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New Directions in the

Foundations of Physics

May 30-June 2, 2024

Logar Valley, Slovenia

Since 2002, New Directions in the Foundations of Physics has facilitated interdisciplinary discussion about the most fundamental questions about our Universe.

Bringing together physicists, philosphers, mathematicians, and computer scientists, the conference has always maintained a light speaking schedule and generous time for conversation. Combining this with a limited attendance (typically 50-60), including a mixture of world-renowned academics and young researchers, New Directions has become known for hosting deep discussions of the issues, which are generally exciting, probing conversations in the foundations of physics.

"I never attended a conference where all the talks where of such a high quality. Also the arrangement with long breaks for discussions was very inspiring. … I am very impressed that the philosophy of physics in this field is so mathematical. I haven't really realized this so far. But now I see that in the field of foundations of quantum mechanics the distinction of a 'philosophical' approach or that of a mathematical physicist cannot really be made anymore."
Christoph Wildfeuer,
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Louisiana State University

Early days

The first 'New Directions' conference took place May 3-5, 2002 at the American Institute of Physics in College Park and was organized by the Committee for Philosophy and the Sciences with a limited amount of funding from the College of Arts and Humanities of the University of Maryland. We were able to use these funds as seed money to elicit support from a variety of sources through the Foundations of Physics Group: an informal affiliation of faculty at the University of Maryland, Georgetown University, and Johns Hopkins University with interests in conceptual, philosophical, and historical issues in the foundations of physics.

At the 2002 conference, about 65 participants from the US, Canada, the UK, Europe, and Israel attended sessions on the foundations of quantum mechanics, quantum information and computation, foundations of space-time theories, new approaches to quantum gravity, and the foundations of statistical physics.

Our second conference was held May 2-4, 2003, as a memorial conference for Rob Clifton, a brilliant young philosopher of physics at the University of Pittsburgh who died tragically in August, 2002. There were about 85 participants from a variety of countries and the conference was, if anything, even more successful than the 2002 conference. The major papers were published in a special issue of Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 35B, 2004.

"And so began this project on fundamental length. Its seeds were sown in the same place most of my previous ideas for research projects have come from for the last five years or so, namely, in Jeffrey Bub's and Robin Shuster's backyard, after a long day of listening to talks by some of the brightest minds in the field of the foundations of physics at the annual "New Directions" workshop, unwinding with a bottle of cold beer and enjoying Jeff's and Robin's warm hospitality on one of DC's crisp spring evenings."
Amit Hagar,
History and Philosophy of Science, University of Indiana
(Preface to Discrete or Continuous: The Quest for Fundamental Length in Modern Physics, Cambridge University Press, 2014.)

New Directions for New Directions

In 2008, the conference venue was changed to the Mathematical Association of America Carriage House in Washington, DC. After we were unable to hold our 2016 meeting for logistical reasons, and given the international character of the speakers and participants, we decided to hold the 2017 conference in Tarquinia, Italy. Following the success of that meeting we continued to hold the conference in the Lazio region, moving to Viterbo in 2018.

The conference has remained in Viterbo since then (with the exception of the 2020 and 2021 conferences, which were, respectively, cancelled and held virtually due to the Covid 19 pandemic). However, we have now decided to seek a new location in hopes of establishing a regular calendar of more sustainable venues, not only for this year, but for years to come. This will begin with our 2024 conference, which will be held at the Hotel Plesnik in the Logar Valley in the Slovenian Alps.

Sustaining New Directions in 2024 and beyond

Currently, there is no dedicated source of funding committed to the conference. So far, we have been successful in obtaining funding from a variety of sources on a year-by-year basis, originally from the Philosophy Department of the University of Maryland, Georgetown University, and Johns Hopkins University, and more recently from the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information in Vienna and from the Templeton Foundation. There is, however, no guarantee that this funding will be available in future years.