Aerospace entrepreneur Robert Bigelow is so sure that human consciousness lives on after death that he's willing to pay top dollar for a convincing essay on the subject. The New York Times reports that the 76-year-old Bigelow is offering $500,000 for the best essay on the subject, plus $300,000 and $150,000 to the second- and third-place winners. The contest is being run through the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies, which stipulates that it's looking for "papers that summarize the best evidence available for the survival of human consciousness after permanent bodily death." Ordinary schmoes need not apply. Only papers from documented researchers in the field with at least five years of experience will be accepted. For those who pass muster, the deadline is Feb. 28.
Bigelow has made his name through Bigelow Aerospace, and he made a good chunk of his fortune through his chain of Budget Suites across the country. As Nexstar Media notes, he has had an abiding interest in two main fields—whether other life exists in the universe and whether human consciousness carries on when we die. The interview with the Times suggests his interest in the latter emerged after the suicide of his adult son in 1992. More recently, Bigelow lost his wife of 55 years to cancer, and he founded the BICS just months after Diane Mona Bigelow's death. How sure is he that the consciousness of his wife and son—and all those who have died—exist in some fashion? “I am personally totally convinced of it," he tells the Times' Ralph Blumenthal. (Read more Afterlife stories.)