Month: <span>September 2011</span>

What the World Looks Like, If You Move Backward in Time [Video]

A remarkable film project.

Oops, I said my last post on the recent Foundational Questions Institute conference would be my final one, but I can’t resist just one more. At the conference, Gavin Crooks at Lawrence Berkeley Labs, who studies molecular machines and gave a great talk on how life balances time asymmetry with thermodynamic efficiency, showed this brilliant short […]

George Musser 0 Comments 1 min read Continue reading

How Life Arose on Earth, and How a Singularity Might Bring It Down

Living things are souped-up versions of inorganic geochemical reactions.

COPENHAGEN—It didn’t take long for the recent Foundational Questions Institute conference on the nature of time to delve into the purpose of life. “The purpose of life,” meeting co-organizer and Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll said in his opening remarks, “is to hydrogenate carbon dioxide.” Well, there you have it. Carroll is one of the most […]

George Musser 0 Comments 8 min read Continue reading

Quantum Cheshire Cat: Even Weirder Than Schrödinger's

A box can contain all the properties of a particle, even though no particle is there.

COPENHAGEN—Just when you thought you’d heard every quantum mystery that was possible, out pops another one. Jeff Tollaksen mentioned it in passing during his talk at the recent Foundation Questions Institute conference. Probably Tollaksen assumed we’d all heard it before. After all, his graduate advisor, Yakir Aharonov—who has made an illustrious career of poking the […]

George Musser 0 Comments 3 min read Continue reading

Free Will and Quantum Clones: How Your Choices Today Affect the Universe at its Origin

Just when you thought the debates over free will couldn’t get any weirder.

COPENHAGEN—The late philosopher Robert Nozick, talking about the deep question of why there is something rather than nothing, quipped: “Someone who proposes a non-strange answer shows he didn’t understand the question.” So, when Scott Aaronson began a talk three weeks ago by saying it would be “the looniest talk I’ve ever given,” it was a […]

George Musser 0 Comments 9 min read Continue reading

Time on the Brain: How You Are Always Living In the Past, and Other Quirks of Perception

Conscious experience lags 80 milliseconds behind actual events.

COPENHAGEN—I always knew we humans have a rather tenuous grip on the concept of time, but I never realized quite how tenuous it was until a couple of weeks ago, when I attended a conference on the nature of time organized by the Foundational Questions Institute. This meeting, even more than FQXi’s previous efforts, was […]

George Musser 0 Comments 14 min read Continue reading

Do Physicists Make the World a Better Place?

Well, I think so, but others are doubtful.

COPENHAGEN—This past week, I’ve been attending the Foundational Questions Institute conference on the nature of time, and in the coming weeks, I hope to share with you some of the mind-blowing things I’ve found out. In the meantime, there’s one question I wanted to put out there for everyone to comment on. On Wednesday, physicist […]

George Musser 0 Comments 4 min read Continue reading

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