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

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

Vladimir Fedorov: on 2/27/18 at 5:35am UTC, wrote Dear Victor, I highly appreciate your well-written essay in an effort to...

Steven Andresen: on 2/23/18 at 13:25pm UTC, wrote Dear Victor If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the...

John Merryman: on 2/12/18 at 1:42am UTC, wrote Victor, That is both an accessible and deep description of our cognitive...

George Gantz: on 1/31/18 at 16:59pm UTC, wrote Victor - I really enjoyed reading your essay, thanks. Clearly this is a...

Joe Fisher: on 1/31/18 at 16:27pm UTC, wrote Dear Fellow Essayists This will be my final plea for fair treatment., ...

Satyavarapu Gupta: on 1/30/18 at 22:51pm UTC, wrote Hi Dr.Victor Usack Wonderful analysis… “It seems to me the more...

Victor Usack: on 1/26/18 at 2:52am UTC, wrote Marcel You are right. I admire your work and think the world would do...

Dizhechko Semyonovich: on 1/25/18 at 19:13pm UTC, wrote Well Done Victor! Wonderful arguments about the knowability of the real...


Joe Fisher: "Today’s Closer To Truth Facebook page contained this peculiar piece of..." in First Things First: The...

Joe Fisher: "Today’s Closer To Truth Facebook page contained this peculiar piece of..." in First Things First: The...

Eckard Blumschein: "Isn't symmetry simply closely related to redundancy even if physicist may..." in Will A.I. Take Over...

Robert Rise: "Meet many types of women on ihookup. Some dates better than others. It is..." in Time in Physics & Entropy...

Steve Dufourny: "FQXI you too I need your help, come all too we have a work to do there..." in Will A.I. Take Over...

Steve Dufourny: "lol REVOLUTION SPHERISATION everywhere at all scales,REVOLUTION..." in Alternative Models of...

Georgina Woodward: "The kind of time required, over which the material change is happening, (to..." in Schrödinger’s Zombie:...

Steve Dufourny: "after all like Borh has made,this universe and its spheres for me are like..." in Alternative Models of...

click titles to read articles

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

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

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

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

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

October 23, 2019

CATEGORY: FQXi Essay Contest - Spring, 2017 [back]
TOPIC: Fundamentally Complicated, and apparently mostly unobservable, or, trying to squirm out of Paul Davies mental straight jacket inherited from evolutionary happenstance. by Victor Usack [refresh]
Bookmark and Share
Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Author Victor Usack wrote on Jan. 17, 2018 @ 21:55 GMT
Essay Abstract

FXQI administrator Brendan Foster taunts us with impossible resolution of the mind. The author labors under the illusion there will ever be a consensus to such a philosophical question. Why is that? Could it be the problem lies in the mind and not in some missing observation in the external reality? In this essay I abandon the realist credo of separate observer holding a (more or less) accurate reflection of the actual external reality. No doubt this has worked well to effect technology and we may like to extend this scope to the big ontological questions posed by the essay theme. However, consensus we have not, and the divide between fact and opinion bears witness to something more. Although fully half of me takes this question seriously, I pray the reader shares in my amusement. Let us begin with understanding the question. It seems to me the more fundamental the question is, the more difficult is unequivocal answer. Hmm. This inversion of fundamental simplicity and the knowable vexes my mind. As if fundamental questions were not difficult enough, Mr. Foster would have us evaluate the fundamental itself. This speaks of his diabolical nature. I must retort! Game on!

Author Bio

Vik Usak is a retired technical specialist from Brookhaven National Laboratory. He participated in the construction, maintenance, and operations of the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron, NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, G-2 measurement, Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, and the National Synchrotron Light Source 2. He retired in 2015 to pursue private studies and pray.

Download Essay PDF File

Bookmark and Share

Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Jan. 18, 2018 @ 03:04 GMT
Dear Victor Usack,

You say "the myth of empirical science, accurately reflected in reason, started dying a hundred years ago." I will avoid the "(uncomfortable) awareness of the subjective component to this business." I will avoid even the realist versus idealist aspects. But you then say

"Like time, we have firm intuitive grasp of its meaning."

But over 100 years ago Einstein presented two axioms from which he concluded the "relativity of simultaneity" completely in conflict with our intuitive grasp of time! You mention other "philosophical tailspins", concluding "like the Papacy, the Bureau of Standards is not open to certain types of inquiry." [I like that!]

You note that "the consensual trend seems to be toward the constancy of time as the fundamental reference. The number of oscillations defines the second, [and the second defines the number of oscillations.]" You then ask "is the definition of time a rate or interval?" and then stipulate that the observer's clock and the oscillator are not moving relative to each other.

You extend this "contingency" argument to a number of fundamentals, all of which you do well, but I'll jump off here to blow my own horn. My essay treats the historical development of Einstein's "relativity of simultaneity" in a way that I hope will catch your interest. I would appreciate any comments you might give me.

My best regards, and congratulations on a very well-written essay.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Anonymous replied on Jan. 19, 2018 @ 17:06 GMT

Your avoidance is an example of the way we navigate around the philosophical problems. Correct to say relativity assaults the firm intuitive grasp (inherited from evolutionary happenstance). As you can see, I have abandoned myself lost in a conceptual landscape. I allow myself nothing to hold on to except the comfortable providence granted me. SRT works. Synchrotron timing requires SRT. The way I see it, length contraction, time dilation, and relative mass are all ways of looking at the same phenomena. In any description something gets fixed. In the conventional case it is the observer frame. Seconds, meters, and kilograms have fixed meaning at rest in the observers frame. They are variables outside the given frame. My assertion is that we can choose to fix anything we want and write a description. I have not yet found time to digest your essay. But at a glance it seems you would choose to fix the time dimension. Fixing the time dimension seems a sensible realist approach. I have no doubt that would work. At this point I don’t know what advantage it has. The mathematics of SRT is not bad, but GRT is. My challenge to you is to write a description of space – gravitation without the bloody Einstein field equations. Help me out. Where is the simple calculation for the correction factor to keep the clock on a geostationary satellite synchronized with my watch? I suspect some preconceived notions are preventing us from convenient description. Perhaps the conundrum of ether, background dependent-independent descriptions, relativity of motion, in short the mystery of space, is not yet understood. I harp on the realism thing because I suspect it prevents us from the stroke of imagination needed to write convenient theories. I have much more to say concerning time but not enough space here.

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Georgina Woodward wrote on Jan. 18, 2018 @ 07:54 GMT
Hi Victor,

Quote "I look for problems with the perceptual, instead of the actual. The “observer – observation system” is a step in the right direction, but still maintains the realist distinction; an appeal to a third person perspective i.e. “I’m looking at myself look at it.” VU. Absolutely a step in the right direction.

Quote "The actual reality beyond observation, that must exist, is reconciled with the directly observed by selective thinking." VU. Yes a very important point. they are not the same, I have made a list of differences to demonstrate they are absolutely not the same thing.

Quote "Ultimately, I think, the idealist must call into question the distinction between the observer (or self) and the observation."VU. Very important point. Measurables are relative, not sole properties of the entity investigated. The measurement the observer obtains or what he sees is relative to his particular viewpoint, orientation or state of motion or the procedure he used to obtain a limited, fixed state, or fixed value, measurement outcome. If it is a visual product of observation it is in his mind not external to him.

Thoroughly enjoyable essay. I love that you openly express your frustration and puzzlement through well considered discourse. I like the open questions. For some of which I have answers and others are food for thought. Right brain at end? Kind regards Georgina

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Georgina Woodward wrote on Jan. 18, 2018 @ 09:37 GMT
By the way, there is an FQXi blog page about the poor old kilogram. You said re. retiring "Le Grand K artifact", "This would seem to alleviate the philosophical problems" VU. I think it somehow severs that intuitive feeling for what mass is. Comparing like with like seems right, even if a dirty (or over cleaned) old school method. Muddling material objects and electromagnetic phenomena caused the category error in Relativity. Georgina

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Heinrich Luediger wrote on Jan. 18, 2018 @ 16:34 GMT
Hi Victor,

You say: “My inability to distinguish the way it is from the way I’m looking at it drives me to schizophrenic madness” and: “One of the fundamental philosophical conundrums is the nature of space as a self-subsistent entity, or instead something that is only real in relation to matter.”

The problem has already been solved by Felix Klein: Klein defined space as properties conserved under a transformation group. The Euclidean group is defined as the group of transformations conserving distances and angles (reflection is of no point here). Now, objects like blocks of stone had been manipulated long before Euclid, and it was already then general knowledge that objects don’t break when (if so carefully) translated or rotated. ‘Not-breaking’, however, is equivalent to the ‘conservation of object distances and angles’. So, the ‘space’ of our operations in the world is no geometrical space at all, but defined by operations and relations. Then Euclidean space is that geometrical space NOT CONTRADICTING our operations in the world. And since we have no experience concerning ‘spaces’ in which e.g. a left shoe can be transformed into a right shoe without tearing it up (4D), any speculation about other than Euclidean spaces is in vain.

Your headache results from trying to be an idealist AND a positivist. How about rationalism?


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Marcel-Marie LeBel wrote on Jan. 18, 2018 @ 17:23 GMT

“I once tried to construct a theory of gravity by invoking an artificial and variable unit of volume.”

I did so too. Here it goes..

Time slows down as we get closer to the ground. Then an object falls toward a slower time. A slower time means “longer seconds”. So, in order for c (meter/second) to remain constant, the meters must grow as much as the seconds get longer. In other words, an object falling toward the ground actually falls into larger space. And, falling into larger space is dispersion a.k.a. the essential of thermodynamics.

So you have gravity is an entropic event or vice-versa. ???

-- Interesting and readable interrogations essay ... But short of the metaphysical answer. All models, numbers etc. are on a need to know basis only. The Universe need not to know any of it in order to happen. So, the universe is what IS and Happen before we look or think about it....


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Author Victor Usack replied on Jan. 23, 2018 @ 12:42 GMT

Thank you for the generous response. Most replies are expressions of agreement or disagreement. You provide rare contribution. I find your comments valuable as I try to develop my ideas. You are correct that my essay is short on answers. It is not intended to be an answer but rather a question. We assume unlimited scope to our logic. All these essays, in my estimation, point to the absurd belief that the ultimate questions posed by FQXi can be unequivocally answered on the basis of established facts and absolute distinctions. For me, the medley of opinions points to a personal truth as opposed to a universal truth. A sort of extreme relativity. But this leads to the self-referential paradox; the fact that ultimate truth is personal then becomes the ultimate truth. We could suppose the ultimate rules do not apply to themselves but I will leave you to follow that philosophical tailspin. I should expect my fellow human beings to reject notion that identifying the most significant fundamental is futile. Most of them know what it is. I do not.

Bookmark and Share

Marcel-Marie LeBel replied on Jan. 24, 2018 @ 17:33 GMT

I define truth as an absence of choice for anyone. The moment we choose, it can`t be a truth.

We don`t have a choice about how we perceive/construct our reality .. So, our reality is a truth system defined by a number of impossibilities.

Impossibility to see beyond UV and IR, to hear above 15k Hz..etc.. These impossibilities define the specific window of our reality.

On the other hand, our intellect has no impossibilities other than those we are accepting. A choiceless logical argument will constitute a truth system in itself. All we have to do is consider the right concepts i.e. existence (substance) and spontaneity (cause).

All the bests,


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Author Victor Usack replied on Jan. 26, 2018 @ 02:52 GMT

You are right. I admire your work and think the world would do better with thoughtful people like yourself. However your response is an invitation to the philosophical tailspin. From my vantage this is a futile exercise since I can neither prove nor disprove your assertions and vice versa. I see this as exemplary of the human condition. I claim the ultimate truth unknowable. But if...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share

Joe Fisher wrote on Jan. 20, 2018 @ 20:03 GMT
Dear Victor,

I think might be trying to find out if there could be a Natural fundamental. I am surprised that so many of the contest's entrants do not appear to know what am fundamental to science, or mathematics, or quantum histrionics.

Joe Fisher, Realist

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Jan. 25, 2018 @ 19:13 GMT
Well Done Victor! Wonderful arguments about the knowability of the real world, about the impossibility of determining the primary between the ideal and the real world, to limit the judgment of the person only his experience, his programming from communication with other people.

You write: "The equivalence of material and spatial volume may seem like a simplifying assumption, but perhaps it behooves us to exotic geometry to effect a viable description of gravitation" is built On this New Cartesian Physics and if we believe Descartes that space is identical to matter, its quantity it is necessary to measure not mass, but volume. Take a look at my essay in which I try to make the space Foundation for fundamental theories. Let for yourself if it is not perceived by others. It'll make me feel more fundamental.

With great respect, Boris Dizhechko Semyonovich

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Jan. 30, 2018 @ 22:51 GMT
Hi Dr.Victor Usack

Wonderful analysis… “It seems to me the more fundamental the question is, the more difficult is unequivocal answer. Hmm. This inversion of fundamental simplicity and the knowable vexes my mind.”…… dear Dr Victor Usack…. With the same analytic mind…. If you can analyse my essay also….

I hope you may please spend some of the valuable time on Dynamic...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Joe Fisher wrote on Jan. 31, 2018 @ 16:27 GMT
Dear Fellow Essayists

This will be my final plea for fair treatment.,

FQXI is clearly seeking to find out if there is a fundamental REALITY.

Reliable evidence exists that proves that the surface of the earth was formed millions of years before man and his utterly complex finite informational systems ever appeared on that surface. It logically follows that Nature must have permanently devised the only single physical construct of earth allowable.

All objects, be they solid, liquid, or vaporous have always had a visible surface. This is because the real Universe must consist only of one single unified VISIBLE infinite surface occurring eternally in one single infinite dimension that am always illuminated mostly by finite non-surface light.

Only the truth can set you free.

Joe Fisher, Realist

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

George Gantz wrote on Jan. 31, 2018 @ 16:59 GMT
Victor - I really enjoyed reading your essay, thanks. Clearly this is a difficult journey, for you and for many, as the goal of comprehending the universe continues to slip away even as we seem so close. You and Hawking! We believe the universe is comprehensible - but find empirical, rational thought inadequate to the task of comprehending it. We are, at last and at the first, pushed into mysticism.

Cheers - George

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

John Brodix Merryman wrote on Feb. 12, 2018 @ 01:42 GMT

That is both an accessible and deep description of our cognitive circling.

If I have a particular point of disagreement it would be that space is virtual. In the preceding paragraph you observe that zero is a recent mathematical addition, but that modern math would be inconceivable without it. I would argue space is the physical equivalent to mathematical zero.


view entire post

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Steven Andresen wrote on Feb. 23, 2018 @ 13:25 GMT
Dear Victor

If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the final days of the contest, will you consider mine please?

A couple of days in and semblance of my essay taking form, however the house bound inactivity was wearing me. I had just the remedy, so took off for a solo sail across the bay. In the lea of cove, I had underestimated the open water wind strengths. My...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Vladimir Nikolaevich Fedorov wrote on Feb. 27, 2018 @ 05:35 GMT
Dear Victor,

I highly appreciate your well-written essay in an effort to understand.

Your essay allowed to consider us like-minded people.

I hope that my modest achievements can be information for reflection for you.

Vladimir Fedorov

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.