Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar on Beauty

“Nola Farman has so little time to read these days – so while she was working. I read out loud to her most of this article from Physics Today, December 2010. At first she objected saying,’ I have rarely seen anything on the topic that engages me’. To which I replied, ‘Aha! But this is different, it was written by a scientist. You remember how much you enjoyed reading Pierre Bordieu’s The Rules of Art – you said because of the way as an anthropologist, he carefully constructed his argument. This piece is not as complex or contemporary, but he does work up his thesis rather well. Some of his ideas might seem somewhat dated but….’ ‘OK! OK!’ she replied, ‘you’re an old fashioned kind of a guy Permangelo. Hit me with it but take the brick out of your handbag first!’ (I could see she thought that was very funny – I let it pass) and read on … ‘All of us are sensitive to Nature’s beauty. It is not unreasonable that some aspects of this beauty are shared by the natural sciences. But one may ask the question as to the extent to which the quest for beauty is an aim in the pursuit of science….’ (I could see that this had not really caught her attention – so I skipped a few passages). He quotes J.W.N Sullivan, ‘Since the primary object of the scientific theory is to express the harmonies which are found to exist in nature …’ ‘Good Grief!’ (from Nola). ‘….we see at once that these theories must have aesthetic value. The measure of the success of scientific theory is, in fact, a measure of its aesthetic value …’ ‘… since facts without laws would be of no interest, and laws without theories would have, at most, only a practical utility, we see that the motives which guide the scientific man are, from the beginning, manifestations of the aesthetic impulse … the measure in which science falls short of art is the measure in which it is incomplete in science…’ I put the journal down, because I wanted to think about it at my leisure. ‘More tomorrow if you like’. I could see that she was fast asleep sitting upright at her workbench.” Permngelo E. Regularis

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