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Current Essay Contest

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What Is “Fundamental”
October 28, 2017 to January 22, 2018
Sponsored by the Fetzer Franklin Fund and The Peter & Patricia Gruber Foundation

Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
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Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Contest Partners: Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and The John Templeton Foundation
Media Partner: Scientific American


How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
Contest Partners: The Gruber Foundation, J. Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
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Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
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What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
Contest Partners: Astrid and Bruce McWilliams

The Nature of Time
August - December 2008

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basudeba: on 3/20/11 at 6:00am UTC, wrote Sub: Possibility of manipulation in judging criteria – suggestions for...

James Hoover: on 3/15/11 at 17:44pm UTC, wrote Thanks, Wilhelmus, you have obviously given a lot of thought to my...

Anonymous: on 3/14/11 at 14:40pm UTC, wrote Hi James, I thank you for readingmy essay, you asked the connection...

James Hoover: on 3/12/11 at 19:20pm UTC, wrote Thanks, Vladimir. Bigger and better things for you. Jim

James Hoover: on 3/12/11 at 19:19pm UTC, wrote Thanks, Edwin. As you know, it is always gratifying to have your views read...

James Hoover: on 3/12/11 at 19:17pm UTC, wrote Thanks, Tom. True words. Jim

Ray Munroe: on 3/12/11 at 17:12pm UTC, wrote Hi Jim, I was thinking more about the large BH swallowing the small BH. I...

Vladimir Tamari: on 3/12/11 at 13:16pm UTC, wrote Dear James I enjoyed the unhurried and poetic pace of your essay, based as...


Georgina Woodward: "Joe, sensory products are what is seen. Illumination matters because it..." in The Sudoku Universe, Why...

fally jonash: "It is a well-maintained site where people can learn about various topics. I..." in A Wonderful Outcome

fally jonash: "Your article is very interesting and fantastic, at the same time the theme..." in In Search Of Other Earths

Joe Fisher: "Dear Georgina, The (INVISIBLE) “sensory products” you keep writing..." in The Sudoku Universe, Why...

Joe Fisher: "Dear Georgina, I failed to mention that although conventional chess game..." in The Complexity Conundrum

Joe Fisher: "Dear Steve Agnew, On December 7, 2017, I have emailed : “Dear..." in The Complexity Conundrum

Lena Smith: "All HP printers carry a unique qualities. if the product is still under..." in Conjuring a Neutron Star...

Lena Smith: "All HP printers carry a unique qualities. if the product is still under..." in Conjuring a Neutron Star...

click titles to read articles

The Complexity Conundrum
Resolving the black hole firewall paradox—by calculating what a real astronaut would compute at the black hole's edge.

Quantum Dream Time
Defining a ‘quantum clock’ and a 'quantum ruler' could help those attempting to unify physics—and solve the mystery of vanishing time.

Our Place in the Multiverse
Calculating the odds that intelligent observers arise in parallel universes—and working out what they might see.

Sounding the Drums to Listen for Gravity’s Effect on Quantum Phenomena
A bench-top experiment could test the notion that gravity breaks delicate quantum superpositions.

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

December 11, 2017

CATEGORY: Is Reality Digital or Analog? Essay Contest (2010-2011) [back]
TOPIC: Reality Is Analogue: It Exists in the Flow of Time and Space. by James Lee Hoover [refresh]
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Author James Lee Hoover wrote on Feb. 17, 2011 @ 08:32 GMT
Essay Abstract

Reality exists necessarily. Because it is neither derivative nor dependent, it exists without and in spite of the existence of prescient beings. Prescient beings can only try to predict it based upon discreet observations. Observations map slices of reality in models meant to predict outcomes. The predictions are discontinuous and fleeting. Reality tends to mock humankind’s attempts to explain it. Theories that model an analogue flow of reality come closer to truth. Models are usually digitally based but what they model attempts to simulate the movement and dynamism that reality contains. Reality flows smoothly through eons of time and is a recurring story of birth, death and rebirth, as the singularities of black holes and the Big Bang in their duality might represent. Prescient beings are carried along with that reality while the sub-atomic and the huge know one another in a reality we still can’t model.

Author Bio

I am recently retired from the Boeing Company in Huntington Beach, California, working as a systems engineer. My career in aerospace stretches back over twenty years and involves cost analysis, cost modeling and logistics research. In that span of years I have taught college courses in education, economics, computer science and English. Before the aerospace milestone, I taught high school. In my retirement, I teach online communication classes for Phoenix University and write a column online. I have Masters Degrees in Economics and English and my personal interests and studies include particle physics, cosmology and UFO engineering.

Download Essay PDF File

Georgina Parry wrote on Feb. 18, 2011 @ 09:41 GMT
Dear James,

wanted to let you know I have read you essay. After having read many very complex and highly technical ones it is quite a refreshing relief to read something written very clearly and in plain English.It is nice the way you introduce your essay with a definition. You then give a very broad overview of the topic of reality.I think it -is- very important to consider what is meant by the term reality. I can empathize with your decision to approach the essay question in that particular way. I think your reminder that whatever we think about reality, life -and death go on puts the whole matter back into some kind of humble and accepting perspective. I now feel like singing "Don't worry - be happy!"

Regards and best wishes, Georgina.

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Jim Hoover replied on Feb. 19, 2011 @ 00:38 GMT
Thank you, Georgina. My simple approach arises from a rather simple understanding, but an acute interest and curiosity about cosmology, something my former education and experience didn't acquaint me with.

The Big Bang and Black Holes are absolutely intriguing and humbling wonders.

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Gary Hansen wrote on Feb. 22, 2011 @ 05:30 GMT
Hello again Jim,

In our essays we have covered a lot of common ground.

I question whether your clock analog, which by implication extends backwards and forwards into the past and future, is in fact a good fit. My reading would be that the only reality that we have any clear perception of is "now", and "now" and "now"! As such it is at once a point in time, multiple simultaneous points in time, and (at any particular point in time) the prospect of future points in time.

When you acknowledge (on p.5) that "there are models to depict whatever hypothesis you want to pose", is this truly consistent with your essay title "Reality is Analog ...." when you have stated that such models are typically digital? Is a model of reality real? Can we get any closer to the truth?

Continuing, how should we distinguish string theory from the aether? In my book we suffer from an obdurate confusion between space as volume, dimensions that are means of describing it, and what space contains - which are merely contents.

Good luck in your quest. Remember that all the "real" riches are to be found in the process rather than at the end of the road. Cheers!

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Author James Lee Hoover replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 00:14 GMT

My view of reality is independent of prescient beings and their measurement of time. Still I need to use human trappings to provide a metaphor.

Good points.


Alan Lowey wrote on Feb. 22, 2011 @ 09:54 GMT
Hello James, I liked the flow of your essay and it's easy reading which made a lot of sense. I particularly liked this statement "Yet, humankind's assumption that nothing existed before the Big Bang is also static judgment". I heartily agree and think that a buildup of structure before the big bang is a much more fruitful path of enquiry. Best wishes, Alan

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Alan Lowey replied on Feb. 22, 2011 @ 12:21 GMT
Forgive me Jim, but I've taken the liberty of copying a reply to a question of your's from my own essay forum. It poses an interesting question which I'd like to share with a wider audience:

"I recommend Luminet's book, although I only really enjoyed the first few chapters or so. He continues with his own take on reality which wasn't something that took my interest unfortunately. The basic principle of a wraparound universe and having a mental image of how it can simplify the 'infinity paradox' is of paramount importance imo. I'd just like to re-iterate my point about a spinning helix which travels around a hypersphere being analogous to an electric circuit. Imagine you are on the inside of a battery which is connected to a simple loop of wire which makes an electric circuit. Imagine a handle rotates clockwise from the positive terminal as seen from your internal perspective. Now trace this turning handle as it travels along the wire and arrives at the negative terminal of the battery. Which way is the handle now turning from the viewpoint of the battery's interior? Is it clockwise or is it anti-clockwise?"

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Author James Lee Hoover replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 00:10 GMT
Thank you, Alan, you are very kind.

I agree with your assessment of Luminet. My idea of symmetry can't posit a wraparound universe. It makes me think of a "funhouse".

Jim Hoover

Author James Lee Hoover replied on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 22:45 GMT

Should have caught your reflective statement.


Alan Lowey wrote on Feb. 23, 2011 @ 10:45 GMT
Hi Jim, there's a playful mind game and question at the end of my last post, I think you may have missed it. Do you see the connection between spin, loops and mirror images? Best wishes, Alan

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Jeffrey Schmitz wrote on Feb. 27, 2011 @ 23:44 GMT

I like how you touched on many topics, yet your essay still flowed nicely.

We (humans) are just on the edge of starting to understand. You showed how long the path is in front of us.

All the best,


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Author James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 1, 2011 @ 22:39 GMT
Thank you, Jeff.

Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 1, 2011 @ 13:07 GMT

An enjoyable read, thank you, and worth a higher position. Rather than discuss black holes etc. here I give you a link, for a short paper I think you'll enjoy, derived from the basic theory I give here and a paper currently in Peer review. our views need updating.

And a test, (try it before you link to the above can you spot the black hole in the piccies in my essay. It's only visible via lensing. The solution is in the paper.

Enjoy, and do tell me if you can follow the logic in my essay (you must read it slowly and absorb it), and views on the paper.

Best wishes


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Author James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 1, 2011 @ 22:38 GMT
Thanks, Peter. Higher positions depend on other contestants and FQXi members, none of which I know.

At any rate, I do not find your link.


Noreen wrote on Mar. 3, 2011 @ 16:00 GMT
OK, Jim, this absolutely non-scientific brain followed maybe one-forth of the topic and reasoning presented. I didn't read others, so I can't compare to them, but you definitely caught my interest and attention with several of the topics with which I am familiar. I can say that you tweaked my interest enough that I'll at least scan (and maybe read) articles I run across that cover this topic. What I also can say is that I don't expect to read Hawkins anytime soon. You know what that says at my age. :-) Thank you for including me. I do enjoy your writing. Hugs Noreen :-)

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Paul Halpern wrote on Mar. 3, 2011 @ 22:08 GMT

I really enjoyed your essay, which offers an intriguing depiction of the flowing nature of reality. I like your metaphor of the Phoenix, and your emphasis of renewal. It is interesting that many ancient cultures depicted the cosmos as an endless cycle.

Best wishes,


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Author James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 5, 2011 @ 21:55 GMT

It seems that more and more scientists are looking at the recycle theme. The first I came across was Steinhardt and Turok in the book Endless Universe. Now with the relationship of quasars to star formation in galaxies, more theories of galaxy recycling are being posited too.

Thanks for the nice words.


Russell Jurgensen wrote on Mar. 6, 2011 @ 21:21 GMT
Dear James,

I wanted to say hello and let you know I enjoyed your essay. I like how it touches on the limits of what we can know about reality. Your discussions of black holes and quatum mechanics are interesting, and I wanted to ask a bit more about your thoughts on the quantum mechanics side. Do you think physics will get to a clearly defined point where it says this is as far is we can figure and nothing can be explored deeper? Does it seem like we will always be able to find ways to explain existing theories with deeper models?

Thanks for your interesting essay!

Kind regards, Russell Jurgensen

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Author James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 6, 2011 @ 22:13 GMT
Thanks, Russell.

You pose a heavy and profound question. Somehow I feel that our view of reality will always be distorted just like our atmosphere distorts the view of space. Beyond that, I must lose my body.


Dan T Benedict wrote on Mar. 8, 2011 @ 19:59 GMT
Dear Jim,

I have just finished your essay and must say it was enjoyable. Your essay has a poetic quality missing in most of the entries. One of my favorite lines:

"The long waves of cosmic truth appear to wash upon our shores like an almost 14 billion year old ejection of a super-volcano, the ultimate eruption models calls the Big Bang, this being our way of explaining the phantom forces that still echo in our observatories of earth and near-space. But even the microwave image of the cosmic background reveals a curtain covering the Big Bang"s origin."

This one paragraph carries considerable weight. I hope you enjoyed my essay as much, as I would agree we have similar interests.

Best Regards,


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Author James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 9, 2011 @ 03:34 GMT
Thanks, Dan. I did enjoy your essay and admired your skill in presenting your cosmic singularity, something you describe with more substance than I.


lloyd wrote on Mar. 9, 2011 @ 03:55 GMT
Jim your essay posed an interesting argument in support of reality being Analogue in nature.

It was easy to read. You did not over burden the reader with excessive speculations regarding symmetries, string theory, etc. There seemed to be enough discussion of digital events to support your argument.

It is of course difficult to describe Analogue reality since, it is by nature complicated and can not be easily modeled.

The essence of what I derived from your essay follows, is simplistically stated and may be off base:

"Can Analogue reality be thought of as Time? As Time smoothly flows, it encompasses a multidimensional digital reality composed of all digital occurrences occurring within the Analogue reality at any given point in time. These occurrences involve all digital processes and properties of space, matter and energy."

I think your essay presents rational arguments that are at the very least on par with other essays I have read.

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T H Ray wrote on Mar. 9, 2011 @ 14:41 GMT
Hi Jim,

Thanks for your kind comments in my forum.

You're in good company. As Einstein said, "I'd like to think that the moon still exists even when no one is looking at it."

Nice read. I like the historical breadth of your essay, which adds much interest. Good luck in the contest.

All best,


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T H Ray replied on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 17:42 GMT

I wouldn't invest all the importance of this contest in the rankings. Like everyone else I would like to make the cut, but I accept that there will be many deserving essays that don't, and probably some undeserving ones that do. I think you are going to see some radical changes in the standings by Tuesday, anyway.

The essay forum is still a great oppportunity to get your work before a lot of influential folks in the physics community, no matter the prizewinning outcome.


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Author James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 19:17 GMT
Thanks, Tom. True words.


Author James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 10, 2011 @ 19:50 GMT
Thanks, Tom.

As far as the contest is concerned, I'm afraid I'm stymied.

Your fortunes are looking good though.


Ray Munroe wrote on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 22:45 GMT
Dear Jim,

You and I seem to agree on many controversial points.

I agree with a Multiverse that is so large (possibly infinite?) that we can't observe it all because of our speed of light scale limit, and a finite age for our Observable Universe "locality".

I agree with Supersymmetry - Fermions and Bosons are fundamentally different enough that we need SUSY to combine these concepts into a single TOE (if such exists!).

I like to play with models. If one seems to work, then I keep building on it. If one obviously fails, then I put it aside (for another application later?).

You mentioned that String theory is analog, and this certainly agrees with classical wave theory (a traveling wave on a string), but I think that these strings may also have discrete modes of vibration (like the frequencies of a piano string) that may behave quantum-like (I think that Philip Gibbs and Lawrence Crowell have been having such a discussion on Lawrence's blog site). This ties into a wierd quantum-classical behavior of strings and Philip Gibbs Qubits of Strings. In my models, the end of the string may behave like a site in a discrete lattice.

The BB and BH's seem to be two different sides (bringing forth new life vs. melting down death and decay) of the same coin (singularity). I don't think that a singularity can exist in a finite Universe, therefore the BB must be part of the Multiverse, and BH's must not be "infinite vacuum cleaners". In my blog thread, I have proposed ideas and geometries that may prevent the BH from becoming a true singularity.

You suggested that large BH's may swallow smaller BH's until - ultimately - our observable Universe consists of a single Super BH. I don't know... It is true that gravitational fields effectively stretch out towards an infinite range (falling off as inverse-distance-squared), but it would be difficult (if not impossible once spacetime has collapsed to a point?) for a large BH to move a smaller BH.

Your essay was very readable.

Good Luck and Have Fun!

Dr. Cosmic Ray

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Ray Munroe replied on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 17:12 GMT
Hi Jim,

I was thinking more about the large BH swallowing the small BH. I think that this may be a quantum tunnelling event. It could potentially disrupt spacetime enough to cause something like a white hole. You might bounce the idea off of Lawrence Crowell.

Have Fun!

Dr. Cosmic Ray

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 06:34 GMT

I just realized that I had not commented on your thread, although I had responded to your comment on mine [which I interpreted as a compliment!]

You say: "Most models are digital representations of analog events." We are in agreement on this and that the universe is analog. Many of the essays here are of the opinion that the universe is a digital computer, but if it is to be considered a computer, I believe it is an analog computer. Digital computers are programmed with ones and zeros, stored and retrieved from somewhere, but analog computers are made of real physical components and are 'programmed' by connections.

But the most basic analog physical entity is a 'field', and, as Ray states above, "It is true that gravitational fields effectively stretch out towards an infinite range..." so this means that the analog computer essentially extends over the entire universe. And the essence of such a field is its 'connectivity', which is essentially what General Relativity is all about.

As I remarked to you on my thread, "I begin with a conjecture that only one thing exists in the 'beginning' and that seems to imply a field (which is almost by definition analog.) The logical development of this conjecture leads to a 'threshold' or 'universal constant' and it is this that allows the separation of the universe into two categories, 'above' and 'below' the threshold, and this supports the evolution of 'form' inside the universe, which continues to 'in-form' reality until we reach the universe that you describe in your essay, a reality that "vibrates with life".

So thanks again for reading and commenting on my essay, and thanks for coming down on the side of analogue reality.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 19:19 GMT
Thanks, Edwin. As you know, it is always gratifying to have your views read and considered.


Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 13:16 GMT
Dear James

I enjoyed the unhurried and poetic pace of your essay, based as it was on well-considered and relevant issues in physics and - I am not sure if I am right in labeling it thus - philosophy.

We may not differ so much about our definition of reality as you implied in your note on my essay. You seem to feel there is an absolute reality out there independent of human observers. That is exactly what the physics part of my paper implies - an absolute universe but different observers see it differently. This is the opposite of Einstein's SR whereby he posited that observation is absolute (the speed of light) but the universe (space and time dimensions) are relative and dependent on inertial frame speed.

Best wishes from Vladimir

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Author James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 12, 2011 @ 19:20 GMT
Thanks, Vladimir. Bigger and better things for you.


Anonymous wrote on Mar. 14, 2011 @ 14:40 GMT
Hi James,

I thank you for readingmy essay, you asked the connection between singularities of the big bang and massive black holes, though it is a question taht also touches your essay I will give you the post also here :


Dear James,

In fact I came to my idea of the ultimate limits of our 4-d Universe while studying articles about what happened before the big...

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Author James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 15, 2011 @ 17:44 GMT
Thanks, Wilhelmus, you have obviously given a lot of thought to my question, in the past and now.


basudeba wrote on Mar. 20, 2011 @ 06:00 GMT
Sub: Possibility of manipulation in judging criteria – suggestions for improvement.


We had filed a complaint to FQXi and Scienticfic American regarding Possibility of manipulation in judging criteria and giving some suggestions for improvement. Acopy of our letter is enclosed for your kind information.

“We are a non-professional and non-academic entrant to the Essay...

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