Elegance in Science: The beauty of simplicity

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9780199578627: Elegance in Science: The beauty of simplicity

We usually associate a sense of elegance with art or fashion design, poetry or dance, but the idea of elegance is surprisingly important in science as well. The use of the term is most apparent in the "elegant proofs" of mathematics--which Bertrand Russell once described as "capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show"--but as Ian Glynn reveals in this fascinating new book, the idea of elegance is essential to scientists working in all fields.

Glynn draws on a wide range of examples that demonstrate the elegance of science, from Pythagoras' theorem and Archimedes' proof to Kepler's Laws, the experiments that demonstrated the nature of heat, and the several extraordinary episodes that led to Watson and Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA. Scientists often share a sense of admiration and excitement on hearing of an elegant solution to a problem, an elegant theory, or an elegant experiment. For scientists, as for artists, elegance implies beauty, simplicity, clarity, and proportion; the elegant solution has a kind of stunning and unalterable rightness that inspires wonder and awe. The idea of elegance may seem strange in a discipline that prides itself on objectivity, but only if science is regarded as a dull activity of counting and measuring. It is, of course, far more than that, and Glynn shows precisely how and why elegance is a fundamental aspect of the beauty and imagination involved in scientific activity. An elegant solution may not always be a correct one, Glynn cautions, but elegance is deeply related to important philosophical issues of inference and best explanation.

Written with the same clarity and elegant simplicity it describes, Elegance in Science explores an often overlooked but profoundly important aspect of scientific discovery.

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About the Author:


Ian Glynn is Professor Emeritus of Physiology, University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. A member of the Royal Society and an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the author of An Anatomy of Thought: The Origins and Machinery of the Mind.

Review:


"A joy to read and Glynn, an eminent University of Cambridge physiologist, really knows his stuff. He tells it how it is with great clarity, good humor and a remarkably light touch."--New Scientist


"With a flair for elegant writing, Glynn sets out on a journey through many fields of science...[and] should give laypersons, casual readers, and some students an enjoyable, worthwhile read."--CHOICE


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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2010. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The idea of elegance in science is not necessarily a familiar one, but it is an important one. The use of the term is perhaps most clear-cut in mathematics - the elegant proof - and this is where Ian Glynn begins his exploration. Scientists often share a sense of admiration and excitement on hearing of an elegant solution to a problem, an elegant theory, or an elegant experiment. The idea of elegance may seem strange in a field of endeavour that prides itself in its objectivity, but only if science is regarded as a dull, dry activity of counting and measuring. It is, of course, far more than that, and elegance is a fundamental aspect of the beauty and imagination involved in scientific activity. Ian Glynn, a distinguished scientist, selects historical examples from a range of sciences to draw out the principles of science, including Kepler s Laws, the experiments that demonstrated the nature of heat, and the action of nerves, and of course the several extraordinary episodes that led to Watson and Crick s discovery of the structure of DNA. With a highly readable selection of inspiring episodes highlighting the role of beauty and simplicity in the sciences, the book also relates to important philosophical issues of inference, and Glynn ends by warning us not to rely on beauty and simplicity alone - even the most elegant explanation can be wrong. Bookseller Inventory # AOP9780199578627

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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2010. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The idea of elegance in science is not necessarily a familiar one, but it is an important one. The use of the term is perhaps most clear-cut in mathematics - the elegant proof - and this is where Ian Glynn begins his exploration. Scientists often share a sense of admiration and excitement on hearing of an elegant solution to a problem, an elegant theory, or an elegant experiment. The idea of elegance may seem strange in a field of endeavour that prides itself in its objectivity, but only if science is regarded as a dull, dry activity of counting and measuring. It is, of course, far more than that, and elegance is a fundamental aspect of the beauty and imagination involved in scientific activity. Ian Glynn, a distinguished scientist, selects historical examples from a range of sciences to draw out the principles of science, including Kepler s Laws, the experiments that demonstrated the nature of heat, and the action of nerves, and of course the several extraordinary episodes that led to Watson and Crick s discovery of the structure of DNA. With a highly readable selection of inspiring episodes highlighting the role of beauty and simplicity in the sciences, the book also relates to important philosophical issues of inference, and Glynn ends by warning us not to rely on beauty and simplicity alone - even the most elegant explanation can be wrong. Bookseller Inventory # AOP9780199578627

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