As Cottrell pointed out in his opening address at ICF2, everyone is concerned, from a very early age, with why things break. Children’s toys break, we break our bones, the engines of our motor cars and washing machines fracture – but more importantly, advanced large-scale structures can fracture – pipelines, bridges, skyscrapers, nuclear reactors, ships and aircraft – even the very earth itself fractures in earthquakes. The understanding and alleviation of all such fractures are the special concern of the scientists and engineers who gather together every four years at each International Conference on Fracture. The inspiration of these conferences has been Professor Takeo Yokobori, Founder-President of ICF. It is the principal purpose of ICF to regularly bring together, from every corner of the world, the major workers in all aspects of fracture for a re-assessment of the advances made and to provide a basis for sound and relevant scientific and engineering work in the future. This purpose will surely be achieved at 1CF4. But, in Canada, in preparing for 1CF4, we were especially conscious of the larger purpose of placing all this research in the full context of society as a whole. As the complexity of our technological systems increases, so do the possible catastrophic consequences of failure. By way of emphasis, one may cite the Presidential Campaign of 1976 in the United States where the consequences of fractures in nuclear reactors, and hence their safety, played a. significant role. The safety of many of our energy systems including reactors, offshore structures, super-tankers, LNG ships, pipelines, is now of very wide social concern and is discussed regularly and thoroughly in the ordinary press. Accordingly, it is both an obligation and extremely prudent that we, at this conference, address ourselves to our responsibilities to the safety of the technological world at large.
Thus, the dominant themes of ICF4 are the applied aspects of fracture and especially the application to large-scale engineering structures. At the same time, the broad purpose of bringing together workers in every aspect of fracture has not been forgotten. But, to ensure that the social implications of our work can be fully appreciated and discussed, two Plenary Panel Discussions have been organized under the general heading Fracture and Society.