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What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?

15 Jan 2012, 18:50 UTC
What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?
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Science publishing impresario John Brockman’s Edge web-site each year runs a “Question of the year” feature, with short pieces from a wide range of people providing their answer to the question. The past few years I’ve passed on their invitation to submit something, but this year the question was one that I couldn’t resist. It was “What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?” and you can read people’s answers here.
There are quite a few answers from various physicists, with General Relativity, inflation and the multiverse getting a lot of attention. To me though, the most satisfying answer to the question involves the remarkable role of symmetry principles at the foundations of both our everyday laws of mechanics and our deepest ideas about quantum mechanics. Far more so than in classical mechanics, in quantum mechanics these principles are built into the fundamental structure of the theory. This makes it clear why quantum mechanics works the way it does, and indicates that the structure of quantum mechanics is likely to always be fundamental to our understanding of the physical world, not some approximation like the classical picture. In addition, it links together fundamental physical principles and a fundamental ...

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