A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design

Author(s): Frank Wilczek (MIT)


Does the universe embody beautiful ideas? Artists as well as scientists throughout humanhistory have pondered this beautiful question. With Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek as your guide, embark on a voyage of related discoveries, fromPlato and Pythagoras up to the present. Wilczek sgroundbreaking work in quantum physics wasinspired by his intuition to look for a deeper orderof beauty in nature. In fact, every major advancein his career came from this intuition: to assumethat the universe embodies beautiful forms, formswhose hallmarks are symmetry harmony, balance, proportion and economy. There areother meanings of beauty, but this is the deeplogic of the universe and it is no accident thatit is also at the heart of what we find aestheticallypleasing and inspiring. Wilczek is hardly alone among great scientistsin charting his course using beauty as his compass.As he reveals in "A Beautiful Question," this has beenthe heart of scientific pursuit from Pythagoras, theancient Greek who was the first to argue that allthings are number, to Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, and into the deep waters of twentiethcenturyphysics. Though the ancients weren tright about everything, their ardent belief in themusic of the spheres has proved true down to thequantum level. Indeed, Wilczek explores just howintertwined our ideas about beauty and art are withour scientific understanding of the cosmos. Wilczek brings us right to the edge of knowledgetoday, where the core insights of even the craziestquantum ideas apply principles we all understand.The equations for atoms and light are almostliterally the same equations that govern musicalinstruments and sound; the subatomic particlesthat are responsible for most of our mass aredetermined by simple geometric symmetries. Theuniverse itself, suggests Wilczek, seems to want toembody beautiful and elegant forms. Perhaps thisforce is the pure elegance of numbers, perhaps thework of a higher being, or somewhere between.Either way, we don t depart from the infinite andinfinitesimal after all; we re profoundly connectedto them, and we connect them. When we find thatour sense of beauty is realized in the physical world, we are discovering something about the world, butalso something about ourselves. Gorgeously illustrated, "A Beautiful Question" is amind-shifting book that braids the age-old questfor beauty and the age-old quest for truth into athrilling synthesis. It is a dazzling and importantwork from one of our best thinkers, whose humorand infectious sense of wonder animate every page.Yes: The world is a work of art, and its deepesttruths are ones we already feel, as if they weresomehow written in our souls."


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Nature: ""A Beautiful Question "is both a brilliant exploration of largely uncharted territories and a refreshingly idiosyncratic guide to developments in particle physics. Kirkus "A commendable investigation of the nature of reality. Brian Greene, author of"The Elegant Universe" In this delightful book, we are given a rare opportunity to enter the mind of one of the world s most creative and insightful scientists. Frank Wilczek s dazzling meditation on reality reveals the exquisite fusion of truth, beauty and the deep laws of the universe. Lee Smolin, author of"Time Reborn"and"The Trouble with Physics" A Beautiful Question is a compelling introduction to the triumphs and challenges of modern physics, presented as a meditation on the role of aesthetics in the search for a deeper understanding of nature, and the deeper meanings of that search for humanity.Full of historical background and infused with the author s generous humanity, this is indeed a beautiful book, one I recommend to anyone interested in where science is going, written by someone who, by his many lasting contributions to science, has earned our attention. Max Tegmark, author of "Our Mathematical Universe" In this exquisite and remarkably accessible book, Frank Wilczek explores our cosmos as a work of art, revealing hidden beauty at all levels from the Galactic realm down to the subatomicmicroworld that his trailblazing research has elucidated.His ability to see what others overlook makes him an inspiring guide not only for scientists, but also for artists and all curious people. Peter Woit, author of "Not Even Wrong" If you ve ever wondered what physicists mean when they describe a theory as beautiful, A Beautiful Question is the ideal place to find out. Wilczek is both one of the greats of the subject, and not afraid to engage non-technically with the wonderful complexities and intangibilities of the mysterious beauty that lies at the core of our understanding of the physical world. Noah Smith, Stony Brook University; author of "Noahpinion" Anyone who has studied physics knows the startling beauty of those rare times when the clouds part and you see that math and reality are the same thing. With Wilczek s new book, readers can catch a glimpse of that beauty without having to know the math. Janna Levin, author of" How the Universe Got Its Spot"s In contemporary art, Beauty has faded, a prosaic artifice, a distraction from deeper raw truths, maybe even ugly truths. To the exceptional physicist Frank Wilczek, Beauty has proven a luminous ally, a faithful advisor in his discoveries of remarkable truths about the world. Ever in pursuit of truth, Frank guides us in a calm and winsome meditation on this subtle question: Is the world beautiful? Lawrence Krauss, author ofA Universe from Nothingand"The Physics of Star-Trek" A beautiful treatise on a beautiful universe, this delightful series of meditations on the nature of beauty and the physical universe roams from music, to color vision, to fundamental ideas at the very forefront of physics today. In lesser hands such a romp could easily degenerate into a kind of new age mystical mumbo jumbo. However, Frank Wilczek is one of the deepest, most creative, and most knowledgeable theoretical physicists alive today. Read him or listen to him and you will never think about the universe the same way again. And if your experience is like mine over the years, you will definitely be the better for it. Mario Livio, astrophysicist, author of "Brilliant Blunders" Frank Wilczek starts this fascinating book with the intriguing question: Does the world embody beautiful ideas? What follows is a masterful, intellectual journey, surveying a breathtaking tapestry of physics, art, and philosophy. One could ask Wilczek s question differently: Does this book embody beautiful ideas?The answer would be a resounding Yes! George Dyson, author of "Turing s Cathedral"" " Before there was Science, there was Natural Philosophy. In this authoritative, ever-surprising, and lavishly illustrated account, Frank Wilczek brings the grand quest that so captivated Pythagoras, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, Noether, and a host of others both up to date and back to life. Richard Muller, author of"Physics for Future Presidents" A truly beautiful book, in design, in content, in theinsights that Frank Wilczek shares. This book helps me see how one of the world sleadingthinkers thinks, using beauty as a tool, as a guide in finding not onlythe right problems but the right solutions. In Wilczek s mind, there is noclearseparation between physics, art, poetry, and music. Why do physicistscall their theories beautiful? Immerse yourself in this book, wallow in it, sitback and relax as you wander through it, and you ll soon understand. Deepak Chopra, M.D. For a century, science has invalidated soft questions about truth, beauty, and transcendence. It took considerable courage therefore for Frank Wilczek to declare that such questions are within the framework of hard science. Anyone who wants to see how science and transcendence can be compatible must read this book. Wilczek has caught the winds of change, and his thinking breaks through some sacred boundaries with curiosity, insight, and intellectual power. "

Frank Wilczekwon 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 also been anthologized in "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."

General Fields

  • : 9781594205262
  • : Penguin Press
  • : Penguin Press
  • : 0.794
  • : July 2015
  • : 244mm X 163mm X 43mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Frank Wilczek (MIT)
  • : Hardback
  • : 530.01
  • : 448
  • : illustrations