Research Projects

Big C Contest: Linda G. O’Bryant Noetic Sciences Research Prize

Arnaud Delorme, PhD
Status: In Progress

IONS has established the Linda G. O’Bryant Noetic Sciences Research Prize, also known as the Big C contest. An annual prize of $100,000 will be given to an individual or team whose research advances leading-edge science around consciousness.

“You are a machine made of meat” (Marvin Minsky) and “You are nothing but a pack of neurons” (Francis Crick) are quotes that represent the prevailing scientific understanding of consciousness based on 17th-century physics. These physicalist theories purport that consciousness emerges from physical substrates like neurons, which have evolved to become increasingly complex over time, ultimately leading to consciousness’ emergence (subjective awareness).

By contrast, non-physical models do not assume that a physical substrate generates consciousness. Some even propose that consciousness is as fundamental as matter, energy, or spacetime. In this view — the perspective underlying most ancient, esoteric, and Eastern cultures — the physical world arises out of consciousness rather than the other way around. Could such a non-physicalist framework better explain the full range of reported human phenomenology? Scholars and scientists have debated these topics for thousands of years with no clear resolution. New experiments and scientific data are needed to inform this question to advance our understanding. Learn more at

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