Wednesday, April 21, 2010

a few questions...

feeling insignificant

the FQXi, an organization striving to understand the foundations of physics and cosmology, is looking for questions for an essay contest. they propose:
  • What is the universe made of?
  • Is Nature continuous or discrete?
  • Why the quantum?
  • Physics and philosophy: How does one help the other?
  • Origin of the fundamental constants
  • Origin of the Second Law of Thermodynamics
  • Emergence in physics
  • Paradoxes in physics
  • Physics, Mathematics, and Reality
  • Physics, Knowledge, and Information

i would add:
  • why does anything exist ("why is there something rather than nothing? for nothingness is simpler and easier than anything" - von Leibniz)?
  • what is the origin of everything?
  • how much of reality is unobservable (multiverse, many worlds, higher dimensions, dark energy, supersymmetrical particles, ...)
  • why three spatial dimensions?
  • what is the nature of time (fundamental or emergent, an illusion, arrow of time and the low entropy of the early universe, ...)?
  • what are laws of nature?
  • why is there a structure-forming and self-organizing process and how did it arise and how does it function?
  • why is complex behaviour the result of simple rules?
  • are there transcendental, "supernatural" or psi phenomena, or: is there an non-physical level of reality?
  • is there a unifying "theory of everything" to be discovered?
  • is there a theory of quantum gravity to be discovered?
  • why does macro-reality appear so well-ordered whilst the quantum realm is so bizarre (non-locality, observation/measurement, uncertainty, duality, entanglement, delayed choice, superpositions, probabilistic nature, ...)?
  • will there ever be a conclusive interpretation of quantum theory?
  • why (special) relativity (alternatively: why a constant speed of light)?
  • is space and time quantized?
  • is reality intrinsically finite, or: does infinity really exist outside the human mind?
  • does a physical higgs boson exist (my conspiracy theory says no;-)?
  • why a big bang and an expanding universe?
  • at what point in the evolution of the cosmos did the possibility of life (and consciousness) first become apparent?
  • why are scaling-law relations and distributions ubiquitous in complex systems?

  • what can we know?
  • why were the attempts to found science on common sense notions (as seen in the programs of logical empiricism and critical rationalism) unsuccessful?
  • why gödel's theorems?
  • do the clay institutes' millennium problems have solutions?
  • what is the mind matter link?
  • why the correspondence between inner and outer reality (the mind's ability to devise formal thought systems and the universes propensity to be described by them, e.g., wigner's unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics) or: why has science been so fantastically successful at describing reality?
  • why is science producing amazing technology at accelerating speed?
  • why life?
  • why death?
  • does any non-physical entity or information content continue to exist after physical death?
  • what about (temperature- or chemically-induced) suspended animation?
  • what is the biological basis for aging and what determines the lifespan of healthy organisms (longevity)?
  • why consciousness?
  • is there a model of the mind or theory of the brain to be discovered?
  • is there free will?
  • does a true mystical or enlightened state of mind exist?
  • why information processing (from dna to consciousness and computers)?
  • is there a meaning to existence?
  • is there a creating or omnipotent entity?
  • do we live in a simulation?
  • are there absolutes (e.g., good and evil)?
  • why is life so improbable (fine-tuning of physical constants, birth of stars, supernovae fusing heavy elements, carbon's unique bonding properties, right temperature conditions, anomalies of water, ...)?
  • were the dozen or so extinction events in the history of life imperative for the emergence of humans?
  • how will life look in 3 billion years (assuming it doesn't get annihilated)
  • will the amount of suffering experienced by living creatures on earth ever decrease?
  • will the human race ever reach a level of sustainability with the environment?
  • will the human race ever manifest collective intelligence?
  • will theology ever be superseded?


jbg said...

see comments:

jbg said...

Stefan Weckbach adds:
"which of the questions will remain forever in the domain of subjective speculation and which have a scientific answer?"

from FQXi

jbg said...

I would also add:

-placebo, the self-healing power of the mind:

-quantum biology: linking stuff at the "nanometre scale, surrounded by hard vacuum, ultra-low temperatures and a tightly controlled laboratory environment [to] [...] a macroscopic world that is warm, messy and anything but controlled."

jbg said...

Science’s unsolved mysteries:

1. How did life begin?
2. Is the universe alone?
3. What is the universe really made of?
4. What caused the Cambrian explosion?
5. Why does time pass?
6. What is consciousness?