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Current Program

2017-18 Agency in the Physical World
Submit RFP by February 1, 2018
Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Dr. Markus Aspelmeyer
Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI)

Project Title

Experimental Metaphysics at the Quantum-Classical Border

Project Summary

To what entities do our descriptions of observations refer to in the "real" world? This question is one of the most elementary ones of epistemology and it has undergone a broad spectrum of answers in the course of history, from Berkeley's "esse est percipi" over Kant's unobservable "Thing-in-itself" to Quine's ontological relativism. Due to its successful descriptive models Physics has often served as a guideline to develop these epistemological views, yet they remained basically unchallenged by experimental test. In fact, epistemology has long been considered a purely philosophical field living on a "meta"-level of physics (and it might be even the prevailing view up to date). It was only in the 1960s that John Bell discovered a fundamental incompatibility of certain epistemological views, namely physical realism and locality, with testable predictions of a quantum physics experiment. Since then, many experiments have confirmed that "local realism" is an untenable assumption about the world. Further incompatibility theorems have been put forward, most prominently by Leggett, which leave even less room for the possibility of physical realism as a manifest feature in the world.

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