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If you are aware of an interesting new academic paper (that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal or has appeared on the arXiv), a conference talk (at an official professional scientific meeting), an external blog post (by a professional scientist) or a news item (in the mainstream news media), which you think might make an interesting topic for an FQXi blog post, then please contact us at forums@fqxi.org with a link to the original source and a sentence about why you think that the work is worthy of discussion. Please note that we receive many such suggestions and while we endeavour to respond to them, we may not be able to reply to all suggestions.

Please also note that we do not accept unsolicited posts and we cannot review, or open new threads for, unsolicited articles or papers. Requests to review or post such materials will not be answered. If you have your own novel physics theory or model, which you would like to post for further discussion among then FQXi community, then please add them directly to the "Alternative Models of Reality" thread, or to the "Alternative Models of Cosmology" thread. Thank you.

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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

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FQXi BLOGS
May 27, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Your Invitation to the Trick or Truth Award Ceremony [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Jun. 9, 2015 @ 11:07 GMT
So, trick or truth? What *is* the mysterious connection between physics and mathematics?

The judges have now ruled and we will be announcing the winners of this year’s essay contest on Wednesday. (EDIT: Winners are announced, see the list here!)

As usual, the ceremony will be hosted by FQXi's directors Max Tegmark and Anthony Aguirre, who will be joined by one of the contest sponsors Matthew Putman of Nanotronics Imaging.

And we’ll be chatting with three top-placed winners.

The event: The FQXi Essay Contest Award Ceremony 2015

The time: Wednesday 10th June, 1pm ET

The place: Here



Thank you again to all entrants and to everyone who read, rated and commented on the videos. You can still enjoy them all here — and place your bets on the winners.

Compilations of beefed up versions of winning essays from some of our earlier contests are now available to buy. “Questioning the Foundations of Physics” is available in hardback form, and also as an e-book, as is "It from Bit, or Bit from It?”. A third volume addressing how humanity should steer the future will also be available soon.

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Christian Corda wrote on Jun. 9, 2015 @ 18:08 GMT
Is it possible to know the list of Finalists?

Thanks and regards,

Ch.

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster replied on Jun. 9, 2015 @ 20:40 GMT
Hi Christian -- Thanks for asking. In fact, no, I'm truly not able to say who all the finalists were. The rules this year allowed the panel to consider entries in addition to those with the top ratings. And I simply don't know all the entries that the judges may have looked at during the process. In principle, every entry was a potential finalist.

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Christian Corda replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 07:30 GMT
Hi Brendan,

Thanks for clarifying.

For the sake of transparency, I think it should be a good thing if the judges will release the list of Finalists together with the list of the winners.

Cheers, Ch.

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 04:12 GMT
Hi Brendan..

I think what Christian was really looking for is some assurance that indeed there was a community ranking that could assure someone entry into the finals - and where the cutoff line was drawn. Basically; we know there are members who were automatically included in the 30 'core finalists' but not who made it in to that group due to high scores rather than membership. My guess is that those scoring 5.4 or higher are in that list - while others who are non-members might be finalists if the panel decided to include them.

I might like to claim that I was a finalist in every FQXi contest I entered, on my CV or an author bio. But now this matter is cloudy for all non-members. My guess is that Christian was among those scoring high enough to be in the 30 'core finalists' - assuming I read the rules correctly. And he should have the right to make that claim on his CV, without rancor.

Being in the top 10 - at the end of the qualifying round - is a very respectable result. But unless FQXi acknowledges this did make him a qualifier in some way, it might appear bogus for him to make such a claim on his CV - unless his name also appears among the winners. It hardly seems fair to leave him guessing whether he made it into the finals after all. His high score has me convinced he did make it, but I was nearer the cutoff so I am left to wonder.

All the Best,

Jonathan

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Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 04:50 GMT
You have to realize, Brendan..

Given the air of mystery, and with the contest topic being what it is; it is very tempting to talk about the secrecy of the finalists pool in tabloid headline terms. I think all of the participants want the contest to be about the search for truth, and not just a trick to get people involved or participating. A statement like the one you make above invites suspicion, however. Would you rather see something like this?

Is it all a Trick? People want to know the Truth! Is FQXi serious in their mission, or are they just another pyramid scheme? Inquiring minds want to know.

I am content to wait until the announcement, before I decide anything regarding how the adjudication was handled, but I wanted to point out the humor in the turn of events relating to this contest. I again wish everyone who entered good luck. And I especially hope Christian Corda receives a prize this time around, because with the generally high quality of his work, he should not have to wonder whether he is deserving of esteem.

Likewise; with many fine essays from non-professional scientists this year, in addition to more friends who are professional researchers, I hope to have at least a few friends to congratulate - once the announcement is made.

Have Fun,

Jonathan

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Christian Corda replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 08:10 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

I agree with all the points you raised. In fact, I suggested Brendan that it should be a good thing if the judges will release the list of Finalists together with the list of the winners. On the other hand, I have no doubts on Brendan's personal good faith. I well know that he works hard with lots of passion for improving FQXi.

In any case, dear Jonathan, I have no...

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Christine Cordula Dantas wrote on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 08:47 GMT
In all FQXi essay contests that I have participated, I never knew whether I was among the finalists.

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Christian Corda replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 08:51 GMT
Hi Christine,

Actually, in previous FQXi Essay Contests the list of Finalists was communicated by Brendan in the FQXi website after the end of the Community Rating.

Cheers, Ch.

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Christine Cordula Dantas replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 11:11 GMT
Thanks. Then I missed the finalist lists for the Nature of Time and How Humanity Should Steer the Future. I can't find the results... I'd be very thankful to see them.

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Christian Corda replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 11:30 GMT
Dear Christine,

I do not know about "The Nature of Time", but, concerning "How Humanity Should Steer the Future" Brendan wrote on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 21:21 GMT:

"Greetings everyone -- As promised, I'd like to make an official statement about the finalist pool now. Apologies for the delay--there were no unexpected issues. Thus, the finalist pool is as you can calculate from the official rules and the ratings info on the list of essays.

In short, the official finalist pool of 40 consists of the 39 essays with a Community rating of 5.6 or greater, plus the entry from Member Dean Rickles.

But don't forget that, as always, the Expert Panel has the option of awarding up to 2 additional discretionary prizes, for whatever reason they see fit. All entries, finalist or not, are eligible for those. Last year, for instance, the panel chose to award two interesting entries from students, who did not make the finalist pool. "

You can find this announcement here.

Cheers, Ch.

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 15:09 GMT
Hello Everyone -- Sorry, no intention to obscure the process. I can confirm that the essay panel considered the "base set" of 30 finalists as defined in the contest rules. This year, that set consists of all essays with Community scores of 5.5 or above, plus Member entries from Garfinkle, Grinbaum, Singh, and Walker.

In addition, the panel may have in practice considered any other entries, although they will have limited this set to 10 before awarding prizes, in accordance with the letter of the rules.

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Christian Corda replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 15:26 GMT
Thanks for clarifying, Brendan.

Cheers, Ch.

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 16:40 GMT
Just a reminder to check out the winners announcement and Q&A today at 1PM ET [about 20 minutes from now].

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Neil Bates wrote on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 17:20 GMT
Hello,

I still see "please stand by" - at 1:20. Just want to be sure whether it's a problem in my computer etc, or if we're still waiting for the start. tx

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Neil Bates replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 17:26 GMT
Yes, I do refresh and try again - see some differing imagery but the video still does not start.

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Neil Bates replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 17:45 GMT
OK, I am having IT troubles. I didn't see any instruction to log into Youtube etc. My SW may be out of date, but other people have reported similar problems.

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 18:03 GMT
Hi Neil,

I'm sorry you had trouble viewing the announcement. It should have been running on this page, but I couldn't check this page during the broadcast because we get terrible feedback problems, if we do. I do hope that people were able to watch.

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Christian Corda wrote on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 19:04 GMT
Hi Christine, it seems that you win a Prize, congrats!

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Christine Cordula Dantas replied on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 21:04 GMT
Hi Christian,

... Thanks! I'm playing now the video...

Christine

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FQXi Administrator Brendan Foster wrote on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 22:09 GMT
Hi Everyone -- Apologies for the technical difficulties. I'm still not sure what the issues were.

In any case -- please visit the list of winners here.

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 22:35 GMT
Hi everyone,

Congratulations to all of the winners. I haven't read all of the prize winning essays but am sure they are deserving. Glad Ian Durham's "The Raven and the Writing Desk" got a prize as it was very entertaining as well as thought provoking. Thank you organizers for putting together the award video. It was very interesting to hear the top prize winners talking about their essay ideas.

The comment by Max Tegmark near the end caught my attention. He said "....we would rather have questions we can not answer than answers we can not question." Nice sound bite but that has not been a part of the guidelines for the essays to my knowledge. Though I can no longer see them to check. Perhaps if that is the case it should be said up front so competitor don't waste time trying to build an iron clad case for their propositions; but instead open mindedly explore the given topic. Next time it would helpful to have made clear what is really wanted. So we know the target we should be aiming for.

Thanks organizers, judges and admin. for running the competition and all of the hard work behind the scenes that make it happen. Thanks too to the entrants. I'm sorry I haven't read more of the essays but appreciate the hard work and emotional investment in each one.

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Neil Bates wrote on Jun. 10, 2015 @ 23:58 GMT
All,

My reaction to seeing the long list of winners (unless there are special extra prizes to be awarded later), and based on omissions and not critique of winners, is the following: FQXi (or, the majority of judges) seems not really interested in finding new talent and rewarding people from "all walks" for daring thinking and trying to present genuine contributions (new physics.) I'm sorry to have to say that, and I'm disappointed. I see no real effort to identify talented amateurs, especially when trying to make even potentially important contributions, versus almost entirely philosophical or broadly conceptual essays by professionals or near-professionals. Shouldn't that be a top priority?

Sure, I can't be fully objective, especially about myself. Don't take my word for anything. So, if anyone is interested then do some spade work and tell me what you think.

Trying to be analytical about it: here we have a contest about the mysterious connection between math and our world. Yet, actually using math to find out something important about that world (not very common here!), is apparently not worth rewarding at all. And, with so many opportunities to note various accomplishments.

For clarity: I do include my own case. I am an "independent", an amateur. My essay included a novel explanation, based on comparing model universes of different dimensionality D, of why our cosmos has three large spatial dimensions. It applied known physical theory in new ways, rather than speculative new theories. I also addressed the core philosophical question, as well as the important issue of how we can know any of this in terms of how our minds work. For covering three big bases like that, I get ... nothing.

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Christian Corda replied on Jun. 11, 2015 @ 06:44 GMT
Dear Neil,

I well understand your point of view although I am a professional scientist instead of a talented amateur. I write Essays for this FQXi Contest starting from 2009. All my Essays have been founded on various papers published in famous, peer reviewed international journals, but I have never been considered by FQXi panel. This seems strange, even from a statistical point of view....

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Christian Corda wrote on Jun. 11, 2015 @ 07:39 GMT
OPEN LETTER TO FQXI

Dear FQXi

I stress that all my Essays in six participations to your prestigious Essay Contests have been founded on various papers published in famous, peer reviewed international journals, but I have never been considered by FQXi panel. This seems strange, even from a statistical point of view. This issue has been stressed by Jonathan J. Dickau above, who claimed...

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Jun. 11, 2015 @ 12:26 GMT
Christian,

I think you're investing too much importance in FQXi prizes as a symbol of professional accomplishment. They are obviously very far from that. After all, what makes an FQXi award prestigious, other than the uncommonly large amount of money involved? What scientific standard?

Would you compromise your professional standards? -- I hope not. The solid science of classical physics and relativity will be around and still producing new insights and results, long after fringe quantum theory speculation -- which has always made up a great deal of the winning entries -- has died out.

Tom

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Neil Bates replied on Jun. 11, 2015 @ 12:45 GMT
Tom,

Although I understand your point, I think you are ultimately wrong. FQXi has a mission: to encourage and reward bold new thinking, and including from talented people outside the mainstream who would otherwise have a hard time getting funding or recognition. I fall in the latter category. Three of my previous essays specifically introduced novel physical proposals or insights, based on creative extrapolation of known science. I had many positive reviews in the comments, including often from knowledgeable physicists like T. Dorigo that would know the validity of my attempts. My latest essay addressed one of the key big questions of physical science: why does our universe have three dimensions of space.

I am perhaps paradigmatic of the type of person and the type of works, that FQXi claims to be trying to support. But for all my efforts, I have gotten absolutely nothing. I let others speak for themselves, but from where I sit: this organization is failing at (the part of) its stated mission that involves supporting promising, struggling individuals and their work. Non-profits that solicit support for themselves, have an obligation to make reasonable efforts to live up to their mission statements.

This is particularly egregious and galling: so many prizes are given out, relative to an finalist field of 30-40, that anyone in the top cut (as I have usually been, including this time) has a statistical chance of maybe 1/4 of getting at least something. So, the judges don't even have to be extremely picky, as they would with say only three actual prizes to give.

I had high hopes when I first heard about FQXi. I saw my hopes fade and fade through the contests.

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Pentcho Valev replied on Jun. 11, 2015 @ 12:48 GMT
" The solid science of classical physics and relativity will be around and still producing new insights and results, long after fringe quantum theory speculation -- which has always made up a great deal of the winning entries -- has died out."

Quantum mechanics at least uses the correct (Newtonian) time, so Einstein's relativity with its idiotic spacetime should be the first to...

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 00:12 GMT
Every winning essay in these FQXi contests seems to be almost identical. With few if any exceptions, every essay in effect agrees with physicist Sean Carroll's summary of reality as "things, which obey rules" [1]. This might be more correctly stated as "mysteriously occurring things (e.g. particles or strings), that for mysterious reasons obey, mysteriously existing rules (laws-of-nature and...

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Neil Bates replied on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 00:54 GMT
Lorraine,

You make some good points. Indeed, Hume noted centuries ago that it is disingenuous to say that things "follow" rules. They "display" orderly behavior, which we describe with rules. It is therefore meaningless to say that "the laws of physics" explain why things do what they do. I give Max Tegmark credit for trying to derive an ultimate explanatory framework: the "why" of "things" becomes like the why of Platonic solids etc: logical necessity, which transcends the rule-extraction muddle of Humean positivist description. (Tegmark's MUH, its defense, and its implications are distilled into a nice little nutshell in 2nd-place winner Marc Séguin's essay. I was hoping for some dynamic disagreement, but didn't notice any.)

However, I don't think that is enough. A true MUH would include all the messy near-orderly structures, and either 1. we are more likely to be in a world just orderly enough to allow our existence, but poised on the brink of chaos, or 2. the measure problem disallows our even having a clue what to expect. So some inner virtus of a real universe, not fully explainable by mathematics, is likely behind all this organic order and coherence. Note the difficulty of explaining genuine unpredictability by math. Although decoherence supposedly explains "the emergence of the classical world", its arguments are mostly circular or otherwise questionable, and how about the decay of structureless identical particles like muons?

BTW, your essay is one of those that deserved more credit.

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Neil Bates wrote on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 00:55 GMT
BTW, did any explanation ever come out for the missing of the original deadline?

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 05:43 GMT
For what it is worth..

If there is a bias; I think FQXi favors good essays by excellently qualified people over essays by good people which are of truly excellent quality. I agree with Tom's sentiment, that it would be nice if the judges more greatly rewarded clarity and quality of presentation, polished or well-edited writing, and maintenance of high standards in terms of publishability.

My essay this year was far less polished than efforts from past years, and in fact though I started early on; I hastily finished this year's essay up at the very last minute, so it was not my best effort. In past years; I spent as much as 100 hours writing and editing, before submitting an FQXi essay. But I think I'd be tough to sell to FQXi's sponsors, as an expert in 'Math creates Physics,' and I imagine that fact is more to my discredit.

I expect to impress some people anyway, when I release my results, but I am not standing in a position of strength - with distinguished publications already validating some of my core results. This makes it risky for FQXi to choose someone like me. But it leaves the question open; why would they repeatedly overlook the work of someone like Christian, who has cleared that hurdle?

More later,

Jonathan

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Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 06:07 GMT
In reply to Georgina's comment above..

I agree it would be nice to know better what to aim for. Is terse mathematical prose better than an emotionally moving tale? We still don't know exactly what strikes the judges' fancy, or is most likely to do so. We have to strike a balance, in that regard, just to be chosen by our peers for the finals - and then the judges are likely to apply a rather different standard than our peers do.

But on some level; I think it is about how well we as authors are validated (with publications or academic titles) in the area of what we are trying to sell, as well as about how well our ideas are conveyed and how well our conclusions are supported. This may be due in part, by the desire by FQXi to show statistical evidence that there is already a significant degree of acceptance for a new line of research by a given researcher/author.

That is; FQXi does not want to promote an untested quantity, and would rather that the judges go with choices that are easy to justify to sponsors. This means that top prizes tend to go to people working for a select group of institutions, and the rest are people with good qualifications to talk about whatever idea it is they are promoting in their essay. On some level; this reflects a tendency for reviewers to trust the past judgments of others, rather than trying to evaluate new ideas on their merits. Perhaps, as suggested above, this is from too high a workload on unpaid volunteers.

But that still leaves some gaps in understanding.

All the Best,

Jonathan

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Christian Corda replied on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 12:55 GMT
Dear Jonathan,

Once again, thank you very much for defending my position.

I think that your point that FQXi favors good essays by excellently qualified people over essays by good people which are of truly excellent quality is correct. This seems in agreement with my idea that FQXi does not have much choice of judges. I think that few people is requested to evaluate an high number of Essays in a few time without being paid. As a consequence, a correct evaluation of the Essays is problematic and the judges are forced to award excellently qualified and famous people thinking that, in that case, they will award good essays. On the other hand, this could generate some blunders as sometimes excellently qualified people can write not very good essays, and, on the contrary, good people who are not excellently qualified are disadvantaged.

Cheers, Ch.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 13:09 GMT
" ... why would they repeatedly overlook the work of someone like Christian, who has cleared that hurdle?"

Jonathan, you answered your own question earlier in your post. Isn't it obvious, the bias toward mainstream researchers with unsuccessful ideas, over mainstream researchers who have made successful though incremental progress in tried and tested physics?

Even when Joy Christian (not to be confused with Christian Corda) was still a member, FQXi declined to acknowledge, much less announce, his publication of a key paper in the prestigious International Journal of Theoretical Physics. Scientific publishers don't get more mainstream than that.

So I don't wonder at all why Christian Corda's esteemed publication record is chopped liver here.

I do sometimes wonder though, in spite of all denial, if the religious-philosophical bias of the Templeton Foundation came packaged with the seed money that founded FQXi. Can one see any thread of support here for the most widely accepted mathematical theory in physics -- string theory? Quantum field theory, from which string theory descends, is after all, a conventional extension of classical physics. It seems as if the founders expect some miracle breakthrough in quantum mechanics to overturn all the hard work of generations of patient physicists -- and that it should be based on philosophical considerations independent of physical theory.

Perhaps the Relativity/String theory community should have its own sugar daddy to help counteract the impression that theoretical physics is in crisis? No -- I would prefer a unified scientific community that is not afraid to seriously debate the issues on a level playing field.

Tom

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Akinbo Ojo wrote on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 10:43 GMT
Congratulations to the winners. Those who seem dissatisfied forget that Football is a game overseen by FIFA and FQXi essay contest is also a game overseen by FQXi. Both starting with F for some reason.

I have read and enjoyed a good number of essays this year and in previous years. I single out that of Eric Reiter from previous years and Thomas Erwin Phipps (90 years old!) this year. In my opinion, these are the type of essays that can fulfil the mission of getting answers to fundamental questions bedeviling physics. This forum has also enabled me exchange ideas with others, which is especially valuable given that most people where I am (Africa) are engrossed in what to eat and how to stay alive. Pursuits like mine are a luxury many cannot afford. So the community part of FQXi scores very highly with me, even if everyone (including me) seems to try to push their individual ideas too hard to the point of fanaticism.

As for the mission statement, I am no longer surprised that no fundamental question has been answered by FQXi despite the pooling of intellectual resources. It appears answers are not really being sought for the fundamental questions. The way things are going, no answers that can become internationally acclaimed may come from the FQXi essay and grants.

Lastly, can someone crosscheck if the rules about FQXi members commenting on at least 5 essays before they can be auto-inducted were followed? I note that Lee Smolin won a third prize but I cannot recall him replying most of the posts on his essay forum (even by FQXi members), talk less of commenting on the essays of others.

Best regards and I love your company!

Akinbo

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Neil Bates replied on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 15:07 GMT
Akinbo,

You raise a valid question, but the rules apparently leave room to pick member Smolin even if he did not comment on other essays. Here is from the rules, that I saved (as my custom), which are apparently no longer "up":

>

Any entry with an author who is an FQXi Member at the time of submission will automatically become a Finalist ( an “auto-inducted entry”), if and only if the following criteria are met:

Their essay is eligible as per the Contest guidelines.

The Member author has rated 5 other entries and left a suitable comment or question in the online forum for each of the entries he/she has rated.

The total number of auto-inducted entries does not exceed 30.

In case Member entries exceed 30, the Member Finalists will consist of the 30 auto-inducted essays with the highest Community ratings that have each received at least ten ratings. Furthermore, if the auto-inducted Member entries exceed 15, FQXi will increase the number of Finalists to ensure that there is a fair representation of the top Community rated entries submitted by people who are not FQXi Members.

The remainder of a base set of 30 finalists will consist of the entries with top Community ratings that have each received at least ten ratings, not including any auto-inducted essays.

In addition to the base set of 30, the Expert Judges will select up to 10 additional entries, at their discretion, to form the full pool of Finalists.

Expert Judges: A panel of the applicants' peers, chosen by FQXi, will be asked to carefully review, deliberate upon, and rate the Finalists, based on the criteria specified under "Evaluation Criteria".

-------------------------

Even if he was not eligible for auto induction, the discretionary clause would cover picking Smolin as best I can tell.



Cheers.

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Akinbo Ojo replied on Jun. 13, 2015 @ 09:21 GMT
Neil,

Thanks for your well considered response. And your pointing out that "In addition to the base set of 30, the Expert Judges will select up to 10 additional entries, at their discretion, to form the full pool of Finalists" and "Even if he was not eligible for auto induction, the discretionary clause would cover picking Smolin as best I can tell".

In a contest of this nature,...

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Neil Bates replied on Jun. 13, 2015 @ 12:57 GMT
Akinbo,

Your dissection of the moral case as opposed to the indulgence of legalities, is very good. I heartily agree with your diagnosis. Please all, read my reply to Gary D. Simpson below, as well.

Hoping for a better FQXi ...

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Branko L Zivlak wrote on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 16:04 GMT
In this competition, with particular enjoyment I read the papers of those who could be classified as engineers, where I found, for the most part, clear thoughts associated with the theory permeated experience.

Unfortunately, in this competition, some belonging to the profesors, invited all of us just to make the decor. The awards, attention and appreciation are shared mainly among...

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Neil Bates replied on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 16:45 GMT
Branko, All

Good food for thought and thanks for the stats. Yes, those observations support some previous critiques. Yet there were indeed clearly stated "targets" as best I could tell, even if not a specific or just the kind some people wanted. Again, from the guidelines, which I can't find anymore except on archive.org (sic). After some prelims and re typical topic examples etc, we...

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Georgina Woodward replied on Jun. 13, 2015 @ 00:00 GMT
Branko, All,

there were clear targets set out in the guidelines. It didn't say though that "we would rather have questions we can't answer than answers we can't question" Max Tegmark. I slightly misquoted him last time (Can't not can not). So if unanswerable questions is what is wanted there is no reason to try to set out a solid case for a proposition. Suggesting a well written...

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Neil Bates wrote on Jun. 12, 2015 @ 16:51 GMT
Well, here is my poignant and corny little story to tell (and yeah, name-drop. Well, why not? ;-) Plus an epic edit for good measure.) For some background: being a kind of eccentric wag with over 1100 FBFs all around the world, including many scientists and writers etc. - after my disappointment, I changed my profile pic to that of a particularly hideous creature from the rather good but a bit...

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Jun. 13, 2015 @ 00:38 GMT
Neil,

Thanks for your kind comments about my essay.

... and are you "connected" or "disconnected"?

I'm pretty sure that Tom, Akinbo, Georgina and Jonathan would consider themselves to be things that are as disconnected from any influence over the "rules" that create their physical outcomes as the pixels on a screen displaying a Mandelbrot set zoom are disconnected from any influence over the algorithm that rules their colour setting outcomes.

Also, an individual pixel has no need to apprehend (i.e. be conscious of) its relationship to all the other pixels because all the controlling rules are external to the pixel, and apprehension of relationship would make no difference to the pixel's physical (i.e. colour setting) outcomes.

Clearly consciousness (apprehension/experience of information/rules) and creativity/"free will" are interdependent: you can't have one without the other. As Janko Kokosar said in his essay: "consciousness without free will does not exist".

Lorraine

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Neil Bates replied on Jun. 13, 2015 @ 01:01 GMT
You're welcome, Lorraine, and good points there. Actually I think your piece was written well enough, I did find it charming. I too, tackled the issue of mind. My point, first made in the previous, "steering" contest, is that a computational type mind is - perhaps ironically - unable to even comprehend or know if there is a physical world in addition to the abstractions describing its own functioning, and the world around it. IOW, AI implies MUH! This is a stunning idea, rather original (like my physical modeling exercise), but was brushed aside for reasons unfathomable. (Or if anyone can suggest any weaknesses there, please go ahead.)

Free will: I also think that it and big C are related, but I promote my own sort of ironic case for it. In my previous essay, I argued (based on a presentation I gave at Tucson 2000 conference) that we must have some kind of free will, or else we would not be able to pivot our behavior. It's not the same as the usual arguments, more like stopping what you do, than about the doing of it. I got good feedback from choice investigator Benjamin Libet. Yet again ... no bite from FQXi.

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Gary D. Simpson wrote on Jun. 13, 2015 @ 02:56 GMT
Friends, Colleagues, Esteemed Guests, and Members of the Committee, My thanks to all of you. If I have seen far, it is because I stand on the shoulders .....

Oops, sorry. Wrong speech:-)

Folks, I spent a few hours looking through all the biographies of all the essay authors. Of the 203 essays, there were 56 with at least one author who has a PhD. This group consists of people who explicitly stated that they hold a PhD. There were an additional 34 essays that were likely to have been written by someone with a PhD. This group includes people who are listed as professors but did not explicitly state their education. There were a few people who work at national labs. There were also a couple of government ministers. These are not dumb folks. There were 21 authors with at least an MS degree. There were 24 authors with at least a BS degree. There were 68 authors whose education I could not determine.

I don't think there is any bias here. I think there were a lot of really good essays. In a competition, everyone does not win. I was surprised my entry did as well as it did.

Ultimately, you must ask yourself, why am I doing this?

Give it some thought.

Oh, and my thanks to FQXi and everyone who read and commented on my work.

Best Regards and Good Luck to All (even the one-bombers),

Gary Simpson

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John R. Cox replied on Jun. 13, 2015 @ 11:33 GMT
Gary,

You are a gentleman and scholar, and I dare say that your own essay will continue to be of interest to many. Best wishes in future pursuits, jrc

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Neil Bates replied on Jun. 13, 2015 @ 12:49 GMT
Dear Gary, with relevance to all:

Your thoughts on this are pretty, but they entirely miss the set of points made by critics here. We have pointedly and repeatedly made it clear, and with much supporting argument and even data, that we are not simply irritated that some folks got to win, and others (as "us") didn't. To keep it from being about relative perspective, we have all made specific...

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Anonymous replied on Jun. 13, 2015 @ 22:05 GMT
JRC,

Many thanks. I plan to continue my studies of quaternions. They seem to be lurking in the background of everything.

Neil,

All of your thoughts are valid. All of Branko's thoughts are valid. What you have not stated is that all of the winning essays are to be published in Scientific American. Anyone who is a successful author will tell you ... "Don't use very much math or very many equations". My essay also had a significant amount of math in it. I chose to disregard the advise of successful authors because I wanted to share an idea that was purely mathematical. When I chose to include a lot of math, I also accepted that I would not do well in the competition. My objective was to share the idea. I viewed whatever success I might have as a bonus.

If I may speculate, I think that what you want is a technical paper contest that accepts entries from non-professionals. That would be very interesting, but I'm not sure if any organization would be willing to sponsor it.

One other thought ... the $$$ involved in the essay contest is relatively small. FQXi puts much more $$$ into their research grants. I would bet that those proposals are quite a bit more technical.

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Jun. 14, 2015 @ 02:08 GMT
Neil,

Re your reply on Jun. 13, 2015 @ 01:01 GMT:

I think it's clearly true that "a computational type mind is . . . unable to even comprehend or know if there is a physical world". The reason is that computers/robots merely process REPRESENTATIONS of information. It's only from OUR human point of view that the computer hardware represents 0s and 1s, groups of which in turn represent words numbers and computer programs/algorithms. This hardware can represent nothing from the computer's/robot's point of view – in fact the computer/robot has NO point of view at all: it's not an integrated entity.

Re free will/big C: Consciousness (i.e. the experience/apprehension of information/rules) is natural and necessary in a subjectively structured universe (i.e. ruled from within, rather than ruled from without like a Mandelbrot set zoom screen-pixel is ruled). It's only physics' and philosophy's "disconnected" ideas about reality that makes consciousness seem like a big deal, a mystery.

These 3 aspects of the universe are clearly interconnected: the subjective structure; the necessity for the subjects to apprehend interconnections/relationships/rules; and the creation of the rules by the subjects.

Cheers,

Lorraine

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Jun. 14, 2015 @ 22:41 GMT
Still today, in the early 21st century, physics and philosophy can't get their heads around a reality that is continually creating anew from the inside, rather than being determined by eternal laws, as if from the outside.

Science and philosophy, and seemingly most FQXi essayists, in their isolated ivory towers have failed to even notice the nature of reality. And if you can't correctly specify the nature of a problem, you can't correctly specify a solution (in the form of a model of reality).

Many of these ivory-tower types, mainly men, are part of a new-vitalism cult that ascribes consciousness to robots and computers, and even to toasters.

While they gaze at their navels, the world burns.

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Jun. 15, 2015 @ 01:30 GMT
I have just discovered that Max Tegmark's ending sound bite was based upon Richard Feynman's words. "I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned."

There are no answers that can't be questioned. There are answers that are not understood so how to question them is problematic, and answers that are accepted as they seem correct. The problem of not being able to question the answer is with the could be questioners not the answer.

I wonder why intelligent men should consider questions that can't be answered preferable to difficult ones that may already appear to have solutions. I think it just sounds nice, profound when really it isn't. For example:Darwinian evolution through selection of the fittest was not the final solution for how organisms change and adapt to their environment. Though for many years it seemed that it was so. There is now understanding of epigenetics, alteration of the function of an organism by environmental alteration of genetic code folding and hence gene expression, that can be passed on to offspring. Which shows that we can go beyond answers that may seem unquestionable.

Answers that are rigorously supported by evidence but not ultimately unquestionable are my aim not merely the pondering of the unanswerable. So I must wonder whether I am at odds with the desires of FQXi.org expressed in that sound bite. As I said I think it just sounds nice, profound when really it isn't. Perhaps it is meant only to represent an attitude of open mindedness and the words themselves are not really meant. Used only figuratively and for effect. Though how effective are the silly words of an intelligent man repeated by another intelligent man? It bothers me more than it should. Clarification would be nice though not expected.

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Georgina Woodward replied on Jun. 15, 2015 @ 05:37 GMT
I'm thinking the words are just as effective as when first said as a PR soundbite, so long as no one really thinks about what is being said. So long as the thought "that sounds nice" predominates. And the words are just as silly when repeated, unless fruitless research of the unanswerable is what is wanted. Is that physics?

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Christian Corda replied on Jun. 15, 2015 @ 07:19 GMT
Dear Neil,

I did not receive your message in my FB page. If you want, contact me at my email cordac.galilei@gmail.com.

Cheers, Ch.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Jun. 15, 2015 @ 11:54 GMT
Okay, I read it. Now I need someone to write another essay to explain to me the point of this one.

Moving on.

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Christian Corda wrote on Jun. 16, 2015 @ 06:42 GMT
All,

I stress that I find extremely discreditable that a FQXi Member, i.e. Tim Maudlin, openly releases criticisms against my Essay that are completely wrong at a very basic, elementary level. You can check in my Essay page that such criticisms can be easily dismissed even by non-graduate students who are preparing an exam of "Introduction to General Relativity" at the University. Maudlin's knowledge and understanding of Equivalence Principle is null. The formal equivalence between gravitational fields and accelerating frames, comprised rotating frames, has a long well known history, which starts from Einstein. Maudlin is a philosopher of science, not a physicist of gravitation like me, and he should avoid to speak nonsense on fields which are not of his own competence. He released his criticism in a very childish way in a particular time in which he saw that my Essay overtook his one in the Community Rating. As I think that not all the judges of the panel are experts on gravity, I have the strong suspect that Maudlin's wrong claims could have influenced the final decision of the essay panel, because he is a FQXi Member. If I am correct, this is a further great injustice against me, because Maudlin was completely wrong, as any expert of general relativity can easily check.

Sincerely, Ch.

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John R. Cox replied on Jun. 16, 2015 @ 13:46 GMT
Dr. Corda,

I caught that at the time, also. What struck me was that it seems that hard-core quantum machinists impose the measurement system of spin with it's origin as center to protract a radial length determinant of volume, onto the co-ordinate free, centerless spherical geometry of GR. And then proceed into a Newtonian regime of angular momentum. Like trying to fit a compact Chevrolet emergency spare to an old VW Beetle. They see the concept backwards, as if space curves to make room for mass.

At least FQXi provides a venue where you can expound to some length on your own efforts to advance GR, and make contact with like minds. And there is plenty of opportunity in Relativistic researches despite the general crowd of Quants. Deep Space probes are found to have extended operational lives of radio-isotope thermoelectric generating units, which might provide a long sought experimental means to verify time dilation as dependent on time being variable, not a consequence of gravitational 'force' effecting decay rate. Good Luck. jrc

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Jun. 23, 2015 @ 00:32 GMT
Fundamentalist religion is not quite as dumb as today's fundamentalist physics and philosophy.

With fundamentalist religion, the view is that you have free will to act, but if you break the law you get punished. With today's fundamentalist physics and philosophy, the view is that neither the murderer nor the physics Nobel Prize winner have any control over their actions or outcomes: they have no control over their initial conditions, they have no free will. The murderer gets punished despite having had no choice over his/her actions at any point in time. With today's fundamentalist physics and philosophy there are essentially no real individuals, there is only the whole system, ruled by inexorable laws-of-nature.

Zeeya asked the winners about free-will, but today's fundamentalist physicists and philosophers are ideologically unable to face up to the creative nature of reality implied by free-will. They believe that we live in a world where mysteriously occurring things, for mysterious reasons 100% OBEY, mysteriously existing rules.

These people are blind to the fact that we live in a creative universe: a world where new one-off "free-choice" rules are routinely created. We live in a universe where the mysterious things MAKE the rules, and have always made the rules.

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Neil Bates replied on Jun. 23, 2015 @ 18:39 GMT
Lorraine,

I sympathize with your dissatisfaction with current determinism, that being rather more galling due to there being a physical basis for true unpredictability (altho I accept it is not clear just what implications that has.) In my previous essay for Steering the Future, I too defended free will with an argument first presented in 2000 at the Tucson Conference (or perhaps better put as a kind of holistic expression of choice.)

The current effort to pretend that decoherence-caused-collapse/MWI can be made viable for QM, dismays me. The defense uses flawed or circular arguments and cannot legitimately derive the Born Rule (more about that later.)

BTW could you elaborate on Zeeya's question and what kind of reaction there was? Regards.

PS: how can I send you email or are you on Facebook? My email addy is in my essay. I repeat to any readers, I like to add science and foundations buffs.

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Jun. 25, 2015 @ 14:39 GMT
Hi Neil,

Probability is something that external observers of a subsystem like a boxing prize-fight might find useful when making bets on the outcome – but this probability is seemingly not useful from the point of view of the boxers (inside the subsystem) as they fight it out.

The Born Rule is the probability of a possibility. There are probability distributions for all sorts of things, but the probability of being bitten by a dog is not what causes the dog to bite you (or not); the probability of a boxer winning a prize-fight is not what causes the boxer to win or lose. A probability distribution does not cause a particular outcome.

So how is a particular outcome "chosen"? The real issue is: what IS "choice"? I'm saying that "choice" is the creation of a new one-off law-of-nature rule, BY a particle, atom, molecule or living thing. Things create the rules. An example of this is quantum decoherence: because the physical outcome is a discontinuity that can only be (mathematically) represented as a new one-off rule.

Zeeya's question about free will is in the above video, starting at about 37 minutes in, I think.

Cheers,

Lorraine

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Lorraine Ford replied on Jun. 26, 2015 @ 22:03 GMT
Clarification:

I was suggesting above that in quantum decoherence a particle makes a "choice" resulting in an outcome, which we can only mathematically represent as if the outcome were due to a newly-created one-off law-of-nature rule. I’m saying the outcome is ACTUALLY due to a newly-created one-off law-of-nature rule!

I was not suggesting above that a boxer chooses to win!! I was trying to say that a (hopefully very physically fit) boxer AIMS to win via making VERY MANY split-second judgments and choices, which set in train muscular action. (And clearly, people and other living things also "delegate responsibility" to specialist parts of themselves like the heart.)

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Gary D. Simpson replied on Aug. 15, 2015 @ 13:04 GMT
Lorrain Ford,

I understood that a natural law was something that could be observed and tested anytime and anywhere. Reproducibility is one of the cornerstones of science ... or at least I thought that it was. Am I incorrect in this thinking? Could the sun decide that it does not want to shine anymore? Or perhaps the earth will decide it no longer wishes to obey gravity?

Signed,

Confused in Texas

Gary Simpson

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Neil Bates replied on Aug. 16, 2015 @ 21:51 GMT
Gary, i am nearly willing to bet that Lorraine means: related to quantum indeterminacy. We already know that the reproduceability you idealize, is actually not necessarily true for individual events. Some say that randomness s not helpful to any kind of "choice", but if the randomness was interrelated then something like a whole "person" could be deciding. See my previous essay with thoughts about that:

"Flashlights ..."

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Michel Planat wrote on Aug. 15, 2015 @ 10:02 GMT
For members interested in my essay, an expanded version is now publshed

A moonshine dialogue in mathematical physics

Michel Planat

Mathematics 2015, 3, 746-757; doi:10.3390/math3030746

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John R. Cox replied on Aug. 16, 2015 @ 15:33 GMT
Michel,

Thanks. You might go to the contact link of thomasray1209 to advise him of your expanded work, as I think you and he had touched on similar points of reasoning, and I think he would like hearing from you. Best - jrc

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Aug. 16, 2015 @ 22:18 GMT
Dear "Confused" Gary,

Re "I understood that a natural law was something that could be observed and tested anytime and anywhere. Reproducibility is one of the cornerstones of science . . . or at least I thought that it was. Am I incorrect in this thinking? ":

Yes Gary, you are incorrect. Seemingly you have forgotten about quantum decoherence where the details of the physical outcomes are not 100% reproducible and not 100% predictable using law-of-nature equations. Presumably physics is not just about the easy bits that can be explained by a t-shirt set of killer-algorithms? I'm saying that each of these seemingly aberrant outcomes of quantum decoherence are not unlawful: they are due to a newly-created one-off law-of-nature rule.

Re "Could the sun decide that it does not want to shine anymore? Or perhaps the earth will decide it no longer wishes to obey gravity?"

Gary, you may not have noticed, but the sun and the earth, and robots and dead bodies, are not integrated entities that make decisions i.e. they don't have free will [1]. Only information integrated entities like particles, atoms, molecules, and cells and other living things could possibly have free will.

As you conclude in your 2015 essay: "It is only through the comparison between prediction and observation that we can hope to understand". So I think you understand that observations of physical reality show that reality is not 100% reproducible or predictable: there IS NO t-shirt set of killer-algorithms that can explain 100% of physical reality.

Cheers from,

Enlightened in Australia,

Lorraine

1. Free Will: the ability to choose how to act; the ability to make choices that are not controlled by fate or God. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/free%20will )

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Gary D. Simpson replied on Aug. 17, 2015 @ 21:32 GMT
Lorraine Ford,

Thank you for the reply and for reading my 2015 essay. I read your essay also although I had no useful comment at the time. Your work reminded me of that of Ms. Parry/Woodward.

You are looking for a deeper meaning to pi. I am somewhat obsessive regarding the number pi. For example, the ratio between the mass of the proton and the mass of the electron is approximately 6pi^5. This is accurate to ~16 parts per million. Is this a coincidence? Or perhaps it is evidence of a natural structure.

You defined a number as being the ratio between two things. Hamilton would likely agree. If the ratio is taken between two similar vectors for example, the result does not have physical units of measure since they cancel out ... just as you described. The result is a ghost of a sort. I would argue the question is whether or not the number is an operator or and object. For example, length divided by length has no dimension. Therefore that number is an operator. But force divided by acceleration has units of mass. Therefore, the result is an object.

As for me, a physical law must be reproducible. As such, there can be no "one-off" laws. If it is not reproducible then it is not a law. Of course, I have no choice but to admit that the behavior of the quantum world appears to be statistical. So does this mean that there are "one-off" laws or choices, or does this mean that we simply have not figured out the law?

BTW, the probability of rain tonight in Houston is 60%. I choose rain. We shall see:-)

Thank you for trying to educate me. Regrettably, I remain ...

Confused in Texas

Gary Simpson

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Lorraine Ford replied on Aug. 23, 2015 @ 16:04 GMT
Hi Gary Simpson,

I think that physics should stop seeing numbers as mystical entities, and start taking numbers seriously. I didn't exactly define a number as being a ratio between two things. What I was trying to get at is that natural and rational numbers could seemingly be constructed as easily as law-of-nature equations could be, and out of the same basic ingredients. But I'm not sure...

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Aug. 26, 2015 @ 13:36 GMT
Neil,

I'm saying that the 2 primary properties of the things of reality (particles, atoms, molecules, cells and other living things) are that they experience and that they create; an information structure is what is created and experienced. But on the other hand, I think that you are saying that experience/consciousness is a secondary property i.e. a property that magically/miraculously comes into existence sometime after the equally miraculous appearance of structure.

So I think that we can never agree about the perception of colour (red, green), temperature (hot, warm, cold) or texture (smooth, rough) because you are seemingly arguing from a completely different ideological foundation to me.

Re information:

When I refer to "information", I don’t mean physical REPRESENTATIONS of information, such as might be found in a computer or on the pages of a book. This so-called "information" merely represents potential information until (e.g. via events which involve the interaction of a page of a book, photons and a human subject) the subjective experience of a subject is "updated". Essentially, the physical structure of the subject, i.e. the information category and relationship structure, IS the subjective information experience.

Information is physical is subjective experience, but only for top-down bottom-up information-integrated subjects. Even though they still have a very complex structure, living things that have just died have lost their top-down bottom-up information-integrated structure, and robots never had a top-down bottom-up information-integrated structure in the first place.

Cheers,

Lorraine

P.S. I'm not on LinkedIn – I don't have the time or the need for anything like that.

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