Professor of Physics Ben Schumacher can count himself among an elite group of researchers studying some of the deep questions of physics, cosmology and philosophy with the awarding of a grant from the Foundational Questions Institute (FQXI).
FQXI, a physics philanthropic organization, awarded Schumacher a grant in the amount of $73,425.20 to study eidostates, the partial description of the world that we hold based on all the information available to us.
“When we think about a state, our description refers not only to the external world but to ourselves,” said Schumacher, explaining eidostates. “There can be more than one observer and [they] can have more than one eidostate. A summary of what you see about the world is your perception.
“We describe the world, but we live in the world, too,” he said.
Schumacher will work on this grant with Michael Westmoreland, professor of mathematics at Denison University, though the project will be based at Kenyon. They hope to enlist a total of four to eight students — half from Kenyon, half from Denison — to work on the research, the bulk of which will take place next summer.
FQXI awarded a total of $1.85 million to 20 teams of scientists from around the world, including from the University of Tokyo, the University of California-Berkley and the University of Cambridge.
FQXI focuses on work that Schumacher calls high risk. “These are branches of research where you’re not sure at the beginning if you’re asking the right questions,” he said. “What all of these proposals want to do is ask really radical questions having to do with the root of physics inspired by quantum physics. They’re very exciting.”
Schumacher is proud to be included with the other groups selected. “I would work on questions I was interested in anyway,” he said. “But this lets us collaborate with other people and involve students in a really exciting and productive way.”