Press release 2021

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When there is no time? The Kurt Gödel Prize has been awarded to the authors of the 6 best answers to this question

In April 2021, the Kurt Gödel Circle of Friends Berlin, with the support of the University of Wuppertal, announced an essay competition for a Kurt Gödel Prize for the second time. The question this time:

What does it mean for our world view if, according to Gödel, we also assume the non-existence of time?

At the end of December, the authors of the 6 best answers were rewarded with prize money totalling €15,000. For the interdisciplinary Jury, Prof. Dr. Dr. Brigitte Falkenburg, Prof. Dr. Christoph Benzmüller and PD Dr. Oliver Passon it was not easy to choose the best of the 6 winning essays and to award the prize accordingly.

In accordance with the conditions of participation,

1st prize of €10,000: Prof. Reinhard Kahle for his Essay: Die philosophische Bedeutung des Gödel-Universums
2nd prize of €1,000: Prof. Dr. Claus Kiefer for his Essay:
Was bedeutet es für unser Weltbild, wenn wir mit Gödel die Nichtexistenz der Zeit annehmen?
2nd prize of €1,000: Bartosz Wesół for his Essay: Without time, the world becomes Leibnizian
2nd prize of €1,000: Michał Pawłowski for his Essay: Self or the world
2nd prize of €1,000: Thorben Alles for his Essay:
Über philosophische Konsequenzen der Unmöglichkeit einer objektiven Bestimmung von Veränderung – im Anschluss an Kurt Gödel
2nd prize of €1,000: Tim Lethen for his Essay: How much Time does a logical Inference take?

As an incentive to take a closer look at all the contributions, we would like to point out these striking quotes from two of the contributions:
by Reinhard Kahle, University of Tübingen Theory and History of Science:

…Palle Yourgrau argues, for instance, that Gödel concluded that there is no time even in our world. In fact, only much more cautious conclusions are found in Gödel’s writings….

…So if quantum mechanics suspends the (by now) known laws of relativity on a (too) small scale, Gödel is speculating here about the possibilities of a „cosmological physics“ that would in turn revise the known laws on a (too) large scale. To our knowledge, however, this idea has not been pursued further to this day.
The task that Gödel sees here therefore consists precisely in finding further physical principles from which the non-existence of his universe would already follow, without having to draw on contingent properties of our universe….

Translated with

The jury judged cautiously and awarded Prof. Kahle first prize for this more open assessment. On the other hand, the quantum gravity physicist Prof. Kiefer stated that the timelessness „of the world will gradually gain a foothold in science“.

From the article by Prof. Dr. Claus Kiefer , Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Cologne (Wikipedia):

…This non-existence of time at the fundamental level does not, of course, contradict the usual concept of time in physics, but it now proves to be only a more or less good approximation. Physicists have developed a number of sophisticated procedures for this approximation, but the idea of an intrinsically existing time remains an illusion. Gödel reached this conclusion much earlier – not because of quantum gravity, but because of the possibility of rotating universes in Einstein’s theory. He thus opened the door to a world view that is even more radical with regard to time than he himself could have imagined. Gödel is most famous as a mathematician, but it should be remembered that he had first studied physics. In his Maxims, he notes: „What originally interested me was the explanation of everyday life from higher concepts and general laws, hence physics. From these original interests, a straight path leads to Gödel’s derivation of his cosmological solutions. His world view, which encompassed mathematics and physics, was consistent, even if it did not seem so at first glance….
….The non-existence of time at the fundamental level follows naturally from established physical theories that are empirically established. Nevertheless, even specialists find it difficult to accept this consequence. After all, the experience of time is, it seems, an elementary everyday experience that structures our lives and human history and makes them possible in the first place. That the timelessness of the world enters the general consciousness is not to be expected in the foreseeable future (sic!). However, it will gradually gain a foothold in science and from there at some point radiate into other areas, with effects on human life that are likely to far exceed the effects of the transition from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican world view. We would then be back to a world view as already propagated by Parmenides of Elea over 2000 years ago – only on a much higher level….

Translated with

For the Kurt Gödel Circle of Friends Berlin
René Talbot und Hans Schwarzlow

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