100 Years SPS

Here you will find all articles, data and the program of the ceremony.

Reviews of the SPS Centennial Celebration

From left to right: Christophe Rossel (SPS President), K. Alex. Müller, Peter Grünberg, Gerardus 't Hooft, Theodor W. Hänsch (Nobel Laureates), Mauro Dell'Ambrogio (Secretary of State), Tibor Gyalog (SPS Vice President), Johannes G. Bednorz (Nobel Laureate).

The following articles and pictures summarize the various successful activites organized during the celebration of the 100th anniversary.

The Hundredth Birthday of the SPS: A Century of Physics

During the late afternoon of 27 June 2008 the SPS celebrated its 100th anniversary with a ceremonial act and a physics fair in the Kultur-Casino Bern. About 300 persons attended the festivities. Among them were the secretary of state for education and research as well as six Nobel laureates in physics. Furthermore, all living past presidents of the SPS as well as the presidents of our partner societies in Switzerland and in Europe attended the event.

The ceremony was moderated by David Jans, known from the former Science Format “MTW” on Swiss TV SF1. He led the audience through a program reflecting 100 years of physics in Switzerland, ence and taking a look into the future. Besides the official speeches of the president and of the secretary of state, Jans interviewed his guests during a round table discussion, asking them questions of interest to physicists and non-physicists.
Part of the discussion with the protagonists focused on issues relevant for the next generations. Solutions cannot be found simply by counting the number of students enrolled in a physics curriculum but also by increasing the acceptance for physics in our society. According to recent surveys and taking into account the conclusions of the World Year of Physics 2005, there is a real need for action concerning the public perception of physics.

Prior to the ceremonial act, three groups of pupils from various Swiss high schools took the opportunity to talk to the present Nobel laureates about the near future of physics and about their successful career. After the ceremony, the same pupils showed their own works about physics and nature. A variety of interesting booths transformed the foyer of the Kultur-Casino into a pleasant physics fair. Nationally well-known associations like “Schweizer Jugend forscht” presented their outstanding projects, other organizations like Swiss Physics Olympiads and the International Young Physicists’ Tournament gave an insight into their methods for exploring physics. In addition to our sponsors’ stands, some student groups presented themselves with nice and astonishing experiments, giving the right groove to the whole celebration fair. To the friendly atmosphere contributed too the “Captain Frank” music band with recent songs and some older ones from the last century. Altogether we all enjoyed a great afternoon in Bern celebrating the hundredth birthday of the Swiss Physical Society.

Tibor Gyalog, SPS Vice-President

The "Hildegard Bilger Trio" plays the ouverture and an intermezzo.
The round table discussion: David Jans, Ruth Durrer, Jean-Pierre Blaser, Alessandra Hool, Norbert Straumann
Mauro Dell'Ambrogio, Secretary of State, brings the Federal Council's greetings.
Prof. Gerardus 't Hooft and Dr. Heinrich Rohrer in discussion with a group of students.

Keynote Speech "Visions for Physics"

Prof. Theodor Hänsch talks enthusiastically about his "Visions for Physics"

With the keynote presentation the SPS has chosen to address the challenges of the Physics of Tomorrow, mainly to motivate young people for Physics. Since this is obviously a difficult task, we selected a well proven method: Ask one of the leading physicists to report about his current activities, and observe carefully his outlook for the future. We were happy that Theodor W. Hänsch from the Max Planck Institute in Garching agreed on giving such a keynote presentation. In his talk, he showed the enormous progress made with time and frequency measurement tools. With their increasing precision it will become possible, for instance, to test the fundamental laws of Physics, to ask if the natural constants are really constant, or if the special relativity theory really holds. On the other hand, questions like “What new technology fields might be expected from today’s fundamental research activities?” will have a strong impact on students who will later join industry. Here T. Hänsch gave a concrete outlook to optical clocks with monolithic microresonators, based on well established lithography techniques, but also ultraprecise spectroscopy in the Extreme UV using attosecond laser pulses. Looking in the future, it may be possible that atomic clocks, gyros, and interferometers become the physical instruments of the world after ‘nano’.

We invite you to download the keynote presentation and draw your own conclusions.

(click on "Dokumente" in the left menu).

Bernhard Braunecker, SPS Secretary

Students meet 5 Nobel Laureates

One of the student goups together with Professors P. Grünberg and J. G. Bednorz.

As part of the program of the 100th anniversary, young high school and university students met with Nobel laureates. Three groups of 15-20 students took the opportunity to discuss with the laureates Heinrich Rohrer (1986) and Gerardus ‘t Hooft (1999), Johannes G. Bednorz (1987) and Peter Grünberg (2007), and Theodor W. Hänsch (2005), respectively. While the students were certainly interested in understanding the research achievements for which the Nobel prizes were attributed, they were at least as eager to hear about the persons themselves. Who are these people and do they have a special way of thinking or working? Are they workaholics, geniuses or just “normal” persons? What made them discover their fascination for physics? When did they get their best ideas? In the night during their sleep, in their laboratory or while cycling between work and home? The bicycle was, by the way, used by Peter Grünberg to contemplate his experiments. Johannes G. Bednorz would speak of phases of very intense work but also of the need to relax and get distracted. Both would certainly agree on the great satisfaction for a physicist to be well known among his colleagues for high quality scientific contributions. Receiving the Nobel Prize is not a goal in itself but more the result of a combination of several parameters. In addition to intuition and hard work comes also a certain portion of good luck.

Klaus Kirch, SPS TASK

The Gala Dinner

After the ceremonial act at the Kultur Casino Bern some hundred prominent guests were invited for a gala dinner at the Hotel Bellevue Palace. Among these guests were Mauro Dell’Ambrogio, Secretary of State for education and research, five Nobel laureates, many heads or representatives of the Swiss universities, of physics departments, of research organizations or companies, and naturally of the academies SCNAT and SATW. Particularly noteworthy was the presence of twelve of the past SPS presidents: Jean-Pierre Blaser (ZH, 1963-65), Ernst Heer (GE, 1971-73), Philippe Choquard (VD, 1977-79), Iris Zschokke (BS, 1979-81), Peter Minkowski (BE, 1985-85), Samuel Steinemann (VD, 1987-89), Jean Müller (GE, 1991-93), Hans-Jörg Schötzau (AG, 1993-95), Peter C. Oelhafen (BS, 1997-99), Thomas Jung (ZH, 1999-2002), Jean-Philippe Ansermet (VD, 2002-06) and Tibor Gyalog (BS, 2006-08). We were also honored by the presence of Fritz Wagner, president of the European Physical Society, as well as the presidents or representatives of the Physical Societies of Austria, Germany, Great-Britain, Italy, Lichtenstein, and Sweden.

In addition to an excellent dinner, the audience enjoyed also to hear the expert views and memories of two invited speakers. The first one was Hansruedi Ott, Professor Emeritus at the ETHZ, in his function as president of the platform mathematic-astronomy-physics (MAP) of the SCNAT and the second speaker was Jean Müller, Professor Emeritus of the University of Geneva and earlier president of the SPS.

Christophe Rossel, SPS President

Some impressions of the celebration and exhibits

Special SPS Satellite Meeting "Industrial Physics"

During our last annual meeting in Genève a plenary talk about "Time, Frequency and Atomic Clocks" was presented by G. Mileti, Laboratoire Temps – Fréquence, Université de Neuchâtel *), where he, among other, addressed the extreme precision of optical atomic clocks. Since Prof. T. Hänsch, who was awarded with the Nobel Prize in 2005 for this invention, joined our ‘SPS-Centennial’ as Keynote speaker, we took the opportunity to ask him about the state of the art of the technical realization. Since strong efforts are undertaken to miniaturize the optical clock technology down to chip-scale size, its widespread industrial use can be expected within the next few years, affecting also products of leading Swiss industries and institutions. Many existing and newly arising applications will benefit from such a module, since it is well suited, for instance, for space missions, high end metrology, and Earth surveying tasks, but also perhaps for new fields around consumer clocks.

The SPS therefore organized an application driven meeting with Prof. Hänsch on the day before the ‘Festakt’ with P. Vinard (RUAG Space AG), M. Darwish (The Swatch Group Ltd), ESA expert R.Czichy, P. Thomann (Laboratoire Temps–Fréquence, Université de Neuchâtel), P. E. Zinsli (State Secretariat for Education & Research), M. C. E. Huber, the former president of the European Physical Society, and Mr. A. Bodmer from 'Rahn & Bodmer Banquiers'. The SPS participants were T.Gyalog as president and B. Braunecker, who organized the meeting together with M. C. E. Huber.

Topics were discussed from the fields

  • Time and frequency metrology
  • Higher performance satellite navigation (Galileo)
  • Precise tracking of remote space probes
  • Geodesy with sub-millimeter accuracy

All participants agreed that the optical comb technique fits extremely well to Switzerland's competence in precision timing and frequency devices, navigation and remote sensing instruments.

Bernhard Braunecker, SPS Secretary


*) see also our SPS Series “Progress in Physics” No. 7 in the "Articles" section