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Physics and Beyond

Episode One

Neils Bohr bridges the Old and New Quantum Theory. At the start of his career Bohr worked with Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge. He went on to develop an early version of quantum theory in which electrons orbited the nuclei of atoms like tiny planets around a sun.

 Neils Bohr (86 Kb mp3)

In Munich the young Wolfgang Pauli complained to his fellow student, Werner Heisenberg, that Bohr's theory was not sufficiently radical. The Danish physicist, he argued, had simply put "new wine in old bottles". Heisenberg's discussions with Pauli and Einstein led him to develop modern quantum mechanics.

 Werner Heisenberg (147 Kb mp3)

In Copenhagen Bohr, along with Heisenberg and Pauli developed the standard interpretation of this new quantum theory.

In the years that followed physicists went on to investigate the structure of matter at higher and higher energies. A new generation of physicists, such as Abus Salam, wondered if, at smaller and smaller distances, new laws of physics would be revealed.

 Abus Salam (41 Kb mp3)

Decades after the discoveries of Heisenberg and Schrodinger progress has slowed down. While there have been many theoretical developments no truly deep insights have been gained. In particular the gap between quantum theory and relativity remains unbridged in any fundamental way. Here Dirac reflects on the nature of the problems facing physicists.

 Paul Dirac (73 Kb mp3)

Attempts have been made to look in new directions. The work of David Bohm, for example, can be found on these pages. Another innovator is Roger Penrose who developed the notion of twistors as a possible route towards unifying relativity and quantum theory.

 Roger Penrose (156 Kb mp3)

But can theoretical physics be reduced to a single law and a most fundamental level, or do descriptions depend upon contexts? How for example, is the human observer and the experience of the temporal to be introduced into physics? The issues of time and the relationship of the microscopic and macroscopic occupies Ilya Prigogine.

 Ilya Prigogine (89 Kb mp3)

Finally there is the question of life itself and human consciousness. How far can physics be extrapolated into biology before an element of subjectivity occurs? Howard Patee discusses the nature of subjectivity and complexity in biological systems.

 Howard Pattee (115 Kb mp3)

And if biological systems can observe and anticipate the world around them then, as Robert Rosen argues, this means introducing radically new ideas into physics.

 Robert Rosen (98 Kb mp3)

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