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 beauty
beautiful, why?

In the left video clip we survey the remaining “most beautiful” experiments thus designated by the Physics World readers.

 

Now, confronting such masterpieces of scientific endeavour, why should the single electron interference be judged the most beautiful ?

 

Let us hear what the promoter of the Physics World inquiry, Robert P. Crease, has to say

 

 

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"The double-slit experiment exemplifies the wave-particle duality of light, as well as quantum physics itself. It demonstrates that light interferes with itself in passing through a pair of slits. It also shows that even single electrons - proceeding one by one - interfere. Richard Feynman is said to have remarked that it contains everything you need to know about quantum mechanics.

[...] The double-slit experiment with electrons possesses all of the aspects of beauty most frequently mentioned by readers. [...] It is transformative, being able to convince even the most die-hard sceptics of the truth of quantum mechanics. [...] the concepts are readily understandable, despite its revolutionary result. It is also deep play: the experiment stages a performance that does not occur in nature, but unfolds only in a special situation set up by human beings. In doing so, it dramatically reveals - before our very eyes - something more than was put into it.

The quantum-mechanical world is likely to remain counterintuitive to human beings, no matter how well-versed or confident we are in the theory. The double-slit electron-interference experiment brings its reality before our eyes in a dramatic, economical and materially embodied way. It is therefore likely to remain in the pantheon of beautiful experiments for a long time to come."

 

In the inside pages we shall consider some examples of how the beauty of an experiment might be perceived, interviewing both people involved in research and people not conversant with science.

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nature, science, beauty

John Keats (1795-1821)

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" Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know"

Paul Dirac (1902-1984)

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"A physical theory must possess mathematical beauty"

"…it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations than to have them fit experiment…".

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

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"I have deep faith that the principle of the universe will be beautiful and simple"

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science"

Henri Poincarè (1854-1912)

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"The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living"

Murray Gell-Mann (1929-)

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"One thing that makes the adventure of working in our field particularly rewarding, especially in attempting to improve the theory, is that [..] a chief criterion for the selection of a correct hypothesis [..] seems to be the criterion of beauty, simplicity, or elegance"

Richard Feynman (1918-1988)

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"To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature [..] If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in"

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the most beautiful experiment beautiful, why? top