The development of Homo sapiens has been a history of innovations, from the earliest crude tools to the modern technological society of today. The growth of science and technology has been exponential during the last century; and under the right circumstances, this rapid growth can be expected to continue. The major innovations of the future - those that will shape the society of the future - will require a strong foundation of both basic and applied research. It is ironic that quantum mechanics, one of the most abstruse conceptual frameworks in physics - one that was developed to explain atomic spectra and the structure of the atom, lies at the foundation of some of our most important technological developments, because it provided the understanding of semiconductors that was essential for the invention of the transistor. Quantum mechanics thus contributed directly to the development of technologies that gave us world wide communication, computers with their applications to all phases of modern life, lasers with many diverse uses, consumer electronics, atomic clocks, and superconductors - just to mention a few.
The Internet and the World Wide Web, which are profoundly reshaping the way we communicate, learn, and engage in commerce, owe their origins in a deep sense to the physicists of the past who worked to understand the atom. In modern industrial nations, quantum mechanics probably lies at the basis of a sizable fraction of the gross national product. This is but one example, and there are many others in all areas of science that demonstrate this point. It is clear that innovation is the key to the future and the human drive to understand nature is the key to future innovation. Society must do all that it can to preserve, nurture and encourage curiosity and the drive to understand.show more