of the nuclei in terms of two nuclear ‘building blocks’, the proton and the neutron. Thus atoms, nuclei and hadrons were, in turn, considered to be ‘elementary particles’. None of them, however, fulfilled that expectation. Each time, these particles turned out to be composite structures themselves, and physicists hoped that the next generation of constituents would finally reveal themselves as the ultimate components of matter. On the other hand, the theories of atomic and subatomic physics made the existence of elementary particles increasingly unlikely. They revealed a basic interconnection of matter, showing that energy of motion can be transformed into mass, and suggesting that particles are processes rather than objects. All these developments strongly indicated that the simple mechanistic picture of basic building blocks had to be aban- doned, and yet many physicists are still reluctant to do so. The age-old tradition of explaining complex structures by breaking them down into simpler constituents is so deeply ingrained in Western thought that the search for these basic components is still going on. There is, however, a radically different school of thought in particle physics which starts from the idea that nature cannot be reduced to fundamental entities, such as elementary particles or fundamental fields. It has to be understood entirely through _-- -
286 its self-consistency, with its components being consistent both The with one another and with themselves. This idea has arisen in Tao of the context of S-matrix theory and is known as the ‘bootstrap’ Physics hypothesis. Its originator and main advocate is Geoffrey Chew who, on the one hand, has developed the idea into a general ‘bootstrap’ philosophy of nature and, on the other, has used it (in collaboration with other physicists) to construct specific models of particles formulated in S-matrix language. Chew has described the bootstrap hypothesis in several articles’ which provide the basis for the following presentation. The bootstrap philosophy constitutes the final rejection of the mechanistic world view in modern physics. Newton’s universe was constructed from a set of basic entities with certain fundamental properties, which had been created by God and thus were not amenable to further analysis. In one way or another, this notion was implicit in all theories of natural science until the bootstrap hypothesis stated explicitly that the world cannot be understood as an assemblage of entities which cannot be analysed further. In the new world view, the universe is seen as a dynamic web of interrelated events. None of the properties of any part of this web is funda- mental; they all follow from the properties of the other parts, and the overall consistency of their mutual interrelations determines the structure of the entire web.
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