Just happened to come across this new piece of research in Digg.com. And memory raced back to the days of reading “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman“. I still remember buying that book cheaper from one of the ill-fated bookstalls in the 1997 Kolkata Book Fair. It was sold cheap the day after the fire because of a little black spot in one corner of the back cover. And for me and a friend of mine, in those days when buying English paperbacks in Kolkata was a luxury still and we were students with little money and many choices, it was a boon. We heard about the book for sometimes, but couldn’t manage to find it in college libraries. And not having the cult-book for Feynman-fans was a shame. We engulfed the content within a few days (yes, we were slow readers!) and shrugged the shame off. And the mark of that one book is still visible, but ain’t that obvious, for all that its worth, we’re talking about Mr. Feynman!
He always talked about the beauty of nature and the pleasure of finding things out. His books and his articles (which were later compiled as some of the best-seller paperbacks) have demonstrated his way of thinking and analysis (with some leaps sometimes, which you’ll have to keep for genius physicists like him) quite a number of times. I still recall reading about how his father taught him about nature, the basics of physics, the way to analyse things and look beyond the obvious, and intrigued him to such extent that, before he was even a teenager, his fate was hopelessly sealed with science. And boy, wasn’t that a blessing for the rest of the world! The concept that immediately made me relate Feynman’s old memoirs with this digg reading was his statement about how a poet saw a flower – for its beauty alone, and how as a physicist he saw a flower – for appreciation not only for the beauty, but also for the beauties of the photo-chemical reactions and of the structures of complex molecules inside the flower which constructed the said “visible” beauty.
One can wonder why did it have to be beautiful? A complex molecule reacting with the light – refracting it, reflecting it, absorbing some parts of the spectral frequencies, and bouncing some parts off – why did it have to be such that was liked by human eyes? Strangely, now that I have typed the sentence above, the parts of the spectral frequencies reflected off by the flower happened to be the part that will be absorbed by our eyes and would be considered as nice color! How wonderful is the design of Nature! A set of mathematical models simulated by a computer resembles the way Nature constructs the snowflakes – again the beauty of physical, chemical, mathematical rules and ways unfold in front of our eyes as “beautiful” structures. Why do we love it? Why do we not hate it? Why do we love symmetry and parity? Why does an electrical signal running along our nerve-fibres create a sense of “beauty”, for that matter, when observing things with certain color, certain shape, and in context with certain other things (For example, if we see a ground of dark blue plants with black flowers – will we like it? On the other hand, if the plants were completely yellow, and flowers black – probably that would be more acceptable?), while creating a sense of “repulsion” for certain other combinations of the same?
Too many why’s – too less answers. I know some research has taken place / is taking place along these lines. Perhaps fields like A.I. and the Physics of Mind have to get married to get the world the final answers to these – perhaps the day will come when we will not only simulate the snowflake, but also an artificially intelligent response to the simulated design like: “You call it a snowflake? Seriously?”