A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Date: July 2015
Duration: 13 hours 45 minutes
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.
**Includes Bonus PDF with timelines, notes, and recommended reading