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

Current Essay Contest

Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American

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

Roger: on 8/9/11 at 7:11am UTC, wrote Everyone, If anyone is interested, the ideas in this FQXi essay along...

Anonymous: on 3/10/11 at 3:14am UTC, wrote Tati, Hi. Thanks for reading the essay and replying! I appreciate...

Anonymous: on 3/10/11 at 3:13am UTC, wrote Pete, Hi. I read your essay more thoroughly and rated it highly. I...

Tati: on 3/8/11 at 20:41pm UTC, wrote Dear Roger I thoroughly enjoyed reading your essay, specially your series...

Peter Mastro: on 3/5/11 at 14:31pm UTC, wrote Hello Roger, I enjoyed your essay. I think I have similar conclusions...

Roger: on 3/4/11 at 18:16pm UTC, wrote Peter, Hi. Thanks for the comments and for reading the essay. I...

Peter Jackson: on 3/4/11 at 16:53pm UTC, wrote Roger A very good essay, and interesting perspective on some important...

Anonymous: on 3/3/11 at 0:03am UTC, wrote Jim, Thank you for that and for reading the essay! ...


Georgina Woodward: "Observation products formed from received EMr aren't evidence of material..." in Anatomy of spacetime and...

Georgina Woodward: "Cf. Lion Location Probability Field and lion entity trapped- with QFT type..." in Anatomy of spacetime and...

Stefan Weckbach: "Hi Lorraine, in the case of the crashing twin-towers, the term “top-down..." in The Present State of...

Stefan Weckbach: "Hi Steve, take also care Steve, and may the force of the three spheres be..." in The Present State of...

Jim Snowdon: "Since evolving on our rapidly rotating planet, we have used it`s rotational..." in The Quantum Clock-Maker...

Steve Dufourny: "a general universal clock of evolution irreversible correlated for me with..." in The Quantum Clock-Maker...

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

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

click titles to read articles

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

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

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

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

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

September 18, 2021

CATEGORY: Is Reality Digital or Analog? Essay Contest (2010-2011) [back]
TOPIC: Reality is Digital, but its Perception as Digital or Analog Depends on the Perspective of the Observer by Roger Granet [refresh]
Bookmark and Share
Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Author Roger Granet wrote on Jan. 24, 2011 @ 14:36 GMT
Essay Abstract

The subject of this essay contest is “Is Reality Digital or Analog?”. Here, I suggest that reality, or what I call existence, is, at its base, digital (ie, discrete), but whether or not it is perceived by an observer as digital or analog (ie, continuous) depends on the perspective of the observer. The rationale for this argument is as follows. First, I propose that a thing exists because what is contained within, or meant by, that thing is completely defined. A complete definition is equivalent to an edge or boundary delimiting what is contained within the thing. If existent things require the presence of a complete definition/edge/boundary to exist, this means that existence comes in the form of discrete, or digital, chunks delimited by this edge. Next, I describe how an infinite set of discrete elements appears to an observer as either discrete or continuous depending on the perspective of the observer relative to the set. I show how this situation may relate to the perception of a discrete reality as either discrete or continuous depending on the perspective of the observer relative to reality. Finally, using the above definition of an existent thing as having a complete definition, I propose a discrete, cellular automata-like model for existence.

Author Bio

The author has bachelors and masters degrees in biomedical sciences and biochemistry and is currently employed as a biochemist in Columbus, Ohio (U.S.A). He has had lifelong interests in philosophy and physics.

Download Essay PDF File

Bookmark and Share

Mark C wrote on Jan. 31, 2011 @ 07:36 GMT
Hi Roger,

I think your approach of philosophical engineering sounds interesting and would seem to nudge our awareness towards the possibility of a metanarrative of observer reality and I was pleased to see you spending a degree of time through your essay on the importance of the observer. All too often reading papers on the physical world there is lip service paid to the observer by not referring to the degree that human observer reality is consumed and constructed, read and reconstructed.

The approach I have been working on for over a decade now is theoretical sociophysics which is rooted in an understanding of fundamental nature as outlined through Galilean geometry and this leads on to a/the metanarrative the social sciences have been looking for, or not looking for, because it's a common view that such a unified theory of the social world is not possible.

I don't think that reality is 'in' anything but an emergent and 'recurring from' emerging as a consequence of a particular, very specific and understandable relationship between the physical, terrestrial and social worlds. Social scientists in the main are not physically minded and the reverse can also be commonly true, so understanding enough about these layers of reality and how they weave together to make its fabric is difficult even in approach. Theoretical sociophysics paints a picture of reality that emerges from quantum, digital and analog processes and by making these connections we can understand that reality is the lens and gear of engagement through which humans understand the world around them. So this would be everything between animal-range actuality and the next level which we could call truth but that would be perhaps overstating the potential of human discovery of/as reality.

In Hawking and Mlodinow's 'The Grand Design' early in the book they announced that philosophy was dead yet they engaged in philosophy through parts of the book. In New Scientist's 22nd of January 2011 editorial they referred to 'quantum faiths' and there is no question for me that if science wants to understand the ultimate nature of reality then the challenge is not just about reconciling the very small with the very big, but also the traditional hard science with the softer social sciences. Philosophical engineering, for me is an encouraging sign along this trend but if we are to understand human behavioural firmware that enables our observer reality then that is not going to be understood in the drift from theoretical physics out to theoretical cosmology. I think the direction has to move in towards the observer somewhat and this is where theoretical sociophysics, with an improved understanding of human agency, of the difference between information and meaning, of time and even reality, is well placed although I did and do find your essay an interesting read.

Thanks for your time Roger


Mark C

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Roger replied on Jan. 31, 2011 @ 20:00 GMT

Hi. Thanks for your response! Your idea of combining sociology and physics sounds very interesting. I agree that people in both areas know very little about the other area. It's not quite the same as what you're thinking, but I've always thought there were a lot of parallels between biochemistry and social sciences. For instance, everything in the body is a balance of competing forces (phosphorylation/dephosophorylation, forward/reverse enzyme reactions, synthesis/degradation, etc.), and when one of these gets slightly out of balance, a disease can result. The same is true in sociology and economics. In the recent economic crash, the regulation/deregulation balance got way out of hand and shifted a lot towards deregulation. A disease, ie the financial crisis, resulted. The economic body is trying to work its way backj into balance now.

Anyways, I like your idea of combining the "softer" and "harder" science ways of thinking and think there's a lot to be done in that area. Good luck on your work!


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Mark C replied on Feb. 1, 2011 @ 08:31 GMT
Hi Roger

I'm wary of taking up more room on your essay thread but sociology and physics are ultimately dealing with a similar problem in understanding power and forces and reconciling a theory of the very small (individual) with a theory of the very large (society). I think that 'meaning' itself is the basis of a theory of everything for the social world. It is a virtual gravitation with a weak and strong force and this can be added to Ted Cloak's (cultural ethology) work on culture and electromagnetism.

I accept your metaphor of the social world and biochemistry but a physicist could equally refer to "a wave of discontent" or a meteorologist could refer to cultures as 'climates' and weather-like but to understand human social and cultural reality it means working through to metanarrative through first principles, mathematical representation towards equation and measurement. If we are serious about understanding the fabric of reality then realising that it has a number of threads (physical, terrestrial and social) and understanding more about these neighbouring approaches and how they are interwoven to give us the unitary experience we call reality is perhaps the greatest challenge across all the sciences.

The polarity you refer to (hot/cold, rich/poor, forward/reverse, etc) is something with deep tradition in the social sciences and understanding that the structure holding the social world together isn't tellingly in the atom, gene or even in the neuron but through and between human expression and in the trillions of artifacts that make up our primary source of experience in our daily, weekly, monthly and yearly lives. Any physics that announced to the world an ultimate theory of reality that didn't connect with people on this level wouldn't really by a theory of reality at all.

I do think your essay is an encouraging sign of the times, of current direction and scientific milieu but that is a level of structure held in/between people. It's tricky but certainly accessible.

Thanks again for your time Roger.

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Karl Coryat wrote on Feb. 1, 2011 @ 01:16 GMT
Roger: I am pleased to see a few essays leaning heavily on philosophy, and yours provides excellent examples of the insights this approach can produce. Your ideas on a hypothetical observer of the universe as a whole, which would necessarily perceive continuity, are very much in line with one of my favorite physicists, Dieter Zeh, who pointed out that "the universe as a whole never decoheres." In other words the universe generally obeys the Schrodinger equation (continuous), although our observations *within* the universe produce discontinuous results. I based my essay around this idea; I argue that even though the experience of reality comes to us as discrete observations or incremental increases in knowledge, the "external description" of nature, i.e. of nature as a whole, is in fact continuous. Perhaps my essay might interest you, as it focuses on our experience as biological beings who find ourselves inextricably embedded in nature -- while attempting, with physics, to describe nature as a whole.

Overall, I think that taking metaphysical interpretations seriously is necessary for us to better understand the universe on both the smallest and largest scales. Thank you for contributing.

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Roger replied on Feb. 1, 2011 @ 02:38 GMT

Hi. Thanks for the posting! I agree with you that physicisits and everyone should examine the most basic metaphysics behind any theory if they're going to make any advances to a final theory. We need to understand the foundational logic first before really getting there. I printed out your essay and will read it over. It sounds like we're kind of making the same point about how reality can appear as either discrete or continuous. Also, I noticed you had a degree in biology, too, and wonder if a biologist's perspective is what is needed in physics. In grad school, we had to learn a lot about using proper experimental method (positive and negative controls, etc.) to rule out the results being artifactual, and I've tried to use this thinking in my thought experiments, too. I think a lot of mathematicians and physicists could use some better experimental method in their thought experiments, IMHO.

Anyways, thanks for the posting, and I look forward to reading your essay!


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Karl Coryat replied on Feb. 1, 2011 @ 04:25 GMT
Roger, I've heard it said that physics is about finding the answers to questions, and philosophy is about finding out which questions to ask. So I agree that part of the approach to this essay assignment should be interpreting the question. It's interesting that FQXi used "reality" and "nature" interchangeably on its introduction page -- I find it useful to consider these as two different things, and it looks like you were thinking similarly there. Cheers....

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

basudeba wrote on Feb. 6, 2011 @ 15:49 GMT
Dear Sir,

We congratulate you for your brilliant essay. We assume that when we talk about brain, you imply consciousness that is involved in perception. Since brain is also a material object, we find it convenient to use the other term. By perception we mean the result of measurement, which in turn means comparison between similars.

We fully agree that “the mind’s conception of a...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Anonymous replied on Feb. 8, 2011 @ 02:05 GMT

Hi. Thanks for the feedback!

I'm not sure if I totally understood what you were saying, but a couple of things resonated with me: the ideas that you need to define what reference frame you're in and what frame the thing you're observing is in because observers in different ref. frames may see different things and, also, that it's important to measure similars. I agree with these points and they are relate to an issue I have about set theory. Mathematicians say that if you start with an initial set of all the positive integers and then pull out the subset of even integers and pair off the evens in the subset one-to-one with all the integers in the initial set, then you can see that because of the one-to-one correspondence, the number of elements in the subset is the same as in the original set. However, a problem with this method is that it uses very bad experimental technique. Even though it's a thought experiment, it's still an experiment and should use proper technique. They study the original system (set of all the integers) by pulling out the subset and pairing it off with the elements in the original set (experimental processing) and then assume the results of the set-subset system are the same as in the original single set. This is similar to studying the interactions of a cell nucleus with the rest of the cell by pulling out the nucleus in a separate test tube from the rest of the cell and studying it there. This creates the possibility of experimental artifacts and would never be tolerated in a science like biochemistry. It shouldn't be acceptable in mathematics either, IMHO. Even if you say that mathematics is its own abstract realm, it's still used in the physical realm of physics, so I'd say that there are some issues with the idea of infinities in physics. Anyways, after all this, I think this relates to your idea of measuring similars. The dissimilars here would be the subset and the original set. They're not similars.

Anyways, thanks again!


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 2, 2011 @ 19:07 GMT

Yours is not an argument I would make, but your logical presentation of your case is quite convincing.

Jim Hoover

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Anonymous replied on Mar. 3, 2011 @ 00:03 GMT

Thank you for that and for reading the essay!


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 4, 2011 @ 16:53 GMT

A very good essay, and interesting perspective on some important issues. In particular we paralell the unreconised importance of observer frame/perspective which I recently tracked down as a key reason physics went off track around the late 1900's (Lodge 1993 paper not considering observer frame ref refraction & time averaged Poynting vector light track between co-moving media).

This means the 'edge' is of utmost importance, as you identify, but consider that Jill Smiths car is a a 'rigid body' (to which the imaginary mathematical line and point abstractions apply). The windscreen has 'n' = 1.5, whether at rest or in motion. Just think very carefully about that! You're on the right tracks I've been down, and there is a Eureka moment on the way!

I hope you can read mine. The solution is difficult for the human brain to conceive, picture and manimpulate as there are too manmy moving variable, but quite a few now seem able to do it, so i wish you luck, bit read slowly! and consider the consequences. Local Reality with CSL via a quantum mechanism! But it still needs a good mathematician to take it beyond Dopplers limits.

There's a good train/lightning analogy in Tom Rays string.

Keep up the good work anyway, and very best of luck.


PS you may also like Georgina Parrys, Robert Spoljarics, Edwins K's and a few others all very consistent.

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Roger replied on Mar. 4, 2011 @ 18:16 GMT

Hi. Thanks for the comments and for reading the essay. I apologize for not citing your thinking on the observer's reference frame. My reference checking probably wasn't adequate. I'd scanned over all the essays before but just printed yours out and will read it carefully this weekend and vote on it next week. I hope you might be able to cast a vote on mine, too, because I think the rules said that only those essays with at least 10 votes will even have a chance. I've voted a few times already and hope to do more ratings next week.

Anyways, thanks again!


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Peter Mastro wrote on Mar. 5, 2011 @ 14:31 GMT
Hello Roger, I enjoyed your essay. I think I have similar conclusions only from an art modeling perspective and boundaries are defined by time manifolds. One of the things that I found curious is that you imply an imaginary framework imposed by an observer but do not specifically state that EVERYTHING is a purely imaginary construct.

I would be interested in your views on how I characterized the same observer centric characteristic in my essay. If you get a chance take a look at it here

Anyway I gave you high marks and good luck in applying your approach in your future examinations of reality.


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Anonymous replied on Mar. 10, 2011 @ 03:13 GMT

Hi. I read your essay more thoroughly and rated it highly. I really like your idea that art and science are just different ways of representing the same reality and, therefore, may art theory can be used as a way of figuring out how reality works. When you mentinoed the stuff about how paintings are made starting with a fuzzier background and working towards more distinction in the front, that kind of sounded a little like how the universe might evolve over time, too.

From the part about the Fibonacci spiral and the rest of the essay, and your above reply, it sounds like the observer and time are considered as initial components in the universe. I think we might disagree on that one becuase I would say that we'd still have to explain where time and the initial observer come from. When I was talking about my hypothetical observer of an infinite set, I wasn't saying that the observer created the set he was observing but just what the set would look like to such an observer. Also, even if everything is purely an imaginary construct, this construct still exists and must be explained as to how it exists and how it can form the universe we see.

While we might disagree on the observer, though, I really liked your idea and thought your argument was internally consistent, which puts it above many other arguments, IMHO. Good luck on your future thinking, too! Thanks!


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Tati wrote on Mar. 8, 2011 @ 20:41 GMT
Dear Roger

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your essay, specially your series of logical arguments to conclude that the fundamental building block of existence is non-existence.

Are you approaching the edges of logic?

Thanks for sharing your paper!

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Anonymous replied on Mar. 10, 2011 @ 03:14 GMT

Hi. Thanks for reading the essay and replying! I appreciate it!


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Roger wrote on Aug. 9, 2011 @ 07:11 GMT

If anyone is interested, the ideas in this FQXi essay along with others on infinite sets, Russell's Paradox, etc are up at a new website:




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.