The Physicist's Conception of Nature
The fundamental conceptions of twentieth-century physics have profoundly influenced almost every field of modern thought and activity. Quantum Theory, Relativity, and the modern ideas on the Structure of Matter have contributed to a deeper understand ing of Nature, and they will probably rank in history among the greatest intellectual achievements of all time. The purpose of our symposium was to review, in historical perspective, the current horizons of the major conceptual structures of the physics of this century. Professors Abdus Salam and Hendrik Casimir, in their remarks at the opening of the symposium, have referred to its origin and planning. Our original plan was to hold a two-week symposium on the different aspects of five principal themes: 1. Space, Time and Geometry (including the structure of the universe and the theory of gravita tion),2. Quantum Theory (including the development of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory), 3. Statistical Description of Nature (including the discussion of equilibrium and non-equilibrium phenomena, and the application of these ideas to the evolution of biological structure), 4. The Structure of Matter (including the discus sion, in a unified perspective, of atoms, molecules, nuclei, elementary particles, and the physics of condensed matter), and finally, 5. Physical Description and Epistemo logy (including the distinction between classical and quantum descriptions, and the epistemological and philosophical problems raised by them).
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