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Current Essay Contest

Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fund.

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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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James Hoover: on 3/25/17 at 22:03pm UTC, wrote Ted, Thanks for taking time out from an obviously busy schedule to check...

Gavin Rowland: on 3/18/17 at 1:37am UTC, wrote Hi Ted Thanks for that. I appreciate what you are doing here and i think...

Ted Christopher: on 3/17/17 at 23:11pm UTC, wrote Hi Jim, Thank you very much for your thoughtful note. I am in the midst...

James Hoover: on 3/17/17 at 21:33pm UTC, wrote Ted, Intentions and mental functioning is probably still a mystery because...

Ted Christopher: on 3/17/17 at 17:06pm UTC, wrote Hi Gavin, Just a quick response amidst business. I really appreciate your...

Gavin Rowland: on 3/17/17 at 8:42am UTC, wrote Hi Ted I enjoyed reading your essay. It is well crafted holds the reader's...

Alexey/Lev Burov: on 3/15/17 at 17:55pm UTC, wrote Hi Ted, I have just answered to your new post on our page. I copy it...

Alexey/Lev Burov: on 3/14/17 at 1:31am UTC, wrote Dear Ted, Your essay is one of the most interesting in this contest; I am...


Steve Agnew: "The mind-body problem is among the many questions that people continue to..." in Emergent Reality: Markus...

Georgina Woodward: "Hi Jason, the video is categorized as entertainment." 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:...

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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 19, 2020

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: Question the Big Picture and Expand the Horizon by Ted Christopher [refresh]
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Author Ted Christopher wrote on Feb. 24, 2017 @ 21:43 GMT
Essay Abstract

In order to objectively approach intentions and other aspects of mental functioning - certainly to the point of contemplating equations - it would be good to follow Sean Carroll’s suggestion in "The Big Picture" that good science “needs to be completely open to the actual operation of the world”. Such openness readily confronts phenomena that seriously challenge the scientific or materialist vision of the mind, and as such the basis for an essay contest like this one. This article considers some unusual but accepted behavioral conundrums as well as the unfolding “missing heritability” problem.

Author Bio

Ted Christopher lives in Rochester, New York. He has held a variety of jobs including some academic-based, biomedical ultrasound efforts. Post-high school, his formal education has been mostly technical and included a PhD in Electrical Engineering.

Download Essay PDF File

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Joe Fisher wrote on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 14:57 GMT
Dear Dr. Christopher,

Please excuse me for I have no intention of disparaging in any way any part of your essay.

I merely wish to point out that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Physicist & Nobel Laureate.

Only nature could produce a reality so simple, a single cell amoeba could deal with it.

The real Universe must consist only of one unified visible infinite physical surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light.

A more detailed explanation of natural reality can be found in my essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY. I do hope that you will read my essay and perhaps comment on its merit.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Feb. 26, 2017 @ 13:04 GMT
Dear Prof Christopher,

Thank you for the nice essay on “Para-Psychology and extreme psychology ". Here in this contest FQXI is covering a wide range of subjects like parapsychology to multi-body Dynamical Systems in cosmology. We will get a chance to such new ideas other people. Very good.

You are observations are excellent, like…

1. “The parents took him to a music...

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Author Ted Christopher wrote on Feb. 26, 2017 @ 16:28 GMT
Dear snp Gupta,

I thank you for your note and thoughts. I offer some corrections and further thoughts, though.

1. I am not a professor.

2. My examples are not classified as "parapsychology" (and "extreme psychology" is unknown to me). The examples that I open with are from the accepted literature, although they reflect unusual behaviors for the most part (the transgender phenomenon is pretty wide spread and self-evident, though). These behaviors offer challenges to the scientific vision of life which also appears to be largely unquestioned here in this essay contest.

3. The bigger point in my essay is that the general scientific explanation for our individual selfs, if you will, as covered by behavioral genetics and personal genomics, has been striking out for almost a decade now. We possess very little variable DNA and that variable DNA has been scoured now for almost a decade and they have found almost nothing. That was "absolutely beyond belief" in 2008 and it certainly still is "absolutely beyond belief" now. The failure of behavioral genetics is a wholesale challenge to psychology.

4. I added a point about Eugene Wigner's intuition which appeared to be consistent with this situation.

5. With regards to your essay my interests in physics now is limited to reading some Scientific American articles. I doubt I could get much traction with your points on the Dynamic Universe Model. I think that mysteries about life offer their own challenges and ultimately suggestions of additional physics (I touch on this in my book). If people want to contemplate further foundational physics they should consider some of the mysteries apparent within our own lives.

I hope things are going well for you.


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Gary D. Simpson wrote on Feb. 26, 2017 @ 17:20 GMT

This essay is a tour de force of contrary examples ... well done ... assuming of course that the examples that you present are true:-)

As difficult and as heart-breaking as it may be, studying individuals with highly anomalous brain matter can give huge insight into the workings of the mind and brain. The example of the young man with essentially only 5% of a normal brain who still managed to function normally and received a degree in mathematics is amazing. The question you ask is very appropriate ... if he could overcome such an enormous handicap, then why are not there individuals who are performing at super-human levels?

The example of the young boy who could play the cello is completely incomprehensible to me ... I would almost have to give it a spiritual based explanation.

The extraordinary memory of the woman mentioned is also amazing ... perhaps something happened to her at age 11 that triggered her ability?

One thing is very clear to me ... It makes more sense and would be MUCH more cost effective to study individuals such as these rather than to try to build some sort of electro-magnetic neural observatory.

Many thanks for an interesting read. This is certainly a challenge to the material theory of the mind.

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

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Author Ted Christopher replied on Feb. 27, 2017 @ 15:42 GMT
Hi Gary Simpson,

I thank you for the nicely written follow-up on my essay.

I have looked at your essay but am not familiar with quaternions. I am impressed with the emphasis on tests and the un-hyped quality to your essay, though.

In the less intellectual neighborhood of my essay, though, I must add that I am surprised that more people aren't looking at such challenges to materialism. I have spent years writing to academics pointing out some challenges - and seemingly interesting topics - facing science. Other than an annual polite 'Thank you for the suggestion' e-mail followup I have not detected any interest in this area.

The real story, though, will be the missing heritability problem. This is the big general challenge facing science.

Finally, if anyone out there is interested you can look up my book's title at Kirkus Reviews. Apparently a philosopher reviewed the book and at that page you can go to my "Pro Connect" page and then download a PDF containing the first 50-ish pages of the book. The second chapter therein contains intelligence related mysteries. There are plenty. The traditional explanation leads to the possible beginnings of associated physical insight.

Thanks again and good luck with things,


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Gary D. Simpson wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 13:20 GMT

I do not understand why your essay is not generating more interest. Are you commenting in other peoples' forums? That is one way to get folks to read and comment on your own work although it is only ~30% effective.

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

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Author Ted Christopher replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 15:13 GMT
Hi again Gary,

I hope thing are ok with you.

I suspect that A LOT of interesting essay work here is simply lost in the numbers. It is too bad.

I have tried buying simple ads for my book but it gets little traction. As a nobody making heretical claims it is difficult to be taken seriously. Pretty much the only way I have gotten some attention on this material is by paying a small fee to have book clubs consider my book. These people like to read AND also review books.

Anyway, too much attention is placed on what D. Bohm once referred to as the "Big Shots".



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Don Limuti wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 07:18 GMT
Hi Ted,

I liked your essay....a lot.

One of the few that question the bias of the question itself.

Nice work.


Don Limuti

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Author Ted Christopher replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 16:16 GMT
Hi Don,

Thank you for the nice note.

It is ok to question outside the box.


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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 19:06 GMT
Dear Ted Christopher,,

Thanks for reading and commenting. Your essay is full of case studies that seem to have significance for materialist-based understanding of consciousness. I too have written of those cases where large percentages of the brain are missing but consciousness is not missing. And the Caenorhabditis elegan's 302 neurons (without the consciousness field) have not answered...

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Author Ted Christopher wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 01:14 GMT
Hi again Edwin Eugene Klingman,

I thank you for your thoughtful comments here. I will get back at your essay's comment section with more detailed comments in a couple of days.

But one important clarification I need to put out there. Only a little bit of DNA - 0.1% or about 3 million letters - varies between individuals. That variable DNA should largely be the origins of the innate differences that we can observe around us. They have been searching hard now for about decade and have identified very little of the expected connections for behavioral genetics and personal genomics. This is an enormous and significant mystery.

In the realm of intelligence they also have some supporting observations with regards to where our genomes differ from chimps. Combining the two - not much variable DNA plus known locations where our DNA differs from chimps - and you would certainly think that IQ would by now have some significant confirmed DNA basis. (As related personal data point I tutor 4 afternoons a week and get to observe the differences in academic intelligence. Even within families these differences are striking.) Anyway the 1% DNA genetic basis that I cited I doubt anyone takes seriously. They're still fishing for the expected DNA-footing.

Thanks again,

Ted Christopher

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Alexey/Lev Burov wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 01:31 GMT
Dear Ted,

Your essay is one of the most interesting in this contest; I am giving you a high score. I think, two issues prevent it from having the attention it deserves. First, this sort of strange and shocking facts you have collected is normally considered with a lot of suspicion about their truth. Second, it is not clear what to do with that sort of facts, what research program is adequate for them. Since they are extremely personal, it is not clear whether they belong to the domain of science at all. Anyway, I consider your book as a possible candidacy to discuss in my Fermi Society of Philosophy.

Note that I answered you on our page.

All the best, Alexey Burov.

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Alexey/Lev Burov wrote on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 17:55 GMT
Hi Ted,

I have just answered to your new post on our page. I copy it below for your convenience.



I think all your 'quibbles' are important, giving me a chance to focus on some of our key issues.


"One quibble with your essay was with regards to the claim about the mystical nature of many great mathematicians and physicists. My sense of...

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Gavin William Rowland wrote on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 08:42 GMT
Hi Ted

I enjoyed reading your essay. It is well crafted holds the reader's interest. I have given you a high mark. The real problem, as I see it, is the lack of foundational work being done in the appropriate direction. As I expect you are aware, approximately 1/3 of the energy budget of the universe is matter (dark, baryonic, radiation). The other 2/3 approx. is dark energy, which is nonmaterial and appears to be everywhere. That likely includes within the subatomic spaces of you and I. So if we are looking for a credible hypothesis for the soul we should start with this stuff.

Who is doing work on this frontier? As far as I am aware, just me alone. If you are interested to know more, there is my paper you can find here (look under table of contents). For the full version there is my book Mind Beyond Matter, which can be downloaded from Amazon, Kobo etc for a small sum.

My essay in this competition is a chunk of this work, but is really just the part that best fits the question. Thankfully it doesn't require the dark energy stuff, which brings with it a whole lot of extra physics. I'll be interested to hear your opinion of my essay.

Best regards


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Author Ted Christopher replied on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 17:06 GMT
Hi Gavin,

Just a quick response amidst business. I really appreciate your reading and commenting on my essay. This weekend I will download. print, and read your essay.

One quick disagreement. I think the place to look for the "credible hypothesis" it is to look at the failure of the scientific/materialist vision. This I tried to do in my book. I think the physics-side is too ambiguous and also far from meaning.



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Gavin William Rowland replied on Mar. 18, 2017 @ 01:37 GMT
Hi Ted

Thanks for that. I appreciate what you are doing here and i think its a good forum for it.

The problem is I think we are currently in a slow turnaround process. The scientific method is to find data through observation and experiment, and formulate logical explanations. Because observational data is mathematizable, empirical science is closely wedded to maths.

The scientific revolution has taken us to a point where (I think) we are starting to run out of empirical data of the type that is useful for exploration of foundational questions. I expect more from cosmology, but not a lot else. This leaves some physicists at a loose end, and they begin pursuing mathematical theories that really have little justification for existence in reality.

Most of the unexplained questions now lie either within consciousness, or at the very foundation of reality - why is there something rather than nothing, why quantum physics etc. These problems are metaphysical, and normal science isn't getting any traction on them. Thats probably because its not simply a case of simple interpretation of observational data, and that we will need to go beyond observation and maths to pure logic.

As I said, its a turnaround time. I'm interested to read a new book by Roger Trigg "Beyond Matter - Why Science Needs Metaphysics"



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James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 21:33 GMT

Intentions and mental functioning is probably still a mystery because ignorance of the functioning brain in conjunction with "missing heritability" problems and the little understood relationship between operation of the brain and the blueprint of life, DNA. An impasse at the intersection of the "laws of heredity and of physics" is not discussed very much in the world of physics. Certainly the human failings regarding free and open analysis of the natural world requires an understanding of how DNA and the brain affect behavior.

My speculation regarding the source of dark matter and mindless laws, perhaps touches on this.

Hope you get a chance to provide your ideas on my essay, Ted.

Jim Hoover

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Author Ted Christopher wrote on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 23:11 GMT
Hi Jim,

Thank you very much for your thoughtful note. I am in the midst of a busy day (and in an active house) now. I will try to sneak away this weekend to read essays like your own.



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James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 22:03 GMT

Thanks for taking time out from an obviously busy schedule to check out my essay. This contests seems to feature a reluctance to read and comment and an unusual tendency to rate low w/o comments. I gave yours an above average rating when I reviewed it.



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