Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What is elegant about the universe?

  1. Feb 3, 2013 #1
    Brian Greene wrote the book The Elegant Universe.

    In Richard Dawkins' documentary based on his book "The God Delusion" Dawkins says that "the idea of a divine creator belittles the elegant reality" of the universe.

    This all seems like rhetoric to me.

    What is elegant about the universe?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2013 #2

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Whatever you want to be elegant. It's all personal opinion.

    Keep in mind that science says absolutely nothing about the "Elegance" of the universe. It only allows us to gather empirical evidence to test theories.
    Anything else is like a preacher yelling about how the toilets in heaven smell like rosemary. He may believe it, but that doesn't mean anyone else has to.
     
  4. Feb 3, 2013 #3

    marcus

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    :rofl:

    Just for reference:
    elegant [ˈɛlɪgənt]
    adj
    1. tasteful in dress, style, or design
    2. dignified and graceful in appearance, behaviour, etc.
    3. cleverly simple; ingenious an elegant solution to a problem
    [from Latin ēlegāns tasteful, related to ēligere to select; see elect]
    elegantly adv
    Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
    =====================
    Google gives this:

    Adjective
    Pleasingly graceful and stylish in appearance or manner.
    (of a scientific theory or solution to a problem) Pleasingly ingenious and simple.
    Synonyms
    smart - stylish - dressy - graceful - dainty - fine
    =====================
     
  5. Feb 4, 2013 #4
    Depends on your point of of view, but remember he is trying to sell books to the general public.

    If he titled the book :
    "How string theory links general relativity and quantum mechanics" or

    "What does the double slit experiment tell us about GR and QM"

    I suspect his publisher would tell him they'll sell fewer copies.

    It's actually a very good book for linking broad concepts together.
     
  6. Feb 5, 2013 #5

    Chalnoth

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Well, as the others have stated, elegant is up to personal opinion.

    However, when you compare what we now know about the history of the universe with creation accounts, once of the big differences you find is detail. Compare, for example, the few sentences in Genesis up to where the Earth is created with the following (with a caveat that we usually run the clock the other way when describing this, because the earlier it is the less we know):

    1. For the extremely early universe, we don't know all that much. The most commonly-used model is one in which the early universe was cold and empty, but undergoing an extraordinarily-rapid accelerated expansion. This may have begun with a random kink in space-time that formed in a previous universe (but we don't really know how it started).
    2. When this accelerated expansion ended, the field which drove it decayed into matter particles. But because the energy was so great, this caused the universe to become extraordinarily hot. We don't yet know just how hot, but it was certainly much hotter than anything we've produced on Earth. This event was known as, "reheating," but you might as well think of it as the 'big bang'.
    3. The expansion continued, cooling the universe down. After a few minutes, the nuclei of hydrogen and helium atoms condensed out of the hot soup, rather like water droplets condensing on a cold glass.
    4. A few hundred thousand years later, the universe became cool enough to transition from a plasma (the phase of matter that makes up flames and the Sun) to a gas. The light that was bouncing around within this plasma started to flow freely through the transparent gas. We can see this light today as the cosmic microwave background.
    5. Some places in the universe were more dense than other places, and during this time the more dense places collapsed inward, forming the first galaxies and galaxy clusters after a few hundred million years.
    6. As stars form and die, they generate heavier elements in their cores, and the heaviest elements when they explode and send those heavy elements out into the galaxy around them.
    7. New stars formed from this material of previously-exploded stars, some of them with rocky planets like our own which could form life.

    Anyway, that's just an incredibly rough description, and I missed a few major things (such as how those differences in density were set up). And there are also some details that need to be filled in (the formation of dark matter fits somewhere in the above list, for example, but nobody yet knows exactly where or how). But the point is that even this rough description is far more detailed and in-depth than any creation account.

    This, to me, is just another example of how the real universe is just far richer and more interesting than the human mind would have ever thought possible. I think it is, in a way, related to how sea creatures, and especially deep-sea creatures, are often more bizarre than any alien we see in movies or TV.
     
  7. Feb 5, 2013 #6
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook