© 2015

Questioning the Foundations of Physics

Which of Our Fundamental Assumptions Are Wrong?

  • Anthony Aguirre
  • Brendan Foster
  • Zeeya Merali
  • Published in cooperation with the renowned physics "think-tank" Foundational Questions Institute, FQXi

  • Specially reworked versions of the most exciting essays of over 270 submissions

  • A book that will appeal both to hobby scientists and to active theoretical physicists seeking inspired new directions


Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Anthony Aguirre, Brendan Foster, Zeeya Merali
    Pages 1-4
  3. George Ellis
    Pages 17-44
  4. Benjamin F. Dribus
    Pages 45-60
  5. Sean Gryb, Flavio Mercati
    Pages 87-102
  6. Olaf Dreyer
    Pages 131-138
  7. Steven Weinstein
    Pages 139-150
  8. Angelo Bassi, Tejinder Singh, Hendrik Ulbricht
    Pages 151-164
  9. Giacomo Mauro D’Ariano
    Pages 165-175
  10. Ken Wharton
    Pages 177-189
  11. Giovanni Amelino-Camelia
    Pages 191-203
  12. Sabine Hossenfelder
    Pages 219-224
  13. Michele Arzano
    Pages 225-234
  14. Julian Barbour
    Pages 235-250
  15. Sara Imari Walker
    Pages 259-268

About this book


The essays in this book look at way in which the fundaments of physics might need to be changed in order to make progress towards a unified theory. They are based on the prize-winning essays submitted to the FQXi essay competition “Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?”, which drew over 270 entries.

As Nobel Laureate physicist Philip W. Anderson realized, the key to understanding nature’s reality is not anything “magical”, but the right attitude, “the focus on asking the right questions, the willingness to try (and to discard) unconventional answers, the sensitive ear for phoniness, self-deception, bombast, and conventional but unproven assumptions.”

The authors of the eighteen prize-winning essays have, where necessary, adapted their essays for the present volume so as to (a) incorporate the community feedback generated in the online discussion of the essays, (b) add new material that has come to light since their completion and (c) to ensure accessibility to a broad audience of readers with a basic grounding in physics.

The Foundational Questions Institute, FQXi, catalyzes, supports, and disseminates research on questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology, particularly new frontiers and innovative ideas integral to a deep understanding of reality, but unlikely to be supported by conventional funding sources.


Axioms of Theoretical Physics FQXi Essay Competition FQXi Question FQXi Submission For and Against Reductionism Foundational Assumptions in Physics Foundations of Quantum Gravity General Relativity Meets Quantum Field Theory Nature of Spacetime Space, Time and Dimensionality

Editors and affiliations

  • Anthony Aguirre
    • 1
  • Brendan Foster
    • 2
  • Zeeya Merali
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA
  2. 2.Foundational Questions InstituteNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Foundational Questions InstituteNew YorkUSA

About the editors

Anthony Aguirre
Brendan Foster
Zeeya Merali

Bibliographic information

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