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Previous Programs

2020 Consciousness in the Physical World

2019 Intelligence in the Physical World

2019 Information as Fuel

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Flavio Mercati
Perimeter Institute

Tim Koslowski
University of New Brunswick


Julian Barbour, University of Oxford

Project Title

Information, Complexity and the Arrow of Time in Shape Dynamics

Project Summary

One of the greatest unsolved mysteries of cosmology is how the universe creates structure, and with it information about its lawful past, in apparent violation of the second law of thermodynamics. According to this fundamental law, entropy - and with it disorder - should always increase with time. This is manifestly not happening in the universe. A related mystery is the fact that the dynamical laws of Newton and Einstein do not distinguish a direction of time. As yet, physics and cosmology have failed to explain why the past is manifestly different from the future, or why a cup that shatters after falling off a table does not reassemble itself. The only explanations so far are that we are the result of a colossal statistical fluke or an implausibly special initial condition of the universe. These are not satisfactory explanations for the profusion of information we find everywhere in the universe. We propose to explain it using a little appreciated but in fact long known property of the laws of Newton and Einstein called dynamical similarity. We aim to show that time has an arrow and information must grow as inevitable consequences of solely the law that governs the universe.

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