A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design

Front Cover
Penguin, 2015 - Science - 430 pages
Does the universe embody beautiful ideas?

Artists as well as scientists throughout human history have pondered this "beautiful question." With Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek as your guide, embark on a voyage of related discoveries, from Plato and Pythagoras up to the present. Wilczek's groundbreaking work in quantum physics was inspired by his intuition to look for a deeper order of beauty in nature. This is the deep logic of the universe--and it is no accident that it is also at the heart of what we find aesthetically pleasing and inspiring.

Wilczek is hardly alone among great scientists in charting his course using beauty as his compass. As he reveals in A Beautiful Question, this has been the heart of scientific pursuit from Pythagoras and the ancient belief in the music of the spheres to Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, and into the deep waters of twentieth-century physics. Wilczek brings us right to the edge of knowledge today, where the core insights of even the craziest quantum ideas apply principles we all understand. The equations for atoms and light are almost the same ones that govern musical instruments and sound; the subatomic particles that are responsible for most of our mass are determined by simple geometric symmetries.

Gorgeously illustrated, A Beautiful Question is a mind-shifting book that braids the age-old quest for beauty and the age-old quest for truth into a thrilling synthesis. It is a dazzling and important work from one of our best thinkers, whose humor and infectious sense of wonder animate every page. Yes: The world is a work of art, and its deepest truths are ones we already feel, as if they were somehow written in our souls.

Praise for A Beautiful Question:

"An expertly curated tour across 2,500 years of philosophy and physics . . . [Frank Wilczek] has accomplished a rare feat: Writing a book of profound humanity based on questions aimed directly at the eternal." --The Wall Street Journal

"Both a brilliant exploration of largely uncharted territories and a refreshingly idiosyncratic guide to developments in particle physics." --Nature

"Inspiring and remarkably accessible . . . Wilczek's language is lyrical and almost mystical. . . . Whatever the answer Nature will ultimately give us, we have the pleasure of engaging with an enlightened and humble mind." --The Chronicle of Higher Education
 

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User Review  - antao - www.librarything.com

(Original Review, 2015) Just this morning my Chi Kung teacher at the Sheraton Hotel (I’m doing classes over there at lunch time), a Daoist (Taoist) monk, said virtually the same thing whilst quoting ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - fpagan - LibraryThing

Nobel physicist Wilczek's long "meditation" on the theme that the world embodies beautiful ideas. Nontechnically, but in Wilczek's usual idiosyncratic way, discusses Pythagoras, Plato, Newton, Maxwell ... Read full review

Contents

THOUGHT AND OBJECT
17
STRUCTURE FROM SYMMETRYPLATONIC SOLIDS
39
ESCAPING THE CAVE
55
METHOD AND MADNESS
79
MUSIC OF THE SPHERES 169
96
DYNAMIC BEAUTY
103
GODS ESTHETICS
119
THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION
143
EXUBERANCE
211
LOCAL COLOR
221
BEAUTY AT THE CORE OF NATURE
227
EMMY NOETHERTIME ENERGY AND SANITY
279
IN BEAUTY WE TRUST
295
A BEAUTIFUL ANSWER2
321
Acknowledgments
329
Terms of Art
339

PRELUDE TO SYMMETRY 1 65
167
EINSTEINS TWOSTEP
201
Recommended Reading
407
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About the author (2015)

Frank Wilczek won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004 for work he did as a graduate student. His 1989 book, Longing for the Harmonies, was a New York Times notable book of the year. Wilczek is a regular contributor to Nature and Physics Today, and his work has been anthologized in The Best American Science Writing and the Norton Anthology of Light Verse. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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