NBA History of Science Seminar

Graham Farmelo, "Must It Be Beautiful?"

Graham Farmelo, Senior Research Fellow, Science Museum, London; Adjunct Professor of Physics, Northeastern University, Boston.

Last year, the book It Must Be Beautiful: Great Equations of Science, reopened the debate about the value of beauty in physics. Is it the equations of fundamental physics that will be beautiful, as many, such as Dirac and Einstein, assume? Or is it the theories that will be beautiful?

I shall review the comments I have received on this from leading theorists, following the publication of the book. I will also examine the prospects for the formulation of a beautiful 'final' theory and look at the discomforting evidence from cosmology that the picture of the universe that works best is not beautiful at all, but rather ugly.

I will conclude by relating the discussion of beauty to the new biography of Dirac that I am currently researching.