The $4+ million in awards went to 20 scientists studying Big Questions on fundamental issues and 21 high school and university student essay prize winners.
The awards will be presented at a conference at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia next week.
The program is funded by the Templeton Foundation as part of its celebration of the centennial of the birth of its founder, John Templeton.
The topics solicited for the Big Questions were very interesting:
- What was the earliest state of the universe?
- What are the scientific ways to test various theories of the earliest state of the universe (cosmic genesis)?
- What kinds of state or “laws” might have “preceded” the existence of spacetime?
- If space and time are not fundamental in the deepest scientific description of the universe, how did they emerge?
- Is our observable universe unique or is it part of a much larger multiverse?
- Can the ideas of multiverse be empirically tested? If so, how? If not, what is the scientific and epistemological status of those domains that cannot be observed?
- What are the distinguishing characteristics of multiverses that are based on different quantum cosmologies?
- Many multiverse models invoke the idea of infinity as part of their explanatory apparatus. Can the physical world be infinite?
- What is the origin of the complexity in the universe?
- What are the conditions for the universe to evolve to a high degree of complexity?
- What are the key stages of increasing complexity in the universe? How do they come about?
- Will the complexity of the universe continue to increase? If so, how long? Are there any theoretical limits to the complexity of the universe?
- Are we alone in the universe? Or, are there other life and intelligence beyond the solar system?
- What are the signatures of the existence of life and intelligence in the universe?
- Would the fine-tunings required for life in the universe also necessarily require that life be rare?
- To what degree are such other beings likely to be similar to humans? Are there features in nature which could limit the level of intelligence or the differences we may expect?
These awards are specifially for research on topics that is speculative and beyond the purview of funding by federal agencies.
The list of topics makes for a fascinating reading.