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John Prytz: "Mr. Agnew, So no doubt you believe, even with qualifiers, that..." in Wave function collapse...

John Prytz: "GAMMA-RAY SETI Gamma-ray bursts are cosmic phenomena. As far as..." in The Fermi Paradox

John Prytz: "SETI VERSUS THE TRICKSTER GODS Life, the universe and everything is full..." in The Fermi Paradox

John Prytz: "Mr. Agnew, You are clearly NOT reading, or at least NOT comprehending what..." in Alternative Models of...

Anonymous: "Akinbo, No, that wouldn't cut the mustard since in each and every physics..." in Uncertainty Relations -...

John Prytz: "Georgina, That phrase "image reality" is a new one that I've never come..." in Wave function collapse...

Akinbo Ojo: "Eckard, What you said is correct, viz. "...the velocity of something in..." in Real-Time Physics

Eckard Blumschein: "Steve, While Einstein didn't write what he meant with magnetic and..." in Real-Time Physics

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Spot the Difference to Reveal Exotic Particles
Questioning the symmetrization postulate of quantum mechanics and the notion that electrons are indistinguishable could reveal whether hypothetical new particles exist.

Life's Quantum Crystal Ball
Does the ability to predict the future—perhaps with quantum help—define the fundamental difference between living and inanimate matter?

The Quantum Truth Seeker
Watching particles fly through an interferometer might help to unveil higher-order weirdness behind quantum theory.

Quantifying Occam
Is the simplest answer always the best? Connecting Medieval monks to computational complexity, using the branch of mathematics known as category theory.

Heart of Darkness
An intrepid physicist attempts to climb into the core of black hole.

November 23, 2014

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Show Me the Physics Winners — Tune in Soon!
By BRENDAN FOSTER • Nov. 14, 2014 @ 22:10 GMT

Astute followers of FQXi's first ever video contest Show Me the Physics! may know that the contest timeline lists today as the day for announcing our winners. Well, I am happy to announce that our judges have in fact made their choices...

BUT it wouldn't be a video contest without a video announcement. Astute followers will also remember we extended our entry window by two weeks -- so we have also decided to shift the announcement date, in order to put together a webcast with the winners.

If you enjoyed our online hangout featuring winners of our essay contest Steering the Future, please tune in again to catch the results of Show Me the Physics! The exact time, date, and guests will be determined shortly -- please check back here for that information.

A Physicist and a Science Writer Walk Into a Bar
By GEORGE MUSSER • Oct. 30, 2014 @ 00:28 GMT

Quantum physics can make rocket science look like kindergarten circle time. Even experts find it daunting. So imagine the challenges that science writers face, both in understand the physics and conveying it to a general readership. To try to help, Sabine Hosenfelder and I organized a workshop on quantum physics for science journalists, held at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in Stockholm this past August. Sabine and I got the idea a couple of years ago at a Nordita social event, where the open bar made us so rash as to commit ourselves to doing it.

The workshop gave writers a chance to extricate themselves from the hurly-burly of publishing for a few days, recharge their intellectual batteries, and learn about what's going on in all sorts of important and fun areas, from quantum optics to topological insulators. Some 25 of them came from across Europe to hear seven physicists, including FQXi members Raymond Laflamme, Lárus Thorlacius, and Silke Weinfurtner, as well as Eddy Ardonne, Marie Ericsson, Rainer Kaltenbaek, and Chad Orzel.

The event was modeled on the journalist "bootcamps" held routinely in the U.S., but less commonly in Europe. It amounted to a series of seminars along with evening social events and rambles through historic Stockholm so that people could get to know one another and ask the questions they'd been wondering about for years, but never had the chance or gumption to pose. The speakers enjoyed having an appreciative audience, with no one asking what they needed to know for the exam.

One afternoon, Mohamed Bourennane brought us into his lab at Stockholm University to witness quantum weirdness for ourselves. Afterwards, we had a good discussion about whether physicists and journalists overuse terms such as "quantum weirdness." Does this language help or hinder public understanding of the subject? Sabine has started a discussion about this on her blog.

The presentations are a great resource even for those who weren't able to attend, and we'll also post videos of the lectures on YouTube as we get them ready.
63 comments | view comments

Dust Settling on the BICEP2 results
By ZEEYA MERALI • Sep. 22, 2014 @ 15:35 GMT

Just opening up a forum thread for discussing the intermediate Planck results (arXiv:1409.5738v1) which show that the BICEP2 signal -- lauded as direct of evidence of primordial gravitational waves earlier this year -- could be down to dust, which has long been a concern.

The image shows Planck's Northern (on the left) and Southern (right) sky projections. Dark blue indicates parts of the sky that are clearer of dust. BICEP2 looked at the region marked by the black box in the Southern projection.

For background, listen to our podcast editions from May, with interviews with Andrei Linde and especially Joao Magueijo (who raised these particular concerns and others), and June, with Alan Guth.

Reports from Quanta, the BBC and Nature.
11 comments | view comments

The Quantum Pet Store: New Podcast Edition is Up!
By ZEEYA MERALI • Sep. 1, 2014 @ 02:00 GMT

L. Filter, Nature Communications
The latest edition of the podcast is up -- and you may notice there's a bit of a quantum animal theme. Listen to it here.

First up, we talk to Andrew Jordan of Rochester University about recent experiments that allow you to track and steer Schrodinger's metaphorical cat (or in this case a superconducting "transmon") between life and death, while it is locked in a box. The technique could be used to create a new kind of quantum control.

Other animals featuring in the main podcast are quantum pigeons. FQXi member Jeff Tollaksen chats about his theoretical analysis that suggests that there is a new type of quantum correlation that's even spookier than those we've come to know and love. We're used to talking about quantum entanglement, which continues to link two or more particles that have been specially prepared together, no matter how far apart they are separated. But Tollaksen and his colleagues have calculated that quantum particles can become united without having to ever have been in contact. And he illustrates this by talking about vanishing pigeons!

Both of these items described by Jordan and Tollaksen are based on pioneering theoretical work on "weak measurements" in the 1960s by FQXi member Yakir Aharonov and colleagues. These allow experimenters to measure some properties of quantum systems, without destroying them. You can read more about that program in the article, "The Destiny of the Universe" by Julie Rehmeyer.

That research program has also lead to the idea that it is possible to create what Tollaksen dubs a "Quantum Cheshire Cat." Just as the cat in Alice in Wonderland managed to slowly vanish leaving behind a grin without a cat, physicists have recently carried out experiments in which a neutron has been separated from its properties. Tollaksen spoke to me about these tests too, and you can hear that as a podcast extra on the website, but note that it is not in the main podcast. (The image above, by Leon Filter, appears in the team's paper in Nature Communications. Thank you to Gina Parry for suggesting a forum post based on this piece of research.)

We have also included some non-animal items too. For cosmology fans, and those hankering for a resolution of the black hole information paradox, check out the interview with FQXi's Carlo Rovelli. His latest analysis with Hal Haggard, based on the theory of Loop Quantum Gravity, predicts that when black holes die, they explode into white holes, spewing all the matter that they swallowed back out again. If he and his colleague are correct, then astronomers may be able to pick up signs of such exploding black holes -- which would also be the first observational support for this model, or indeed any candidate theory of quantum gravity.

But it's not all smooth sailing. Keen podcast listeners may remember an interview from the June 2013 podcast with Jorge Pullin, who carried out a similar analysis also using loop quantum gravity, but got a different answer. Pullin argued that at the center of black holes you will find wormholes that fast track you to other parts of the universe. Listen to the podcast to find out what Rovelli has to say about the conflicting results.

And, if you enjoyed reading Sophie Hebden's profile of Noson Yanofsky and his work using category theory to study whether Occam's Razor is really mathematically valid, then you can also listen to her interview with him.

Anyway, please tune in and listen to all the latest weird and wonderful experiments and models. As Alice would say, things are getting curiouser and curiouser.
104 comments | view comments

Your Invitation to FQXi's Online Essay Contest Award Ceremony & a Call for Questions!
By ZEEYA MERALI • Aug. 20, 2014 @ 21:05 GMT

The judges have made their decisions…and we can now (almost) reveal the winners of this year's essay contest, which asked: "How Should Humanity Steer the Future?" We had 155 entries this year and we're awarding 16 prizes. Thank you to everyone who entered, read the entries, commented, and voted for their favourites.

This year, we're doing something a bit different with the announcement of the big winners. We're inviting you to tune in to a live webcast of the award ceremony, where you can join FQXi directors Max Tegmark and Anthony Aguirre as they reveal the top 3 prize winners. Our first prize winner will walk away with $10,000, and our two second prize winners will each take home $5,000.

The event: The FQXi Essay Contest Award Ceremony 2014

The time: Thursday 21st August, 1pm EDT

The place: Here

This is also your chance to quiz the winners, so please post your burning questions below. To aid you in framing your questions, I have permission to reveal the panellists…but I cannot yet tell you which of them has won first prize, and which two are runners-up. You'll find out -- as will they -- tomorrow at the ceremony!

So congratulations to our panellists, who between them have won the top 3 prizes. They are listed here in alphabetical order:

Daniel Dewey, who wrote about "Crucial Phenomena"…

Sabine Hossenfelder, who told us "How to Save the World"…

Jens Niemeyer, who outlined "How to avoid steering blindly: The case for a robust repository of human knowledge".

Please post your questions and comments below (or tweet them to @FQXi).

We've also been busy announcing the names of our six 3rd place winners ($2,000), five 4th place winners ($1,000) and two special prize winners ($1,000) on twitter and Facebook. You can check out the list of the winners who have been revealed so far here. Congratulations to each of them for providing some thought-provoking reading matter.
216 comments | view comments

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FQXb (bio)

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Video: Seth Lloyd, "What Happens When You Fall...
Some of you may have noticed that I enjoy writing about the question of what happens when you fall into a black hole. At the recent FQXi meeting in Vieques, Puerto Rico, "quantum mechanic" Seth Lloyd talked through this problem and discussed a way to...
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