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

Markus Mueller
University of Western Ontario

Project Title

Emergent objective reality - from observers to physics via Solomonoff induction

Project Summary

One of our most deeply rooted concepts in science and every-day life is objective reality: the idea that there is one single, objective, external world. However, quantum mechanics has challenged this idea, by telling us that microscopic particles sometimes have no objective properties before they are measured by an observer. The notion of an “observer” is also omnipresent in several other puzzling problems of science, for example in the Philosophy of Mind, when we ask what a person would observe if we simulated her brain on a computer. Here we suggest to pursue a radically unconventional idea: maybe objective reality is only an approximation, and it is instead observers and observations which are truly fundamental? By formulating this idea in terms of a rigorous mathematical theory, we are able to find powerful new insights into the questions raised above. Moreover, it allows us to study where the appearance of objective reality comes from, when it breaks down, and why we see an external world that seems to be governed by simple laws of nature. In this project, we will analyze the potential and limitations of this approach, and use it to address some important conceptual problems in physics and philosophy.

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