Down through the centuries, the thinking of such physicists as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein has led to profound changes in the way man has viewed and thought about his world. In the last 60 years, as the ``new'' physics of quantum mechanics has probed subatomic matter, new and surprising theories have emerged. Like their predecessors, these theories contain the seeds of momentous personal, social, and cultural adjustments, as humanity rethinks its relationship to matter, energy, space, and time. Today, in a five-part series beginning on Page B1, the Monitor looks at one of the most significant and least-understood social forces of modern times: the cultural impact of quantum physics.
The series is not designed as an explainer of quantum mechanics, although it does explain some of the basic concepts of this science. Instead, it explores the boundaries where physics meets philosophy, to see how one of the major currents of thought in today's world will help shape the 21st century.
In preparing this series over the past 10 months, Monitor staff writer Rushworth M. Kidder interviewed dozens of physicists in Europe and the United States. He discovered a broad consensus on the importance of quantum mechanics - and some deep disagreements over how it should be interpreted. Both are reflected in his report; we invite readers to respond, and we plan to publish a selection of letters in the near future.