Symposium Explores the Frontiers of Physics, Showcases Research of Young Physicists.

February 4, 2002- Leading physicists from around the world will gather for a unique event in Princeton, New Jersey on March 15-18, to honor John Archibald Wheeler, in his ninetieth birthday year. The Science & Ultimate Reality symposium will pay tribute to Professor Wheeler, a principal physicist of the 20th century, who co-authored a landmark paper on fission with Niels Bohr, imagined a subatomic world where particles move backward in time with Richard Feynman, and discussed relativity with his friend and colleague Albert Einstein. For information on the symposium:

The symposium's program, cosponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and the Peter Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize, provides a high-level forum for some of the most visionary and innovative research in physics today. The oversight of the program is provided by a committee of distinguished physicists and chaired by Freeman Dyson, of the Institute of Advanced Study. Using some of Wheeler's provocative ideas as a point of departure - such as, "Why the quantum?", "It from bit", and "How come existence?" - participants will present bold, new conceptual approaches toward defining and understanding the leading-edge questions that will frame physics in the new century.

The program features some of the world's most prominent physicists including: Andreas Albrecht, Raymond Chiao, Freeman Dyson, Marcelo Gleiser, Lucien Hardy, Stuart Kauffman, Robert Laughlin, Andrei Linde, Juan Maldacena, Joao Magueijo, Christopher Monroe, Lisa Randall, Lee Smolin, Aephraim Steinberg, Max Tegmark, Anton Zeilinger, and Wojciech Zurek.

In further tribute to Professor Wheeler, who taught several generations of physicists, the Science & Ultimate Reality symposium will also feature the work of promising young physicists under the age of 32. Fifteen finalists from a Young Researchers Competition will present brief research papers at the symposium where seven second-place prize winners will receive $5,000 each, and a first place winner will receive $10,000. (

"John Wheeler has done brilliant and important work on problems in the mainstream of physics, such as nuclear fission, quantum mechanics and general relativity,'' says Freeman Dyson, Chair of the Program Oversight Committee. ``He has also written poetic and imaginative essays, going over the border from physics into philosophy, with titles such as `Law without Law', `From Relativity to Mutability', `Genesis and Observership', `Beyond the End of Time'. This program celebrates both aspects of Wheeler's life, the solid science and the daring speculation. The really astounding thing about Wheeler's speculations is that so many of them have turned out to be right."

Focusing on the Big Picture in Physics

The symposium is part of a larger, long-term philanthropic program being launched by the John Templeton Foundation to develop a set of research sponsorship initiatives in basic science focusing on the questions being posed on the frontiers of physics. This vision holds that the process of scientific exploration of the deep nature of reality has a profound significance for human self-understanding, especially in relation to the conceptualization of "ultimate reality" for the future.

The symposium comprises one element of the Science & Ultimate Reality initiative. Another planned project is the publication of a major book scheduled to be published in 2003, authors will include speakers at the symposium.

Four areas have been identified around which both the symposium and the book will be organized (

Quantum Reality (Theory)

  • Why the quantum?
  • Is this a participatory universe?
  • Does information lie at the core of nature?
  • Is there a deeper reality than quantum reality?

Quantum Reality (Experiment)

  • How might new innovative experiments shed light on the nature of reality?
  • What are the most vital future directions to pursue in quantum experiments?
  • How can the role of the observer, as described by quantum physics, be illuminated experimentally?
  • Is this a participatory universe?

Big Ideas in Cosmology

  • Inflation and many worlds.
  • Is time real?
  • Does the future exist?
  • How can we unify the two disparate worlds of quantum physics and the geometrical physics of space-time structure?

Emergence, Life, & Related Major Topics

  • Links between quantum mechanics and the macroworld
  • Complexity
  • Emergence

"Scientific advances provide an exceptional opportunity to conceptualize reality empirically within the same continuum for ultimate reality by the world's great philosophical thinkers," says Charles Harper, Executive Director of the John Templeton Foundation. "John Wheeler's contribution to elucidating this quest has been characterized by his lifelong dedication to basic scientific research focused on making substantive advances toward a deep, comprehensive, integrated understanding of the nature of reality."

John Wheeler is best known for addressing many of the most fundamental and challenging issues in physics. Several of the large-scale topics he has worked on focus on areas of inquiry at the frontiers of knowledge where physics and philosophy meet. Another key facet of Professor Wheeler's leadership has been his teaching. His legacy flourishes, carried forward by the research performed by several generations of physicists whom he has influenced and inspired. The Physics & Ultimate Reality program celebrates the life and vision of John Wheeler.

About The John Templeton Foundation
The John Templeton Foundation was established in 1987 by international investor Sir John Templeton to encourage an appreciation of the interdependence between science and medicine and the moral and spiritual dimensions of life. Through its grantmaking and project support, the Foundation seeks to stimulate a high standard of excellence in scholarly pursuits that can help define and explore the human potential within a scientific context. Through its programs, the Foundation seeks to encourage the world to catch the vision of the tremendous possibilities for spiritual progress in an open and humble approach to life; encourage institutions of learning to incorporate training towards excellence in character in their efforts to prepare the next generation for service; to encourage growth in appreciating the potential of free societies; and to promote the understanding of the significant responsibilities associated with freedom in its several aspects, moral, spiritual, political and economic.

The Foundation currently funds more than 250 projects, studies, award programs and publications worldwide.

About The Peter Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize
The Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation recognizes individuals who have contributed to fundamental advances in the field of cosmology. Starting in 2001, the Cosmology Prize is co-sponsored by the International Astronomical Union. The purpose of the Cosmology Prize is to acknowledge and encourage further exploration in a field that shapes the way the universe is perceived and comprehended. In doing so, the Foundation seeks to extend the pioneering legacy of, among others, Plato and Aristotle, Ptolemy and Copernicus; Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo; Newton and Halley; Einstein and Hubble.

The gold medal and $150,000 cash prize is presented annually to a leading cosmologist, astronomer, astrophysicist, or scientific philosopher in recognition of his or her groundbreaking theoretical, analytical, or conceptual discoveries.