On 13 October 2003, Bertram Brockhouse (1918 –2003) passed away in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He was co-awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics with Clifford Shull (1915–2001) “for pioneering contributions to the development of neutron scattering techniques for studies of condensed matter,” in particular “for the development of neutron spectroscopy.”
Prof. Brockhouse had thematically framed his Nobel Lecture around the conflict between whether physics was restricted to only a pragmatic materialism, or whether it allowed moral metaphors.
“The Grand Atlas comprises ‘maps’ of the world we live in, metaphorical maps which just might prove to be metaphysical, maps that link percepts with other percepts, by means of theory. On a pragmatic view, as on a religious view, theory and concepts are held in faith… Beyond that, theory and concepts go to constitute a language in which the scientistic matters at issue can be formulated and discussed.
“At a given epoch of the ‘state-of-the-art’ there are applications visible – technological or scientific applications – and also perhaps moral implications which go to forbid or enjoin them. And there can be metaphors visible, which modelled upon, may ultimately find places as theory held in faith, in the Grand Atlas. So that metaphors too are to be watched for their moral implications; nuclear fission, nuclear fusion are examples. Might it not be better that these notions never have been thought?
“In the world to which the Grand Atlas applies, there is an enduring tension: additional evidence increases the reasonableness of accepting the concepts as actual entities or even as moral, not merely mental, realities – but the burden of proof can always be shifted to the opposite side.”