Albert Einstein encapsulated a commonly held view within the scientific community when he wrote in his book Out of My Later Years (Einstein 1950, page 54)
‘When we say that we understand a group of natural phenomena, we mean that we have found a constructive theory which embraces them.’
This represents a dual challenge to the scientist: on the one hand, to explain the real world in a very basic, and if possible, mathematical, way; but on the other, to characterise the extent to which this is even possible. Recent years have seen the mathematics of computability play an increasingly vital role in pushing forward basic science and in illuminating its limitations within a creative coming together of researchers from different disciplines. This special issue of Mathematical Structures in Computer Science
is based on the special session ‘Computability of the Physical’ at the International Conference Computability in Europe 2010
, held at Ponta Delgada, Portugal, in June 2010, and it, together with the individual papers it contains, forms what we believe to be a special contribution to this exciting and developing process.