In this scientific tour de force, world-class physicist Frank Wilczek argues that beauty is at the heart of the logic of the universe, a principle that has guided his pioneering work in quantum physics. As this book demonstrates, the human quest to find the beauty embodied in the universe connects all scientific pursuit from Pythagoras and Plato on to Galileo and Newton, Maxwell and Einstein. Indeed, Wilczek shows us just how deeply intertwined our ideas about beauty and art are with our scientific understanding of the cosmos. Gorgeously illustrated, A Beautiful Question is the culmination of Wilczek's life work and a mind-expanding book that combines the age-old human quest for beauty and the age-old human quest for truth.
Wilczek (The Lightness of Being), winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize for Physics, longs to find a unified field theory that would include science, art, philosophy, and all the secret corners of nature. In looking for this theory, he asks, "Is the world a work of art?" Or, alternately, "Does the world embody beautiful ideas?" Wilczek aptly dubs his intellectual voyage a "meditation," as it wanders and leaps among historical figures, times, and concepts. His rhapsodic explanations of the development of science especially the study of light, music, and subatomic particles feature examples of visual art that elucidate his themes. However, Wilczek's ubiquitous parenthetical comments, meant to trace his meandering thoughts, may confuse or irritate the reader. Pronouncements such as "gravitons are the avatars of general covariance" and "the contrast between substance and force particles fermions and bosons is very stark" seem self-evident to Wilczek but are liable to remain puzzling to nonphysicist readers, despite the inclusion of a glossary. Wilczek equates beauty with symmetry and conflates art with aesthetics: for him, beauty is quantifiable, not subjective. Wilczek's enthusiasm is undeniable, but his execution is flawed. Illus.