Thursday, April 17, 2008

Beauty and truth in physics

Herewith an extension to The quark, the jaguar, and the laws of Jurisdynamics:

Murray Gell-Mann: Beauty and truth in physics

Wielding laypeople's terms and a sense of humor, Nobel Prize winner Murray Gell-Mann drops some knowledge about particle physics, asking questions like, Are elegant equations more likely to be right than inelegant ones? Can the fundamental law, the so-called "theory of everything," really explain everything? His answers will surprise you.

Murray Gell-Mann brings visibility to a crucial aspect of our existence that we can't actually see: elemental particles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics for introducing quarks, one of two fundamental ingredients for all matter in the universe.

The upshot? Gell-Mann's short answers:
  • Beauty matters
  • Math matters
  • Symmetry matters
Beautiful theories are likelier to be correct, and true theories are likelier to be beautiful. Sweet.


Blogger Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

For those (the layperson, nonexpert, etc.) interested in further reading on this sort of thing, please see, for instance, the classic collection of lectures by S. Chandrasekhar, Truth and Beauty: Aesthetics and Motivations in Science (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1987), Ian Stewart's Why Beauty is Truth: The History of Symmetry (New York: Basic Books, 2007), and A. Zee's Fearful Symmetry: The Search for Beauty in Modern Physics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999 ed.).

4/18/2008 7:04 PM  

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