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February 25, 2008

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The beauty of physics

February 6, 2008

“Every time you see a beautiful woman, just remember, somebody got tired of her”

    -Anonymous

I just finished reading “Some time with Feynman” by Leonard Mlodinow. Its not outstanding -if you expect a lot of time with Feynman- but thats not the point here. A part of it deals with the “friendship” between Gell-Mann and Feynman, who shared a corridor back than at Calltech.

Gell-Mann uses mathematical concepts to trace physics. You can tell from the few passages dedicated to him that his idea of pleasing physical theories are connected to a spotless mathematical background. I guess most of us share this feeling. At the time Gell-Mann was the mentor of a young guy named John Schwarz who worked on a crazy new idea called string theory. Little to nothing was speaking for that theory except for mathematical beauty. Arguably that has changed by now (not that I knew), but the evolution of string theory tells us that many of us are attracted by mathematical elegance , even if its the only argument (otherwise…why the hell wouldn’t it be refused in the beginning? ).

Feynman did refuse it. He is quoted by Mlodinow (not literally): ” The only thing this theory predicts are 10 dimensions. I can only see 4.” Feynman was special in the way that he couldn’t take much pleasure from ideas which depart from physical facts , whether they are (mathematical) beautiful or not. He even stated that it could be dangerous to treat physics with mathematical rigor , if the physical side lacks rigorous definitions from the start. That is, the physical in-put is not clear-cut (read the first chapter of Feynman Lectures on Gravitation). Maybe “beautiful” had another meaning to him and maybe thats an approach to successful physics.

Here is a great talk of Murray Gell-Mann at TED where he explains his concept of beauty. Its a very controversial point of view. Enjoy!


Hej

January 18, 2008

My name is Martin Bauer, I study physics at the Gutenberg university in mainz . At the time I work on my diploma thesis in Matthias Neuberts group. Our main interest is to squeeze out some measurable results of the Randall-Sundrum model.

Aside from that I assist Florian Scheck , who gives a lecture in general relativity.

I create this blog to add some additional information for the students which attend the GR course, but I will also comment the daily seminar talks and hopefully discuss some ideas (not exclusivly physics) with the few who stumble over this page. And if some of my group members want to add some thoughts they are of course invited.

Have fun and don´t mind my poor english. As long as you get the point…;)