Foundation Questions

Foundation Questions in Physics and Cosmology (FQXi) is a multi-million dollar, multi-year effort to catalyze research and dialogue at the boundaries of physics and cosmology that are related to really big questions (see below for details). The project will be launched in October 2005 as part of the “Amazing Light” Symposium in honor of Charles Townes and is itself a follow-up to the successful March 2002 “Science and Ultimate Reality” Symposium held in honor of John Wheeler. The project is managed by Metanexus Institute with significant funding from the John Templeton Foundation and others.



Rationale

Science has been the vanguard in overthrowing rigid ideas and old paradigms, replacing them with fresh thoughts and new perspectives. Richard Feynman once noted that physics has served effectively as natural philosophy in the twentieth century. Relativity and quantum physics, which serve as the pillars of contemporary science, and the more recent chaos theory, are now presenting us with a radically new physical view of the world in which positivistic, deterministic, or materialistic philosophies no longer have secure places. They present us with deeper, greater, and more mysterious aspects of nature.

This new era of physics forces scientists to ask really big questions (RBQs): What is the ultimate nature of reality? How many dimensions of space are there and why do we experience only three dimensions? Are we alone in the universe? Where did we come from? Is the universe self-explanatory? Is our universe the only universe? How do we account for nature's proclivity to produce complexity even to the degree of the truly astonishing reality of intelligent life? And what is the final fate of the universe? What is the nature of reality in the quantum world? What is the origin of space and of time? Where does the arrow of time come from? Why are there laws of nature? What is the nature of relationship between information and reality? Why is mathematics the language of nature, as Einstein described it? Or is it? Where does the phenomenon of consciousness come from? Is self-conscious artificial intelligence possible? What is a person? What are the possible future modes of human existence? How much can we know about the ultimate reality? Why quantum? Why existence? What makes meaning?