Search FQXi

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 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.

Contests Home

Previous Contests

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

What Is “Fundamental”
October 28, 2017 to January 22, 2018
Sponsored by the Fetzer Franklin Fund and The Peter & Patricia Gruber Foundation

Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fund.

Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Contest Partners: Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and The John Templeton Foundation
Media Partner: Scientific American


How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
Contest Partners: The Gruber Foundation, J. Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American

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

What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
Contest Partners: Astrid and Bruce McWilliams

The Nature of Time
August - December 2008

Forum Home
Terms of Use

Order posts by:
 chronological order
 most recent first

Posts by the author are highlighted in orange; posts by FQXi Members are highlighted in blue.

By using the FQXi Forum, you acknowledge reading and agree to abide by the Terms of Use

 RSS feed | RSS help

Edwin Klingman: on 3/16/17 at 22:49pm UTC, wrote Dear Heinrich, Thank you for reading my essay and for asking excellent...

Satyavarapu Gupta: on 3/14/17 at 15:29pm UTC, wrote Nice essay Prof Pas and Wittmann, Your ideas and thinking are excellent...

Joe Fisher: on 3/13/17 at 16:23pm UTC, wrote Dear Professor Heinrich Päs, Please excuse me for I have no intention of...

Vladimir Tamari: on 3/13/17 at 0:51am UTC, wrote sorry I submitted my comment before signing in Cheers. Vladimir

Anonymous: on 3/13/17 at 0:50am UTC, wrote Dear Heinrich and Mark I really enjoyed your beautifully writen and...

Steve Dufourny: on 3/11/17 at 0:17am UTC, wrote I have just a few absences and some weak problems.I am better now.I have...

Steve Dufourny: on 3/10/17 at 20:20pm UTC, wrote Hi all, Congratulations for your papper. I am a little intrigued having...

Giovanni Prisinzano: on 3/10/17 at 18:32pm UTC, wrote Dear Heinrich, thanks for your kind and detailed answer! I agree with...


Steve Dufourny: "Hi Georgina and Mr Sturm, Mr Sturm , sad that you have a problem with..." in The Present State of...

Deserdi Chapas: "Hi FQXI Members: We found the courage to asymptotically take one step..." in Alternative Models of...

Georgina Woodward: "I'd like to share with you a thoroughly revised version of the shorter..." in The Present State of...

Steve Dufourny: "I have improved a lot this theory of spherisation withe quantum and..." in Alternative Models of...

David Vognar: "Quantum physics isn't the end of reality; we just need better rulers that..." in Quantum Physics and the...

algo rrithm: "A digital marketing agency in India is showcasing that happens through Web..." in Dark matter effect on the...

algo rrithm: "A branding agency in delhi is a firm having some expertise in the key and..." in The secret of planets’...

algo rrithm: "Advanced advertising assists brands with arriving at their interest group..." in Dark matter effect on the...

click titles to read articles

The Entropic Price of Building the Perfect Clock: Q&A with Natalia Ares
Experiments investigating the thermodynamics of clocks can teach us about the origin of time's arrow.

Schrödinger’s A.I. Could Test the Foundations of Reality
Physicists lay out blueprints for running a 'Wigner's Friend' experiment using an artificial intelligence, built on a quantum computer, as an 'observer.'

Expanding the Mind (Literally): Q&A with Karim Jerbi and Jordan O'Byrne
Using a brain-computer interface to create a consciousness 'add-on' to help test Integrated Information Theory.

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

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

January 29, 2023

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: How to set goals in a timeless quantum Universe by Heinrich Päs and Marc Wittmann [refresh]
Bookmark and Share
Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Author Heinrich Päs wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 15:11 GMT
Essay Abstract

Aims and intentions as pertaining to conscious agents are defined in a temporal, classical perspective onto the Universe. In this essay we contrast this temporal, classical perspective with a timeless and fundamental quantum reality and argue that these points of view correspond to philosophical notions of "becoming" and "being". These realms can be identified both within physics as well as within psychology. We speculate that the relations between the corresponding realms in both fields are non-trivial and raise some of the most fascinating fundamental questions that could link the understanding of consciousness with fundamental physics.

Author Bio

Heinrich Päs, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany. He works on neutrinos and particle physics beyond the Standard Model. Beyond that, he is interested in the nature of space, time and reality. Accomplishments: Scientific American cover feature,Physical Review D Editorial Board, pop-science book "The Perfect Wave". Marc Wittmann, Ph.D., Research Fellow at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany. Research area: Cognitive Neuroscience with focus on the perception of time. He explores how subjective time is related to cognition, emotion, and body states. Book "Felt Time: The Psychology of how we perceive time" (MIT)

Download Essay PDF File

Bookmark and Share

Lorraine Ford wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 06:01 GMT
Dear Heinrich and Marc,

Re ‘To understand how things such as aims and intentions can arise from mindless fundamental physics we first have to understand what the fundamental reality is.”:

Why are you assuming that fundamental physics is mindless?

“While these results are not unchallenged, we nevertheless thus adopt as a working hypothesis that consciousness should be understood as a phenomenon linked to a classical algorithm operating in the brain and defining the factorization into subject/conscious self, object and environment”:

Where did the algorithm come from?

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Author Heinrich Päs replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 17:16 GMT
Dear Loraine,

thanks for reading our essay. Regarding your questions:

"Why are you assuming that fundamental physics is mindless?"

The short answer is, we just quoted the essay motto here. But more importantly, we argue that things like aims, intentions, and mind need time and a classical reality as prerequisites. As fundamental reality is quantum and as there are good reasons that also time is an emergent property, we conclude that also aims, intentions and mind are emergent rather than fundamental.

"Where did the algorithm come from?"

As has been argued by people like John Archibald Wheeler or Seth Lloyd in principle one can understand all natural processes as a running computation. Now if you ask where the specific algorithm giving rise to consciousness comes from I would answer it is a product of biological evolution.

Best regards, Heinrich

Bookmark and Share

Giovanni Prisinzano wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 18:30 GMT
Dear Authors,

Very beatiful essay, well documented and argued, in my opinion one of the best among those I have read sofar in the contest. It presents a nice balance between the physical, the psychological, and the philosophical aspects of the issue, with a brilliant use of the Dionysian-Apollonian concepts couple associated with the great Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Parmenides, the first interpreter of temporality and becoming, the second of immutability and being.

One question: you write of an “algorithm” assumed to be the physical correlate of consciousness. How this algorithm should be intended? In the logical-mathematical sense of a computable sequence of operations, or in the physical sense of a natural process? Both possibilities raise problems. In the first case the consciousness may be implemented or reproduced by a computer. In the second it may be, at least in principle, detected experimentally.

(Of course I don't have an answer. I think so far we can say of the consciousness much more what it is not, than what it is. It is not a feeling, nor a state of mind, nor a process, nor an activity, but it is something that must be able to accompany feelings, moods, processes, activities, such as seeing, feeling, speaking, suffer and so on. As Kant wrote "The 'I think' must be able to accompany all my representations". But neither Kant nor anyone else has so far explained the nature of consciousness. Only conjectures have been made. A hypothesis that seems plausible to me is that it is a mathematical function, self-referential and incomputabile, that reminds in some ways the Goedel formula. But it is just a pure hypothesis.)

My best regards,


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Author Heinrich Päs replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 17:19 GMT
Dear Giovanni,

thank you very much for the kind words. Of course also we have no answer to what consciousness is. My personal feeling is that consciousness is more related to information than to matter (although matter may play an important role). Thus I like information-theoretic ansatzes such as IIT. If consciousness (or some aspects of it) would be reproduced by a computer that wouldn’t be a problem for me. But probably things are not that simple: as Marc might argue, things like emotions are generated in areas such as the brain stem which (as far as I know) are unconscious according to IIT but essential to our self-image. However, as Marc summarizes evidence, emotions are also felt and are strongly linked to cortical, i.e. self-conscious processes related to the insular cortex. Emotions stem from an interplay between conscious and unconscious processes. Moreover I personally believe that information always needs some material representation to be effective in the physical world. So I personally would believe that consciousness is a computable sequence of operations represented by a physical process. That this physical process could be detected experimentally would also be no problem for me (and already now we can find parallels between activation patterns e.g. in NMR brain scans and conscious brain activity). I actually find this prospect pretty exciting.

Our main point of course is that it could help both physics and the understanding of consciousness to study experimentally what happens in altered states of consciousness where the self is experienced as dissolving. Does that have consequences for the perspective being important for the emergence of classical reality? Or is it totally independent and the seemingly parallels between physics and psychology are just accidental? We don’t know, but we believe it would be exciting and important to study these questions.

Best regards, Heinrich

Bookmark and Share

Giovanni Prisinzano replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 18:32 GMT
Dear Heinrich,

thanks for your kind and detailed answer!

I agree with almost all of your remark and I find myself very interesting the IIT, on which a couple years ago I read a fascinating book in Italian:

(By the way, I apologize for my insecure English. In the previous post I wrote inexcusably "the consciousness", something I don't usually do).

The only thing that puzzles me is the idea that consciousness can be a computable process. This would mean, according to the nature of Turing machines, that, if a computer gets to run the algorithm of consciousness, then all computers are in theory able to do so, thus making consciousness a sort of infinitely replicable program. This contrasts with the individuality of consciousness, which makes us consider unrepeatable the self of everyone. But, again, this is just my doubt and I too find exciting the perspectives that more extensive experimental tests on both the IIT and the altered states of consciousness can open on the relationship between quantum and classical dimension of reality, as well as on the nature of time, to which, as can be seen right from your and Marc's paper, consciousness is intimately connected.

Best regard again,


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Gavin William Rowland wrote on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 13:05 GMT
Dear Heinrich and Marc

I enjoyed your essay. I am not particularly a fan of IIT or the relationship of entropy -> time, but these were peripheral to your main thesis. By the second last page that things started to fall into place for me.

As I understand it, you are proposing that our everyday perception of reality and sense of self (the two closely intertwined) exist at an essentially classical level. When we detach from classical reality via altered states of consciousness, we come in contact with our non-local quantum reality.

Do you mean from this that you regard the mind as a nonlocal entity?

I am also interested in psychology/consciousness and psychological time. Indeed i have referenced your book Marc "Felt Time" in my essay "From nothingness to value ethics". I would be interested in your thoughts on my reasoning.

Best regards


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Author Heinrich Päs replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 17:21 GMT
Dear Gavin,

thank you very much! You are right, IIT and the entropy-time relation are peripheral to our main thesis, namely that time, self and reality are emergent both in psychology and in physics, and that the relations between the psychological and physics notions of these concepts should be studied.

In fact we propose „that our everyday perception of reality and sense of self (the two closely intertwined) exist at an essentially classical level.“ Whether in altered states of consciousness we really come into contact with quantum reality is just one possible (and rather strong) hypothesis. But it is a hypothesis I believe is worth studying experimentally. I personally would not believe that the mind is a non-local entity but that it could be possible that while the mind is dissolving in altered states of consciousness in the process of this „phase transition“ it could get some glimpse onto quantum reality. As I said this is strong hypothesis but in any case one should study experimentally what self, consciousness and perspectives means for both physics and psychology even if it may turn out that both notions are totally unrelated.

Best regards, Heinrich

Bookmark and Share

Gavin William Rowland replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 10:28 GMT
Dear Heinrich

Speaking of altered states of consciousness, it is interesting that those reporting near death experiences report a spaceless and timeless reality. It can seem like hours have passed when in fact the duration is only minutes. Whether or not one regards these as anything more than the oxygen starved brain, they are an interesting type of altered state of consciousness as they do seem consistently nonlocal in flavour.

Best regards, Gavin

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Marc Wittmann replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 13:42 GMT
Dear Gavin,

yes indeed, individual reports after near-death experiences point to the same notions of "timelessness" and "selflessness". However, it is near impossible to systematically study those cases prospectively (while they are having the experience). With psychological techniques such as meditation, trance, etc. or with psychotropic substances one can induce such experiences as I have summarized in: Wittmann M (2015) Modulations of the experience of self and time. Consciousness and Cognition 38, 172–181.

Best regards,


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Anonymous wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 00:50 GMT
Dear Heinrich and Mark

I really enjoyed your beautifully writen and thought out essay, it answers the essay topic and is besed on the latest research.

I liked your emphasizing the the Dionesian/Appollo dichotomy and extending it to the absolute universe of Newton et al, and on the other hand the relative observer perspective - I attach a recent painting I made fearuring these two opposite figures. It is titled "Marching Forward Never Doubting Clouds Will Break" made as you can see definitely a frog/ant let us say human perspective.

Alas I do not accept most of the fundamental cenceptual formulations of Quantum Mechanics that you used as a springboard to consciousness. Decoherence, Probability, Many-Universes. I am confident that these concepts and many others will give way to an Appollonian physics with no observers inserted until needed. I have made such a model Beautiful Universe and feel confident once its rudementary outline is fleshed out it will solve many of the problems of the Dionesian physics Einstein introduced when he inserted the observer in Special Relativity.

I will be happy if you can read my fqxi essay my fqxi essay

Cheers, Vladimir

attachments: IMG_2422.JPG

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 00:51 GMT
sorry I submitted my comment before signing in

Cheers. Vladimir

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 16:23 GMT
Dear Professor Heinrich Päs,

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

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 15:29 GMT
Nice essay Prof Pas and Wittmann,

Your ideas and thinking are excellent like…..

1. Ironically, the view that the Universe is a single, all-encompassing unity carries the misleading name "Many-Worlds-Interpretation" in physics.

2. Thus in principle there are two possible kinds of quantum systems:

_ Isolated (typically microscopic) systems with no interaction with the...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 22:49 GMT
Dear Heinrich,

Thank you for reading my essay and for asking excellent questions. Having read your own excellent essay, despite that we agree on key points, I see it will be difficult to frame the answers to your questions in a comment. Some answers are already presented on my comments page but I doubt you have time to read these.

First, primordial – either awareness...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Please enter your e-mail address:
Note: Joining the FQXi mailing list does not give you a login account or constitute membership in the organization.