Beauty as an Indicator in Physics

“One goes always upwards for the sake of this Beauty, starting out from beautiful things and using them like rising stairs.” -Plato, Symposium, 211c

Einstein, defending his theory of general relativity, claimed that it was too beautiful, so it could not be false. Beauty has been a motivation and an indicator for many scientists (maybe especially for physicists) as it has been believed to be intimately connected with truth. It is doubtful that scientists used beauty as the sole indicator for a theory; however, the more beautiful a theory suggested to many that it was at least more likely to be true.

Many philosophers have contended that proportion (or symmetry) is a condition for beauty, and this particular characteristic has been prominent among many scientists. It has led some physicists, for example, to search for ‘supersymmetry’. As imperfections in the universe have become more prevalent, some scientists have abandoned the use of beauty as an indication of a theory’s truthfulness. Others that want to hold onto beauty have suggested that it is not a condition of a theory’s validity, but a good theory should also be beautiful, even if its beauty lies at a layer beyond the surface.

Sarah Scoles, a freelance science writer, presents a short and interesting article about the role of beauty as an indicator of truth in scientific theories. See the full article here.

What do you think about the relationship between beauty and truth? Or beauty as a motivation for scientists?

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