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Current Essay Contest

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Previous Contests

Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability Essay Contest
December 24, 2019 - April 24, 2020
Contest Partners: Fetzer Franklin Fund, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation

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
Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fund.

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
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American

Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American

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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Dirk Pons: on 10/10/12 at 2:56am UTC, wrote Thanks Sergey! Nice exercise in quantitative maths! Though in this case...

Sergey Fedosin: on 10/4/12 at 8:28am UTC, wrote If you do not understand why your rating dropped down. As I found ratings...

Sergey Fedosin: on 10/2/12 at 17:18pm UTC, wrote After studying about 250 essays in this contest, I realize now, how can I...

Vladimir Tamari: on 9/29/12 at 9:32am UTC, wrote Dear Dirk, Hello. This is group message to you and the writers of some 80...

Benjamin Dribus: on 9/28/12 at 19:58pm UTC, wrote Dear Dirk, Thanks for the excellent answers, and particularly for the...

Dirk Pons: on 9/28/12 at 9:49am UTC, wrote Ben Your third point relates to string theory. That was not our starting...

Dirk Pons: on 9/28/12 at 9:37am UTC, wrote Yes, I thought that was an interesting idea. You call it nesting, whereas...

Sergey Fedosin: on 9/28/12 at 8:48am UTC, wrote Dear Dirk, Arion and Aiden, In the Theory of Infinite Nesting of Matter...


Josh Hoffman: "Frontiers of Fundamental Physics The world's most important and..." in Frontiers of Fundamental...

Steve Dufourny: "Dear Jonathan, this fifth force possessing the main codes if it exists is..." in 16th Marcel Grossmann...

Steve Dufourny: "I try now to correlate my equation about the mass energy equivalence of the..." in 16th Marcel Grossmann...

Steve Dufourny: "Hi , the problem is complex considering this consciousness. There are..." in The Quantum Music Makers

jim h: ""One approach is to recognize that [...] a conscious experience depends on..." in The Quantum Music Makers

Jim Snowdon: "For us, time seems real, enforced by the relentless, constant rotational..." in The Nature of Time

John Cox: "Our human sense of a flow of time only suggests that there are some..." in Can Time Be Saved From...

PhysicsPfan: "The phrase above "...argued that time does not exist at all" shows how..." in Can Time Be Saved From...

click titles to read articles

Quanthoven's Fifth
A quantum computer composes chart-topping music, programmed by physicists striving to understand consciousness.

The Math of Consciousness: Q&A with Kobi Kremnitzer
A meditating mathematician is developing a theory of conscious experience to help understand the boundary between the quantum and classical world.

Can We Feel What It’s Like to Be Quantum?
Underground experiments in the heart of the Italian mountains are testing the links between consciousness and collapse theories of quantum physics.

The Thermodynamic Limits of Intelligence: Q&A with David Wolpert
Calculating the energy needed to acquire and compute information could help explain the (in)efficiency of human brains and guide the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.

Gambling Against the Second Law
Using precision thermometry to make mini heat engines, that might, momentarily, bust through the thermodynamic limit.

August 19, 2022

CATEGORY: Questioning the Foundations Essay Contest (2012) [back]
TOPIC: Bundles of Nothingness: Unravelling the Zero-Dimensional Particle Premise of Fundamental Physics by Dirk Pons, Arion Pons, and Aiden Pons [refresh]
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Author Dirk Pons wrote on Jul. 16, 2012 @ 12:39 GMT
Essay Abstract

The conventional conceptual framework for fundamental physics is built on a tacit construct: the premise of particles being zero-dimensional (0-D) points. There has never been a viable alternative to this, and the Bell-type inequalities preclude large classes of alternative designs with hidden variables. Although they do not absolutely preclude the possibility of particles having non-local hidden-variable (NLHV) designs, there is the additional difficulty of finding a solution within the very small freedom permitted by the constraints. Nonetheless we show that it is possible to find such a design. We propose the internal structures and discrete field structures of this ‘cordus’ particule, and the causal relationships for the behaviour of the system. This design is shown to have high conceptual fitness to explain a variety of fundamental phenomena in a logically consistent way. It provides insights into the fundamentals of matter, force, energy and time. It offers novel explanations to long-standing enigmas and suggests that a reconceptualisation of fundamental physics is feasible. We thus show that the 0-D point premise can be challenged, and is likely to have profound consequences for physics when it falls.

Author Bio

The Cordus conjecture is the result of design thinking applied to fundamental physics. It was conducted by the Pons family (New Zealand) as a home thought-experiment. Dirk, who led the research team, has a PhD in engineering design, and has previously been a member of the team that designed the radically unorthodox and successful Fisher + Paykel ‘DishDrawer’ dishwasher. He currently lectures engineering at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. Arion (17 yrs) is studying engineering, and Aiden (13 yrs) is in secondary school.

Download Essay PDF File

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 00:27 GMT
Dear Pons family,

You have produced a very interesting essay. I accept completely your rejection of zero-dimensional "point" particles, the mathematical convenience that allowed physics to replace complex bodies with a point at their center-of-gravity. The problem, as you point out, comes when 'small' particles are considered to be structureless points.

Your imaginative design addresses some of the problems and your list of "high fitness" explanations (that you list in your appendix) is quite extensive.

As you point out, most of us do not even think in terms of a "nonlocal hidden variable" (NLHV) approach and you are to be congratulated for exploring this route.

Although I agree with you that "there is no obvious impediment to a mathematical formulation" of your design, this is apparently a task that still has to be accomplished. If, while working on that task, you wish to take a break and read about another approach based on non-point particles that also attempts to address the same problems that you do, I invite you to read my essay, The Nature of the Wave Function. Due to the 9 page constraint, I do not focus on the particle itself, but on the wave (function) it induces. While it may at first appear to be the classical de Broglie particle, I explain why it is not.

Finally, congratulations on making your efforts a family project. Most families appreciate the difficulty in pulling something like this off. Good luck in the contest.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Anonymous replied on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 10:14 GMT
Thank you Edwin.

It is interesting that there are a number of essays that touch, more or less, on the premises of locality and the structure of particles, including yours of course. Certainly the issue of locality -or the lack thereof- have been particularly vexatious for physics. In particular, a lot of the physical incongruence of existing explanations arises in this area.

And yes, you are right that we have not yet demonstrated the mathematical validity of our approach. Mathematical tools have been used extensively by others to probe for deeper physics. This approach has been used by so many people, for so long, and so competently .... but ultimately has been somewhat unsuccessful in finding deep explanatory insights. That in itself is sufficient reason, from a design perspective, to take a path less trodden.

If our idea has merit, then we would certainly like to further develop its mathematical representation, or support others in that task. However at present our focus is on further conceptual work, i.e. the application of the idea to additional phenomena.

Best wishes


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James Lee Hoover wrote on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 20:09 GMT
Pons Family,

Are you speaking of 1-D particles in string theory?


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Author Dirk Pons replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 08:43 GMT

Thanks for your question. No we are not referring to string theory. This is a different methodology and an independent line of thought to string theory. It just so happens to also result in a two-ended linear concept for particles. I suppose there might be some resemblance to string theory in terms of the linear idea, but the similarity is probably superficial.

For example our construct predicts a specific 3D geometry for the ends of particle, whereas string theory is not this specific about structures. Our idea is better understood as a non-local hidden variable solution, one with a specific physical substructure.

Essentially what we are saying is that if particles were to have the type of structure we propose, then it becomes possible to make sense of many puzzling phenomena. The work is thus a qualitative solution. In this way it is further differentiated from string theory, which of course is primarily a mathematical treatment.

Thank you


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Gene H Barbee replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 15:55 GMT
Dirk, I read your essay and am still thinking it. Although I worked in R&D for many years I found very few creative people like your self. In thinking about your cordus proposal, I am wondering if two ends are another separation we need to consider. I was intrigued by the statement “one end is not observed”. I am a believer in dark matter and think it is a neutron like neutrino (same mass just not observed). Also, I am able to understand the properties of the mesons and baryons if they are “double” particles with one observable and one unobservable half. How far can the two ends be separated? How does one end's properties compare to the other?

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Author Dirk Pons replied on Jul. 20, 2012 @ 09:53 GMT

Yes, as soon as one starts questioning the point premise, then all sorts of new options become available. Your questions are another novel perspective.

In our particular model the two reactive ends both exist: it is just that they energise in turn at the frequency of the particle. Thus both ends are observed. The two ends have identical properties.

Regarding the separation, our model requires that the span (separation between the two ends) for the photon can be increased to macroscopic distances and is not dependent on the energy, whereas the span of massy particles (e.g. electron) is tightly constrained to be inversely proportional to the energy.

Thank you


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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Jul. 20, 2012 @ 03:06 GMT
Dear Pons team

It is heartwarming to think of a family working together on such a project. It is all for the good. As for the essay itself I found myself agreeing with you that a new 'engineering' approach is desirable to solve fundamental problems in physics. Indeed that is what I have done myself. I enjoyed the inventive energy at work to create the Cordus conjecture, the amusing names you have made up hyff and hyffon for some of its properties.

The Cordus might work in some situations as you describe it, but sadly my interest wandered as I realized that you are creating a solution that is at odds with what I have come to believe about nature: that it works causally, locally, deterministically and its interactions are never instantaneous or superluminal. I would be happy if you read my fqxi offering, based on my Beautiful Universe Theory and related researches. I wish that others would try such imaginative approaches by going back to the drawing board to bypass the obvious foundational faults in physics.

Wishing you all the best, Vladimir

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Author Dirk Pons wrote on Jul. 20, 2012 @ 10:18 GMT

Thank you for your comments. Yes, I think we too started with the expectation that lacility was self-evidently true. However our work has made us question that. We can get a physically natural solution to a wide range of otherwise problematic physical phenomena ... but locality had to go.

Figure 3 in your Beautiful universe theory is perhaps not dissimilar to our cordus idea of having two ends to each particle.



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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 06:38 GMT

The universal nodes in my BU theory as single units are bundles of energy that have polarity so yes you might say they have two ends -as do particles that are assembled out of two or more such node linkages. In the case of large polyhedral assemblages of such nodes however, they may or may not have have net polarity depending on the configuration.

Thanks for your interest. Lets keep those mental gears moving one is apt to discover more and more interesting ideas, and one of them may work!



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Joe Fisher wrote on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 13:46 GMT
Dear Doctor Pons,

Although I can express my gratitude for your taking the time to carefully read my essay, there is no way for me to express my awe at the fact you have graciously uncritically compared my thoughts about time to your own thoughts about this intriguing matter. I would like to offer this clarifying example: My youngest daughter enters the room and sits on her grandmother’s lap. I set up a time delay camera then stand by my mother’s shoulder and smile as the camera flash takes the photograph. When the film is developed, it clearly shows the three of us exactly as we were when the flash took place. Obviously, my mother was born before I was and before the camera was made. I was born before my daughter and before the camera was manufactured. My daughter was born after her grandmother and I were born, and after the camera was assembled. According to Stephen Hawking, one can only ever see past events no matter in which direction one looks. I dispute this. I maintain that one can only see whatever one is looking at here and now and I think the photograph proves it.

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Author Dirk Pons wrote on Jul. 31, 2012 @ 09:46 GMT
Related topical paper: The concept that the quantum state of superposition may have an underlying physical origin is covered in a recent paper in Nature doi:10.1038/nphys2309 (see also New Scientist). In their Nature paper, Pusey, Barrett & Rudolph show that the quantum state cannot be understood as merely representing information. To put it another way, the wave function would appear to be based on a underlying real effect. Quite what real form it takes, they cannot say. This is where methods and ideas like ours may offer a way forward.

They end their paper recommending that, "Another [approach] is to construct concrete models of reality wherein one or more of our assumptions fail." Which brings us back to the essay topic: Which of the assumptions is going to have to fail?

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Aug. 7, 2012 @ 09:33 GMT
Dear Dirk Pons,

As ‘nothing is always something’, if we think of something on the nothingness what we have assumed, we may presume something with 1-D string, from the wave mechanics of two particles in wave functions.

With best wishes


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Author Dirk Pons replied on Aug. 8, 2012 @ 07:54 GMT

Yes, the 1-D structures of string theory are another alternative to points. But as you know, string theory really struggles to ground itself back in the physical world, and therefore lacks explanatory power.

thank you


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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Aug. 12, 2012 @ 06:56 GMT
Thanks for the reply, Dear Dirk Pons,

In the current scenario of string theory predictions, we need some adaptations in that, we may also include eigen-rotational strings, with oscillating strings. I think, this may enable to evolve a generic wave mechanics in analogy with neutrino oscillation and may proceed with the change of our assumptions of a finite universe between singularities that is not realistic. When we consider that string has mass, Higgs mechanism also may gain much from string mechanics for the smooth transition of particle scenario from point to string, expected in SM and that may differ from our current predictions on BSM.

With best regards,


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Member Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 21:49 GMT
Dear D.J., A.D., A.J.,

I just read your interesting essay. It certainly rates high for creativity and interest. I have a few remarks and questions.

1. The “cordus” idea is intriguing. It raises some immediate questions, many of which you answer in the paper. One question I still have, however , is what about the no-signalling theorem? In other words, why can’t one send superluminal signals along the cordus?

2. You point out the ambiguity of the terms “locality,” “realism,” and “local realism.” I think this is a very important point. In particular, locality refers to some sort of metric property; a way of measuring “distance” in spacetime. But many theories of quantum gravity predict that the manifold structure of spacetime (along with the metric) breaks down at small scales. How then does one measure distance? My opinion is that we should turn the problem around and DEFINE locality in terms of causality; i.e., if two systems interact, then they are local. The hypothesis then is that the “manifold” structure of spacetime along with its metric emerges on large scales. This might be roughly equivalent to your Principle of Wider Locality (page 5). I discuss this and similar issues from the causal perspective in my essay On the Foundational Assumptions of Modern Physics. I’d appreciate your thoughts!

3. There is at least some conceptual similarity to the “open strings” of string theory. Have you compared the two ideas? ( I know they aren’t exactly the same; for instance, the interaction conditions would be different).

Thanks for the interesting read, and take care!

Ben Dribus

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Author Dirk Pons wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 05:19 GMT
Dear Ben

Thanks for your interest. You ask some deep questions and I can see that a superficial answer will not be enough. I will split the responses, so you and any other readers can respond further as necessary.

Thank you

Dirk Pons

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Author Dirk Pons wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 05:25 GMT
Regarding superluminal communication, we acknowledge that is an incompletely resolved matter and offer some responses. Let's first be clear about the basic point of difference. The cordus model provides for superluminal coordination of the two reactive ends of the particle, via the fibril that connects them. The superluminal coordination is used to keep the two reactive ends in complementary...

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Author Dirk Pons wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 07:43 GMT
Your second question related to locality.

Yes, we feel the concepts of locality and local-realism are confounded. We are comfortable with the definitions of both, which we understand as follows, but not with rolling them together. The principle of locality is that the behaviour of an object is only affected by its immediate surroundings, not by distant objects or events elsewhere. Hence...

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Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 08:48 GMT
Dear Dirk, Arion and Aiden,

In the Theory of Infinite Nesting of Matter (my essay) all the objects (particles, stars, metagalaxies and so on) have internal structure, they are not point like. But because of Similarity of matter levels the particles are similar to stars objects. For example proton is similar to neutron star. I think it is the natural way to imagine particles world.

Sergey Fedosin

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Author Dirk Pons replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 09:37 GMT
Yes, I thought that was an interesting idea. You call it nesting, whereas we see it more as a piecewise quilt. Thank you.

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Author Dirk Pons wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 09:49 GMT

Your third point relates to string theory.

That was not our starting perspective. The cordus model is physically descriptive and built by design, whereas string theory provides a family of abstract mathematical models without physical interpretation. The two could not have more different methodologies. However as we have progressed we have become aware that there is some commonality in outcomes. There is a similarity in the structural models, e.g. for the photon, as you noticed.

Common shape might be only a coincidence but there is another curious match: To fully define a cordus particule requires 11 geometric independent-variables. This is the same number of dimensions predicted by some variants of string theory. Coincidence? (This was not something we tried to design into cordus, nor was it even evident at the outset). Perhaps they are describing the same thing from different perspectives?

String theory considers its variables to be orthogonal spatial dimensions ... and (unsurprisingly) struggles to give them physical interpretation in a 3D world. Cordus considers its variables to be geometric independent-variables. Are these two things really very different? Are string theorists able to reinterpret their variables as HV geometry? Doing so could open exciting new opportunities. I have not seen that possibility raised in the string literature (it may still be there?).

Dirk Pons

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Member Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 19:58 GMT
Dear Dirk,

Thanks for the excellent answers, and particularly for the extra references. I see that you have thoroughly considered these points, and your essay represents only the tip of the iceberg. I imagine I will have some further questions when I have had a chance to read a bit more.

Just to clarify my own approach, although I use causal relations to define locality, I don't mean that elements in a given "antichain" (i.e. spatial section) are causally related. Rather, two causally unrelated elements with a common descendent (i.e., with a causal relation to the same "future" element) are a "one unit of distance apart in space." Causal relations directly define the arrow of time, and only indirectly define the spatial structure. This potentially provides enough information to recover geometry up to a conformal factor, and giving appropriate volume information supplies this as well.

You mention potential complementarity between "spatial and temporal (i.e. causal) relations." I have been having a discussion with the "shape dynamics" folks (Sean Gryb, Flavio Mercati, Daniel Alves), and also Lawrence Crowell, about precisely this sort of duality. All of them have interesting essays in this contest. Shape dynamics (invented by Barbour) takes the distances between spatially-separated events to be fundamental, while causal theory (at least my version) takes the causal (i.e. temporal) relations to be fundamental. Your "cordus" idea bears some superficial similarity to shape dynamics because the entangled photons are spacelike separated yet "aware" of each other, but it is different (in particular, quantum-theoretic, while shape dynamics builds quantum theory from sums over a configuration space).

Anyway, part of that discussion is on my thread. Your further thoughts would be very welcome. Take care,


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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 09:32 GMT
Dear Dirk,

Hello. This is group message to you and the writers of some 80 contest essays that I have already read, rated and probably commented on.

This year I feel proud that the following old and new online friends have accepted my suggestion that they submit their ideas to this contest. Please feel free to read, comment on and rate these essays (including mine) if you have not already done so, thanks:

Why We Still Don't Have Quantum Nucleodynamics by Norman D. Cook a summary of his Springer book on the subject.

A Challenge to Quantized Absorption by Experiment and Theory by Eric Stanley Reiter Very important experiments based on Planck's loading theory, proving that Einstein's idea that the photon is a particle is wrong.

An Artist's Modest Proposal by Kenneth Snelson The world-famous inventor of Tensegrity applies his ideas of structure to de Broglie's atom.

Notes on Relativity by Edward Hoerdt Questioning how the Michelson-Morely experiment is analyzed in the context of Special Relativity

Vladimir Tamari's essay Fix Physics! Is Physics like a badly-designed building? A humorous illustrate take. Plus: Seven foundational questions suggest a new beginning.

Thank you and good luck.


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Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 17:18 GMT
After studying about 250 essays in this contest, I realize now, how can I assess the level of each submitted work. Accordingly, I rated some essays, including yours.

Cood luck.

Sergey Fedosin

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Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 08:28 GMT
If you do not understand why your rating dropped down. As I found ratings in the contest are calculated in the next way. Suppose your rating is
was the quantity of people which gave you ratings. Then you have
of points. After it anyone give you
of points so you have
of points and
is the common quantity of the people which gave you ratings. At the same time you will have
of points. From here, if you want to be R2 > R1 there must be:
In other words if you want to increase rating of anyone you must give him more points
then the participant`s rating
was at the moment you rated him. From here it is seen that in the contest are special rules for ratings. And from here there are misunderstanding of some participants what is happened with their ratings. Moreover since community ratings are hided some participants do not sure how increase ratings of others and gives them maximum 10 points. But in the case the scale from 1 to 10 of points do not work, and some essays are overestimated and some essays are drop down. In my opinion it is a bad problem with this Contest rating process. I hope the FQXI community will change the rating process.

Sergey Fedosin

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Author Dirk Pons replied on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 02:56 GMT
Thanks Sergey!

Nice exercise in quantitative maths!

Though in this case it's much more efficient to use a qualitative method: it is self-evident that only scores that differ from the existing mean will change it. However I appreciate that the discourse of physics is somewhat limited in available communication channels and consequently cannot comprehend things, however simple, unless expressed mathematically. Your equation does the job perfectly!

Actually we are not too worried about the score for our article. We are not concerned whether it goes higher or lower, and we certainly would not want anyone pumping it up artificially as that would be dishonest. There are much more winning entries than ours, and we are not going to win any place whatever we do! Instead our purpose in entering is to engage in the debate and offer our own ideas for others to consider.

The real challenge is the volume of entries. It is good to see so many, but it certainly is very difficult to read and respond to them all. I have read quite a few, but by no means all the essays. I feel sorry for the judges! And just because one essay is popular, does that really mean it is radical? Sometimes the more obscure and unpopular essays are more thought-provoking. Those are the ones that I try to get to.

thank you


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