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Yakir Aharonov

Tel Aviv University/ University of South Carolina
Yakir is a professor in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Tel Aviv University, and in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of …

The Foundations of Physics

[RG #71] The Foundations of Physics

February - August 1998


Yakir Aharonov (Tel Aviv University)

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Two major revolutions in physics took place at the beginning of twentieth century: the discoveries of quantum theory and general relativity. Both theories are extremely successful in their domains of applicability, and yet they are incompatible. Therefore, a deeper theory which would give quantum theory and general relativity as suitable approximations is needed. But attempts to obtain this deeper theory, called quantum gravity, which we hope would also unify all the fundamental interactions, have so far not been successful, despite the work of many brilliant physicists for more than seven decades.

While there are no conceptual problems in understanding general relativity, this is not true of quantum theory. The real difficulty in understanding and interpreting quantum theory may be the reason why we have not yet obtained the deeper theory. One of the first conceptual problems to arise during the creation of quantum theory was the wave/particle duality of light and matter. For example, when a photon strikes a photographic plate, it creates a localized spot as if it were a particle. Yet the same photon when it is constituent of a light wave has a wave aspect. All other particles, such as the electron, neutron and proton, exhibit this wave/particle duality as well.


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The Historicity of Emotions

[RG #72] The Historicity of Emotions

February - August 1998


Michael Heyd (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Yosef Kaplan (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Can emotions be historicized? Are they universal and biologically determined or socially determined, culturally dependent and varying through history? What is the role of emotions and their changing character in the course of history? Is there a history of emotions just as there is a history of ideas, of manners, of political institutions or social movements? More specifically, to what extent can love, fear or hate be historicized? Do they change through history, and if so, in what senses? Is it in the objects they relate to? (Fear of what? Hate – towards whom?) In the means and legitimacy of expressing them? In the ways they are institutionalized (families, churches, political parties)? Can emotions themselves be separated from these social and cultural means of expressing and legitimizing them?

Though some historians have posed these questions earlier, it is only recently, in the 1970s and especially since the early 1980s, that historians have begun to address these questions directly. Interestingly enough, the early 1980s were also the time when psychologists, especially social psychologists, became increasingly aware not only of the issues of affects and emotions in general, but of their historical dimension, namely their possibly changing nature, as well.

Our group will try to deal with some of these questions, focusing mostly on the late medieval and early modern period, both in Christian Europe and in Jewish communities in Europe at that time. The comparison between Jewish and Christian societies will add an important dimension to the research.


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