Fifth FQXi Essay Contest: It From Bit, or Bit From It?

The Fifth essay contest from the Foundational Questions Institute is now underway. The topic is about whether information is more fundamental than material objects. The subject is similar to the contest from two years ago but with a different slant. In fact one of the winning essays by Julian Barbour was called “Bit From It”. Perhaps he could resubmit the same one. The topic also matches the FQXi large grant awards for this year on the physics of information. Sadly I have already been told, unsurprisingly, that my grant application fell at the first hurdle but the essay contest provides an alternative (less lucrative) chance to write on this subject. Last year I did not get in the final but that really doesn’t matter. The important thing is to give your ideas an airing and discuss them with others, honestly.

In last year’s FQXi contest 50 essays were submitted by viXra authors. With the number of viXra authors increasing rapidly I hope that we will increase that figure this year. There has been a change in the rules to try to encourage more of FQXi’s own members to take part and improve the voting. Members will automatically get through to the final if they vote for 5 essays and leave comments. Last year there were about 15 FQXi member essays in the competition and if I am not mistaken only two failed to make the final, so it will not affect the placings much, but it should encourage the professional entrants to enter into the discussions and community rating which cannot be a bad thing.

For many of the independent authors who submit their work to viXra, getting feedback on their ideas is very hard. The FQXi contest is one way that can get people to comment, so get writing. We have until June to make our entries.

Please note that FQXi is not connected to viXra in any way.

102 Responses to Fifth FQXi Essay Contest: It From Bit, or Bit From It?

  1. Robert L. Oldershaw says:

    I hope someone leads off with a definiton of “information”.

    Douglas Hofstader had a nice riff on this subject in Godel, Escher and Bach, as I remember.

    Can information exist independently of sentient beings? If not, can it be fundamental?

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      You could easily fill the whole essay with just those questions.

    • Wes Hansen says:

      Information, from a complex systems perspective, is regularities or patterns in data streams; reality itself would appear to be a data stream. I don’t see how one could argue that information depends on sentient beings, a “random” number generator produces information, however, I do see a valid argument suggesting that MEANINGFUL information does require sentient beings. The question becomes, what is a sentient being? Is the Universe/Multiverse a sentient being? It would be interesting to get your view from the Discrete Scale Relativity perspective.
      The very fact that human logic is useful for comprehending reality, despite inherent uncertainties, leads me to believe that the Universe/Multiverse is logical, hence, sentient. All of these global entities are built from local entities and consistency is maintained by information feedback, or so it would seem. If the global entity in question was not sentient (i.e. could not meaningfully interpret the information in the feedback loop) I have a great difficulty seeing how any consistency could be maintained. I may have to write an essay for this contest . . . The Emergence of Perception from the Field of Potentia . . . or something similar – Ha, Ha, Ha . . .

    • Wes Hansen says:

      Here’s a little more FLooP for your BLooP: ” […] it turns out that an apparent logical contradiction was actually the essential secret to computation […]”

  2. Phillip, by essay does it have to be formal- I mean I wrote an entertaining science related piece last night. The references are difficult as well the ideas in any language but it does aim toward what is concrete or abstract ultimately in terms that in part are founded in symbols of information.

    I am not sure where this near poetic stuff comes from, it is perhaps as mysterious as the source of light and gamma bursts.

    The PeSla L. Edgar Otto

  3. “For many of the independent authors who submit their work to viXra, getting feedback on their ideas is very hard. The FQXi contest is one way that can get people to comment, so get writing. We have until June to make our entries.”

    As Philip wrote this is a good opportunity for us. I started immediately to sketch my future article. I just need more hours into my day. Where can I buy those? 🙂

  4. Orwin O'Dowd says:

    On Robert Oldershaw’s philosophical note, they fudged the issue back at the Bell Telephone Labs, where Hartley gave info as the outcome of an event or choice with a measure in log N, the base 2 giving the classic measure in “bits’. then Shannon gave the sum of p ln p, where the p’s are normalized probabilities of code elements. This generalized Hartley’s measure, and can be derived form plausible axioms, so its now the standard measure. So who devised the code, and what message is it intended to carry?

    the bits are now preferred for quantum philosophizing, and they do capture the logic of choice taken by Leo to be fundamental. This does suggest the possibility of choice, or pure possibility is fundamental, and that takes one back to the potentia of Aristotle. I’ve been interested to find El Naschie talking in that way, but the then finds that a factor of stability is required to distinguish stable particles. That’s pretty much how Lucretius understood evolution, and James Gilson has followed El Naschie on the trail of the Golden Ratio, but can’t really square his position with the Big Bang scenario…

    • Leo Vuyk says:

      Thanks Orwin for promoting my Q-FFF model.
      I just made my FQXi entry called:
      Hubble Redshift despite Universal Contraction.
      Within 10 days from now.

    • Orwin O'Dowd says:

      Perice was relying on the Axiom of Choice, and by the time it was identified and found independent, the only one who followed was Kurt Godel, who then took an option for Husserl’s phenomenology which no-one followed except Piaget who did the hugest double-take realizing that Husserl had anticipated his painfully assembled experimental psychology by pure thought….

      It a bit as Kimmmo says: Do you have to accept the Axiom of Choice? no you have a choice, which is where the action begins.

      So it could help to start over. Good luck!

      • Leo Vuyk says:

        Hi Orwin,
        To explain Free Will in the entangled multiverse we seem to need a new model of reality.
        I must apologize for the crash you could experience about your own personal SELF. The world seems to be split in two -or even more- interconnected “entangled” mirror symmetrical parts and you are only partly responsible for your decisions you make
        However, as a consequence, You are not alone! We all are at a long distance direct related-in all our actions, dreams and thoughts- to our identical (anti-) counterparts at the other side of our universal bubble.
        Is there consequently nothing left of a single personal identity, who has a single possibility to choose and could be the guiding entity for the others?
        There is a small possibility yes, based on the existence of little deviations in the existing experiments made by Benjamin Libet and others. It is called “incidental pre-planning”, which has got no scientific attention as far as I know.

  5. Orwin O'Dowd says:

    The only fit on Majorana neutrino masses and a light Higgs, from the Pythagorean stable again, in the grand tradition of abstract algebra started by C.S. Peirce:

    Peirce used to hang out at the Metaphysical Club in Cambridge, and that spirit seems alive here, but the physics establishment clearly don’t want to know, and the same goes for FQXi.

    • Wes Hansen says:

      Oh, well then, perhaps I won’t write an FQXi essay; the last thing I need is the negative vibes from a few more disgruntled academics directed my way. It’s interesting how the Approximate Reasoning dissertation you linked to relates to the work of Kevin Knuth; fuzzy logic, properly axiomatized, forms a partially-ordered set on a DeMorgan lattice – yeah, I get that. It’s a fine line that separates a calculus from an Algebra but I think that’s probably the whole key to the It from Bit question . . . the algebra is the bits and the ordering relations between bits, the information, the calculus is potentia constrained by information, creativity; the algebra is consciousness made static by logical necessity and maintained by habit or the force of consistency; the calculus is pure conscious potentia constrained by the algebra . . . Sentience is a Universal Strange Attractor – Attraction, Autopoiesis, Adaptation, the three characteristics of complex and consistent systems and metasystems . . . anyway . . .

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        You should still write your essay. I dont write for the critics, they are many. I write for the few who will appreciate it now or later. If you believe in your ideas you should express them and record them. The FQXi essay contest is a good place to do that because the essays stay online. Of course it is not a bad idea to put them on viXra too just in case. If nobody appreciates it now in ten years time your idea may suddenly become topical and people will find your essay.

    • Wes Hansen says:

      Here’s one that may interest: A Calculus of Inconsistency I: Sentential Logic. I can’t find a copy of the second paper . . .

  6. Am I wrong if I see paralels with the contest of two years ago : “Is reality digital or analog” see Julian Barbour’s entrance : “BIT FROM IT”

  7. Wes Hansen says:

    Damn Phil, you mention Barbour’s placing essay but say nothing of your own, A Universe Programmed with Strings of Qubits (, which placed as high on the totem pole as Barbour’s – a bit higher in my own assessment although Mr. Basudeba sure did give you a hard time. I think I’ve read about all of your papers and this paper is certainly the best in my opinion. The intricate web woven between elements is what enthralls: the hyperdeterminant describing an elliptic curve which relates directly to the emergent bosonic string; your event-symmetric algebra which, if I understand correctly, utilizes knot theory and fully realizes the complete symmetry; the Calabai-Yau manifold, a generalization of an elliptic curve, with its inherent error-correction; etc. I can only hope your upcoming essay is a continuation of this one, a progress report so to speak.

    MY first question, of course, is, where do the qubits (the qubit dust bucket) come from and what gives them meaning? The meaning of the Calabi-Yau manifold and the fluxes that define our vacuum come from the qubits but the qubits seem to just materialize – but they seem to materialize in specific ways related to spin, where does this “logic” come from? And the error correction system inherent to the Calabai-Yau manifold which controls the stability of the Universe, is this not “first” generation self-referential recursion, seemingly a fundamental property of living, teleological systems? You seem to suggest an intentional mechanism with your statement, “It may be nature has CHOSEN a Calabai-Yau manifold that not only reproduces the standard model of physics which is ideal for supporting life, but it also generates an error correction system that controls the stability of the universe so that it does not melt into a messy quantum supposition of states.” Are you suggesting that nature is capable of making intentional choices?

    In your Cyclotron Notebooks you mention John Wheeler’s comment about filling a sheet of paper with equations (information), standing back and commanding those equations (information) to fly. Wheeler says chances are nothing will happen but the Universe flies. It would seem to me that the Universe flies because the information, the qubits, interact in meaningful ways but what gives the qubits and their interactions meaning; what mechanism generates the algebra? I guess my question to you could be reduced to: what makes the Universe fly?

    You know, a couple of years ago I wrote a critique of Barbour’s paper on the nature of time. It’s not that I disagree with time as an emergent phenomenon but Barbour equates time with duration and this is erroneous in my opinion. It makes sense to say time breaks down at a singularity but can the same be said of duration? Following Barbour, implicit in timelessness is the lower limit of stability – cessation or death. Many from the contemplative traditions have articulated their experience with “timelessness in the present moment” which is, to me, not quite correct; the proper articulation would be INFINITE DURATION in the present moment; they EXPERIENCE the upper limit of stability. THAT is a mystic’s understanding and a large part of why you’ll never find a neurotic mystic; they understand the irrelevance of temporal decay! It almost seems to me that scientists study that which flies – the algebra – while mystics explore the mechanism of flight – the calculus. And the calculus is, of course, consciousness . . .

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      I didn’t think that I thought of the universe as thinking 😉 It sounds a little too quasi religious for me. But since I used that phrase perhaps I secretly do think of it that way at some level.

      If we reduce the world to information then of course it become interesting to ask where information comes from and why it is fundamental. I did not address that before and I probably wont address that in this year’s essay either. There is limited space in 9 pages so I will reserve those questions for the essay where they ask us to explain why the universe exists.

      i am glad you appreciate my previous work so much. This years essay will indeed build on the same ideas with more maths using work I have not reported on before. I hope you will like it. I am looking forward to what other people will say on this too and I hope to find more time than last year for commenting and rating.

      • Wes Hansen says:


        Yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to your upcoming essay; it just seems really interesting to me the manner in which the somewhat disparate mathematical entities you’re exploring seem to all click together in such a meaningful way.

        As for where the information comes from and why it is fundamental, I think this ties in somewhat to Robert’s philosophical musing above. Robert questions the fundamental nature of information but I believe the scientific enterprise is proof of such. Scientific theories are schemas which represent the effective complexity of the system or entity being observed/studied. These schemas, hence, the effective complexity, are not, of course, inherent to these entities, they depend on the language and codification system of the observer, but there can be no doubt that the information represented by the effective complexity is, else the scientific enterprise would be impossible. This is where testing for consistency with empirical observation comes into play. And this is what leads me to my “quasi-religious” viewpoint.

        I’m like Hartle/Hawking in that I start with a Universal Wavefunction; this wavefunction is an unconstrained calculus, the pure potentia of elementary consciousness. This consciousness makes a distinction in the sense of Sartre’s existentialism; it has the freedom to make a choice but is bound to choose or else it remains potentia – consciousness as opposed to perception. Once that initial distinction is made then subsequent wavefunctions (potentials) are constrained by that distinction and all of those that follow. This is the process which builds the algebra – existence in perception! The schemas that we build are just coarse-grained “models” of this fundamental schema; the fact that we are able to build such models is, to me, evidence for the existence of this fundamental schema – it from bit! Quod erat demonstrandum . . . or whatever . . . Of course if one considers the pure potentia to be the primal IT then it’s it from bit from IT, either way the circular argument terminates at pure potentia . . . which, based on my own yoga and meditation practice, I call consciousness.


        Yeah, this is exactly what I’m saying: every THING begins in imagination; imagination becomes structured thought; once thought is structured it constrains future imagination; the bits (structured information) ARE leading to new ITS (structured imagination). Existence in perception occurs at the point when imagination (charge carrier, the magiton) becomes equivalent to structured information – or something like that . . . And you’re absolutely correct, the infinite duration is causeless – the Great Unborn Expanse, the Unmoved Mover, Total simultaneity, Event-Symmetry. In the past my own phrase has been Non-conceptual Symmetry, in the sense that it is not constrained by concepts, but as I learn new mathematics it is subject to change. I look forward to reading your essays.

        Hey Pesla,

        From your photos on Google + it would appear you have a new grandchild; is this correct? If so, congratulations!

      • Wes Hansen says:

        Here’s a rather interesting paper, Emergent Information: Towards a Unified Information Theory (

    • Phil, I was wondering that myself… thanks Wes… I will have to find a way to read this but from what I see I am very much in agreement with the spirit of it wow This is the very sort of area I have been drawn too… so, we are in the good hands of an exceptional scientist who can read what we write.
      I tried to start another essay called Terra Houte (the new flatland) but not sure yet I will develop an essay along these lines- it reads a lot clearer if one keeps the binary coordinates in mind to get the feelings for the pictures I am metaphorically describing. Now if I can just sort out the notation to show such sequences. This experimental post begins at the question of the FOXi rules more than where information comes from- but just what does it mean that a work submitted is one’s own?

      L. Edgar Otto I am a little cautious to say it but in honesty I am very much leaning to a universe actually if not quasi religious after all…

      • Very interesting : “Calculus = Consciousness” : What is happening when we are calculating ? we create formula’s and put the data that we know into this formula, so at that very moment we are not consciouss of a result, the result of calculus is so unknown “unconsciouss” and becomes consciouss when we see the result of the calculation. So : putting data (information) into a formula is a consciouss action , the calculation is following calculational rules so also a consciouss action because the information is interpreted, the result of the interpretation is a new (untill then unconsciouss) view point that will influence our decisions. The bits (data) are leading to new IT’s (idea’s).

    • About the “Infinite duration of the present moment” :
      You say they EXPERIENCE the upper limit of stability.
      In my perception “the infinite duration of the present moment” is no longer “causal”, there is no longer a before or an after, and that indeed is the upper limit of satbility, transcend causality and enter in Total Simultaneity.
      see : (Realities out of Total Simulatneity)
      and (The Consciousness Connection)

  8. Philip Gibbs says:

    I am wondering if it would be a good idea for viXra to launch some essay contests of its own. This would be similar to the FQXi contests except there would be no prize money and no expert panel of judges. Results would be based on community voting alone but winning or losing is not so important. It would just be a way of getting people to exchange ideas on a specific subject.

    Essay Questions would be chosen to try and cover ground that FQXi is not using in its contests, i.e. less foundational questions such as “What is the answer to the Fermi paradox?”, “What will the world be like in the future?” “Can your consciousnesses be uploaded to a computer?” “Where did life come from?” I’d probably set up a poll and choose the most popular subject each time. We might get only a few entries since there is no prize but if there are at least some it could be worth doing.

    What do people think? Would you participate? What topics can you suggest?

    • I’m in! 🙂 And anything goes… my own favourite topics are antimatter, various anomalies in physics and Riemann hypothesis. The last one I would save for later because there is the one million dollar price tag attached…

    • Bravo Phil, pls continue, only it will give you a lot of work…
      possible titles :
      Does antimatter matter or is it just another HYPOthesis ?
      Is gravity “emergent” or the fourth force ?
      What is the essence of “simultaneity” ?
      etc etc

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        I think I can implement something using the submission forms without too much effort. These are good ideas. My thinking is to get some suggestions for titles like these and have a poll to select one. I have about ten suggestions of my own but I want to take part myself so I should let others make suggestions and go with the vote.

        I wont do it until voting on the FQXi contest is over so hold on to your ideas.

    • I think this idea worth trying, but that there should be some tangible form of recognition (certificate etc. ) for winning the contest. The fact that there is no financial reward associated with a prize will likely greatly reduce the inherent conflict of interest, so anyone who comments on the paper is much more likely to do so because they are genuinely interested in the paper, not to just get others to read and vote on their own (although I don’t think this will be entirely eliminated).

      The one potential problem I see is that the people who will be mainly involved in this will probably be still largely from outside mainstream. Mainstream scientists still see journal publication as the gold standard and would likely not bother with reading the essays in your contest, and this in turn may not help its, or, for that matter, the larger goal of having the ideas in this repository be considered by the scientific community at large.

      If you could structure the contest in such a way that involvement by mainstream scientists was stimulated then I think it would be an excellent idea. Perhaps there could be also recognition for the best commenter/questioner (at the last fqxi contest, In my opinion Ben Dribus would have won that hands down).

      Anyway, throw out some ideas about how you would concretely implement this type of contest so that they can be commented on.


      • Philip Gibbs says:

        It is very hard to get mainstream scientists to take part in this sort of contest, Most of the ones on FQXi who enter are from the Perimeter Institute so I guess that they are getting some strong encouragement from directors to support FQXi. I strongly admire those who take part especially the likes of George Ellis who contributes to the discussions despite taking a lot of flack,

        I am not optimistic that we would get that kind of participation at viXra. I prefer to start with low expectations that only a few of us will join in but I think it will still be worth doing.

        I think it is a pity that there are not more essay contests because the FQXi essays can be very stimulating and they generate the kind of discussions that you dont find in journal papers. I wish someone like Yuri Milner would step in and offer a million dollar prize for a contest. That would certainly generate some interest.

        I agree it would be good to have some token prizes. We might be able to stretch to some viXra mugs or teeshirts.

        The result would be based purely on community voting but with some innovations of my own. This is my current thinking: I would ask for ratings on a number of different criteria e.g. originality, relevance, clarity, consistency, importance, testability/falsifiability with each rated on a scale of -2 to +2. Only authors can vote and may need to vote for a certain number of essays to qualify for prizes. The average of the scores that an author gives in each criteria will be added to his/her own rating. This is simply to cancel any advantage or disadvantage from rating low or high, Prizes can be offered for the individual criteria as well as for overall result. As another twist I might weight authors ratings according to their position in the results and recalculate score on that basis, so that top authors also get more influence on the voting.

        Overall positions would be displayed as the contest progresses possibly updated after a delay to make it harder to work out who is voting for what. Telling people how you voted must be strongly discouraged because people use that to influence the result.

        I agree that encouraging good comments is a worthy idea, but not sure how to measure that objectively without further complications. Perhaps the best will be obvious enough.

        Feedback on these ideas and other suggestions is welcome.

      • Wes Hansen says:

        Some of these may be outside the ken of viXra’s proposed essay contest but they represent a few questions I would like to have answered!

        • Do mathematical entities exist outside the confines of human minds and, if so, in what manner?
        • Objective reality or are we virtual beings in a virtual environment?
        • Free will, determinism, or free will constrained to various degree?
        • Is backwards causation as prevalent as forwards causation? and
        • Will deciding the Riemann Hypothesis in the positive reveal the meaning of existence?
        • Is causal closure a sound conjecture?
        • What is the nature of mind?
        • Why do humans dream?
        • Both the dream state and the deep meditative state are marked by Rapid Eye Movement, what is the correlation?
        • When a male human being “awakens” the “Kundalini” during deep meditation an early indicator is an intense but non-sexual penile erection, what is the cause of this?
        • What can government entities, local, state, national, and international, do to incentivize industrial symbiosis?
        • In developed countries roughly 50% of the food grown for human consumption is wastefully discarded, a severe zero-sum endeavor, what can society do to alleviate this problem?
        • Industrial robots are currently being produced with 15 degrees of freedom, comparable to humans, with a life-cycle cost of roughly $6 per hour. The state of Texas recently relaxed the requirements for high school graduation with the stated belief that “not all students need physics or algebra II. When robots begin producing robots reducing life-cycle costs to $2 to $3 per hour, what will happen to the unskilled workforce?
        • Was the meteorite impact which caused the Cretaceus extinction an engineered event allowing extra-terrestrial beings to co-opt the planet as their own personal nursery?
        • And most importantly, how do so many people manage to get their own head buried so far up their own arse? What? No, not me . . .

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        So try Stanford’s von Neumann vs Dirac on QM: it about how von Neumann stuffed up and they took fifty years to twig, and that’s quantum philosophy folks, from the industrial heartland of a dysfunctional future. Johnnie’s fave Type II quantum algebras (also string theories) turn out to have infinite temperature, which at least explains the Theoretical Necessity of the Big Bang.Type I feature zero temperatures, and I find still more reason to believe that they wrap round in an imaginary hyperspace called Mind. But don’t look for any new technology in that range…

  9. Phil,

    for the record I just read your entry paper Wes linked to on FOXi and certainty agree agree with your conclusions as to what more is needed…in particular the number of bits involved and wider concepts of symmetry and so on… then again I was quite impressed with Shannon (his idea that information and meaning are conjugate- this at the time was quite a confirmation for me that brought tears to my eyes. But just as with higher dimensions I like what Coxeter said- “there is nothing mystical about four dimensions”. I mean your formal paper is certainly from the objective scientific stance (like Leibniz accepting all inputs then perhaps closer to a general evaluation or weighing them.

    We should perhaps have a project of a chart for these general ideas by those submitting some particular insight or stance on general total theories- a helpful one that where these core ideas diverge (rather like, well, raspberry Vuykian universes)… I found reading Peter Rowlands last night with better understanding useful to get a wide perspective on what level we may consider things such as the nature of distinctions of particles as structures or energy or some sort of possible events in a deeper vacuum.

    I have found my own armchair ideas too restrictive as I encounter what is out there and in the minds these special alternative others- after all , early on I concluded our brain is also, and perhaps distinctly so in locations both digital and analog in thought and perception.

    Our journey in theory making even by the greatest may reach a point entropy like where the conversation fades away… but we are living thinking things- I would be the last to discourage anyone who is excited about new thoughts and discovery- for the potential and in the name of new progress in science.

    Wanting to develop on my own- if I ask the universe for a song and I dream one- is it really my own? So many times religious people have come to me saying (the universe and so on) told me there was a purpose we met and to give you this twenty dollars. It can be annoying to refuse and they never were able to tell me what that purpose was… after awhile to save time I just took the money from them and said “who am I to question the universe?” Thing is when some needed help later they were much too proud to accept mine.

    Anyway, perhaps we need more than the QM idea of computation and expect too much from it. We should start with at least 8 bits and 8 dimensions. String theory is quite incomplete. But whatever else the universe may be in the past or future or some remote state of things- it is also here and now to hold in our hands and to view with our more than simply quantum ideas of mind.

    Sorry, waxing poetic, for my lapse in reductionism…I did enjoy the clarity of your paper. Still, people are more important than theories.

    The PeSla

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      Very interesting. I agree that Shannon entropy is important. Expect to see it mentioned in many essays including mine.

    • Stephen Crowley says:

      I really enjoyed your waxing poetic, and yes, people are far more important than theories. In ecomics there is the concept of fungability which determines which “goods” are equivalent and which are not.


    • Orwin O'Dowd says:

      As they say, Truth is stranger than fiction. Stephen, I wanted to tell you this: a neighbor replaced a badly corroded geyser, and the corrosion field then washed up in my sink, and tried to turn wet cutlery into a battery… And it lingers on, sinking away over days into the underworld of spins, the universal memory.

  10. Wes Hansen says:

    There seems to me no doubt that information is fundamental to systems – whether quantum or otherwise, it’s a classic modus ponens argument:


    • FORMAL LOGIC systems provide the framework for scientific modeling.
    • FORMAL LOGIC systems are designed to DEDUCTIVELY manage INFORMATION, as such they must be coherent if not consistent.
    • The SEMANTICS of the FORMAL LOGIC system is dependent on the UNIVERSE OF DISCOURSE – the context.
    • The context is determined by the REFERENTS.
    • The derivations of the FORMAL LOGIC system are refutable by EMPIRICAL investigation (i.e. comparison to the actual referents).
    • To a remarkably high degree, deductively valid derivations are, in fact, substantiated by empirical investigation.


    • Physical systems are literally INFORMED (i.e. formed from within by information (REFERENTS)). If this were not so FORMAL LOGIC systems would have no place in the scientific enterprise; indeed, the scientific enterprise would be impossible.

    From , Approximate Reasoning, a dissertation by Daniel Schwartz (

    Now that we have clarified the role of formal logical systems with respect to the semantics of science, we are in a position to lend further detail to this role by reinterpreting the analysis of Bunge (§11.1) within this frame. Here it will be shown that the theory of formal logical systems contributes a new level of precision to the concepts of model object, theoretical model and general theory, and, more importantly, that the “exactness” of the relation of formal system to its semantic models is precisely what lends theoretical models their property of refutability.


    Next let us consider the concept of refutability in this context. Recall from §11.1 that the requirements for a model to be refutable are:

    (i) that the model have a specific referent in the real-world, and
    (ii) that it allow for making predictions about its referent.

    Then the fact that a specific theory of a model object has an empirical referent will always be–as we have seen “extra-mathematical,” since the introduction of a referent is based only on a choice by the modeler. The NATURE OF A PREDICTION, on the other hand, is INTRINSICALLY MATHEMATICAL and is based on the CHARACTERISTICS OF THE GENERAL THEORY. We may therefore define this concept in a continuation of the above example as follows:

    In other words, a prediction is simply a LOGICAL CONSEQUENCE of axioms of the formalized general theory, interpreted within that theory’s semantics. This clearly makes precise the significance of general theories in providing logico-deductive systems. And the concept of a refutable model thus becomes precise via a precise rendering of the concept of prediction. Actual verification or refutation of a given specific theory is, of course, always a matter of scientific investigation. One tests the predictions of the theory against the behavior of the concrete referent and thereby determines whether the predictions are “true,” “false,” “approximately true,” and so on. Clearly, these predictions will normally be only approximately true of the real-world system. However, the “EXACTNESS” IN THE RELATION OF THE SEMANTICS TO THE FORMAL SYSTEM IS MANDATORY for the investigative procedure to be correct. For it is only because a prediction is the “meaning” of a theorem that one is assured that that prediction is indeed a valid logical inference from the given model object. WITHOUT THE PRESENCE (either implicitly or explicitly) OF A FORMAL LOGICAL SYSTEM, NO SUCH CORRECTNESS CAN BE ENSURED. Semantic completeness of the formal logical system is also an implicit necessity, in order to ensure that the formal system indeed characterizes the given general theory. END QUOTE –

    In other words, physical systems are informed by a type of LOGIC – a genetic code! The approximate nature of our predictions are due to uncertainties (i.e. limits) inherent to our data collection instruments, thus coarse-graining! Okay, I’ll let it rest now . . .

    Yeah, Phil, I think your idea for an essay contest is fundamentally sound. And who knows where it could lead – every journey has a first step!

  11. Orwin O'Dowd says:

    Peirce’s original concept of information = intention x extension:

    A logician’s idea then, but in the Age of Behaviourism we don’t do intentions anymore, everything’s Out There.

    Shannon information is the converse of uncertainty, which makes it a “certainty”, like Vico’s el certo. Nothing to do with entropy, really. One might suspect that FQXi are wanting the grease the path of another wave of neo-Bohmian determinisms, but that’s granting them some consciousness of the difference between Shannon and Boltzmann, which is not in evidence. The paradoxical air lingers on, then.

    • Wes Hansen says:

      Okay, I’ll roll with the Piercian definition of “genuine information” but one need be rather liberal with their definition of “mind” and “interpretant.”

  12. I wrote my essay on last weekend. I got a flu and forgot to submit it 🙂 Nice going… anyway, it’s now submitted! Hopefully it’s available within ten days from FQXi site.

    If I understood the rules correctly, it’s possible to reveal that essay on my ToEbi site also. Take a look and enjoy!

    Save your most intensive feedback for the discussion on FQXi site after few days.

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      In the past they have waited until they have a good batch of essays before making the first ones public.

      Your essay is 20 pages long but they will only accept 9 plus references and technical notes.
      When we do the viXra essay contest we will allow any length but I can understand that they set a limit to keep the judges’ job within bounds.

    • Orwin O'Dowd says:

      Kimmo, you may find this irrelevant, but I think you’ve rediscovered the old vortex mechanics. Your 1st law crops up in old crystallography when they still saw energy as vibration; you can get to the conventional dimensions of energy by multiplying by the constant of motion in Kepler orbits, h=r^2.dp/dt, where p is the angle, and r the radius. That’s just the specific Planck constant!

      • Interesting… however, I do see the energy as a particle spinning (real rotation) and Planck constant as the mass of photon.

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        Ja, the constant of motion is just angular momentum. Your way of quantizing then seems to resolve matter into light, which takes the theme back to Gosseteste in the Middle Ages, picking up the ancient Illuminism through Augustine. These traditions were better preserved in the east of Europe, being closer to Byzantium, and they’re coming through strongly now, and have found a vehicle in viXra.

        I find it fascinating to see this done in modern algebra.

  13. I assume the theory of everything thread is close to comment on- I want to point out in New Scientist an article on the speculations of Lisa Randall for complex dark side or mirror side of our galaxy in the interaction of matter and dark matter (no wimps!) This I have long felt a hint of things to come, of which I have long felt.

    I linked on the large amount of articles here and did not know just how vast they were… one in particular on integers and cubes seemed to me a profound proof that supports some speculations and asks deeper questions like what is that in quantum theory in the discrete or continuous debate of things.

    I will not enter things in this contest, however, But I will avidly read what anyone has to offer us.

    • Orwin O'Dowd says:

      This is what I find in a frontiers-of-logic scan:

      How to think “um”:
      and “maybe”:
      and of real possibilities:

      I’m seeing that the Russell logicism is lame, in that types and orders don’t tame the in-line paradoxes (“this isn’t a four-letter word, or isn’t this?”) – only meta-language goes the distance, and that’s Kripke and new-wave semantics.

      Also that to manage polarities of any sort you really have to do a circuit, Cauchy’s basic move, which Cybernetics just waffled about: where, after all these years is the basic feedback law of Cybernetics??? It’s in cylindrical algebras that’s where, or harmonics/Fourier analysis which had the circuit all along….

      • I guess the thread is open… those are three excellent papers from that stance. We have to go a little further, past Godel, if logic is to be explained as to why it can make sense… excluded middles, abduction like in beam me up Scotty that verifies it, or should we accept mathematical deduction as a valid principle- or quantum logic or any logic never comes down to earth again despite it unlikely it does in an uncertain universe… levels maybe like that of the article in newscientist on the layering of crumpled paper not explained (or any fixed point theorems I imagine for shadow points may not be fixed in that simple way. In the zeta half thing of Riemann it is obvious as a matter of paper folding- that is brane folding a the zero quite legitimate sixth case of the Platonic solids… anyway, If you are talking to me I never did like the type theory and wonder why Godel used Principia as well as the assumption of still not understood primes for his proofs and so on… do we keep the metalanguage a separate subjective thing? There are other papers in this collection which if we take number theory at its world speaks otherwise. Why is quantum theory involving integers in the first place for values? Feymann, well I think we have gone beyond that as a two way deal for right angle descriptions… so we want what we vaguely call a quantum loop gravity as a sort of feed back? OK but cephalasation as a principle is out of vogue as science- why should the first creatures organize their nervous systerms into brains in the first place? Quantum theory is only a small part of what seems to be becoming clear of new areas of physics way beyond our simple idea of groups and natural dimensions. I’ll tell you what is lame- Wittgenstein is lame, at first anyway until he came to realize we need representations within repesentations…

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Learning about this for the first time!

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        Edgar, you are quite right about Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: he was later confronted by Frank Ramsey saying logic is normative, and that got him into the language game. But the Tractatus is still noticed for the idea of “states of affairs,” borrowed from Boltzmann and J.W. Gibbs, of course.

        Then it actually it wasn’t Saul Kripke who got started in possible worlds semantics: Andrew Prior was there first, with a nudge from Peter Geach, babbling about “some dimension-jumping vehicle dreamed up by science fiction,” a.k.a. “Trans World Airlines”.

        But Prior got his lead from Jonsson and Tarski on “Boolean Algebras with Operators,” taking a relational view which shows up the relations between algebras. **And a symmetry condition which I don’t think is understood yet.** As for what Prior did with this, Tarski later drew a complete blank…

        Its about the move on from state-descriptions to graphs of transitions between them, which is where you catch up with programming. Prior had the basic idea from Peirce, and credited him, but his journey wasn’t properly documented until Copeland, B.J. (ed.) 1996. Logic and Reality: Essays on the Legacy of Arthur Prior. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

        Now what happens when you extend graphs to circuits? The logic goes wildly non-linear and the programmers don’t want to know anymore, except that the video frame does that anyway….Category Theory takes a cautious view round both sides of a loop, to project some logical consistency, and for that is now a big business.

        Some even venture on to three dimensions, so you’re not quite alone up there. But most teachers and researchers can now spend a lifetime without gaining the haziest idea of the wider landscape.

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        The only knowledge I have of Wittgenstein is what I garnered from A World Without Time, . Which, to this day, I’m wondering what good it did to read… I guess more knowledge is always a good thing…

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        Stephen! That link is really interesting – I didn’t known Newton had been updated to the wave theory – now I’m wondering if that displacement is related to displacement in Maxwell’s theory, which comes in just where he patches Ampere’s law, and we are lacking a material account of conductivity.

        Now the Higgs boson gets patched over the gap as a sort-of theory of the potential for superconduction. What I find weird is that its supposed match the Goldstone mass problem with a Yang-Mills mass problem and yet couple to the Yukawa potential which is not Yang-Mills. Its a charge-masked atomic profile, that predicts the basic square-wave response of the nucleus, which makes digital electronics possible. But if the charges are accounted masked the charge/mass ratio goes out the window, so how can the coupling ‘determine’ masses? Or is this just a third fudge to make Fudge Chaos?

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Yeah it definately goes out the window… I knew it seemed interesting when I stumbled across it.. any way, seriously, the best thing for me in my life would be to get rid of this ‘cortical noise’ which leads to agitation, interesting that certain stochastic differential models can model financial markets as well as neural activity and have extensions to quantum theory. In any case, back to economics, does this have a snowball’s chance in hell of gaining any traction?

    • Orwin O'Dowd says:

      I think it just depends on population: once markets stop growing by numbers, the returns to scale on resource usage fall away, and pure efficiency clicks in. We’re on the turn into this state, and as ever there’s a huge denialism reaction. “Human beings cannot stand very much reality” – T.S. Eliot.

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Just stumbled across something interesting: Higgs Bundles,

        related to Kahler stuff which leads me to think Matti might be able to work it into the puzzle, if there is such a thing

      • Orwin, not sure how I missed your excellent reply and graphs, and so on and that guy who I think invented the happy face for one is in his Tractatus… guess in changing computer access I lost the email linking so I thought all was silent… well, some things seem to follow logically- and

        Stephen- what is kimmo on about I do not understand, who closed the site? yes dramatic but I would want to know what happens (and last week the sci mags said matter and antimatter may coexist?) Anyway for a lighter essay I give you my myth of creation inspired by a photo a young Spanish physicist and teacher shared on his page :- so for some cosmic comic relief:

        so look at that photo much like Pink Floyd I think… Here is my comment if you do not want to go there or it is on my pesla.blogspot com

        Atom and the God Particle

        In the beginning the god particle expanded until their was light…and at the eight day dimension of creation Atom being somewhat of a creator in hi image spoke: “Lord of the fractal trees and holodeck of paradise, who evolved the low dimensions behold my work, mentor me. How can you stand to be so lonely, if there be light what is there to see?”

        Then the god particle thought on this and said, “You can continue until the last digits of pi to discern the sky, but eat not of the hyper apple for it is twice as full thus you feel but half a worm and crave your anti soul to find all whole again.”

        So, since the atom was free to spin his yarns and weaves, the god particle gave him one more gift, amused, and wanting something new beyond himself to see what would happen.

        Atom looked up at him holding his inky quill with eyes that beamed, “Thank you Lord it helps my work, for your gift, the white board of my dreams…”

        * * *

        Now for the it from bit theme Lubos has commentary to a very interesting article on what the NP-hard problem could mean- I am not sure if either paper really gets down to the issue… Orwin, I am long past three space, Euclidean, for a long time now so I think the issue is deeper than we can now imagine.


    • Orwin O'Dowd says:

      Here’s the text-book background for your octo-lattice:

      In the wider picture of Analytical philosophy. Some historical understanding dawns, and we recover some great resources.

  14. Leo Vuyk says:

    Kimmo Rouvari,

    Your particle based Force Transfer Ether (FTE) should have a Planck scale super dense structure or vacuum lattice right? If these particles are created in the Big bang, then we should assume that these particles where originally compactified into some sort of Black hole nucleus of the Big bang.
    Secondly I would suggest that these particles are indestructible which is an indication for a Big Crunch process before the Big bang came into explosion, and a pulsating or bouncing universe but we see a accelerating universe by Hubble redshift.
    So there should be something extra in your FTE.
    Perhaps see:
    Hubble Redshift Combined with Universal Contraction is Possible.

    • Good suggestions Leo! I have to study more your ideas before I can say anything rational. Luckily, I have submitted my essay earlier so now I have more time on my hands 🙂

      Also I stopped the development of ToEbi and shifted my focus on antimatter experiments. It’s good to have a break from ones pet theory every now and then.

    • I did read your paper. I have some issues with the dark matter and dark energy ( and so I wasn’t so keen on that alternative explanation for the Hubble redshifting.

      My loss perhaps…

      • leo vuyk says:

        Sorry I see your Hubble hesitation.

      • This week the science magazines mentioned an observation on gamma radiation from billions of years ago that was relatively little changed… it casually mentioned that scientist had no understanding of what was happening or a mechanism. Perhaps we can go further than this… that over time some such waves or particles seem to gain mass- so very heavy cosmic rays may fit well into such a scheme.

      • To L. Edgar Otto: You don’t wanna know what has happened before that gamma ray radiation.

        I had to close my ToEbi site. My latest experiment (generating electron-positron annihilation) and released video was too much, I think. I prefer if we not discuss about ToEbi anymore. There is a chance that I have to remove it from also… we’ll see.

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Kimmo, this would make me question what it means ‘to have happened’ or ‘to know’ . , why does everything have to have some sort of implied scariness or mystical to it?

      • To Stephen Crowley: The reason why my site went down and why you don’t wanna know the reason for gamma ray bursts have some common ground. I made a little demo video of antimatter meets matter.

        After that I got an advice to close down my site as a condition in order to engage negotiations. I have tried to sell my know-how previously but that demo video triggered some real action.

        I have a very mixed feelings at the moment. On the other hand I’m extremely happy that my theory and know-how got some monetary value but on the other hand I have some huge worries about the future of mankind. Quite small amount of annihilated matter in right place and conditions can cause chain reaction which annihilates the whole planet (cause of the gamma ray bursts you see). The absolute worst part is that all that can be manufactured ridiculously easily! It’s nothing compared to making H-bomb. Even I could do it by myself!

      • I have heard things like this before and as I said all it generated was investors… now, glad you are concerned for mankind- and maybe you are like the guy in that outer limits show who stumbles on a chain reaction cold fusion. Good luck, it is hard to argue with e=mc2 near ground zero as a false theory… I am skeptical in these matters but see how there may be a crack by the new theories… but man, if you have to worry about the end of the world think on this (atmospheric testing should now be seen as an act of war) of the two fissionable lower number elements N14 in the atmosphere has a one in 100K change of being lit up by just a Hiroshima type bomb. I wonder if the youtube video was understood by its censors? But dont give up the journey for wisdom… after all someone will try anything like cloning somewhere or another outside our morals and laws. I put a video on this (thinking about Leo’s or Matti’s similiar possible claims— it may just be possible… read it if you will on my pesla blog I call it the Borg Sea Project. Hey are you sure it is an experiment, I mean if the LHC ate the solar systems who would be left to know the results of that experiment? 🙂

      • To Otto: I hoped that I don’t have to go this far until somebody pays attention. At least 6 months ago my theory was fully testable (described Extended Cavendish Experiment). What happened? You know what happened 🙂 Exactly.

        Then I decided to focus on bigger project, antimatter. I knew that at some point there will be something that nobody can’t deny. And I did reach that point and I don’t like it. Now it’s too late to back off. Did you see that video of mine?

        There was no tricks or that kind of stuff. It was purely based on ToEbi. With extremely low tech proof of concept I did generate a little less than 2 microSievert/hour worth of radiation. I think that I (nor anyone else.) shouldn’t go further.

        I didn’t find any videos from your blog. What video did you mean?

      • Cleaned up site is up again!

        Good news… ToEbi is taken seriously now! 🙂

  15. Philip Gibbs says:

    The first essays in the FQXi contest will be put online today according to FQXi via twitter. I submitted my essay last night so hoping it will be included if I was in time.

  16. Philip Gibbs says:

    First 13 essays are now online

  17. Congratulations Phillip, you really have mastered the subject in a very short time, I am still struggling but the bits will become an IT.

    • Stephen Crowley says:

      Yes, I was quite taken on a journey by Phillip’s essay… brilliant ideas, I’m just sort of chilling in a middle ground between it and bit and am simply enjoying reading such a collection of thoughtful ideas of which may have apparently some relevance to our universe after all!

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Back around 2005 to 2007 I wrote basically a thesis on what I termed “intelligent operational processes” completely in my spare time based on ideas I had learned from a large sum of money’s worth of very scholarly books in the category of math, science, physics, stochasitics, optimal control, inference theory, etc, which were beyond the scope of anything local academic institutions offered as a course of study. The thing is, for some reason or another, the data files I generated which contained my ideas were lost somewhere in the sands of time… and I don’t have the spark in me any more to put them together again, and even if I did, I wouldn’t be sure it was the original idea, although it would be, to some degree…anyway, completely pointless post, and just makes me wish I would have kept it, because it would have been great for this contest.

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      I am finding this a very thought provoking topic, better than previous contests. Some of the other essays up so far are making me think.

  18. Phil, a very good paper. While I see clearly the relationship of information and complexity to our frontier and foundation questions of physics the interface between the digital and analog, Lie and Klein can be seen as one thing but in the combination it just cannot be complete as a theory based on the holographic principle and vague ideas of what makes energy conservation, How the it becomes a bit is still a deep philosophic question, I rather like who said on the TOE post that they wished we had understood space better before describing it in the now narrow way the novel idea of Non-Euclidean geometry did inspiring us in its day. If we are to see the world only in issues of complex analysis then surely it corresponds to something about space we now only suspect. It as in the multiplicity ideas of Riemann or what may impart mass like the Higgs idea needs better foundations- as information theory itself. For our theories what then is the reality, that is where does the information go and how if our thoughts are in a sense concrete like an it or substance? For me the string loops with amazing open or closed zero volumes do not represent just probabilities nor a bottom to our universe as environment. But that you point us into such directions and relate shared concerns is encouraging – especially from one with credentials. My so called quasics was simply a way to aid in our elementary description so to visualize it easier and not a unified theory- that will take a new step. Thank you for your efforts.

    L. Edgar Otto ThePeSla as Gallileo said “the clock work solar system moves and yet even with its scale the sun manages to ripen the grapes… ” for some of us on the other side of imagination it is hard to say if we have drinking in fermenting thought too much wine.

  19. If we think about it a tornado spins and is very much an electrical storm…the debris is a tangible model of the focus of information on the spiraling in a field context- but can we intervene in the process or tap such atmospheric energy- or do we just imagine a simpler physics of matrices or convergent integrals or other signposts that Lubos and others seem to report on almost to the wider picture? I suppose it is a little frustrating that no one gets my longtime view but after awhile it does not matter… after all whom but us are left to care about such things? Even if it is but philosophy it seems to me we just are not asking the right physics questions.

    • Stephen Crowley says:

      I wouldn’t put too much weight in what Lubos posts to in his blog, Matti clearly sets the record straight.

      • Stephen, thanks for the remark… I have to admit I was a little put off and ranty toward L after he said that about TD when both of them were cited in NewScientist together as bloggers. But this is the more informal issue of trying to understand each other as well as physics where certain ways of stating things put us off or cloud our perceptions of a theory or person. Especially here in the comments where so many lean toward the frontier issue of consciousness as if it can be part of physics. So, I am trying to take the higher ground and wish everyone well for the sake of research. Now I posted today on this theme – from the bit from it idea or relationship and our deeper concerns of space and so on- I hope people understand the higher issue here as one of some resolution or deeper understanding of complexity as living things. ZPE in Pitkanen’s language and QM theory put me off until I assume there is more I do not see in the language that tries to use current forms. What does it mean to rail against cold fusion when it is a proven phenomenon by University Minnesota chemists if not an energy source? In the it or abstract systems of bits the ideology on both sides of the climate issue as if it the science does disservice to the method and the people.

        See Singularity Point Energy on my blog today if you care to…

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Too much abstract stuff going on at once… I need tranquility not more wild ideas, I shall bookmark it for future reference though 🙂 “Lorentz-invariant Markov processes in relativistic phase space” <– looks interesting

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        The chiral soliton in the proper-time regularization scheme

      • Stephen Crowley says:

        Actually the Markov process article is entitled “Asymptotics of Some Relativistic Markov Processes” one of those things where the label and the contents don’t exactly match

      • This is the article discussed on Lubos blog and I cite not the opinions of Lubos relevant or not – I know for example he will not even begin to question the ideas of renormalization and close off discussion- but he has a sense of the possibilities of it and the possible loss of any deeper observations as that paper concludes.

        That said I find the paper rather crude in the deeper understanding of what is the case of such theories and geometry and it does not properly address the deeper concept of finitude or the mechanism of reduction of couplings (and limits to yang mills gauge stuff so as to choose something necessarily from the string landscape so to characterize nature according to our own stances) and it does not get to the deeper ideas of number theory. The problem is not just with Lubos but with the limitiations some have in limiting their imaginations- did not Einstein say something about that? Anyway we can feel what we want too yes? I hold the British efforts in theory in the highest regards, in my day Hoyle was prophetic…Lubos tends to demean it… this project (of which now I can read the archive of articles) is a British based science undertaking… good show guys!

      • Orwin O'Dowd says:

        The thing that struck me about Hoyle-Narlikar SU(5) was the mass-equivalent lurking much where the bacterium emerges. I even raised a concern about bacteria lurking in the first-generation neutrino detectors. And am still taken by the idea that something of the biopotential is involved in the Higgs saga. In such matters physicists may indeed seem unimaginative, and fail us, or rather fail to appreciate the subtlety of the phenomena.

        It would help now to have a road-map for emergences, but that’s wishing to pre-empt the hard road of discovery. It doers seem to me, though, that a strong emergence must require a new independent axiom in the representation formalism – which is also a strong reason for focusing representation. The tricky part is that axiom expression are operator-dependent, so there’s a detour through operator logic…. but isn’t that the way ahead from pragmatism/operationalism?

      • Orwin, there seems to be whole new levels of operations… as in the geometric sense, possible but not experimentally confirmed- and they will be quite strange to us… not quite sure what you mean by bacteria but consider how such things in raindrops initiate the hex shape that frosts plants…how many trillions of viruses are in a teaspoon of sea water? We have to go beyond our simple ideas of what happens beyond the monster symmetries of lattices 24 and such and of course 163 all under the old 41 as far as we can see for unique primes. Gauss the inventor of path integral and our hard road to a calculus of points at infinity, our stances toward the infinitesimal still but a working axiom or philosophy not much has changed in our comprehension… we with our monkeyshine gaze at the moonshine then beyond in our biopotential infinity. Would it not make sense as well to have small things like disembodied bacteria floating around if we can imagine Boltzman brains in an infinitely fading space? Perhaps this novel idea suggests the Higgs itself is a biological object… certainly the same formalism of DNA encoding can find its parallels in the complexity of the cosmic code in that space and time we consider physics. You have my attention so we can contemplate such super-abstract things thru my blog if this is hard to understand or read… it took a moment to decipher what you said thanks.

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