Utah State University Faculty Honor Lectures
The Faculty Association, Utah State Agricultural College
To those who are aesthetic, there is perhaps nothing more inspiring than a beautiful sunset, with brilliant colors above the horizon and with banks of dark clouds above, set in the deep blue of the heavens, or the brilliant hues of the rainbow forming a halo about the majestic mountain with its coat of green, purple, brown, or gray. By these things are the emotions stirred.
The physicist too is emotional but he.is also at times realistic. He becomes sentimental but he also seeks to explain the behavior of nature. By means of devices and instruments his perceptual world is expanded. He tries to translate it all into numbers and equations. He seeks for invariance in a world that constantly changes. By the power of his intellect he achieves a measure of succeSSj he discovers harmony in chaos, and he lays a foundation upon which the engineer and the artisan may build.
Of the things that are perceived and imagined he constructs his own world and modifies this conceptual universe from day to day to conform with the facts of observation and of experimentation. One generation builds upon the achievements of those preceding and hands them down, appropriately modified, to generations that follow. The facts and the realities persist but the interpretations change.
The developments of the twentieth century in particular impress upon us the necessity of including with our concepts of nature the concept of endless change in the subjective world.
This article has been influenced greatly by the somewhat unique presentation of Richtmyer and Kennard in their new book, and by Cajorie in his most interesting history of physics. Quotation marks have been used in some cases and omitted in others and it is hoped that this will prove to be an acceptable procedure.
Gardner, Willard, "The Scientist's Concept of the Physical World" (1942). Faculty Honor Lectures. Paper 52.