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A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  964 ratings  ·  131 reviews
Does the universe embody beautiful ideas?

Artists as well as scientists throughout human history have pondered this “beautiful question.” 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 quantum physics was inspired by his intuition to look for a deeper o
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published July 14th 2015 by Penguin Press
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Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
The beautiful question is, whether the laws of physics are based on beauty; are they simple, symmetric, proportioned and economical. Wilczek is a Nobel-Prize winner in physics. Regardless of whether physics is based on beauty, Wilczek has written a beautiful book. His style of writing is excellent, and the book is graced with plenty of engrossing diagrams and color illustrations.

The earliest astronomers tried to make the orbits of the planets simpler than they actually are. They tried to make th
Manuel Antão
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

1/0: "A Beautiful Question - Finding Nature's Deep Design" by Frank Wilczek

(Original Review, 2015)

Just 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 quoting 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 mi
Mark Hebwood
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, science
Fighting it...

Oh wow. Reading this book was quite an experience. For one thing, to a person with no grounding in particle physics beyond what was included in a school curriculum (that person is me, and there was very little), reading speed is best described by reference to a log-scale: I read the first batch in a day, the second in 2 days, the third in 4, the fourth ... . But more fundamentally than that, I struggled with the book on a deeper level. I fought against some of Frank's ideas, and di
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
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 equations 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 sy ...more
Jimmy Ele
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It truly made me appreciate Pythagoras, Plato, Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein's insights a lot more. It is very easy to comprehend and comes replete with great pictures that help the reader visualize the beautiful ideas that are embodied in Nature's Deep Design (ElectroMagnetism, Gravity, Weak and Strong Force, Light, Sound, Geometry etc.) One of my favorite chapters was the chapter on the physics behind light and the color spectrum. I thought I knew what colors were, but quick ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
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 the beauty that the universe gives to us through its harmony of concordance, the obsessive reader of science books (as I used to be) will love the fact that the author takes one way beyond what they thought they knew and the PhD in physics will learn things he didn't know about the
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 question. Wilczek points out the trouble the beauty criterion has caused from time to time, e.g. 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 equally ar
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 towards the end of the book, but did my best because I felt the book was worthwhile. I took copious notes and I learned a lot. For me this book was an adventure, and often t ...more
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
(Disclaimer: I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.)

While the "question" 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 quantum theory is a "definite answer 'yes'" just 8 pages in. With the drama of the hunt somewhat deflated by this bizarre spoiler, Beautiful Question goes from the advertised quest to something more like a meditation on the remarkable ability of scient
Peter Crofts
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 is simply so I can say I did read it, as opposed to actually understanding it.

I don't think I grasp what beauty has to do with symmetry, and it's a common misconception (I believe) and manner of evaluating aesthetic experience. Frankly, though Wilczek is clearly a man of astonishing intellectual capacity, that doesn't instantly translate into being able to effortlessly m
Christopher Willey
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had a conversation with a friend, he just so happens to be an astrophysicist.

I felt like I was stepping all over my pud while talking with him. I didn't understand so much about so many things.

That's ok. To ask explore your ignorance is important to me, but the lovely thing is that I do t know enough to make assumptions- so my questions are thrilling. It's silly, but true!

This books explains graspable concepts like QCD theory, ideal to real, what = where, super symmetry, and wave functions i
Jun 10, 2015 is currently reading it
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

I have just received this book and I am looking forward to reading it. I have already started reading, but just looking through teh first part I can see that it will take me some time to read thoroughly enjoy and understand the given material.

I will update my review once I have had the opportunity to complete this book.
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: popular-science
One of the most engaging books I've ever read (in terms of the content). Also masterfully written and structured.
SJ Loria
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A Beautiful Question is a Damn Good Book

“We have learned to work from symmetry towards truth”

Isn’t it awesome when you discuss a topic with someone and they are knowledgeable and excited about the topic? There are few books, and few thinkers, who are able to combine different realms of knowledge into a cohesive package. Allow a grand simplification but books in the science camp are often dull and dry. Books in the liberal arts realm soft and nonconclusive. And we love to divide those into differ
Ondrej Urban
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beauty is symmetry and the world is symmetric. A Beautiful Question gives a high-level overview of modern particle physics, focusing, in part, on the theory we call Standard Model and in part describing how it all kind of pops up from a few mathematical and philosophical assumption. Frank Wilczek, even though a Nobel-awarded physicist, keeps on marveling how come that all of this works, and works so well. Frankly, I remember feeling the same - a feeling that I've kept ever since - when during my ...more
Abhishek Hamal
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
The way that the author/scientists leads the reader from the question to the answer is meticulously well done. Apart from some rhetoric repetition of some of the history of science (which I'm sure was pivotal to what was to come later both in the world and the book, and which mostly was meant for the first time readers I hope) the book takes you on a journey of all the beautiful ideals of science and how they fit with the reality.
All in all I must say, this was a wonderful journey despite rough
Jane Upshall
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was excited to read this book . However with my limited knowledge of physics and mathematics , I struggled through. The beginning was easy read however it got a little crazy the further I read into it. I would only recommend to someone who has more knowledge in the subject.
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A lot more theoretical particle physics than I was expecting so I only grasped the basics. It did help answer some of my questions about the theory of relativity.
Mar 26, 2017 rated it liked it
learned alot but also felt very stupid. so hard to wrap my brain around how intelligent some people are...fascinating though
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics
"Colours are the smiles of nature."
-Leigh Hunt

I choose colours to start with. Colours reveal the core physics to those who comprehend the Nature's, as Mr. Wilczek calls it, deep design. Colours are seen by some, as the result of the encounter of the light with material world. More precisely, when the virgin sunlight from outer space experience material Earthly surface, at each encounter the particles, the living or non-living objects will make an imprint into the light's fabric. These signatures
Chris Kelly
May 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book (styled as a "meditation" by the author) aims to answer a single question: does the universe embody beautiful concepts? And while I readily agree with Wilczek's answer (yes! Undoubtedly, yes!), his explanation of why leaves much to be desired. The opening chapters dealing with Pythagoras and Plato were an entertaining read to be sure but the book quickly descends into a quagmire of theoretical physics crossed with quasi-philosophical pondering. Wilczek continually uses flowery, poetica ...more
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has a very interesting message and approaches physics with a different approach that is not frequently seen in similar books of the same subject. However, the author sounds a tad bit conceited and it feels as if he is trying to impose his ideas as the absolute truth onto the readers. The start is fairly easy to follow along, but as the book progresses I found that, increasingly, the message being conveyed by the author started to get lost on me. The ideas introduced are esoteric and I ...more
Helen Z
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-nonfiction
Got a bit esoteric at the end, but I still enjoyed the book and appreciated the author's enthusiasm about science. Some topics that stayed with me: musings on how the physical processes that translate sound waves into music in our brains may impact how beautiful we interpret the music to be; that light beams of different spectral colors are alternatively the same color viewed at different relative speeds; artistic analogies (involving perspective, anamorphic drawings) about how to conceptualize ...more
Sep 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The two things worth buying this book for are the event timeline and the definition sections. The definitions of 5% normal matter, 27% dark matter, and 68% dark energy are most interesting. Also important are the symmetry and super-symmetry concepts which predict the existence of more quantum particles.
Daniel B-G
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, dnf
Probably a good book but I wasn't interested enough to reach the conclusion. The physics kept ramping up and I couldn't help asking myself what I possibly could gain from it. So I put it down and it's likely to stay that way.
Brenda Schneider
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book took time for me to read and think about. It was a great read and I will think about things differently from now on. I received this book through goodreads first reads.
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Not my cup of tea. Esoteric, at times incomprehensible. Much too metaphorical for my taste.
Shhhhh Ahhhhh
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've read a couple of books that sort of bill themselves as "look, the world is beautiful" but on the inside amount to "look at how well I can write only for people in my discipline (physics)". It was nice that this book seemed geared a bit more towards the layperson, to the extent that the layperson could keep up with the introduction and usage of ideas going along. There weren't complex formulas or formulations of normal ideas, at least not from my perspective, despite the fact that the ideas ...more
Andrew Skretvedt
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: seen-at-library
This book reads well together with Sean Carroll's "The Particle at the End of the Universe." The recent Higgs boson discovery is further validation of "The Standard Model", or what Wilczek prefers to call "Core Theory." Carroll's book takes you down the journey to get to the Higgs, while Wilczek looks deeply within core theory and reflects on what came before it to understand how we got here, what mysteries remain stubbornly unsolved, and whether the beauty and elegance of the model is a reflect ...more
May 25, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
In one sentence: Mental masturbation of a Nobel prize-winning theoretical physicist.

I have a hard time imagining who is the target of this book. A physicist with a university degree (like me)? If yes, then one will be bored and won't learn much. A science enthusiast? If yes, then they won't understand half of it (even with the appendix of explanations). Art and philosophy lovers? Maybe, but spare them 90% of the physics content of the book.

The target is unclear, the style is terrible (incoheren
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“Two obsessions are the hallmarks of Nature's artistic style:

Symmetry- a love of harmony, balance, and proportion

Economy- satisfaction in producing an abundance of effects from very limited means”
“Transient and Eternal

The state of the world is in flux, and every object within it is subject to change.

Concepts live outside of time and, because All Things Are Number, liberate us from it.”
More quotes…