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Current Essay Contest

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

Previous Contests

Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability Essay Contest
December 24, 2019 - March 16, 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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Peter Bauch: on 10/5/12 at 5:03am UTC, wrote Dear Peter, Thanks for your positive feedback and support! Being an...

Peter Jackson: on 10/4/12 at 14:00pm UTC, wrote Peter Your toroid model seems fundamental, elegant and simple. I also of...

Sergey Fedosin: on 10/4/12 at 5:26am UTC, wrote If you do not understand why your rating dropped down. As I found ratings...

Peter Bauch: on 10/3/12 at 22:05pm UTC, wrote Dear Georgina, Thanks for taking the time to read my essay and your...

Georgina Woodward: on 10/3/12 at 8:52am UTC, wrote Dear Peter Bauch, Your diagrams are beautiful and must have taken...

Peter Bauch: on 9/28/12 at 3:49am UTC, wrote Dear Hoang Cao Hai, Thank you - your evaluation of my essay is...

Hoang Hai: on 9/27/12 at 9:30am UTC, wrote Dear peter bauch Correct is your essay very nice presentation. If you...

Peter Bauch: on 9/20/12 at 21:40pm UTC, wrote Ben, Thank you for reading my essay and your appreciative remarks! I read...


Lorraine Ford: "John, I would say that you need to think what you mean by “physical..." in Emergent Reality: Markus...

John Cox: "Lorraine, That clarifies, thanks. I'd be in the camp that argues for a..." in Emergent Reality: Markus...

Steve Dufourny: "We have a big philosophical problem with the strings and the photons like..." in Alternative Models of...

Steve Dufourny: "If my equation is correct, E=mc^2+Xl^2 , so how can we take this enormous..." in Alternative Models of...

Lorraine Ford: "Re "I tend to speed-read then review before scoring after reading a good..." in Undecidability,...

John Cox: "George, We shouldn't conflate contradiction with inconsistency. QM has a..." in Watching the Watchmen:...

John Cox: "Georgi, by and large I agree. Near the end of the discussion panel,..." in Watching the Watchmen:...

click titles to read articles

First Things First: The Physics of Causality
Why do we remember the past and not the future? Untangling the connections between cause and effect, choice, and entropy.

Can Time Be Saved From Physics?
Philosophers, physicists and neuroscientists discuss how our sense of time’s flow might arise through our interactions with external stimuli—despite suggestions from Einstein's relativity that our perception of the passage of time is an illusion.

A devilish new framework of thermodynamics that focuses on how we observe information could help illuminate our understanding of probability and rewrite quantum theory.

Gravity's Residue
An unusual approach to unifying the laws of physics could solve Hawking's black-hole information paradox—and its predicted gravitational "memory effect" could be picked up by LIGO.

Could Mind Forge the Universe?
Objective reality, and the laws of physics themselves, emerge from our observations, according to a new framework that turns what we think of as fundamental on its head.

January 21, 2020

CATEGORY: Questioning the Foundations Essay Contest (2012) [back]
TOPIC: Newton's Apple Revisited by Peter Bauch [refresh]
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Author Peter Bauch wrote on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 14:09 GMT
Essay Abstract

Will an "ultimate theory" giving us an understanding of the nature of reality be simple? So far nothing has been simple. While general relativity's equivalence of gravitation and acceleration is easily understood the resulting field equations are extremely complicated. Richard Feynman used simple arrow diagrams as a basis for QED that required decades of work in path integrals to refine. It seems to be a tacit assumption that any new discovery in theoretical physics will be followed by a complex solution. Even the path of reductionism leads to quarks sometimes thought to be composed of irreducible strings, ironically landing on some of the most intricate mathematics of all in string theory. It is easy to see how this mindset would be difficult to escape. I show how the assumption that a solution should be complex may underestimate the possibility of a simple solution - even one devoid of mathematics or formulas.

Author Bio

Born in the year the neutrino was discovered, I am a non-professional with an interest in cosmology. I studied some mathematics and physics at the university level.

Download Essay PDF File

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Anonymous wrote on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 19:32 GMT
Thanks for sharing your essay! Also, I really like the professional look of the diagrams.

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Peter Bauch replied on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 21:51 GMT
My pleasure and thanks for the compliment! I used Rhino 3D for the diagrams.

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Jeff Baugher wrote on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 18:23 GMT

You have an interesting eye for seeing patterns. I agree in that the equations can be so complicated in that they obscure some simple helpful analogies. I recently posted a sketch in addition to my essay and would like your opinion on what I could do to clarify my arguments.



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Author Peter Bauch wrote on Sep. 5, 2012 @ 23:40 GMT

Thank you! I cannot offer any suggestions to your work since it involves the equations of general relativity and they are well beyond my scope. I studied physics and matrix algebra at the 1st year level, advanced calculus 2nd year and partial differential equations at the 3rd so you can see my position. However, this was enough for me to follow my own interests and not be intimidated by the complexity in physics – I at least have a rough understanding of various concepts. I must say that I am flattered that someone at your level would offer support considering the radical departure of my work, but I think you are someone who can appreciate the “anything goes” approach when it comes to making sense of thorny cosmological issues. Perusing your essay and sketch I found myself admiring your brainstorming style and you are not afraid to offer fresh ideas. I wish you the best in obtaining your doctorate!



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Member Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 05:11 GMT

Interesting essay and marvelous graphics! (I know others have remarked about this, but it is certainly worthy of one more acknowledgement.)

My view is that simple physical ideas do sometimes lead to horribly complicated mathematics, just because the less you assume, the more you have to explain. On the other hand, if you assume a lot of special structure at the beginning, the mathematics does not necessarily become so bad. Since I think that the physical ideas should be simple and convincing (concepts like cause and effect), I'm willing to accept that the math may have to be hard in order to get the job done.

For example, the usual models of spacetime involve manifolds, which assume a great deal of special structure, but are also mathematically convenient. If you stop taking the manifold for granted, you might be in for some difficult mathematics, but perhaps you can have more confidence that the physical ideas themselves are based on solid ground.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading it! Take care,

Ben Dribus

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Author Peter Bauch wrote on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 21:40 GMT

Thank you for reading my essay and your appreciative remarks! I read your essay and was impressed by your boldness in challenging assumptions in general relativity. Being weighted in mathematics, as you are, should serve you well in providing fresh insight in the field of physics. I am reminded how one of my math professors joked that engineers have to build things, physicists have to write things down and mathematicians just think. I read somewhere that Einstein himself lamented that he wished he were weighted in math.

I also liked your statement pointing out "the need for creative ideas about what experimental phenomena to search for and how to search for them." By the way, you have an excellent writing style.

Wishing you well in completing your PhD and a successful career!


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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 09:30 GMT
Dear peter bauch

Correct is your essay very nice presentation.

If you like the simple but specific,let to check out and comment on my essay (and all supplements) as well as my draft for a TOE.

Kind Regards !


August 23, 2012 - 11:51 GMT on this essay contest.

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Author Peter Bauch replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 03:49 GMT
Dear Hoang Cao Hai,

Thank you - your evaluation of my essay is appreciated!

I read your essay and I find that we share some similar ideas. For example, in opposition to the standard view that the space between galaxies expands forever, you prefer a universe that expands and then collapses. My model agrees with that view. The standard view that the universe will "freeze out" into a flat state is based on the fact that the universe is now expanding at an accelerating rate. Yet the possibility exists that at some time in the future it will stop expanding and begin collapsing. I don't like the idea of a universe that freezes out because it violates the law of conservation of energy on a cosmic scale. Stephen Hawking at one time proposed a model of an eternal cyclical universe before moving on to other ideas.

You said the Creator will teach us with practical measures - in my idea it is the mere shape of an apple that may be the Creator's way of familiarizing us with the structure of the universe.

Hope all is well in Vietnam,


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Georgina Woodward wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 08:52 GMT
Dear Peter Bauch,

Your diagrams are beautiful and must have taken considerable care to produce on top of the time it takes to put together an essay for a contest such as this. They are well done. I don't have much interest in models of how the universe began as I think that it is much more plausible that it always has been. So forgive me if do not speak enthusiastically or critically of your proposed mechanism. Its great to have the opportunity to read such a diversity of ideas in this contest, including your own. Kind regards Georgina : )

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Author Peter Bauch replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 22:05 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Thanks for taking the time to read my essay and your supportive comment! I enjoyed your essay and like your illustration that looks like it belongs in a textbook.

You make a good point in saying that the universe always has been. It's one of only two possibilities and I think it's wise to explore both. My model tries to answer one of FQXi's foundational questions: "What happened before the Big Bang?" The cosmic microwave background suggests that the universe was at one time a compact proton plasma and the extrapolation beyond that to a singularity seems logical but I think if the universe's birth occurred at that time it would result in a symmetrical distribution of matter and there would be no gravitational clumping to form stars of different sizes. A groundwork for asymmetry may have had to precede the Big Bang.

My model is reductionism taken to an extreme but I think that if enough layers of complexity in reality are peeled away the game may change from chess to checkers. It may be a theory only its mother could love, but as you pointed out in your Max Tegmark quote, even weird theories should be considered. Einstein said, "If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it."

We can only throw more spaghetti against the wall and hope some of it will stick.

All the best,


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Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 05:26 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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Peter Jackson wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 14:00 GMT

Your toroid model seems fundamental, elegant and simple. I also of course like it as it is close to my own 'fractal' toroidal cosmology and particle basis. Discussed more in last years essay than this. Nice essay, and shouldn't be so low, so a little boost coming. I hope you'll read mine, which this year tries to explain the very simple kinetic basis or deriving SR from QM, but very difficult to assimilate due to the deeply held assumptions challenged. It's doing well, as many glimpse the ontological construction but only the less indoctrinated seem to grasp it. That may give you a head start! I hope you do read it, and enjoy it at whatever level.

Well done, and Best wishes


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Author Peter Bauch replied on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 05:03 GMT
Dear Peter,

Thanks for your positive feedback and support! Being an architect it's no wonder you can make any sense of my model since it requires extensive visualization. Although simple, it does contain a complex topological shape - the torus - as you pointed out. I was an architectural draftsman at one time, which may explain my penchant for illustration.

I'm not too familiar with the content of your essay (somewhat over my head) but I must say it's extremely well laid out overall and cannot be more interesting. Judging by the response to your essay so far, perhaps your mechanism will not be ignored after all. I like the importance you place on astrophysical phenomena in formulating your ideas.

Best of luck in the contest,


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