Chapel Hill Conference (Max Planck Research Library 2011: coedited with C. DeWitt-Morette).

Download Essay PDF File

Georgina Parry wrote on Feb. 16, 2011 @ 05:25 GMT
Dear Dean ,

I have enjoyed reading your essay very much. It is very clearly presented and well set out. Carrying us smoothly on a journey of developing scientific ideas about reality and how it can be modeled. I found it educational and it will be a good reference text for those interested in the historical consideration of this question.

I can see some similarity with Julian Barbour's essay. He also gives an overveiw of historical development of the ideas and talks in some detail about it from bit. It is perhaps unfortunate, for you, that I read his essay first.It makes yours seem less original. However if I had read them the other way around it would have been Julian Barbour's essay that suffered from comparison.

Julian Barbour suggests that bit from it may be more useful, restoring realism to scientific theory. I actually think that both are equally legitimate as both processes are occurring. Wheelers viewpoint is dealing with information recieved from external reality and which can be used to construct a mathematical representaion or experience of the reality the -it-. So the bit forms the it. The other viewpoint, as Julian sets out, says the fully real object in unobserved external reality is the -it- and from that information is produced, that can be interpreted. The -it- forms the bit.

This duel it-bit and bit -it direction, highlights the important fact that we are dealing with two different facets of reality. Information being a link between them. Of course the information undergoes a number of processes in between.

One tiny error is that traffic lights in the UK are mostly 4 state, 3 colour lights with the sequence red, red and amber, green, amber. Which means if the amber is showing with the red one must be prepared to go, but if amber is showing alone one must prepare to stop. It does not effect the point you were trying to make. It is just a distraction.

I do think this is one of the best essays I have read. You really do a good job of answering the essay question.I am not sure that it is in itself groundbreaking though. I wish you good luck.

Best regards Georgina.

Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 16, 2011 @ 10:14 GMT
Thanks Georgina.

Hopefully my traffic light mistake won't cause any crashes - I'm still on my L Plates, as you can probably guess!

I'll have a read of Barbour's essay - from a quick scan, it looks like we're arguing for exactly opposing positions.



egal wrote on Feb. 16, 2011 @ 14:07 GMT

I will do the same critic I did to Barbour's essay. It is an interesting essay but I wonder how comes that authors want to talk about digital and computation without citing or saying anything about universality, the work of Turing and the current state of information theory. But, on the contrary, overuse Wheeler's idea of lightly equaling matter to information. Thanks.

egal wrote on Feb. 16, 2011 @ 14:08 GMT
Btw, I also find a bit odd to see a header of the FQXi Institute in your essay, as it if were already endorsed by the institute.

Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 16, 2011 @ 21:28 GMT
Certainly not endorsed: I was just playing around with producing a LaTeX template for FQXi essays.

On your other question - I don't need to say anything about universality: the focus was on representation, and at a level that doesn't depend on the most recent details of information theory. I don't recall aligning matter and information: the exact opposite in fact. Bit was understood in abstract terms: "the amount of information one can extract from a 'Yes/No' question". Not in material terms.



egal replied on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 18:45 GMT
Thanks for your answer. I think, however, that you may be underestimating the digital view. Perhaps because it has been longly underestimated with simplified views such as the It from Bit and the like. But one does not need to align bits with matter but with processes. It is a mistake to equal digital with discrete matter.

Cristinel Stoica wrote on Feb. 16, 2011 @ 14:09 GMT
Dear Dean,

I like the way you presented the idea of "It from Bit": you made the point very clear, but in the same time emphasized its subtleties. It happened that I just wrote about it (from bit) few hours ago, as a comment to Julian Barbour's essay.

Maybe the "it" part is infered, interpolated by us, from the "bit" part - the outcomes of the observations we make. It is indeed difficult to assign an ontology to something that depends on our future choice of what observable to measure. But I think that it is possible for a solution to the Schrödinger's equation - a wavefunction - to be ontological. There are two main problems to be overcomed to allow the wavefunction to be real. 1) Two consecutive measurements which don't commute seem to imply that, between them, a discontinuous wavefunction collapse should take place. This is not necessarily true, as I explained in this article and this video. After the first measurement, the observed system becomes entangled with the first measurement device, and the second observation observes in fact the composed system. This brings in the discussion the additional degrees of freedom, those of the first measurement device, and we are no longer compelled to conclude that a discontinuity in the evolution occurred. 2) The choice of the observable seems to decide the past history of the system. This is true, but it doesn't necessarily violate the reality of the wavefunction. We can see the wavefunction describing the system as being undecided until our observations determine it. The observations determine the "delayed initial conditions" of the wavefunction. This way, the wavefunction is real, but it has to satisfy the "atemporal" consistency condition that the "bit"s contained in "it" are compatible with "it"self. Maybe this "atemporal consistency condition" is similar to Schrödinger's condition that the static wavefunctions need to be self-consistent.

Best regards,

Cristi Stoica, Infinite Resolution

joseph markell wrote on Feb. 16, 2011 @ 22:22 GMT
Hello Dean,

I particularly like the last two paragraphs, including the quote, "At the heart of everything is a question, not an answer..."


joseph markell

Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Feb. 17, 2011 @ 00:56 GMT

You say that the problem with representation is that it isn't clear whether there really *is* anything in the world being represented.

Alfred Korzybski, in 'Science and Sanity' declares that "the map is not the territory" and, in so many words, implies that the ability to distinguish the two is the basis of sanity. Of course he probably included an escape clause for...

view entire post

Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 17, 2011 @ 04:07 GMT
Hi Edwin,

Some important points raised here, that I expect will occur to others, so I'l spend a bit of time picking them apart.

When I say " it isn't clear whether there really *is* anything in the world being represented" I mean that it isn't clear that there is a 'counterpart' object in reality (independent from theory and mind and anything like it). We think of watches as giving...

view entire post

Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Feb. 17, 2011 @ 04:26 GMT

Thanks for the extensive reply. I'm happy with these answers, particularly "I'm not denying the existence of an 'external world' or anything of that sort." Many seem to be doing just this; I'm glad you're not. That takes care of the 'mystical' issue.

I didn't realize Eddington was author of the 'fishnet' story, but it's one of my favorites.

And I agree with you about meta-physics. All of today's theories are meta-physical to some extent.

By clarifying these points you've probably headed off a number of questions (and maybe opened up more?)

Thanks again for an excellent treatment of this topic, and good luck in the contest.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

Thomas J. McFarlane wrote on Feb. 18, 2011 @ 21:06 GMT

Thank you for the very insightful essay! I appreciate the philosophical acumen you bring to the topic. I was also struck by the remarkable similarity of your ideas with those in my essay. If you're so included, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, and any references to your further thoughts along these lines.



P.S.: On the top of p.5 of your essay, there appears to be a typo in the phrase "there is no such thing as a no phenomenon".

Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 01:03 GMT
Thanks for the typo. It should read: "there is no such thing as a phenomenon," of course.

I see there are lots of similarities to your essay: I couldn't agree more with your stance against 'substance' in physics.



Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 01:18 GMT
Sorry, I meant to add. In terms of references, two relevant things I've written are:

1. "Who's Afraid of Background Independence?" -

2. "Time and Structure in Canonical Gravity" - (also, plenty of the other papers in this volume are relevant)

Also, the book: Symmetry, Structure, and Space:

You might also like John Earman's papers "Thoroughly Modern McTaggart" - and "The Implications of General Covariance for the Ontology and Ideology of Spacetime" (especially p. 16 and onwards)

Also, I think you would like almost anything Eddington has written - you probably know his stuff already. His book on Philosophy of Science is where selective subjectivism receives its clearest exposition.

I'll read your essay more closely when I get a spare moment. I see one area of disagreement in your phrase "any description of reality by physics is necessarily discrete at its foundations". I think descriptions can be continuous or discrete, but when we try to connect them up to the world we inevitably have to make do with the discrete events that you mention later on - perhaps this is what you mean by (at its foundations?).



Thomas J. McFarlane replied on Feb. 20, 2011 @ 05:42 GMT

Thanks so much for this links to all the interesting references! I will enjoy following up on those. As you suspect, I'm familiar with Eddington, but have not read all his work yet. By the way, Ian has just pointed me to his dissertation on Eddington which I look forward to reading.

I agree completely with you that "descriptions can be continuous or discrete, but when we try to connect them up to the world we inevitably have to make do with the discrete events."

Best regards,


Alberts wrote on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 17:29 GMT

I am disappointed by all essays I read that limit their scope to epistemological issues. I understand this is the prevailing attitude in modern philosophy departments because ontology is accused as being naive realism and reductionism. However, I know of no significant contribution or advancement to science that came out of a philosophy department. If I am in error, please provide a reference.

This essay contest is not in my opinion of course about philosophy and questions like: what can we know about reality, if anything at all?” It is about the conflict between quantum mechanics and general relativity. General Relativity cannot survive spacetime quantization while QM is gaining points constantly.

I think the effort in this essay was to undermine the analog vs. digital issue. This is a widespread practice in philosophy departments worldwide in an effort not to upset the status quo, like saying for example, "fine guys, from an epistemological perspective you are both correct, let’s continue business as usual". This position does not serve science and humanity very well. Reality does not care about our physical theories and our understanding of them. Is this so hard for modern philosophers to understand this?

Thank you.

Member Ian Durham replied on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 21:57 GMT
The scope of this essay contest (discussed here) expressly includes the philosophy of physics as an appropriate viewpoint.

Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 20, 2011 @ 00:29 GMT
"I know of no significant contribution or advancement to science that came out of a philosophy department" What an incredibly shortsighted comment!

Though not from philosophy departments themselves, Einstein's analysis of simultaneity in special relativity, of general covariance in general relativity (based on the point-coincidence argument), Boltzmann's analysis of entropy, Bohr's formulation of QM (and many of Schrodinger and Heisenberg's contributions), all resulted from epistemological (conceptual) analyses - in many cases there debts to philosophers, especially Hume and Kant, were directly acknowledged.

"fine guys, from an epistemological perspective you are both correct, let’s continue business as usual" - I don't recall saying anything of the sort.

"Reality does not care about our physical theories and our understanding of them." -

Do you want to provide an argument for this assertion? Defining what you mean by `Reality', 'physical theory', 'our understanding of them', and the relationship between them? Then we can talk.

As Ian rightly says, the scope of the essay competition is much wider than you suppose.

Robert Spoljaric replied on Mar. 3, 2011 @ 08:52 GMT
Dear Dr. Rickles,

If philosophy is excluded from physics, then my essay is doomed from the start! I may as well be an L-plater competing in Sydney traffic!


Dan J. Bruiger wrote on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 21:52 GMT
Dear Dean,

I enjoyed reading your stimulating essay. You distinguish between two ways the analog/digital debate can go: ‘…(1) as a claim about the discreteness (or not) of space, time, and matter; (2) about the computational nature of the universe.’ In my own essay, I pursue the latter course.

I’ve taken the liberty to comment on some of your passages, in a manner I hope...

view entire post

Member Ian Durham wrote on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 22:15 GMT
Nice essay Dean. Incidentally, I know Steven French (actually, we should nominate him for FQXi membership), though I haven't seen him in several years. He was the external examiner on my PhD thesis which dealt with Eddington's Fundamental Theory. Great guy.

Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 20, 2011 @ 01:01 GMT
Hi Ian,

Re: nomination - good idea!

I've read your PhD thesis by the way (Steven mentioned it to me ages ago). For those who don't know it, it's well worth a read: - I learned a lot of new facts about Eddington from it.

I liked your essay too - similar conclusion ("our knowledge of the universe is discontinuous"), but very different route to get there (including what might be the first ever Jethro Tull reference in an academic paper!).



Member Ian Durham replied on Feb. 20, 2011 @ 02:37 GMT

I couldn't resist the Tull reference. And, wow, you actually read my thesis! I'm humbled. Steven only read it because he had to. :) I was working on turning it into a book for CUP a couple of years ago when my computer HD crashed. I still have the original, but lost all this great work I'd done to "spruce it up." I plan to go back to it soon.

I see you are slated to be at the FQXi conference in August so we will meet in person. Also, I think you know Ken Wharton as well, correct? I've just nominated him for FQXi membership. I definitely think we should nominate Steven, though, as well. I'll send Kavita an e-mail (don't know if it's too late or not).


Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 22, 2011 @ 09:25 GMT
Hi Ian,

You should certainly get the Eddington book ready for publication again - just try to convince yourself that the new revisions will be even better than the last ones (awful to lose hard work and have to do it again)!

For some reason, I thought Ken was already a member: another good nominee if not.



Member Ian Durham wrote on Feb. 20, 2011 @ 20:39 GMT
Incidentally, I've been mulling over your essay, and it occurred to me that the comments and essays on this site would seem to be strong evidence in and of themselves of your hypothesis.

Anonymous wrote on Feb. 22, 2011 @ 17:53 GMT
Bought a 16GB flash drive at Costco for US$35 not long ago, just saw that it's now available online for under US$25 ...

Chris Kennedy wrote on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 01:31 GMT

Excellent work! Very enjoyable.

It is a good way to describe the current view of quantum mechanics and/or trying to go beyond the limits. Bohr would probably say that photons are bits and if we try to make them into full-time its, we are taking photons out of their defined role. Switching to the electron - David Bohm would have suggested that there were undiscovered bits out there that might one day turn the electron into better defined its.

Where its, bits and us overlap or change roles is a fascinating topic. Shining photons on the outside of a photodetector will tell you where the detector is while the inside of the detector will tell you where the photons are. I think it was John Bell who used his eyeglasses as an observer/observed example (and it being a gray area) as he pulled them forward off of his head until he held them at arms length.

Quantum theory seems to say that we can't get a better fish net (to use your example) because the fish exist in a state that would prevent them from being captured in a smaller net - in fact the net we are using triggers them into a state that the net can trap.

What do you think - are we at the end of the measurement line?

Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 12:19 GMT
Thanks Chris.

I like this idea: "in fact the net we are using triggers them into a state that the net can trap." It sounds a little like some of the things Rudolph Haag says, who's work on the ontology of QFT has influenced me quite a lot (see, e.g., the final bits of his book on Local Quantum Physics).



Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 11:08 GMT
Dear Dean,

I enjoyed very much your essay especially the fact that your title contains the Us, perhaps the Us is like the yellow light in the traffic lights that you mention, inbetween one state and the other, only there is no deterministic sequence in the follow up from the colours, the quote of John Wheeler on page 9 reminds me very much of my essay (Realities out of Total Simultaneity) where the mirror of our consciousness caused by our observations (orobouros) is also the cause of our observable universe. You say it is unlikely that intentional-system-centric notions would have counterparts in reality, independently of minds, I assume you mean our own minds not minds of other possible universes ?

Wilhelmus de Wilde

Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 12:13 GMT
Dear Wilhelmus,

Thanks for the comments.

With the phrase "intentional-system-centric" I was just trying to avoid a particularly bad version of the anthropic principle (where there is something explanatorily special about humans in particular), extending from minds to intentional systems more generally (with "intentionality" understood along the lines of this article:

If one is a multiverse theorist, and thinks there might be such intentional systems (capable of modelling or representing reality and testing their models) in some of these other universes, then what I said will naturally apply to them too. Though I'm not sure I see the relevance of multiverse issues here?



Wilhelmus de Wilde replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 12:37 GMT
Dear Dean,

Multiverse or paralel universe "theorist" is the right word, because it can only be theory (untill now), but like all other theories it is a product of our minds, and becomes an hypothetical reality, if once we are able (perhaps with assistance of "a" future quantum computer) to create another consiousness and by coupling this consciuosness to our own, this new reality becomes an it, while the bits may be obeing total different physical laws, that cannot be tested by our instruments, this it can become a part of us.

Sorry I did not directly understand your phrase intentional etc , I fully agree with you.



T H Ray wrote on Feb. 24, 2011 @ 17:51 GMT
Hi Dean,

It's a delight to read an article so dense in meaning, and spoken with the authority of first rate scholarship.

So I'm just going to tease out a couple of things that I particularly relate to, and regret leaving so much unsaid.

In an early draft of my essay (right above yours in alphabetical order), I had devoted a whole paragraph to the digital-analog watch comparison. I edited it out, after a reader commented that even an analog watch generates digital information (which was actually the point I was trying, but failed, to make) -- the point that should have been made with the analogy is the one that you elegantly brought to bear: reality as a metaphor ... representing what?

Second, I'll pick an argument with Eddington, who is fortunately for me in this context, safely dead. You're right about the ultra-empiricism in your reference (4). The assumption that alien intelligence parallels our sensory experience and interpretation is not rationally justified. Einstein had the more rational view: " ... from the standpoint of epistemology it is more satisfying to have the mechanical properties of space completely determined by matter ..." and so hedging against metaphysical realism, rather important now that all our observations tell us that the universe contains very little matter. Pick a new epistemology to stand on. :-)

Good luck in the contest, and

All best,


Author Dean Rickles replied on Feb. 28, 2011 @ 23:54 GMT
Thanks for the comments.

On the Eddington point you make - I don't think Eddington makes the assumption you charge him with (at least, I think that's what you were saying). He simply argues that if some other intelligence were to 'have access' to our knowledge gathering machinery (our system of sensations), then they would 'have access' to our science. This is a tricky way of speaking, but the point is that, for Eddington, sensations have a group structure that is isomorphic to that that found in the physical universe described by scientific theories.

On the Einstein point, remember that the geometrical properties of spacetime are only determined up to diffeomorphism - I'm not sure what observations you are referring to, that show us there is very little matter: surely we think in terms of fields which are standardly defined at all points?



T H Ray replied on Mar. 2, 2011 @ 18:24 GMT

Unless I misinterpreted your meaning, realism in the context of metaphysical realism does not obviate an objective world, it just ensures that we include "us." Information gathering machinery does only half the job; we are also information users, and knowledge is theory laden, not merely made of data.

Although Einstein was known to experience by his account a "kinesthetic" feeling that his theory imparted, that feeling was prior to the physics, and realized first in the abstract, in the mathematical completeness of relativiity -- certainly that is metaphysical realism at its best. (Personally, I feel the same about string theory; beauty, completeness and symmetry seem to come in a package.)

We do not experience spacetime directly -- all of our measurements are taken between mass points, not spacetime points, as Einstein (and Mach) recognized, in the attempt to have all the properties of space determined by matter. The field influences of the continuum turn out to be quasi-Euclidean, however, unbounded in space though finite in time -- and thus nearly flat, not what one would expect from a closed, isolated dynamical system. There is a large discrepancy between the baryonic matter we see, and that required for such closure.

So there's more to stucturing scientific theories than gathering data. Good theorizing could never survive on that principle -- the mathematical mess that still characterizes quantum mechanics is a good example of theory-after-the-fact. Einstein would still say: "It's so ugly."


Peter Mastro wrote on Mar. 1, 2011 @ 13:01 GMT
Hello Dean,

Nice essay. As an artist, I personnaly relate to the old platonic forms the best and relate "reality" alot like that of Ellington. I view everything we see as a product of our "thought" and the objective universe as purely an imaginary construct.

If you get a chance check out my essay at

It isn't too philosophical but the inderpinnings and conclusions are very similar.

Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 3, 2011 @ 11:45 GMT
Dear Dean

A really enjoyable read, thank you. Much food for thought, and definitely worth a good score. It also opened my eyes to something, that 'it from bit' is really also at the heart of the model on which my own essay is based, only via condensation of the basic ion (conceptual stem cell) particle can the continuum energy implement action, or change, which is matter/energy.

Did you consider the converse of your insight, that 'discrete' as well as digital has further representational connotations? Macro as well as micro relevance, in what is somewhat equivalent to a dynamic 'block universe'.

I'd be honoured if you find yourself able to read my essay as I do need help and advice. Even if highly falsifiable falsification can still prove impossible. I perceive an ability to think outside the box and explore consequences, which would be essential. I'd greatly value any comments.

Best of luck with your own essay, it has true depth and value.


Sreenath B N wrote on Mar. 3, 2011 @ 15:08 GMT
Dear Dean Rickles,

Thanks for your smooth going essay based on insightful background.For me,it appears that you are a pessimist for the simple reason that the reality,according to you, is dual and cannot be reconciled.That is why you admit that digital is digital and analog is analog and they remain so forever.

But according to me that is not the case,for both digital and analog nature of reality can be reconciled on the basis of a much deeper concept.To know this,please,go thro' my essay and send your comments.

Good luck and best wishes.

Sreenath B N.

Constantin Leshan wrote on Mar. 5, 2011 @ 14:43 GMT
Dear Dr. Dean Rickles,

Welcome to essay contest. I found some errors in this essay:

The introduction of the essay is very doubtful. ''Is it digital or analogue''? - you'll never find an answer by analyzing a Rolex watch. First of all, to find an answer to fundamental questions we must be able to formulate correct questions. I can show you are wrong that ''at the root of the problem...

view entire post

Author Dean Rickles replied on Mar. 6, 2011 @ 01:42 GMT
Dear Constantin,

You are right about two things: the Schrodinger quote is out of place (I thought I removed it, in fact), and the essay has not been copied!

Your other points are not arguments so much as statements to the contrary.

Digital and analogue do not map directly onto discrete and continuous. I give arguments showing this in the paper, that you have ignored. You...

view entire post

Constantin Leshan replied on Mar. 6, 2011 @ 17:19 GMT
Dear Dr. Dean Rickles,

I found little errors in your essay because it does not contain the original physics research - it is a philosophical paper. It is generally known that philosophers are able to escape from any situation and it is very hard to look for errors in a philosophical paper. For example I found the erroneous propositions ''about the computational nature of the universe'', but you replied that ''I didn't make a statement about the computational nature of the Universe''. However, I don't see a link to references near this proposition, consequently it is YOUR OUN statement. By definition, all text without links to references is considered to be the author' intellectual property. According to author's rights, it is your statement. Moreover, you have the big text below about informational-computational nature of reality: ''all things physical are information-theoretic in origin'', ''Konrad Zuse is perhaps the first to apply digital computation to ontology, arguing that the universe is itself a giant finite-state automaton''. I do not see your criticism about this Zuse' statement, it means you agree with Zuse. In this context, now you have two options; 1) please explain how the computational Universe can process the Heisenberg Uncertainty; 2) If you cannot explain it, consequently I found another error in your essay. In the same way I can prove that all the rest of my notes are real errors in your essay.

However, since you say that ''A completely flawless essay would, in my opinion, be as boring as a completely mechanical piano performance. This competition (and FQXi in general) enables risk-taking'', then we'll look for another way. There are a lot of essays, how can we evaluate them? 1) The best essay must have the best original ideas. 2) The best essay must be able to prove if the reality in the better way; From this point of view, I see neither novel ideas nor original research nor proofs about reality in your essay; I don't see any investigation of the nature of spacetime, it is a philosophical speculation only about the issue of representation, It and Bit.

I can show you that your main conclusion is wrong: ''both are possible, and it seems perfectly possible for reality to be described by a dual system''. Can you describe the motion of free particle by a dual system? The ''motion'' of a particle is not continuous and not analog because its position is uncertain. In double slit experiment, the particle can fly through both slits at once, and such behavior cannot be described by your dual system. The reality is fundamentally quantum, digital and discontinuous but not analogue.

Thus, since your main conclusion is wrong, therefore your essay is totally wrong.



Dean Rickles replied on Mar. 6, 2011 @ 20:58 GMT
Dear Constantin,

You claim: "I do not see your criticism about this Zuse' statement, it means you agree with Zuse."

No. It really doesn't mean that. It's within a section REVIEWING the history of the question. I don't think that the Universe is a giant computer. i don't say it is. The rest of the essay should blatantly show that I don't believe such a thing.

Also, philosophical essays (and non-scientific essays) CAN be wrong. This notion is simply a myth.

You still seem to be stuck on the idea that this question must about the nature of spacetime. Again, without argument. Stating your opinion over and over again is not an argument. If you simply repeat yourself like this again, there's no point in my responding. In fact, I've noticed you do the same thing in other's posts, ignoring their careful responses and stubbornly persisting with your same erroneous presumptions.

The essay competition has its OWN evaluation criteria: relevance and interest. You might look at these since it also shows that the essay organizers are well aware that the question goes beyond issues of spacetime.

Finally, I DON'T say the universe IS a dual system. The whole point of my essay is that there is a gap between digital/analogue representations and underlying reality, and that what we have to go on are discrete measurement results. The world's being a dual system is NOT my conclusion.

Again, perhaps there's a language comprehension issue here?



Tommy Gilbertson wrote on Mar. 5, 2011 @ 16:04 GMT
Great essay, dear mr. rickles. I shall have to peruse it once more to grok the majority. Time is getting short to make up the minds, no?

thank you.


and i remember your name from previous contests and threads and your body of work was a surprising revalation. honour to see you glimpse this.

only one question, what does this equation mean to you?


Anonymous wrote on Mar. 5, 2011 @ 18:07 GMT
it means, for example: I wish I could go to Australia. Know anybody selling a decent ocean-going boat lol? seriously, mate...

it's just a dream, right. talk about the essay encouraginly. don't mention game-theory out loud.

the equation means to you and Julian Barbour for a high vote of confisence means???

Tommy Gilbertson wrote on Mar. 6, 2011 @ 10:22 GMT
Please disregard my threads. I have learned a painfull lesson in my own thread that less is more, when actually participating in the contest.

And the threads are a whole lot more fun then.

No need to pile on in my opinioun. But I am in the minority. Look forward to seeing how this all pans out. Before the stress turns me off the whole enterprise...

Thanks again for your essay.

Constantin Leshan wrote on Mar. 7, 2011 @ 10:56 GMT
Dear Community,

It is impossible to investigate the Dean's essay because he declares that ''I DON'T say it'', ''I didn't make a statement about''. It means one of two things: 1) Dean's essay is made of opposing statements. In such case it is a senseless paper without any scientific value 2) Or, Dean tries to confuse us in order to defend his essay. In both cases such essay and his author does not deserve any prize.

For example I found the erroneous statement in Dean's essay ''about the computational nature of the universe'', but Dean replied that ''I didn't make a statement about the computational nature of the Universe''. However, I don't see a link to references near this proposition, consequently it is YOUR OWN statement. By definition, all text without links to references is considered to be the author' intellectual property. Thus, according to author's rights, it is Dean's statement. Further, if the Universe has the computational nature then please explain how your computer can process the Heisenberg Uncertainty. For this purpose the computer must know the complete information position momentum before events occurs that is forbidden by quantum mechanics. Thus, this proposition contradicts quantum mechanics, it is an error in Dean's essay.

Let's analyze the Dean's conclusions: ''The physical world, in the sense of that which matches the description provided by physical theories, is as digital or analogue as the theories themselves. Since there is no logical necessity either way, both are possible, and it seems perfectly possible for reality to be described by a dual system''. Then he wrote: ''and in this sense reality is digital''. In other words, Dean's essay is made of opposing statements, therefore it is a senseless essay which tells us NOTING about reality.



Anonymous replied on Mar. 7, 2011 @ 11:39 GMT
I missed a letter; Last proposition could be: In other words, Dean's essay is made of opposing statements, therefore it is a senseless essay which tells us NOTHING about reality.

Author Dean Rickles replied on Mar. 7, 2011 @ 13:10 GMT
Constantin. I have repeatedly tried to speak rationally with you. You don't appear to know how. So I'm ending the discussion here as I said I would if you continued to repeat yourself.

Constantin Leshan replied on Mar. 7, 2011 @ 13:51 GMT
It is not surprising; all authors of doubtful papers do not want to talk to me. Meanwhile, my post was addressed to COMMUNITY but not to you.

Tommy Gilbertson wrote on Mar. 7, 2011 @ 16:06 GMT
Heh-heh let me cannonBall thru this nonsense!!!

Sir, about that ocean-Going boat? Yes, I am still interested. Please contact me at

About the time-frame, though: how do you respond to that quote in this months SCI AM magazine about there being "lot s and lots of snakes" due to the recent flooding of australia?

lol, that's an unfortunate coincidence for someone who wants to go. Isn't it lol?

This author is not scared of snakes. But is scared of lots of snakes...

James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 8, 2011 @ 07:40 GMT

"The physical world, in the sense of that which matches the description provided

by physical theories, is as digital or analogue as the theories themselves."

This I agree with although my prejudice is with analogue, and I do use models to support that view.

Jim Hoover

Author Yuri Danoyan+ wrote on Mar. 10, 2011 @ 20:09 GMT
Dear Dean

The question that torments us a long time ago answered Eddington

We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origins. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the footprint. And lo! It is our own.

Sir Arthur Eddington, Space, Time, and Gravitation, 1920

English astronomer (1882 - 1944)

My essay

Russell Jurgensen wrote on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 01:50 GMT
Dear Dean,

I read your essay with interest and enjoyed your analysis of humans developing models of reality leading up to our current views of digital observation. I am interested in your views on philosophy in physics. Roger Penrose in The Road to Reality wrote about modern observations possibly needing to be twisted around and viewed from a different angle so that a fundamentally new perspective may be obtained concerning the nature of physical reality (p 1025). I think how we deal with philosophy is important in this kind of process.

One aspect of particles that I ponder is whether something outside of particles continuously powers their acceleration and leads to the concept of mass and energy. The first law of thermodynamics may seem to say no to an external reason for energy. Also, quantum mechanics shies away from actual internal motion. But, perhaps the reason for the first law is because something is propelling the energy like a motor propels a car down the road. Perhaps the lack of internal motion detection is due to the nature of waves measuring other waves. For example, we do not have a concrete size of a proton, so it is understandable that we do not yet have the ability to detect internal motion.

In looking for new ways to view observations, consider Einstein's mass-energy equation E = mc2. It seems we can view c2 as a potential that sustains energy (and defines length/time), and we can view mass as a scalar representing the amount of internal particle motion. My essay supplies equations for one possibility how the internal motion is produced and how particles react to each other based on this philosophy.

We may not be able to say how the sustaining potential c2 is produced, in which case it could represent that unknown limit in physics. However, we gain the ability to drop out of the loop of searching for that ever smaller explanation. More importantly, if it is actually how reality works, a logical set of equations (an example is supplied in my essay) possibly could explain visible reality and predict new behavior.

With your background in philosophy of physics I wonder if you have seen this way of looking at the mass-energy equation before? I also wanted to say hello and let you know I enjoyed your essay.

Kind regards, Russell Jurgensen

Tommy Gilbertson wrote on Mar. 17, 2011 @ 13:19 GMT
Well done!

Alan Lowey wrote on Mar. 19, 2011 @ 11:07 GMT
Dear Dean,

Congratulations on your dedication to the competition and your much deserved top 35 placing. I have a bugging question for you, which I've also posed to all the potential prize winners btw:

Q: Coulomb's Law of electrostatics was modelled by Maxwell by mechanical means after his mathematical deductions as an added verification (thanks for that bit of info Edwin), which I highly admire. To me, this gives his equation some substance. I have a problem with the laws of gravity though, especially the mathematical representation that "every object attracts every other object equally in all directions." The 'fabric' of spacetime model of gravity doesn't lend itself to explain the law of electrostatics. Coulomb's law denotes two types of matter, one 'charged' positive and the opposite type 'charged' negative. An Archimedes screw model for the graviton can explain -both- the gravity law and the electrostatic law, whilst the 'fabric' of spacetime can't. Doesn't this by definition make the helical screw model better than than anything else that has been suggested for the mechanism of the gravity force?? Otherwise the unification of all the forces is an impossiblity imo. Do you have an opinion on my analysis at all?

Best wishes,


egal wrote on Mar. 23, 2011 @ 20:17 GMT
Math is useful in physics to agree on definitions and concepts, if you use your own definition of something then go and convince someone that speaks your language.

Author Yuri Danoyan+ wrote on Mar. 30, 2011 @ 12:25 GMT

I wonder why you did not notice or do not want to notice the radical view that an independent investigator.Remember this name: name,Friedwardt Winterberg

Yuri Danoyan

Georgina Parry wrote on Jun. 6, 2011 @ 21:40 GMT
Dear Dean, congratulations on your prize. As I said I really enjoyed your essay and I am glad the judges found what they were looking for in it too. (I also appreciated your reply to my comment on this essay thread.)

Well done and best wishes, Georgina.

Sridattadev wrote on Sep. 15, 2011 @ 17:51 GMT
Dear Dean,

One who knows thy self knows the absolute truth of the universe.



attachments: 5_UniversalLifeCycle.doc

Sridattadev wrote on Sep. 15, 2011 @ 20:09 GMT
Dear All,

Who am i?

I am not only the processor of the information, I is the source of it.



Tommy Gilbertson wrote on Oct. 16, 2011 @ 08:22 GMT
Just an emergent propertie' arising from the superposition of ideas grokked from my old, stagnant essay thread, way over There. Passing thru:

Ten^3 Halloween Costumes

Tommy Gilbertson wrote on Oct. 16, 2011 @ 08:36 GMT
Oh, yeah, almost forgot to mention the physics-angle. Anyway now we offer mobile battery solutions that last for weeks between charging. As seen on CNN.

we are witholding our 0-90% discounts in price links and codes, until we see some good sales of this brand new technology our partners have Developed. Enjoy.

We never said this, as it is impossible to offer any kind of discount on a newly invented tech. For we have to get a benchmark of measurement, here in the new android currency economy. Then we can offer discounts on our affiliates stuff, right everybody? It's more than partly out of my control now. Google the A.I. only demands that you maximize your quality with good content and a satisfied sales record for the specific items you offer. We are getting there, so help out and enjoy a costume. I painted my Armour gold. Variations of this puppy could create 100's of new costumes. And it can be reinforced lol. Time to go protest peacefully somewhere around the world; basically, in any direction there is a protest. The basic common idea behind it is fairness, fixing the economy, ending corruption, no citizens paying or losing at all for other slick big crimes,a nd modifying that dang ole US Person status for businesses (they should be americans first). We can get behind that.

Also sell eveything for cheapest prices globally. You gotta find it, because it may all end Nov. 1st. Cheapest dog food and cat food and all pet food worldwide (made in america)... being ignored is productive, when Ph.D's glance askance. a challenge, now getting a life of it's own, incidentally. rock on , we invented PsychoHistory...

Tommy Gilbertson wrote on Oct. 16, 2011 @ 08:45 GMT
that last paragraph above is literal,

Everything for Cheap

on that page we currently sell Everything, at the lowest prices globally. This will probably end nov. 1st.

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