Staircase viewed top-down to reveal Fibonacci spiral.

Why Is Physics Beautiful?

When we call physical laws “beautiful,” we mean primarily two things: they are wonderfully symmetric and wonderfully productive. And the beauty of the laws has lately become more important than ever to scientific progress.

CAMBRIDGE – The nineteenth-century physicist Heinrich Hertz once described his feeling that James Clerk Maxwell’s equations, which depict the fundamentals of electricity and magnetism, “have an independent existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are wiser…even than their discoverers, that we get more out of them than was originally put into them.” Not long after, Albert Einstein called Niels Bohr’s atomic model “the highest form of musicality in the sphere of thought.” More recently, the late Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, describing his discovery of new laws of physics, declared, “You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity.” Similar sentiments are all but universal among modern physicists.