Speech by Dr. Markus Schwörer

Prof. Dr. Markus Schwörer is the Vice-President of the German Physical Society. The following speech was delivered after the final physics fight in the 11th IYPT 1998 in Donaueschingen (Germany).

Dear young colleagues from all over the world,

I'm deeply impressed by the high quality of your presentations and even more so by your discussions. I'm equally impressed by the wide range of the really interesting problems of physics that have been presented. I would like to thank especially those you have invented and formulated those problems. I represent the GERMAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY which has just turned 152 years and which has more then 30000 members. Among those figure such well-known physicists like MAX PLANCK and ALBERT EINSTEIN. The same is true for the other EUROPEAN PHYSICAL SOCIETIES. I would like to refer to MARIAN SMOLUCHOWSKI, probably the most famous Polish Physicist and JAROSLAV HEYROVKY, he certainly is one of the best Czechs Physicist. MARIAN SMOLUCHOWSKI developed the basic theory of diffusion and received the Nobel Prize for the development of the polarographic method. From these and other countries come the high school students' teams who have qualified for today's final. It would be of great value for international understanding if the EUROPEAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY would support the competition of young physicists financially and continuously. We should enable the participants in the respective finals to assist at the competitions of the following years. Thus we might achieve an interconnection between the best competitors of each year . Physics is an basic and ancient branch of science. It counts at least 5000 years. The astronomers of ancient Syria were physicists. They practised experimental physics. They measured the movement of the stars and especially the interdependence of astronomical events, for example solar eclipses. Their time system was based on the movement of the stars as it is seen by the observer on the earth. And their time system was very precise. They laid down their results and some of those documents can be read even today. Due to the precision of the earth's movement we are able to check today whether their calculations were correct. At least in one case of a lunar eclipse the result is correct even with the precision of 4 minutes, even after a time lapse of 4000 years. Physics is the root of all science. Physicists have developed the basic of method of physics in the past 400 to 500 years. This consists in the combination of quantitative observation of the structures of the dynamics of nature with a mathematical description thereof. The first part is called experimental physics and the second part theoretical physics. Only if both parts of our science reach the same result i.e. only if theory and experiment coincide do we claim truth for our results. It is the basic method of co-operation between theory and experiment which - in the meantime - has been adopted by other science especially by chemistry and biology. And of course these methods have been taken over to by all modern technical sciences like electronics, optics, semiconductors, laser-technology and medical-technology. All modern technology was originally developed by physicists. It can be expected that physicists will go on developing modern technology. It can be hoped they will do so with a high awareness of the responsibility for the future of our children and grandchildren.
Physics is also an up-to-date science. The "NEUE ZÜRICHER ZEITUNG" of June, 5th writes: The neutrino has got a mass, that's the experimental result of widespread international co-operation. If this result is propagated it will have great influence on our present conception of the universe since the number of neutrinos is about 10 billion times bigger than the number of electrons, so that the mass of neutrinos, be it as small as it may, will compose an essential part of the whole mass of the universe. If you, the members of the high school students' teams, make physics your future profession you will have at least two advantages in life:

  1. You will have the opportunity to keep learning fundamentally new things during all your lives.
  2. You will have the opportunity of explaining negative effects caused by science to politicians and the broader public. In this way you can prevent the misuse of science and make a contribution to the maintenance of peace.
I would like to emphasize that it was a great experience for me watching these finals.

Yours, faithfully, Markus Schwörer

Text taken from: Booklet: "11th IYPT 1998"