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Bellweather grants from FQXi foundation (straws in the quantum gravity wind)

  1. Aug 4, 2008 #1

    marcus

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    This years's grants have been announced.
    A total of 2.7 million was awarded. FQXi is set up to support investigation of foundational questions. Here is a sampling of the awards, chosen with a hefty componenent of randomness. Gives an idea of some of the kinds of things FQXi supports.


    Stephon Alexander Penn State $65,000 Foundational Questions in Cosmology and Quantum Gravity

    Giovanni Amelino-Camelia University La Sapienza $65,000 Falsifiable Quantum-Gravity Theories of Not Everything

    John Baez UC Riverside $131,865 Categorifying Fundamental Physics

    Julian Barbour Oxford University $99,563 Machian Quantum Gravity

    Bob Coecke Oxford University $89,981 The Road to a New Quantum Formalism: Categories as a Canvas for Quantum Foundations

    Ted Jacobson University of Maryland at College Park $82,127 Growth of the Vacuum in Quantum Cosmology

    Gaurav Khanna University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth $15,166 Numerical Techniques for Solving Models of Quantum Gravity

    A. Garrett Lisi Theiss Research $77,222 E8 Theory

    Michael Reisenberger Theiss Research $55,918 Classical and Quantum Gravity Without Constraints

    to see the full list of the 33 awardees
    http://www.fqxi.org/
    http://www.fqxi.org/large-grants/awardees
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2008 #2

    Moonbear

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    I don't know what your point is or why this should be a social sciences topic. I'm moving to GD since it just seems to be a collection of data.
     
  4. Aug 7, 2008 #3

    marcus

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    Sorry about confusion. This thread anticipated one started a few hours later in Beyond forum by ccdantas.
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=248512

    Since her thread and mine are about the same thing, I would be happy to have this merged with her thread--with her as the thread-starter and appending my comments as a post.

    FQXi has the stated aim of supporting research which would not normally be state-funded---too far out for NSF, DOE etc. It is a new foundation and announced its first round of grants in 2007. It could turn out to play a vital role in the long run or it might just have a brief impact. I find it interesting to see what QG research they support in their second round of grants. In effect, the direction they are moving.

    It wasn't clear to me whether the content here was physics or sociology of science----which research directions are getting funding from what could turn out to be a significant alternative source of support. It still isn't clear to me, actually, whether this is physics or sociology of science.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2008
  5. Aug 7, 2008 #4

    marcus

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    Maybe this is only mildly interesting, or not interesting at all. I see three people that are actually outside the normal academic system.
    Julian Barbour has always been selfsupporting. Lives on a farm 20 km outside Oxford and has a nominal affiliation so he can use the library. Has had enormous influence on QG going back some 30 years. Background independence---that a QG theory should be developed without assuming a fixed prior geometrical background (as General Relativity itself is.)---is one of the ideas he has fostered. Attends conferences, holds informal seminars at his house.
    Garrett Lisi, well known of course.
    Michael Reisenberger. Lists his institutional affiliation as Theiss Research which was set up as umbrella entity specifically for scientists who choose to work outside the usual academic framework. Reisenberger has co-authored with Carlo Rovelli and I have seen references crediting him with seminal ideas going back to the 1990s.

    Of these three, the only one who had a 2007 grant, the only repeater, is Lisi. His accomplishments over the past year while receiving FQXi support were reviewed by a panel and found satisfactory obviously.

    except for these three, I don't see any outside academia----but that is already 10 percent of the grantees
    ===================

    what about unconventional approaches to the foundations of physics? (FQXi's name indicates its interest in foundational questions)

    Both John Baez and Bob Coecke are pursuing a radical line of research where they apply Category Theory mathematics to physics (n-categories, one application they call higher gauge theory). Certainly a new formalism for physics, not one that would ordinarily get support in a normal physics department or attract normal physics funding. Might not pay off. Risky, but it could pay off and has already sparked papers by some other QG people.

    Baez has discussed this with us at PF, and also mentioned Coecke----if I remember right the threads would be from back in 2006.

    =================
    what about cosmology?
    In the US, as far as I know, Loop quantum cosmology (LQC) research is supported primarily, indeed almost solely, at Penn State---I see the grants to Khanna and Jacobson as broadening the US base for LQC slightly. They are at Dartmouth and Maryland respectively. LQC was also a key element of Stephon Alexander's proposal.
    =================

    the theme of observable QG effects
    I noticed this theme of observable effects appearing a lot. For instance in Stephon Alexander's abstract of his proposal (for a joint project involving himelsf Martin Bojowald and Abhay Ashtekar)
    http://www.fqxi.org/large-grants/awardee/details/2008/alexander

    "...The overall goal is to seek new physical and potentially observable effects by exploiting...<snip>...
    ...quantum effects of gravity, explore the origin of the arrow of time, investigate how information can leak out of black holes, and analyze whether multiverses can naturally arise in quantum gravity evolutions..."
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2008
  6. Aug 7, 2008 #5
    What time is it?

    or,

    should I ask, 'What is it, time?'

    "For the current contest, this is “The Nature of Time,” including, but not limited to, the arrow of time; the emergence of time in quantum gravity; time, free will and determinism; time travel; the beginning or ending of time; and timelessness. Additionally, to be consonant with FQXi’s scope and goals, essays should be primarily concerned with physics (mainly quantum physics, high energy ‘fundamental’ physics, and gravity), cosmology (mainly of the early universe), or closely related fields (such as astrophysics, astrobiology, biophysics, mathematics, complexity and emergence, and philosophy of physics), insofar as they bear directly on questions in physics or cosmology."

    http://www.fqxi.org/community/essay


    First Juried Prize: US$10,000

    Second Juried Prize (up to two): US$5000 each

    Third Juried Prize (up to five): US$2000 each

    Fourth Juried Prize (up to ten): US$1000 each



    First Community Prize: US$5000

    Second Community Prize (up to two): US$2500 each


    interesting site

    http://www.fqxi.org/community
     
  7. Aug 7, 2008 #6

    marcus

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    Hi REWebster, thanks for mentioning the essay contest! interest in time is also another theme that occurs in this round of awards.
    BTW in line with the observable effects theme Giovanni Amelino-Camelia puts it right in his project title
    "Falsifiable Quantum-Gravity Theories of Not Everything"
    ====================
    It is turning out to be fascinating to learn the directions in FQXi funding by looking at the abstracts of the proposals. Here are a few:

    If you happen to want to see the brief summaries of the proposed research, and click on these links, be sure to further click where it says "show technical abstract". That will give some additional detail about the line of investigation they plan to carry out.

    Stephon Alexander Penn State Foundational Questions in Cosmology and Quantum Gravity
    http://www.fqxi.org/large-grants/awardee/details/2008/alexander

    John Baez UC Riverside Categorifying Fundamental Physics
    http://www.fqxi.org/large-grants/awardee/details/2008/baez

    Julian Barbour Oxford University Machian Quantum Gravity
    http://www.fqxi.org/large-grants/awardee/details/2008/barbour

    Ted Jacobson University of Maryland at College Park Growth of the Vacuum in Quantum Cosmology
    http://www.fqxi.org/large-grants/awardee/details/2008/jacobson

    Gaurav Khanna University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth Numerical Techniques for Solving Models of Quantum Gravity
    http://www.fqxi.org/large-grants/awardee/details/2008/khanna

    Sample from John Baez' technical abstract (see above link)
    "The goal of this program is to develop a radically new understanding of the mathematics underlying physical theories...
    Our program has three components. First, we are developing a version of quantum mechanics in which Hilbert spaces are replaced by purely combinatorial structures.
    Second, we are categorifying classical mechanics and geometric quantization, which leads naturally to a generalization of these ideas from point particles to extended objects.
    Third, we are studying the role of 'exceptional' algebraic structures, such as the octonions and exceptional Lie groups, in of particle physics."

    I'm finding some of these abstracts stimulating, thought-provoking reading. Hopefully others will as well, and will comment.

    Sample exerpt from Ted Jacobson's proposal:
    "...The possibility that the space-time continuum is a low resolution approximation to a more structured, discrete plenum will be probed, focusing on the setting of an expanding universe. Both a phenomenological continuum model and discrete models will be studied. The former assumes new field modes are born free at the cutoff scale, and cosmological expansion then brings them into interaction with the rest of the vacuum via scale dependent interactions. The resulting vacuum energy and pressure will be studied. Could this process could drive inflation and/or explain the current dark energy? Could it produce a small number of highly energetic or massive quanta?..."


    to see the full list of the 33 awardees
    http://www.fqxi.org/
    http://www.fqxi.org/large-grants/awardees
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2008
  8. Aug 7, 2008 #7

    turbo

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