Why should you come to Urbino ?

The leap of contemporary physics towards superstrings and quantum gravity, while involving great mathematical sophistication, remains founded upon the dubious conceptual scheme of early twentieth century physics.

It is hard to believe that an instrumentalist view of physical theories, based on the primacy of observers and measurements, or on such contradictory and incomprehensible notions as `complementarity', could be of any help for understanding the basic laws of nature, their meaning and their purpose.

If you feel uncomfortable with your understanding of the meaning of contemporary physics and are unsatisfied by the usual way this meaning is conveyed (as well as by such new approaches as appeal to quantum information), you should consider coming to Urbino.

The School is held in one of the most beautiful and well preserved towns of the Italian Renaissance. We will provide accommodation at a very reasonable low price in one of the colleges of the University.


In October 2002 we organized in Trieste a School on the Foundations of Physical Theories that was successful far beyond our expectations: during the short period of one week, the lecturers succeeded in conveying the essence of the deep problems of the foundations of modern physics without dwelling too much in technicalities. At that time students participated actively in the discussions and encouraged us to continue providing them with the sort of experience they encountered at the school.

While we wish to retain the informal and friendly atmosphere of the first school, we decided to abandon its restricted Italian character. The School held in Urbino will be international and the lectures will be in English.

Aims of the School

Modern theoretical physics is formulated in a highly sophisticated mathematical language and appears, at first sight, to be rather detached from purely conceptual analyses. Physics and philosophy, however, are as deeply related today as they were at the dawn of modern physical investigation, when Galileo, Newton, Descartes and many others were all engaged in the unitary enterprise of discovering the fundamental laws of nature. Research in the foundations of contemporary physical theories proved able - especially in second half of the twentieth century - to give new insight to a host of deep problems, ranging from the meaning of Boltzmann's statistical explanation to the formulation of quantum theories without observers (Bohmian mechanics and spontaneous localization theories), whose aim is to provide an understanding of exactly what quantum theory says. For this reason, a reflection on the foundational and philosophical implications of relativity theories, quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics may prove essential also for the prospects of future research in theoretical physics.

The Second School on the Foundations of Physical Theories is focused on the discussion of such deep implications. The speakers - leading experts in the field coming both from Europe and USA - will give general review lectures, in order to give the participants a wide view of the subject and to enable them to discuss the open issues in the field in a spirit of open and interdisciplinary exchange of ideas.


The main focus of the School will be on such deep and interconnected basic questions as:

  • What are the general traits of a formulation of quantum mechanics that is not based on such vague and imprecise notions as 'measurement' or 'observer'?
  • What is the true lesson of relativity for the nature of space, time, and matter? What is 'change' in a relativistic world? And what sort of world is a relativistic world which manifests quantum nonlocality?
  • What is the origin of the arrow of time?

These are the crucial questions for anybody seriously working on the foundations and philosophy of physics. They are the sorts of questions that will be addressed and discussed in Urbino.