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Physics in the 21st Century: Is it the Century of Complexity?

Séminaire du Département de Physique


Mercredi 21 octobre 2015 - 15h45 - Amphi Schrödinger


Robert E. Ecke (Center for Nonlinear Studies, Los Alamos National Lab, USA)



Robert Ecke



At the beginning of the 20th century, much of what we know about classical physics including mechanics, waves, and thermodynamics had been established and yet there were nagging concerns as reflected by Lord Kelvin's address in 1900 to the Royal Society entitled "Nineteenth-Century Clouds over the Dynamical Theory of Heat and Light". These clouds were the Michelson-Morely experiment and black body radiation which led soon after to the development of special and general relativity and quantum mechanics.

By the end of the 20th century, physics had made tremendous progress in understanding the world around us based upon these two revolutionary ideas. Having laid the foundations for how the world works over many orders of magnitude in spatial and temporal scales, the challenges in physics seem ever more governed by how basic principles combine to form complex phenomena.

In the words of Stephen Hawking: "We have already discovered the basic laws that govern matter ... There is no limit to the complexity that we can build using those basic laws.” I will reflect upon the future of physics from this perspective while remembering the words of Neils Bohr - "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future."