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Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Woodrow Shew
University of Arkansas

Project Title

Physical Constraints on Mental Information Capacity and Information Output

Project Summary

How is a thought translated into bodily action? What keeps in check those thoughts which do not translate into action? Answers to these questions strike at the heart of how we behave and interact with the world. From another perspective, the brain is just a complicated chunk of atoms and, as such, constitutes one of the most complex information processing entities in the physical world. Here we propose experiments which aim to discover new principles governing information transfer from the brain to the outside world. Our promising initial experiments as well as previous work suggests that the physics of phase transitions (e.g. water to steam, paramagnetism to ferromagnetism) holds the key to profound new progress on this aim. By tuning the nature of the synapses which mediate interactions among brain cells, we may tune the brain through a phase transition. Our experiments will directly test the new idea that when the brain is poised at the tipping point of a phase transition, it is most capable of translating thought into action.

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