Frank Wilczek is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist at MIT. He's kind of obsessed, in his own way, with understanding the universe. Specifically, he’s interested in what he calls “the beautiful question." Is the universe naturally, inherently beautiful?
Here's an excerpt from a print version of our conversation that ran in Nautilus.
Steve Paulson: Does it matter to a scientist if the world is beautiful?
Frank Wilcek: I don’t think science is walled off from the rest of life. So yes, it matters to me a lot whether the world is beautiful. It’s also a practical question for physicists, engineers, and designers. At the frontiers of physics, we’re dealing with realms of the very small and the very large and the very strange. Everyday experience is not a good guide and experiments can be difficult and expensive. So the source of intuition is not so much from everyday experience or from a massive accumulation of facts, but from feelings about what would give the laws of nature more inner coherence and harmony. My work has been guided by trying to make the laws more beautiful.