A Beautiful Question by Frank Wilczek

A Beautiful Question

Does the universe embody beautiful ideas?Artists as well as scientists throughout human history have pondered this “beautiful question.” With Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek as your guide, embark on a voyage of related discoveries, from Plato and Pythagoras up to the present. Wilczek’s groundbreaking work in quantum physics was inspired by his intuition to look for a deeper order of beauty in nature. In fact, every major advance in his...

Details A Beautiful Question

TitleA Beautiful Question
Release DateJul 14th, 2015
PublisherPenguin Press
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Physics, Philosophy, History, Mathematics, Art

Reviews A Beautiful Question

  • David
    The beautiful question is, whether the laws of physics are based on beauty; are they simple, symmetric, proportioned and economical. Wilczek is a Nobel-Prize winner in physics. Regardless of whether physics is based on beauty, Wilczek has written a beautiful book. His style of writing is excellent, and the book is graced with plenty of engrossing diagrams and color illustrations.The earliest astronomers tried to make the orbits of the planets sim...
  • Mark Hebwood
    Fighting it...Oh wow. Reading this book was quite an experience. For one thing, to a person with no grounding in particle physics beyond what was included in a school curriculum (that person is me, and there was very little), reading speed is best described by reference to a log-scale: I read the first batch in a day, the second in 2 days, the third in 4, the fourth ... . But more fundamentally than that, I struggled with the book on a deeper lev...
  • Max
    Wilczek shows the correspondence between physics and art focusing on their use of symmetry. He explains that symmetry lies at the heart of the relationship between numbers and form and even perception. He reviews the importance of symmetry in the history of physics. Wilczek uses analogies, pictures and diagrams rather than equations to explain concepts. But make no mistake this is a serious physics book. Wilczek is a Nobel Prize winning physicist...
  • Jimmy Ele
    I loved this book. It truly made me appreciate Pythagoras, Plato, Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein's insights a lot more. It is very easy to comprehend and comes replete with great pictures that help the reader visualize the beautiful ideas that are embodied in Nature's Deep Design (ElectroMagnetism, Gravity, Weak and Strong Force, Light, Sound, Geometry etc.) One of my favorite chapters was the chapter on the physics behind light and the color spec...
  • Gary
    I had stopped reading popular science books because most of the new ones had nothing to say or they ended up in the land of woo. This book does neither. This book can work for any audience. The artist will appreciate the beauty that the universe gives to us through its harmony of concordance, the obsessive reader of science books (as I used to be) will love the fact that the author takes one way beyond what they thought they knew and the PhD in p...
  • Charlene
    This book, at its core is about beauty in nature and the power of that beauty to serve as a criterion for determining if a theory is true. Can we use beauty as a guide to discover the laws of the universe? It's a great question. Wilczek points out the trouble the beauty criterion has caused from time to time, e.g. Kepler's beautiful, but wrong, theory about planetary orbits. In the end, Wilczek thinks beauty is a reliable indicator of reality. Th...
  • Patrick
    (Disclaimer: I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.)While the "question" Wilczek explores in this book is a compelling one, its pull is somewhat diminished by the foregone nature of the book's conclusion: Wilczek himself declares that quantum theory is a "definite answer 'yes'" just 8 pages in. With the drama of the hunt somewhat deflated by this bizarre spoiler, Beautiful Question goes from the advertised quest to something more lik...
  • Clarissa Feio
    I do not come from a scientific background, and this is the first popular science book I read in the last 15 years, so it was definitely a challenge. I happened to come across this book in a book shop, and I fell in love with the premise. Naturally I was not able to understand everything Frank Wilczek wrote about, especially towards the end of the book, but did my best because I felt the book was worthwhile. I took copious notes and I learned a l...
  • Christopher Willey
    I had a conversation with a friend, he just so happens to be an astrophysicist. I felt like I was stepping all over my pud while talking with him. I didn't understand so much about so many things. That's ok. To ask explore your ignorance is important to me, but the lovely thing is that I do t know enough to make assumptions- so my questions are thrilling. It's silly, but true!This books explains graspable concepts like QCD theory, ideal to real, ...
  • Chris Kelly
    This book (styled as a "meditation" by the author) aims to answer a single question: does the universe embody beautiful concepts? And while I readily agree with Wilczek's answer (yes! Undoubtedly, yes!), his explanation of why leaves much to be desired. The opening chapters dealing with Pythagoras and Plato were an entertaining read to be sure but the book quickly descends into a quagmire of theoretical physics crossed with quasi-philosophical po...
  • Sinem
    Kesinlikle okunmasini tavsiye ettigim muhtesem bir kitap. Fizik,bilim,sanat ve felsefe bir arada o kadar guzel islenmis ki bu kitap da, herkesde ve her yerde yakalayanamayacak bakis acilari sunuyor.Fizik'de temel parcaciklarin aciklandigi Standard Model teorisinin otesine Higgs parcaciginin kesfi ile gecilmeye baslandi. Karanlik maddeye de bir yanit getiren Supersimetri teorisi suan CERN'de ki LHC deneyinde arastirilan cok onemli Standard Model o...
  • Tom
    A lot more theoretical particle physics than I was expecting so I only grasped the basics. It did help answer some of my questions about the theory of relativity.
  • Phil
    learned alot but also felt very stupid. so hard to wrap my brain around how intelligent some people are...fascinating though
  • Helen Z
    Got a bit esoteric at the end, but I still enjoyed the book and appreciated the author's enthusiasm about science. Some topics that stayed with me: musings on how the physical processes that translate sound waves into music in our brains may impact how beautiful we interpret the music to be; that light beams of different spectral colors are alternatively the same color viewed at different relative speeds; artistic analogies (involving perspective...
  • Dan
    The two things worth buying this book for are the event timeline and the definition sections. The definitions of 5% normal matter, 27% dark matter, and 68% dark energy are most interesting. Also important are the symmetry and super-symmetry concepts which predict the existence of more quantum particles.
  • Mansoor
    One of the most engaging books I've ever read (in terms of the content). Also masterfully written and structured.
  • JL
    Not my cup of tea. Esoteric, at times incomprehensible. Much too metaphorical for my taste.
  • Brenda Schneider
    This book took time for me to read and think about. It was a great read and I will think about things differently from now on. I received this book through goodreads first reads.
  • SJ Loria
    A Beautiful Question is a Damn Good Book“We have learned to work from symmetry towards truth”Isn’t it awesome when you discuss a topic with someone and they are knowledgeable and excited about the topic? There are few books, and few thinkers, who are able to combine different realms of knowledge into a cohesive package. Allow a grand simplification but books in the science camp are often dull and dry. Books in the liberal arts realm soft an...
  • Bryan Higgs
    I am finding this book a difficult one to review. I should preface my remarks by telling you that I have a Ph.D. in experimental elementary particle physics from 1973, after which I left physics for the computer field. When I retired in 2008, I decided to try to catch up with what has happened in elementary particle physics since my time in physics. As a result, I have read a large number of laymen's books on physics (and mathematics -- principal...
  • Danielle Bessette
    This book explores what physicist Frank Wilczek calls "the beautiful question": does the universe embody (as in, physically manifest) beautiful ideas? En route to his answer, Wilczek gives a crash-course in physics from Pythagoras and Plato to modern day quantum mechanics. Written in an accessibly poetic scientific vernacular, he brings the music of physics, philosophy, art, chemistry, and biology into concert via symmetry, which seems to be syno...
  • Matt Nunez
    I picked up this book as an artist and an environmentalist, enticed by the premise behind it. Naturally, it was a challenge to stay focused through the physics lessons this book offered, but I’m proud of the fact that I grasped the gist of it, let alone finished it. I was particularly fascinated by the “Doors of Perception” meditation on the work of Maxwell, and found this one chapter worth getting through the whole book for. The “Quantum...
  • Karen Lu
    this book, written by a Nobel Prize winning physicist, can best be described as a meditation on a single idea: whether the universe embodies beautiful ideas. he seeks a specific definition of beauty, one that combines the meanings of symmetry and reality. over the course of his meditation he takes us on a historical journey of thought in the field of physics, one with his own ramblings and suppositions inserted. i appreciated that he chose to mak...
  • Alex Telfar
    Was ok. I did learn a few things about physics that I didn't already know. And the history of physics is quite interesting.What really bugged me was the lack of math. - We spent a couple of chapters on the Maxwell equations of electrodynamics and never saw the governing equations...- We never formally covered the local galilean transform.This book did remind me of the beauty of our current theories. But in general added little.
  • Matthew
    This turned out to be a decent little survey book, but I never felt that the authors central argument was convincingly proven. The whole premise sort of begs the question. Nature is the way that it is because it is beautiful? But we are part of nature, and our facility for judging beauty is created by nature. We find the organized phenomena of the natural world beautiful because our brains are made to do so, not because they have some inherent, o...
  • Franz
    Very well written, many beautiful illustrations, Wilcek is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who shows how some of physics' deepest discoveries resemble some of the speculations of the Pythagoreans and Plato. I intend to reread this book in the near future. It has the best descriptions of particle physics for the layman that I have encountered. If you are interested in modern physics, a bit of its history, and its links to philosophy, this is the b...
  • Sayan
    Very interesting and deep question and some insights, e.g., simple rules of behavior give rise to stronger symmetries, fewer bits needed to encode major chords, etc. But, why 200+ page account of history of physics? Most of that was unnecessary. Giving up for now after reading 50%, will hopefully return later.
  • Haroon
    Fascinating read - but it's often too dense for the non-expert. Still, there is a wealth of insight available here; thought-provoking and intriguing. I'm not sure how this isn't a proof for God too but hey that's me.
  • Aaron
    Wow, what a fun and challenging voyage. I need to re-read the last third, but a fascinating update on the basics that I recall learning as to the foundational particles and their interactions/forces. Very enjoyable but requires clear time to digest.