The Echoes of the Mind (74-3) Beauty in Science

Beauty in Science

The scientist does not study Nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it; and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. ~ Henri Poincaré

The allure of aesthetics infects analytics. Mathematicians, natural philosophers, and scientists regularly find symmetry, harmony, and other aesthetic facets as guidelines for finding truth.

Since the primary object of the scientific theory is to express the harmonies which are found to exist in Nature, we see at once that these theories must have aesthetic value. The measure of the success of a scientific theory is, in fact, a measure of its aesthetic value, since it is a measure of the extent to which it has introduced harmony in what was before chaos. ~ English science writer J.W.N. Sullivan

Any and every quality of beauty found in Nature is entirely within the mind of its perceiver. One could contend that the exhibition itself is agnostic with regard to aesthetics. Yet that conclusion is belied by an onslaught of evidence.

Every instant of existence may rightly be considered an aesthetic experience. The regularity with which we check our theories of the world via aesthetics suggests beauty is an integral aspect of both Nature and our own nature. Morality is founded on fairness, which is an appraisal of balance.

That does not mean that aesthetics serves as apt signposts to comprehend the mechanics of Nature. The symmetries found in physics equations must be broken for existence to materialize. Evolution is a process of deviation, not harmony.

We cannot comprehend chaos. Our minds insist on fabricating order even when it cannot possible be. The aesthetics that guide us are heuristics to find what we need, not to apathetically characterize what is before us.

That Nature offers a surfeit of beauty, that a hidden order may be discovered amid seeming confusion, suggests that the mind behind Nature – coherence – creatively revels in diversity, intricacy, and pomp. Despite a vast chasm in scale and complexity, the aesthetics of Nature’s mind and our own appear aligned.

In mathematics, squaring the circle is impossible because p is a transcendental number. Therein the deepest beauty lies – trying to comprehend what is impossible to fully understand. If it were any other way, beauty would be a cul-de-sac.

There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. ~ English philosopher Francis Bacon