The Work of Peter Rowlands


I graduated BSc and PhD in physics from the University of Manchester, and have been a Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool since 1987 and an Honorary Governor of Harris Manchester College, Oxford since 1993. My research interests, with ideas dating back to the 1970s, include work in Foundations of Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Particle Physics, Gravity, Genetics, Computational Foundations, and Systems, in addition to History and Philosophy of Science. These are all linked in a drive to arrive at a foundational structure for knowledge which is not based on arbitrary starting assumptions.

Physics seems to be the key to finding such a structure but my experience is that it doesn’t work if we use existing and already complex physical theories as our starting point and try to incorporate them into a higher unified structure. This is the direction of current scientific thinking, for example, in string theory and a great deal of cosmology, but this approach has never been able to explain the truly fundamental ideas, such as 3-dimensional space and unidirectional time, matter and antimatter. To reach a fundamental level, I believe we have to project backwards to a more basic substratum from which our current ideas have diverged (as in the diagram).

To reach a fundamental level, I believe we have to project backwards to a more basic substratum from which our current ideas have diverged. If this doesn’t turn out to be simple, then we will have definitely FAILED. In fact, if we have any arbitrary remaining assumptions at all, then we have not reached the most basic level. At an early stage I realised that the only non-arbitrary starting point was the concept of ZERO.

Zero, however, has an infinite number of possible representations, which makes it impossible to find the right path starting from zero to reach the foundational physical ideas, unless the route is first found by projecting back from the physical ideas. This is the aim of the first section of this website, the Foundations of Physics, with the reverse process not introduced until the section on the Universal Rewrite System.

The work as a whole is covered in three major books, published by World Scientific. 

Foundations of Physical Law (2014) is the most compact account of the entire work, and is highly recommended as the best introduction. The hyperlinks are listed below.

There is a REVIEW of this work in Contemporary Physics. The hyperlink is listed below.

The content is mostly available as a SERIES OF VIDEO LECTURES given in 2013, FOPL 1-10 (to be viewed in increasing numerical order), hyperlinked below. As a bonus, the same site has an important lecture on Dark Energy, a PREDICTION by the author dating back (in one form) to the 1970s at the equivalent of 2/3 of the energy of the universe.

The most comprehensive account is in Zero to Infinity The Foundations of Physics (2007). Hyperlinks listed below.

A more popular treatment can be found in How Schrödinger’s Cat Escaped the Box  (2015), a book that assumes no prior knowledge of physics or advanced mathematics, and uses illustrations and coloured text to enhance understanding. Hyperlinked below.


Many people when confronted with new ideas in physics will either look to see in what journal they were published or check out the author’s credentials in terms of positions held and awards received. This hasn’t helped us in the search for new ideas. People with established reputations seldom create really new ideas or open up entirely new fields. They tend to support what they have previously done. So, if they have gained reputations in areas such as SUSY, string theory or quantum gravity, they will inevitably promote one of these routes to unification as the ‘only game in town’, and the echo chamber mentality which tends to prevail in the most influential circles will ensure that nothing else is considered.

Even when a new idea does make it through to a wider readership, it isn’t always credited to the person who first published it because there seems to be a ‘parallel universe’ effect in which only publications in certain particularly favoured journals are cited by the people who are most influential in determining who are awarded prizes and promotions and who have biographical articles in Wikipedia, etc. Perhaps this is why fundamental physics seems to have been at a standstill since 1973 when the basic structure of the Standard Model was completed. The same ideas are endlessly recycled and end up hitting the same brick wall.

As the reviewer of Foundations of Physical Law has noted, my work can be regarded as creating a ‘new subdiscipline within physics’. Never before have foundational questions been treated as having their own procedures and even their own mathematics. This is necessary because, to get to deeper levels, we have to think outside of the confines of the existing paradigms. There is no aim here at replacing the paradigms but a recognition that we can’t explain them from within their own starting assumptions. However, as I also implied in the first chapter, choosing a new field in this way as one’s main research topic is an almost certain route to career suicide as there are no journals, funds, prizes or support organizations outside the rigid classifications and boundaries of well-established fields. I even have trouble in answering people who ask what area of physics I am working in, as there is no established vocabulary for connecting to standard expectations. I don’t mainly work within the existing fields but to a large extent outside of them.

The problem has been outlined by me in a letter published in Physics World in 2008:

Think Outside the Box, Physics World, September 2008, 22


Since the work here has been pursued for its own sake rather than as part of a career progression, my strategy for publication has been based on making the work available through whatever outlets present themselves rather than through seeking approval from the most ‘prestigious’ journals. It is my belief that the most forward-looking ideas will emerge in those conferences where there is a degree of freedom of expression rather than in the kinds of journals which are too concerned with their prestige and rankings to publish anything associated with risk. Forty years ago such conferences did not exist but since then we have had ANPA, PIRT, CASYS and Vigier, along with other, more conventional conferences which have increasingly opened up to include a broader spectrum of possibilities in tackling physics’s unsolved problems. The papers submitted to these conferences are refereed but it is a more imaginative style of refereeing than in those journals which pride themselves in rejecting 90 % of submissions.

Like other authors, I have used Conference Proceedings as a way of testing out original ideas before they are refined for books and journal papers, but, despite the lack of obvious outlets for work on foundational issues, I have still managed to accumulate a considerable number of publications recorded in the Citation Indices in addition to the relatively prestigious books displayed on the home page. In an age dominated by the internet rather than the printed word, I expect qualified readers to be able to follow arguments on their own initiative rather than needing approval from some arbitrary centralised authority.

Awards and Recognitions

I haven’t expected to be given awards for this work, and haven’t sought them, but have received a few (displayed below) and have been nominated for a few others.


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