No, The Universe is NOT Simple Elegance

The striving towards simple elegance in science sometimes takes us away from the terrible reality of life’s irreducible complexity.

That’s the thinking behind an article that outlines how the “elegant” universe model has been dismantled, leaving us with an uncertain complexity regarding the nature of the universe’s very existence.

 

The Scientific Failure Of The Original Elegant Universe

There is a temptation towards reductionism in physics: to describe as much as possible with as little as possible. The idea that there exists a theory of everything, or a single theory that can predict and describe everything that can be predicted or described in the Universe to the maximum possible accuracy, is the ultimate dream of a great many scientists. Yet there is no guarantee, even in principle, that it’s possible for such a dream to come true. As famed physicist Lincoln Wolfenstein put it:

The lesson from Kepler is not that we must refrain from asking what seem to be fundamental questions; the lesson is that we cannot know whether there is any simple answer or where it may come from.

Elegance, beauty, and reductionism may offer some tremendous opportunities for successfully predicting new physical phenomena, but there’s no guarantee these predictions will be borne out in reality. When it comes to uncovering the next great breakthrough in fundamental science, our hopes and dreams that we’ll be closer to a unified theory of everything through mathematical beauty and additional symmetry is a common one, but is no sure thing. May we all be as open to whatever the data tells us as Kepler was, and be willing to follow it, no matter where it leads.

Astrophysicist and author Ethan Siegel is the founder and primary writer of Starts With A Bang! His books, Treknology and Beyond The Galaxy, are available wherever books are sold.

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Paul Gordon is the publisher and editor of iState.TV. He has published and edited newspapers, poetry magazines and online weekly magazines. He is the director of Social Cognito, an SEO/Web Marketing Company. You can reach Paul at pg@istate.tv