Beauty and Truth in Science

I just watched this fascinating talk from Murray Gell-Mann. The core idea of the talk is that in Physics, as in so many other areas of Science and Mathematics, incredibly complex ideas can be expressed in a simple and concise way. This is a remarkable property of the universe in which we live, and in that fact there is an amazing beauty.

Gell-Mann gives an example from Physics,

Newton's Gravity Law

This is the Law of Gravitation discovered by Newton. It describes both the mechanism by with objects fall to the ground when dropped, as well as why the planets move in space. For its time it was a massive unification of many seemingly unrelated phenomena. It explains so much of how the world works, yet it can be written with just a few characters.

Here is another example from Mathematics, the Prime Number Theorem,

The Prime Number Theorem

Natural numbers are some of the most elemental constructions of the human mind, but they allow us to count from the fingers in our hand to the last atom in the entire universe. We know from basic arithmetic that all natural numbers can be factored into primes, so primes are in a sense the building blocks of all numbers. And even though primes are distributed in an incredibly intricate way, the Prime Number Theorem explains the very structure of these building blocks.

Written on July 24, 2010