[PDF/EPUB] A Beautiful uestion author Frank Wilczek

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A Beautiful uestion this has been the heart of scientific pursuit from Pythagoras the ancient Greek who was the first to argue that “all things are number” to Galileo Newton Maxwell Einstein and into the deep waters of twentiethcentury physics Though the ancients weren’t right about everything their ardent belief in the music of the spheres has proved true down to the uantum level Indeed Wilczek explores just how intertwined our ideas about beauty and art are with our scientific understanding of the cosmosWilczek brings us right to the edge of knowledge today where the core insights of even the craziest uantum ideas apply principles we all understand The euations for atoms and light are almost literally the same euations that govern musical instruments and sound; the subatomic particles that are responsible for most of our mass are determined by simple geometric symmetries T Wilczek shows the correspondence between physics and art focusing on their use of symmetry He explains that symmetry lies at the heart of the relationship between numbers and form and even perception He reviews the importance of symmetry in the history of physics Wilczek uses analogies pictures and diagrams rather than euations to explain concepts But make no mistake this is a serious physics book Wilczek is a Nobel Prize winning physicist who has strong beliefs about the importance of symmetry to physics research He prefers to build beautiful symmetric euations and look for evidence that validates them than to work from assembled observations and try to turn them into meaningful euations Below are my notesWilczek begins with the ancients Starting with Pythagoras and his eponymous theorem we see that numerical relationships are also geometric ones Digging into Pythagoras s musical interest we see how numerical relationships define musical ones such as chords even telling us which ones would be pleasing to our ears Wilczek details the transfer of freuency or pitch from mechanical to electrical impulse tracing it from string to air to ear to neuron Turning to Plato we see his focus on symmetry in the five platonic solids Plato held four of them to be the atoms of his elements Fire was the tetrahedron water the icosahedron earth the cube and air the octahedron The fifth the dodecahedron was the shape of the universe Plato realized structure is determined by symmetry just as physicists do today So even though Plato was way off on the universe s building blocks he was right on this foundational concept of modern physics Wilczek also recounts Plato s metaphor of the people chained in a cave who can only see shadows Plato understood that there is much to the world than what our senses can detect Next Wilczek discusses projective geometry Brunelleschi pioneered techniues to achieve realistic perspective in painting His Renaissance counterparts uickly adopted his methods to accurately depict three dimensions in two dimensions The idea of perspective leads to fundamental concepts of modern physics relativity the essence of perspective symmetry maintaining the same state when rotated moved or other types of transformations invariance maintaining the same state from any perspective and complementarity looking not only different from a different perspective but to the exclusion of the other perspective Wilczek moves on to the scientific revolution Newton changed the way physics was conducted Famous for explaining gravity and motion his greatest contribution may have been simply to demand uantitative precision ualitative assessments were no longer relevant Maxwell the author s favorite physicist ushered in truly modern physics with his euations that explained light as an electromagnetic wave His symmetrical euations helped establish the importance of symmetry in physics Maxwell s euations paved the way for the twentieth century discoveries of relativity and uantum mechanics Maxwell used observations made in Faraday s experiments to build his euations Wilczek favors the reverse approach Formulate symmetrical euations and look for phenomena where they applyThe early twentieth century was notable for many great physicists Rutherford Planck Einstein Bohr and many One often overlooked who should be included in such lists was the great mathematician Emily Noether She saw the connection between mathematical formulations of physical laws and physical uantities that were invariant Noether s theorem holds that symmetries of physical laws yield uantities that are conserved Time translation symmetry tells us that the laws of physics that applied in the past will do so in the future The uantity that does not change with time is said to be conserved In the case of time translation symmetry the conserved uantity is energy It is invariant with respect to time Spatial translation symmetry yields momentum as a conserved uantity Rotational symmetry yields angular momentum as a conserved uantity Einstein employed Galilean symmetry in deriving special relativity Galileo in a thought experiment described being below decks in the closed compartment of a ship Changes in the ships motion at a constant velocity did not change the laws of physics in the compartment Einstein showed that even with Galilean transformation the speed of light remained constant Einstein was inspired by Maxwell s euations that showed the speed of light was a constantWilczsek presents his version of the Standard Model a name he feels belies its importance calling his version Core Theory The Standard Model excludes gravity Core Theory includes it Wilczek believes the conflict many see between uantum mechanics and general relativity is overstated He does admit Core Theory has problems such as not explaining dark matter dark energy or singularities He describes the interplay between the four forces electromagnetic gravity strong and weak and the four respective properties of matter electric charge energy momentum strong charge and weak charge that are described by the theory In the case of gravity it is the density of energy and momentum that curves space time or looking at it from a different perspective Wilczeck says energy momentum density tells matter which way is straight He employs the concept of property space Populating space with values depicting distances between nearby points form a metric that maps the effect of energy momentum on space time Thus the metric of space time determines the movement of energy momentum objects but energy momentum objects determine the shape of the metric field The concept of property fields and this same logic applies to the other three forces and their counterparts charge and electromagnetic waves as well as the strong and weak forces and their objects From Wilczek s point of view the fundamental forces and the respective properties of matter in essence are yin and yang a receptive component and a driving component in a constant tug of war The carriers of the four forces are the photon graviton color gluon and weakon They are the uanta of the electromagnetic metric strong and weak fields These force mediating particles Wilczek describes as avatars of local symmetries Local symmetries are key to Wilczek Local symmetries allow changes in uantities within euations without changing the results of the euations They are local because the symmetry does not have to apply everywhere or all the time It is out of these symmetries that the force carrying particles ariseWhat exactly are protons and neutrons together called nucleons They carry most of the universe s mass They consist of uarks that are tightly contained by gluons but when close to each other uarks can be randomly arranged This feature of the strong force that increases with the distance between uarks and is negligible when they are close together is called asymptotic freedom One thing that stood out to me is that the mass of the uarks is tiny Wilczek concludes almost all of the nucleon s mass and thus almost all of the mass of ordinary matter in the Universe arises from pure energy The kinetic energy of the uarks and the field energy of the gluon fields supply Mass Without Mass emerging directly from the purely conceptual symmetry rooted euations of CD CD uantum chromodynamics is the theory of the strong forceuarks in addition to electrical charge carry one of three different color charges which embody the strong force The term color here is completely unrelated to spectral color Unlike electrical charge each color charge is three dimensional defining a place in its property space So if a uark changes from one color to another it can be considered to be in two different places in property space Gluons mediate color charge and interact with uarks In this complicated dynamic there are eight types of gluons and six types of uarks Moreover unlike photons gluons interact with one another and can change the color of other gluons Also gluons take their positions based on that of the uark so in CD we have another example of yin and yang between color charged particles and color property space In the end it seems that Supersymmetry SUSY is where Wilczek is taking us He is a strong advocate having bet that by 2020 evidence of SUSY will be found SUSY posits that there are uantum dimensions in which particles transform from one type to another He points out that what can depend on where The same entity located in different positions within a property space often manifests itself as several different particles The theory holds that substance particles fermions can change into force particles bosons and vice versa when entering uantum dimensions Thus substance and force particles cannot exist without each other Both are the same thing seen from different perspectives So here we have it the ultimate symmetry the ultimate Yin and Yang and the ultimate beauty in Wiczek s eyesThis book starts out easy and gets increasingly complicated Of great help is an excellent glossary with detailed explanations of terms used in the text The index is also well done and I used it much trying to reconcile concepts Still without prior familiarity with the topics I would have been completely lost by the end Wilczek s presentation is refreshing and uniue It is connected by a theme the evolution of the concept of symmetry I selected this book to better understand symmetry which is at the forefront of physics today For those with similar interests I highly recommend A Beautiful uestion

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A Beautiful uestion

Does the universe embody beautiful ideasArtists as well as scientists throughout human history have pondered this “beautiful uestion” With Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek as your guide embark on a voyage of related discoveries from Plato and Pythagoras up to the present Wilczek’s groundbreaking work in uantum physics was inspired by his intuition to look for a deeper order of beauty in nature In fact every major advance in his career came from this intuition to assume that the universe embodies beautiful forms forms whose hallmarks are symmetry harmony balance proportion and economy There are other meanings of “beauty” but this is the deep logic of the universe and it is no accident that it is also at the heart of what we find aesthetically pleasing and inspiringWilczek is hardly alone among great scientists in charting his course using beauty as his compass As he reveals in If you re into stuff like this you can read the full review10 A Beautiful uestion Finding Nature s Deep Design by Frank WilczekOriginal Review 2015Just this morning my Chi Kung teacher at the Sheraton Hotel I m doing classes over there at lunch time a Daoist Taoist monk said virtually the same thing whilst uoting the Yi Jing I Ching In fact the philosophy of movement underlying the entire system often translated as Great Ultimate Fist is based upon this principle One might presume this aspect of human awareness reflects a primordial knowledge that precedes any particular culture s intellectualphilosophical continuum Such primordial knowledge would inform and find expression in any sufficiently refined intellectualphilosophical cultural continuum In fact because this is so this is where things get interesting For example I might speak of the impossible contradiction of the infinite and the finite faced by Spinoza theology and all previous idealist philosophies And I might also say the integral components of a single unity within which the two opposites reside together in active unity and opposition and hence in a logical contradiction

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He universe itself suggests Wilczek seems to want to embody beautiful and elegant forms Perhaps this force is the pure elegance of numbers perhaps the work of a higher being or somewhere between Either way we don’t depart from the infinite and infinitesimal after all; we’re profoundly connected to them and we connect them When we find that our sense of beauty is realized in the physical world we are discovering something about the world but also something about ourselvesGorgeously illustrated A Beautiful uestion is a mind shifting book that braids the age old uest for beauty and the age old uest for truth into a thrilling synthesis It is a dazzling and important work from one of our best thinkers whose humor and infectious sense of wonder animate every page Yes The world is a work of art and its deepest truths are ones we already feel as if they were somehow written in our sou This book at its core is about beauty in nature and the power of that beauty to serve as a criterion for determining if a theory is true Can we use beauty as a guide to discover the laws of the universe It s a great uestion Wilczek points out the trouble the beauty criterion has caused from time to time eg Kepler s beautiful but wrong theory about planetary orbits In the end Wilczek thinks beauty is a reliable indicator of reality The book reads like poetry and Wilczek is eually artists and physicist He takes his reader back to the group of ancient thinkers who are collectively known as Pythagoras and examines the symmetry and beauty in Pythagoras Theorem Looking at consonance and dissonance he illustrates how the inner ear recognizes beauty as symmetry eg we like a perfect fifths because our neurons like the beautiful math Thus maybe math is beauty Maybe the laws of nature are beauty Wilczek also describes the beauty of optics and of Newtonian physics in general He provides a history of its shortcomings which helps him usher in the beauty of Maxwell s euations relativity and uantum theory His explanation of the standard model is wonderful and a good primer for those who are not familiar with the various particles Symmetry and importantly the breaking of symmetry from the Higgs nonzero field through the matter the Higgs creates and onto the fractal nature of the many forms that matter takes seems to Wilczek to be fundamental to our universe This is why the laws themselves would be expected to be beautiful in this way I would have liked for him to talk about networks chaos emergence scaling and the like I would suggest readers who liked this book and wanted to keep thinking about these should read Ian Stewart s Fearful Symmetry Lisa Randall s Warped Passages Geoffrey West s Scaling in Biology Albert L szl Barab si s Linked John Kricher s Ecological Planet One review called this basic It is no longer basic when looked at through the lens of networks and complex emerging systems Falkowski s Life s Engines Strogatz s Sync Scharf s Gravity s Engines Carroll s Particle at the End of the Universe Holmes Secret Life of Dust Gleick s Chaos


10 thoughts on “A Beautiful uestion

  1. says:

    The beautiful uestion is whether the laws of physics are based on beauty; are they simple symmetric proportioned and econ

  2. says:

    If you're into stuff like this you can read the full review10 A Beautiful uestion Finding Nature's Deep Design by Frank WilczekOriginal Review 2015Just this morning my Chi Kung teacher at the Sheraton Hotel I’m doing classes over there at lunch time a Daoist Taoist monk said virtually the same thing whilst uoting the Yi Jing I Ching In fact the philosophy of movement underlying the entire system often translated as Great Ultim

  3. says:

    Fighting itOh wow Reading this book was uite an experience For one thing to a person with no grounding in particle physics beyond w

  4. says:

    Wilczek shows the correspondence between physics and art focusing on their use of symmetry He explains that symmetry lies at the heart of the

  5. says:

    I loved this book It truly made me appreciate Pythagoras Plato Newton Maxwell and Einstein's insights a lot It is very easy to comprehend and comes replete with great pictures that help the reader visualize the

  6. says:

    I had stopped reading popular science books because most of the new ones had nothing to say or they ended up in the land of woo This book does neither This book can work for any audience The artist will appreciate

  7. says:

    This book at its core is about beauty in nature and the power of that beauty to serve as a criterion for determining if a

  8. says:

    I do not come from a scientific background and this is the first popular science book I read in the last 15 years so it was definitely a challenge I happened to come across this book in a book shop and I fell in love with the premise Naturally I was not able to understand everything Frank Wilczek wrote about especially

  9. says:

    Disclaimer I received this book through Goodreads First ReadsWhile the uestion Wilczek explores in this book is a compelling one its pull is somewhat diminished by the foregone nature of the book's conclusion Wilczek himself declares that uantum theory is a definite answer 'yes' just 8 pages in With the drama of the hunt somewhat deflated by this bizarre spoiler Beautiful uestion goes from the advertised uest t

  10. says:

    Ho hum guess I'm dumb I couldn't finish this book no matter how much I tried though the major reason I wanted to finish it

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