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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
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2013 Physics of Information
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2010 The Nature of Time
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2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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Paul Davies
Arizona State University

Project Title

De Sitter Demons

Project Summary

Historically the first attempt to link agency and physics was Maxwell?s demon. The link between information and thermodynamics has been greatly clarified in recent years by analysis of ?demonic? devices, of which the archetype is Szilard?s engine. Such analyses have been restricted to conventional heat baths and thermodynamic systems, albeit with some extension to the quantum domain. Left out of account so far is application to gravitating systems in which event horizon area plays the role of entropy. We shall apply these new-found insights into demonics to investigate the thermodynamic nature of cosmological horizons. De Sitter space has an associated temperature, in spite of the fact that the de Sitter invariant quantum vacuum state does not correspond to a bath of thermal radiation, but rather renormalizes the cosmological constant. We will address whether the thermal fluctuations associated in de Sitter space can be ?mined? by an information-processing demon and converted to directed work, as in conventional thermodynamics. If so, how does information garnering and erasure react back on the horizon in order to comply with the generalized second law of thermodynamics? The analysis will have implications for agency in the far future universe, such as the possibility of Boltzmann brains.



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