“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe…I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes…”
Richard Feynman, a Nobel Laureate and one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, relayed the above personal story with an artist friend demonstrating the age-old rivalry between scientists and artists. The above quote summarizes my impression when I read A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design by Frank Wilczek- another Nobel Laureate in physics. The book asks a beautiful but puzzling question:
“Does the world embody beautiful ideas?” Or “Is the world a work of art?”
Wilczek believes that the answer is certainly “yes”. In fact, he begins the book claiming that “if an energetic and powerful Creator made the world, it could be that “what made Him create the world was nothing but “an impulse to make something beautiful”. Wilczek quotes Galileo to tell readers that he is not the only one thinking this way: “The greatness and glory of God shine forth marvelously in all His works and is to be read above all in the open book of the heavens.” Indeed, many people throughout history have been puzzled with abstract and physical beauty. For instance, the golden ratio (Phi) seems to govern the proportion of many things which appear beautiful. To Wilczek, if the universe seems beautiful, the equations which explain universal phenomena must be beautiful as well.
Wilczek takes the debate to a new level by placing beauty among the fundamentals of the universe. He argues that beauty is not just added quality. Rather, it is the underlying principle behind every speck in the universe. In a sense, the matter is nothing but embodied beauty. Thus, understanding one helps to understand the other better. They work in harmony. In fact, Wilzcek defines beauty as harmony, order, and symmetry. Thus, as scientists study the order in the universe and formulate it in equations, they observe astonishing beauty in the form of harmony and symmetry. Therefore, the pursuit of knowledge and beauty should take us to the same destination which is the underlying order in the universe.
Wilczek takes us back to Ancient Greece to support his core argument. He began with the Pythagorean theorem of a2+b2=c2 about right-angled triangles which unveil the beautiful relationship between numbers and shapes. Since then, scientists have discovered many other equations beautifully describing certain physical properties or the fundamental laws of nature. Wilczek details stories of great scientists such as Kepler, Newton, and Maxwell who were inspired by abstract beauty. For instance, Maxwell came up with a certain set of equations to show how electricity and magnetism are related to each other. He also used his equations to discover the matched speed of light and electromagnetic undulation. For him, that was not a coincidence. When he combined electricity, magnetism, and light through a system of equations and visualized them “pictorially”, Wilzcek explains, they resemble “a dance of concepts through space and time”. He claims that “having experienced the ineffable beauty of Maxwell’s equations, one would be disappointed if they were wrong”.
Wilczek argues that the four forces that dominate in the universe “embody, at their heart, a common principle: local symmetry.” He defines symmetry as “change without change”. In other words, what appears beautiful to us is the display of the same thing from a different perspective. Thus, a repeated pattern in different perspectives and perfectly ordered arrangements seem aesthetically pleasing. What we really like is the perfect order and harmony in the waves of oceans, the design of plants, and the synchronized flow of wind and air.
Even musical tones of instruments are nothing but auditory harmony which can be presented through numbers as well in terms of the relationship between sound and the size of strings. For instance, when the ratio of the length of strings is 1:2, the musical tones form an octave, when the ratio is 2:3, they form a dominant fifth, etc. The ratio of the small whole numbers is the secret of different sounds in musical instruments. Wilczek does raise the question of “why” we like musical tones “whose frequencies are in the ratio of small whole numbers” without giving a convincing answer. In fact, Wilczek claims that the entire universe is tuned in to this harmony at a micro level when he describes atoms behaving like “tiny musical instruments” in their interaction with light as “harmonious ensembles and synchronized orchestras”. The standard model of subatomic particles is nothing but a mathematical expression of an astonishing degree of harmonic pattern and symmetry. Therefore, Wilczek attributes the discovery of the quark model to the discovery of pattern recognition by two scientists.
Although the book provides a compelling argument to support its core argument that the world is a work of art, it does very little to go beyond that. Wilczek seems to be amazed how the nature of human beings to appreciate beauty is in line with the “deep design” of nature. However, he does not tell us why everything is arranged in a beautiful way. The Darwinian theory fails to explain the reason for the arts to be essential rather than accidental. In fact, life would be possible without color and beauty as it is perceived by animals. Like dogs, we could have been color-blind from birth. Wilczek does quote some scientists who believe that the universe is nothing but a Divine show:
“I feel carried away and possessed by an unutterable rapture over the divine spectacle of the heavenly harmony.”- Kepler
“This most elegant system of the sun, planets, and comets could not have arisen without the design and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.” –Newton
Wilzcek does not seem to be in agreement with spiritual scientists such as Kepler and Newton. He rather leaves the “big question” unanswered. Perhaps, that is how much you could go if you do not think deep enough. In the same way that light reveals beauty in physical objects, enlightenment -through scientific knowledge- reveals the abstract beauty in their very essence. However, in order to understand the meaning of revealed beauty, we need to engage in 5D thinking to find the ultimate source and meaning of manifested beauty in the universe.
The book gives us factual knowledge discovered through analytical thinking. As a result, we can realize that the universe is an embodiment of beauty at different layers. As we study each layer, we can discover beautiful patterns. If we engage in analogical thinking, we can compare the art in the universe to man-made arts. We can thus conclude that the art in the universe is more elegant. In fact, man-made art is nothing but a copy of the art in the universe.
At the critical thinking stage, we will realize that it is not possible to have such elegant art without an artist. In fact, we know from our experience that a small human portrait could not come into existence without an artist with will, knowledge, and power. Likewise, we know for sure that it takes a much higher level of skill to create the Mona Lisa painting. Thus, we can conclude that the beautiful art in the universe must be the work of an Artist.
At the meditative thinking stage, as we discover the interconnected order and harmony in the form of beautiful artistry, we will realize that the One who creates a flower must be the One who creates the entire universe. We will link beauty in the universe to the All-Beautiful Creator who discloses His infinite beauty through His works. We will realize that mind, matter, music, and metaphysics are all interconnected.
At the moral thinking stage, we reflect on the meaning of the artistry in the universe as an expression of love by the Artist who shows His love for His creation. We will appreciate the beautiful gifts and be thankful for them. We will perceive differences as enrichment. Just as different colors enrich our visual experience, different perspectives enrich our lives.