Friday, August 3, 2012

The quest for beauty in science

S. Chandrasekhar was a very famous astrophysicist who featured in two earlier posts.
In 1979 he published an article in Physics Today, Beauty and the quest for beauty in science. It was reprinted in an memorial issue solely about Chandrasekhar.
It makes fascinating (but intellectually demanding) reading. The abstract is
Science, like the arts, admits aesthetic criteria; we seek theories that display a proper conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole while still showing some strangeness in their proportion.
He quotes Keats:
Beauty is truth, truth beauty that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Later he states:
So far, my remarks have been confined to what we may all concede as great ideas conceived by great minds. It does not, however, follow that beauty is experienced only in the context of great ideas and by great minds. This is no more true than that the joys of creativity are restricted to a fortunate few. They are, indeed, accessible to each one of us provided we are attuned to the perception of strangeness in the proportion and the conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole.
I am considering using these quotes as a part of an introduction to a talk I have been asked to give by a Bible study group of scientists in Bangalore.

We can see beauty and truth in science. We should seek it elsewhere as well. Is there truth and beauty and mystery to be found in the Bible? in the life and teachings of Jesus? Do we perceive "strangeness in the proportion" (mystery) there?
Is there "conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole" (a coherent framework for understanding ourselves, God, and our place in the universe)?

1 comment:

  1. This reference provides a unique Understanding of both Quantum Reality as signalled by E=MC2, and of Art and Beauty too.