Large Grants
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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

Richard Easther
University of Auckland


Eugene Lim, Kings College London

Project Title

Minimal Observers and Maximal Observations

Project Summary

This project seeks to understand the simplest imaginable observers that can exist, and the most complex possible observations observers may perform. Many models of fundamental physics suggest that our universe is embedded in a much larger multiverse. Paradoxically, while the idea of the multiverse emerges from science but we may never be able to test it scientifically. Any single observer (or group of observers able to communicate with one another) sees one only universe so the overall multiverse is not, by definition, observable. Moreover, the laws of physics may be different within each universe so many universes may be insufficiently complex to host observers -- not only can we can only observe a single universe, our sample is biased since we must be able to exist within it. We will tackle this problem by investigating the minimal level of complexity needed to support cyclic, autocatalytic chemical reactions, pathways apparently critical to abiogenesis or the origin of life, establishing a lower bound on the level of complexity that permits observers to exist. Separately, we will extend well-tested cosmological statistical methods to permit well-posed probabilistic assessments of specific multiverse proposals by observers living inside a single universe.

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