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A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  740 ratings  ·  103 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: science, philosophy
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
Nov 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Clarissa Feio
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 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.
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
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
Sinem Salva
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kesinlikle okunmasini tavsiye ettigim muhtesem bir kitap. Fizik,bilim,sanat ve felsefe bir arada o kadar guzel islenmis ki bu kitap da, herkesde ve her yerde yakalayanamayacak bakis acilari sunuyor.
Fizik'de temel parcaciklarin aciklandigi Standard Model teorisinin otesine Higgs parcaciginin kesfi ile gecilmeye baslandi. Karanlik maddeye de bir yanit getiren Supersimetri teorisi suan CERN'de ki LHC deneyinde arastirilan cok onemli Standard Model otesi teorilerden. Supersimetriyi Sokrat-oncesi fiz
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
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
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.
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.
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Not my cup of tea. Esoteric, at times incomprehensible. Much too metaphorical for my taste.
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.
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
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
Bryan Higgs
I am finding this book a difficult one to review.

I should preface my remarks by telling you that I have a Ph.D. in experimental elementary particle physics from 1973, after which I left physics for the computer field. When I retired in 2008, I decided to try to catch up with what has happened in elementary particle physics since my time in physics. As a result, I have read a large number of laymen's books on physics (and mathematics -- principally on Symmetry, which we were not taught during my
Danielle Bessette
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
This book explores what physicist Frank Wilczek calls "the beautiful question": does the universe embody (as in, physically manifest) beautiful ideas? En route to his answer, Wilczek gives a crash-course in physics from Pythagoras and Plato to modern day quantum mechanics. Written in an accessibly poetic scientific vernacular, he brings the music of physics, philosophy, art, chemistry, and biology into concert via symmetry, which seems to be synonymous with "beautiful." That is what bothered me ...more
Matt Nunez
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book as an artist and an environmentalist, enticed by the premise behind it. Naturally, it was a challenge to stay focused through the physics lessons this book offered, but I’m proud of the fact that I grasped the gist of it, let alone finished it. I was particularly fascinated by the “Doors of Perception” meditation on the work of Maxwell, and found this one chapter worth getting through the whole book for. The “Quantum Beauty” chapters were very challenging to get through and ...more
Karen Lu
this book, written by a Nobel Prize winning physicist, can best be described as a meditation on a single idea: whether the universe embodies beautiful ideas. he seeks a specific definition of beauty, one that combines the meanings of symmetry and reality. over the course of his meditation he takes us on a historical journey of thought in the field of physics, one with his own ramblings and suppositions inserted. i appreciated that he chose to make physics accessible to the general reader (even s ...more
Danil Boukhvalov
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Listened this book two times and will do it more.
I totally agree with my Teacher that popular science books should be written only by the scientists. And this book is the brilliant example. At the first glance nothing new, just a brief history of science. “Wait what!?” There is some new details, a new angle of view, new piece of puzzle. And voilà! New vision! And larger part os this within ‘school physics’. Another important issue of this book is the very gentle discussion of the entanglement of
Alex Telfar
Jun 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Was ok. I did learn a few things about physics that I didn't already know. And the history of physics is quite interesting.

What really bugged me was the lack of math.
- We spent a couple of chapters on the Maxwell equations of electrodynamics and never saw the governing equations...
- We never formally covered the local galilean transform.

This book did remind me of the beauty of our current theories. But in general added little.
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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…