PHYSICS: A Search for Simplicity, Beauty and Symmetry

Richard C. Morrison
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (1999)
Pages 221–230


From its beginnings in ancient astronomy, the goal of the science of physics has always been to find "the simple theory of everything." As conceited and naive as this goal might seem, it is a very real and current one. Physics or, as it was once called, Natural Philosophy has always been convinced that the universe must have a fundamental simple order and obey a simple, self-consistent set of rules. The history of Natural Philosophy or Physics has been most simply the search for this order and set of rules. It has also always, from the very beginnings of the science, been assumed that simplicity, perfection, order and beauty all go hand-in-hand, and all must be attributes of the underlying laws governing the universe. This paper will attempt to examine some of the ways that this underlying assumption of symmetry and order has led to discoveries of the rules our universe obeys.