FQXi’s FOCUS ON “EVENTS”: THE PHYSICS OF WHAT HAPPENS

NOTICE THE TIGHT DEADLINE: 15 February 2015

An international request for proposals – open to all researchers and outreach specialists

Initial Applications due February 15, 2015 at 11:59PM EST

FQXi’s programming encompasses both ‘open’ requests for proposals and more targeted programs in particular areas of thought. The current request for proposals targets research on the Physics of “Events” both in physics and also in related fields including cosmology, astrophysics, philosophy of physics, complex systems, biophysics, computer science, and mathematics.

Everyday reality is largely made up of events: things that happen and don’t “un-happen”. These events separate the past from the future via the present, in which events are “happening”. The world of fundamental physics, however, is quite different.

In general relativity (GR) for instance, “event” simply refers to a space-time location, which may or may not coincide with something happening. The theory has no fundamental entity that corresponds to an event that “happens” or does not. In quantum mechanics, the measurement of some observable can constitute an “event”, but this process is subject to differing theoretical and philosophical interpretations. The evolving wavefunction — like the evolving matter and gravitational fields in GR — has no “event” built in; they must be identified by reference to a laboratory or other macroscopic observer. Furthermore, it is unclear to what extent events in the macroscopic world should really be considered quantum measurements of the archetypal variety studied in the quantum foundations literature.

Thus, both of our fundamental theories of physics are by themselves event-free (or at best “event-lite”), and we face the question of how to draw a firm connection between these theories and the events that make up what happens in experienced reality. Drawing those connections — and through the process, analyzing the notion of “event” as it appears in its many forms throughout physics — is the aim of this request for proposals.

Guidelines: http://fqxi.org/grants/large/initial

Application: http://fqxi.org/grants/large/initial/application

FAQs: http://fqxi.org/grants/large/initial/faq

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