period of very rapid expansion (inflation) at its earliest moments? How do black holes form?
Amazingly, these questions about the cosmos are being linked directly to physics at the tiniest distances. The exploration of the next high-energy frontier at a new generation of particle colliders will illuminate the origins of elementary particle masses and may reveal a profound unification of all the forces of nature.
With physics now connected strongly to the other sciences and contributing to many national needs, education in physics is of vital importance. Physics is at the heart of the technology driving our economy, and broad scientific literacy must be a primary goal of physics education at all levels. To achieve this goal, to provide an education linked to the wider world that is so important for members of the high-tech work force, and to draw more students into careers in science will require the best efforts of university physics departments and national laboratories.
It is an international society that physics and physics education must reach in this new era. The problems that physics can address are global problems, and physics itself is becoming a more international enterprise. New modes of international cooperation must be created to plan and operate the large facilities that are increasingly important for frontier research.
The accomplishments of physics, the growing power of its instruments, and its expanding reach into the other sciences have generated an unprecedented set of scientific opportunities. The committee has identified six such “grand challenges,” listed below in no particular order. They range across all of physics, extending from purely theoretical work and numerical simulation to research requiring large experimental facilities. They are selective: Some coincide with the priorities set forth in the area volumes, 1 while others cut more broadly across the whole of physics, overlap other areas of science, or are of growing importance for technology. The committee chose them based on their intrinsic scientific importance, their potential for broad impact and application, and their promise for major progress
1 See the preface for a list of the area volumes and the Web site address through which they can be accessed online.