More than eighty researchers in the fields of physics, mathematics, and philosophy gathered in Leipzig in early October for the worskhop Progress and Visions in Quantum Theory in View of Gravity, to discuss the foundation of mathematical physics, and to reshape the future of the field.
In contrast to more traditional physics conferences, the organizers invited the participants to discuss visions and new ideas in foundational physics, as well as physical principles and possible new experimental perspectives in the interplay of gravity and quantum theory. This ambitious goal was achieved by dedicating ample time to discussions, with the topics chosen with an online voting system.
The organizers explained the motivation behind this program: “Usual physics conferences are dedicated to the presentation of recent results and offer almost no room for discussions. To a large extend, participants, especially the junior ones, are only exposed to passive input, they are not presented with a chance to discuss topics with the speakers or to ask about the central questions at the core of their field. During our workshop, we wanted to facilitate a mutual interaction between participants and speakers."
In particular, the organizers wanted to stimulate discussions on the status and prospects of current approaches in quantum mechanics and quantum field theory, in particular concerning gravity, and to address the big open questions in mathematical physics, like those concerning a rigorous formulation of quantum field theory, the various existing approaches to quantum gravity, and the study of quantum systems in gravitational fields.
The this year’s workshop was a continuation of the mathematical physics conference series initiated by Jürgen Tolksdorf in 2003, and brought forward over the years with the collaboration of his colleagues, including our institute’s founding director Eberhard Zeidler. A distinctive feature of this conference series is that it successfully brought together physicists, mathematicians and philosophers working in foundations of mathematical physics.
Being thankful for all the inspiration Zeidler gave to the mathematical physics community, the organizers, especially Tolksdorf, decided to dedicate the conference to the MPI MiS founding director, with the aim of keeping alive his scientific visions and of inspiring the new generation of researchers. The format with talks intertwined with discussions was particularly appreciated by the participants. According to Tolksdorf, their major concern was to create a welcoming and open-minded atmosphere that would facilitate discussions, just in the spirit of the founding director of the institute” .
To achieve this goal, the organizers put a big effort into making sure that all research currents well represented, and that the invited participants would be willing to spend time discussing old and new ideas with open-mindedness and respect.
Despite the huge workload that organizing such an interactive workshop entails, at the end of the week the organizers were extremely satisfied with the outcome of the meeting, and plan to introduce this format also for other conferences. Stimulating discussions across scientific fields and between the old and new generation is the way to properly honour Zeidler’s impact on modern mathematical physics.