Saturday, October 29, 2005

FQX: Foundational Questions in Physics & Cosmology

Interesting (relatively) new Web site:

FQX: Foundational Questions in Physics & Cosmology
Our mission is to catalyze and support research on foundational questions in physics and cosmology, particularly cutting-edge areas unlikely to be supported by conventional funding sources. We do so through grants, contests, conferences, and other programs, as described below.
Not much commentary needed about this. There isn't much content on the site yet, except for the discussion forums.

Unfortunately, even the forums have little content, except for abstracts of some presentations that were given at a conference called "Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery", which was held October 6-8. There is some cause for concern in that regard, since one of the main sponsors of the event was the Templeton Foundation, which has an avowed theistic agenda. But the people running the FQX Web site -- including Max Tegmark and Anthony Aguirre -- have excellent scientific credentials. Their advisory board includes eminent scientists like Martin Rees, Lee Smolin, and Frank Wilczek, so one has high expectations of good things from this site.

But why mention the site at all if there's not much on it yet? Well, here are the questions that FQX promises to deal with:

  • What, if anything, happened before the Big Bang? What determined the characteristics of the universe? Is our observed universe all that exists, or is it just one "universe" among many, a mere part of a much bigger picture, in which we misinterpret local conditions as fundamental laws? What will happen in the distant future? Will dark energy collapse, or rip apart, our universe? Will all particles and black holes ultimately decay away?
  • What do the fantastically effective but bafflingly counterintuitive laws of quantum mechanics tell us about reality? How do quantum measurements occur: Are there really "many worlds," and if not, how do quantum possibilities collapse into a single observed reality? Can we find a self-consistent theory of nature that unifies gravity and quantum mechanics?
  • What distinguishes the future from the past, if the universe is governed by physical laws that make no such distinction? How does duration, which we experience, relate to the time described by physics and mathematics?
  • What is the relationship between physics, mathematics, information? How 'real' is the world of mathematics - and how 'real' is the world of matter?
  • Why does the universe seem so complex, given its simple initial conditions, and the elegant mathematics that describes it? Is life ubiquitous in the universe (or beyond)? How does matter give rise to consciousness - or does it?

Those are some of the most important open questions in all of science, right up there with How did life on Earth begin? and How does the brain work? So you might want at least to bookmark the FQX site and check back with it from time to time.

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Blogger gibbsfree21 said...

Hi, I just wanted to say thank you for the info about this cool new site. I'm new to the blogosphere, and I was hoping that there would be something out here. Well, I found it. Anyway, FQX is really great, it's a great forum, I just wish I'd found it earlier.;)

10/30/2005 09:08:00 PM  

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