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Anton Biermans: on 12/9/13 at 4:46am UTC, wrote I suggest as topic for the 2014 contest: The Origin of Mass A. Einstein...

James Hoover: on 12/1/13 at 20:17pm UTC, wrote Brendan, A new discovery having the potential to revolutionize science as...

Thomas Ray: on 11/26/13 at 19:25pm UTC, wrote Brendan, Since the next FQXi conference is on information, I think an...

John Merryman: on 11/26/13 at 3:15am UTC, wrote The Physics of Information

James Hoover: on 11/25/13 at 21:01pm UTC, wrote Brendan, I know it is quite difficult to stage a fair contest, especially...

Ryoji Furui: on 11/16/13 at 21:04pm UTC, wrote John, Supersymmetry (and multiverse) can be a survival model for infinite...

Armin Nikkhah Shirazi: on 11/14/13 at 0:08am UTC, wrote Brendan, I do have some suggestions: 1. Of course, I don't know how the...

eAmazigh HANNOU: on 11/8/13 at 20:27pm UTC, wrote To FQXi and all participants, congratulations ! Congratulations for the...


Jim Snowdon: "Hi Steve, Clearly we have motion in our Universe. It is not..." in The Quantum Clock-Maker...

Steve Dufourny: "You are welcome, thanks too for your words. I have never lost the faith..." in The Present State of...

Stefan Weckbach: "Steve, thanks for reading my comment and for replying. Steve, thanks for..." in The Present State of...

Georgina Woodward: "For completeness: Concerning The curved spacetime of GR. Alteration of the..." in Anatomy of spacetime and...

Georgina Woodward: "Spacetime has been postulated to account for individually differing..." in Anatomy of spacetime and...

Steve Dufourny: "Hi Jim, it is a measurement for me in physics considering clocks , it is a..." in The Quantum Clock-Maker...

Georgina Woodward: "Thank you. Good luck." in The Nature of Time

Lorraine Ford: "Rob, As you have not replied, I take it that you now concede that the..." in 16th Marcel Grossmann...

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The Quantum Clock-Maker Investigating COVID-19, Causality, and the Trouble with AI
Sally Shrapnel, a quantum physicist and medical practitioner, on her experiments into cause-and-effect that could help us understand time’s arrow—and build better healthcare algorithms.

Connect the Quantum Dots for a New Kind of Fuel
'Artificial atoms' allow physicists to manipulate individual electrons—and could help to reduce energy wastage in electronic devices.

Can Choices Curve Spacetime?
Two teams are developing ways to detect quantum-gravitational effects in the lab.

The Quantum Engine That Simultaneously Heats and Cools
Tiny device could help boost quantum electronics.

The Quantum Refrigerator
A tiny cooling device could help rewrite the thermodynamic rule book for quantum machines.

September 16, 2021

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: It From Bit, or Bit From It: Results [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Oct. 31, 2013 @ 16:17 GMT
And Now! I am pleased to announce the winners of our 2013 Essay Contest, "It From Bit, or Bit From It?"

The contest theme this year took its inspiration from an idea of John Wheeler, asking whether It came from Bit? Some of our entries of course tried to answer that question directly, but I was happy to see that many entries took on the stickier job of trying to understand just what Wheeler meant with that question. Did he mean, does the actual universe emerge as an evolving answer to a series of yes/no questions? Or did he just mean, do all physical laws reduce to binary computations? Or does the question not make any sense at all?

I must also credit another inspiration for this year's contest: an entry from Julian Barbour into our 2011 contest Digital or Analog. Julian's essay, "Bit From It", anticipated our theme by challenging Wheeler's concept, with the assertion that "things, not information, are primary".

Now, let's get to the winners:

First prize of $10,000 goes to ...

Matt Leifer, for his essay ""It from bit" and the quantum probability rule".

Matt is an independent researcher with a specialty in quantum foundations. His essay presents options for answering the essay question either way, and then argues that the options do not conflict with each other. Matt writes (excellently) about these and related issues on his blog.

Our Second Prize winners, who both receive $5,000, come from contest regulars...

Carlo Rovelli, for "Relative information at the foundation of physics",

and the team of Angelo Bassi, Saikat Ghosh, and Tejinder Singh, for "Information and the foundations of quantum theory".

A further five essays received Third Prize, receiving $2,000 each (and a Membership invitation where applicable), and ten other essays received Fourth Prize and $1,000. Visit this link to view the full list of winners.

I am also happy to announce that we have two Special Commendation Prizes to award this year. These prizes are chosen by our panel of experts to award "non-professional and/or non-academic" entrants, and come with a cash award of $1,000 each. (I need to emphasize that the panel is not able to evaluate all the entries in our contest, so these prizes do not mean that the panel necessarily ranked these entries above all others in terms of overall score. The panel did, though, find them to be good reads and worthy of commendation.)

This year, the panel chose to highlight a pair of student entries, commending them for the attempt to grapple with foundational questions.

Congratulations go to:

Jennifer Nielsen, for "Is Bit It?"


Xiong Wang, for "Bit: from Breaking symmetry of it".

On behalf of all the FQXi administration, I want to thank our cosponsers The Peter & Patricia Gruber Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation for making the contest possible. I also want to thank our media partner Scientific American for helping us put it all together and getting the word out.

And finally, all of us at FQXi want to say thank you to everyone who participated, including the authors of all entries, and everyone who stopped by the forums to read and discuss.

Here's to the next contest!

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James A Putnam wrote on Oct. 31, 2013 @ 16:46 GMT
Congratulations to the winners. Thank you to the judges and sponsors. Thank you to for accepting a broad range of essays from a variety of both highly skilled experts and amateur participants like myself.

James Putnam

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Oct. 31, 2013 @ 17:13 GMT
It looks like a very diverse selection, without a particular bias toward one side of the question or the other.

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Don Limuti wrote on Oct. 31, 2013 @ 18:10 GMT
Brendan and FQXi,

Good job. I found your selection of winners more diverse than in other contests. This is high praise.

I hope in the future you keep improving the contests and do not put them on a back burner.

Thanks to all the contestants. I give you all a 10!

Don L.

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Manuel S Morales wrote on Oct. 31, 2013 @ 18:29 GMT
Interesting results indeed... congrats to the winners!

So as Christian has pointed out, why bother with subjecting entrants to the cut-throught antics of having a peer-to-peer community opinion review if such ratings mean nothing? Nonetheless, I am grateful to FQXi for this experience of meeting such a diverse pool of creative thinkers who has shown me how science is truly an art.

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Oct. 31, 2013 @ 18:54 GMT
The rules do state the winners would be selected from the top community vote getters, not that the community votes would be the final selection. While the selection process is necessarily complicated, given the subject matter, it is not an easy task. I am certainly grateful for the opportunity, but given the amount of effort and energy many put into this contest, it is inevitable there should be some bruised feelings.

My suggestion is that a thread be put up to discuss both the subject and organization of the next contest

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Manuel S Morales replied on Oct. 31, 2013 @ 20:24 GMT
No thanks John, once burnt - twice shy.

Although I truly enjoyed reading such insightful essays and I am happy for the winners, I wish I had not wasted the experimental findings with an opinion contest of this nature. I have no one to blame but myself for subjecting empirical evidence to conjecture. Lesson learned...

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Oct. 31, 2013 @ 20:26 GMT
Congratulations to the winners, and especially to Mark Feeley, who wrote a truly excellent essay, and to Bill McHarris and Xiong Wang.

There are severe problems in physics today. For excellent overviews of this refer to

Unzicker and Jones: "Bankrupting Physics"


Jim Baggott: "Farewell to Reality"


Lee Smolin: "Time Reborn"

Much of the problem, as explained in these books, is essentially political. With the exception of a few essays, such as Mark Feeley's truly excellent essay and a few other tokens, FQXi appears not to escape politics.

In spite of this, FQXi is an excellent platform to expose one's own ideas, to read the good ideas of others, and to discuss these online.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Ryoji Furui wrote on Nov. 1, 2013 @ 02:43 GMT
Congratulations to the winners, as one of readers not as an entrant this time (I was an entrant of last year's).

I've been thinking about "it" and "bit" through one year and what I can say something shortly is that mathematically "it" can be represented as "pi" as one example and when "it" converts to "bit", "bit" will be the infinite continuous number, 3.1415... so "bit" would get incomplete of accuracy.In physics, these could be represented as quantum physics like argued in this contest frequently.But nowadays, as nano technology (classical structures) has reached to quantum physical state, there are some observations reported with the result which matches the insight of Einstein's classical approach and his doubt of quantum probabilities.

I could not show my updates during this contest but I would like to show you mine as attached file or link below. I hope this is for one of explanations of no new physics observed in recent experiments although it is added just a few lines of equation to special relativity.

Thank you,

Ryoji Furui

attachments: r332a.pdf

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Nov. 1, 2013 @ 03:06 GMT
My congratulations to all the winners!

There were many excellent essays, and some of the best came out among the winners. Given the same group of winners; I would have given less favor to some and put others I like more nearer the top, but there you go. There are also other finalists I'd have liked to see in the winner's circle this time, as I think their essays were equally deserving of acclaim.

My thanks to FQXi, the Gruber and Templeton foundations, and Scientific American for hosting this wonderful event. I do hope it continues to be something we can look forward to, and participate in. It would be a shame if the people FQXi deems qualified to be winners were the only ones allowed to participate. But I still hope that some day, those of us who have no reputation to speak of, and only the quality of our writing to recommend us, will be placed on an equal footing for prize eligibility.

I think it would be really nice if the quality of workmanship of the essay submitted was the only criterion for being awarded one of the prizes. But it is evident that this level of fairness is something FQXi still has to work on somewhat. Essays rose or fell depending on the work of their authors outside the contest, and that is easy to spot. It may be that the community of reviewers is too insular, trusting names they know, or perhaps they are simply too timid to go out on a limb for truly excellent work from an unknown or unproven source, but so it goes.

All the Best,


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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Nov. 1, 2013 @ 03:39 GMT
For outsiders looking in..

It is interesting to contemplate what the view might be, for insiders who are looking out at the rest of us. When New York State's Education commissioner John King came to Poughkeepsie, and spoke just down the road from me at Spackenkill High School about the Common Core standards, he encountered some resentment from parents and educators - because their involvement in how these standards are implemented was an afterthought. But the following day; he released a statement that the meeting was "hijacked by special interest groups" looking to derail an open dialog, and cancelled future public events.

What's nearer the truth is likely that King had been shielded from the opinions of everyday people - by special interest groups - up to the day that his visit to Poughkeepsie occurred. And only after then was he carefully made aware that there was no conspiracy by special interest groups, but rather that parents and educators both had legitimate gripes about how the Common Core implementation process was handled up to that point. There have been some encouraging statements made by King, and more meetings scheduled, since that time. But I would have no trouble believing there are some folks at FQXi who feel there must be a conspiracy of crackpots, who try to hijack their contests, rather than honest truth seekers trying to assure that somehow against all odds - great work will get its due.



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Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Nov. 1, 2013 @ 04:28 GMT
To summarize..

We can only hope that - like Commissioner King - the folks at FQXi and elsewhere will come to their senses, about the ways that our involvement in the process is slighted - when the ratings of our fellow authors count for so little. We all attempted to reward authors for significant developments or advances, rather than affirming the status quo, but somehow the final results do not reflect this - and they went with 'safe' alternatives instead. It makes it appear that the Foundational Questions Institute is unwilling to go out on a limb for innovative ideas when they are fresh.

I think the ideas and exposition of some folks who have been left out of the winner's circle are superior! Should we have to wait until they are broadly adopted, or acknowledged by experts, to give them their due? Would someone like Einstein - who was outside of academia when he had some of his greatest ideas - get a chance today? Would FQXi give him one? While he might impress the right people, I have my doubts he'd be given the opportunity. Or he would be a perennial finalist but win no prize.

It is arguable that some great ideas will die on the vine, if the researchers who have them are not rewarded for the sake of ideas and their exposition alone. If the only way that such notions can be awarded prize money is when the authors of FQXi essays have already proven their ideas to the scientific community, the stated mandate of the organization remains unfulfilled - a hollow promise. To clarify; perhaps those of us on the outside know more about some things than you would ever imagine. If you judge by our past accomplishments, rather than looking to the detail of our current efforts, you will never know.



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John Brodix Merryman replied on Nov. 1, 2013 @ 12:02 GMT

I have to say that for someone very much out of the mainstream, I was reasonably pleased that there were essays raising significant conceptual issues, William McHarris comes to mind specifically.

Personally I think the current paradigm is standing on extremely shaky ground. You and I went through this after last year's contest, that time being a measure of change and the only problem being we model it as a measure of sequence, from past to future, as opposed to the physical process turning future into past. This would make spacetime simply a mathematical correlation of measures of duration and distance, nothing more. Which would make the entire expanding universe cosmological model baseless. So that there is some willingness to look outside the mathematical paradigm, is a big step, because there is little recognition just how far down to solid ground they will have to take this. Cracks are starting to show. We can't really ask for more.


John M

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Christian Corda wrote on Nov. 1, 2013 @ 18:53 GMT
Dear Brendan and FQXi,

I regret but this is merely ridiculous and shameful. Your judgement is

purely political. This is the first time in the FQXi contest that you

do not consider neither the first, nor the second, nor the third

classified in the Community Rating. I always were well aware that

people from the Perimeter Institute are strongly advantaged in this

Essay Contest, but this is really too much. You should stop to take

the mick out of participants by claiming that the Community Rating is

important, because what is really important here are political

connections rather than science.


Christian Corda

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Akinbo Ojo replied on Nov. 2, 2013 @ 10:11 GMT
Not all Kudos and not all Knocks for FQXi.


- Got an avenue for my views to be heard for posterity.

- Made new online intellectual friends and sounding boards for ideas. Indeed some are walking encyclopedias (Pentcho V and Peter J are examples).

- Was referred by fellow contestants to information hitherto unknown to me (e.g. I didn’t know Wheeler compared his...

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Neil Bates wrote on Nov. 2, 2013 @ 13:22 GMT
To essentially repeat my comment from the previous, announcement blog at

The winners have been announced, congratulations to them all. There are some papers I was not surprised to see winning and that I consider deserving, just to make a general observation. I can't be objective about the issue, not being a winner, yet would like the following point to gain some reflection: I don't think enough credit went to experimental proposals (whether practical or as thought experiments.) The focus seemed to be on general musings, birds-eye phil-sci reviews at an abstract level. Well, those of course do fit the topic-centered concept better than a specific finding or insight. However, how then is the next specific discovery of something like Hawking radiation or a new technique for finding things out, a particular insight into particle physics, an apparatus proposal etc, going to be rewarded among those who might have a problem getting it published in the usual journals? Specific findings are the meat of scientific progress and should be fully recognized along with broad new perspectives.

My impression was, these contests are mostly to help "outsiders" and less-prestigious thinkers get some attention. Perhaps they should be for amateurs and students, instead of that being just an inclusion and a source of a specific special award. I still think it's good to have this opportunity and appreciate having been able to be in the running. Thoughts, anyone?

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adel sadeq wrote on Nov. 4, 2013 @ 22:49 GMT
My thoughts are that FQXI is trying to walk on a tight rope. On one hand it wants to promote new ideas because itself is affiliated with PI which has the reputation for promoting very unconventional theories(some even in the field consider them crackpots, some silently and some very loudly).

On the other, it does not want to appear that it is promoting full time cranks. To promote or not to promote That is the question.

Last year I did not enter the contest but I did voice my concerns which stands even more clearly now that I participated in the contest. The main point is that non-professional like to have their theories evaluated by professionals whether FQXI members or the judges, and that is certainly not happening to any useful degree.

My solution is to have two categories, which I think it has been suggested. Then for the non professional the voting can be held but it would not affect the results. Also, each entrant pay $100 or so if they want their papers evaluated by a professional judge and a summery of opinion( non-arguable) given by an anonymous judge. Those who don't pay their paper can be published , but they will not enter the contest. The winners would be decided in relative terms to other non professionals.

The judges can be selected by some voting by the paying participants, say two out of five for example. The money will go to the judges to pay for their work and I think those who pay will be motivated more and will do a better job.

This suggestion is just a general idea that can be improved on.

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde wrote on Nov. 5, 2013 @ 14:58 GMT
CONGRATULATIONS for ALL the prize-winners.

CONGRATULATIONS FQXi for the organisation and end decisions of the contest.

This end result indicates that the next community ratings will become more realistic and to the point.

I thank FQXi for the chance they offered me to publish my idea's in a community full of scientists and hope to participate also next time.

My essay will be still available for critics. (topic 1810)


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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Nov. 7, 2013 @ 21:09 GMT
Thanks everyone for the well wishes. And yes, please do leave comments or suggestions for the next contest.

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Nov. 7, 2013 @ 22:09 GMT

Well, we could do the question much on most physicists mind now; Where to from here?

That should get some significant professional input.

If I may suggest a subtitle to give it some focus; Multiverses and Supersymmetry, or Reset?

That might not be too popular though.


John M

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Ryoji Furui replied on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 21:04 GMT

Supersymmetry (and multiverse) can be a survival model for infinite future as a possible subset model which fills out the blank of accessible energy range by human technology.

But it would be no longer the solution for the problem we encounter in the current physics mainly for modeling gravitons and it would be categorized as an exotic theory which could maintain naturalness all the time.

So we would rather introducing another framework for unification without subset or any expected "new physics (particles)" as more and more recent experiments tell so.


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eAmazigh M. HANNOU wrote on Nov. 8, 2013 @ 20:27 GMT
To FQXi and all participants, congratulations !

Congratulations for the winners, I have nothing to say about this.

On the other side I'm with those who think they have been wronged, there is certainly room for improvement in this contest.

The rules are not clear at all.

In my opinion, there should be a committee of scientists to deal with the evaluation. And then propose two groups: those who are professional articles in scientific rigor, and another group where freedom is allowed people to propose marginal issues and raise new questions.

If you accept only rigorous essays you will have less original ideas.

I am not arguing for my essay because I consider it is not up to win a prize.

But I noticed that whenever a participant assigned me a good rate, there was someone, the same person who belittled my rate.

And I do not think I am the only one who noticed this.

Finally, thanks to FQXi, judges and sponsors, to give the opportunity to everyone to expose at least their ideas, not necessarily to win a prize.

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Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 00:08 GMT

I do have some suggestions:

1. Of course, I don't know how the judges' deliberations go, but if they write comments as they compare the essays, perhaps each entrant could be given the option to be able to privately receive a copy of the comments/feedback/criticism with the authors' names removed contingent on the entrant agreeing that they will take no further action against...

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Nov. 25, 2013 @ 21:01 GMT

I know it is quite difficult to stage a fair contest, especially when contestants do the ratings. Many seem to be conscientious and ethical about rating other essays, but with the community rankings showing for the last contest, some are tempted to do low ratings without actually reading essays.

Ratings without evaluations seem to bear this out. I would suggest that we return to a contest which reveals community ranking only at the end of the contest. This I believe encourages less manipulation of rankings without actual evaluation.


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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 03:15 GMT
The Physics of Information

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Nov. 26, 2013 @ 19:25 GMT

Since the next FQXi conference is on information, I think an appropriate essay contest followup would concern the limits (or not) of computation and computability. Which natural phenomena can be faithfully simulated and which resist simulation (and why?). Principles of algorithmic compressibility. Bayesian analysis vs. frequentist.

Just off the top of my head.


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James Lee Hoover wrote on Dec. 1, 2013 @ 20:17 GMT

A new discovery having the potential to revolutionize science as we now know it?


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Anton Biermans wrote on Dec. 9, 2013 @ 04:46 GMT
I suggest as topic for the 2014 contest: The Origin of Mass

A. Einstein [1]:

''The general theory of relativity teaches that the inertia of a given body is greater as there are more ponderable masses in proximity to it; thus it seems very natural to reduce the total inertia of a body to interaction between it and the other bodies in the universe''

However, a few months later...

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