We reflect on the late John Conway, the thoughts he shared with us over two interviews, and the experience of meeting him as a person and a mathematician.
A traditional view of science holds that every system — including ourselves — is no more than the sum of its parts. To understand it, all you have to do is take it apart and see what's happening to the smallest constituents. But the mathematician and cosmologist George Ellis disagrees. He believes that complexity can arise from simple components and physical effects can have non-physical causes, opening a door for our free will to make a difference in a physical world.
Most of us think that we have the capacity to act freely. Our sense of morality, our legal system, our whole culture is based on the idea that there is such a thing as free will. It's embarrassing then that classical physics seems to tell a different story. And what does quantum theory have to say about free will?
Is there such a thing as free will? In everyday life we all assume that there is: it's up to you whether you cheat in your tax return, and if you're caught, well then you deserve punishment. But when you look at it from a physics view point free will becomes a little tricky. Here's a collection of articles exploring free will.
On August 19, 2004, John Conway was standing with his friend Simon Kochen at the blackboard in Kochen’s office in Princeton. They had been trying to understand a thought experiment involving quantum physics and relativity. What they discovered, and how they described it, created one of the most controversial theorems of their careers: The Free Will Theorem.