Beauty is truth, truth is beauty, and other lies of physics

I think it’s time we take a lesson from the history of science. Beauty does not have a good track record as a guide for theory-development. Many beautiful hypotheses were just wrong, like Johannes Kepler’s idea that planetary orbits are stacked in regular polyhedrons known as ‘Platonic solids’, or that atoms are knots in an invisible aether, or that the Universe is in a ‘steady state’ rather than undergoing expansion.

And other theories that were once considered ugly have stood the test of time.


A Scientist Must Go where the Evidence Leads

When our cherished ideas are contradicted by the facts, we must avoid the human tendency to double down on those ideas.

Impartial attention to evidence should get priority over inertia or social pressure in dictating the mainstream scientific agenda. An honest response of scientists to failed models would set an exemplar for intellectual leadership on how to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk, about revising our notions of reality when the evidence demands we must. This has implications for all aspects of life—including public policy.

The ability to refresh our models of reality over time is the trademark of wisdom. The commitment of using our best models of reality to navigate forward is the trademark of outstanding leadership.

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