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Nov 14, 2000 09:41 AM
by Eugene Carpenter
This is a beautiful epiloque by Roger G. Newton from his 1993 Harvard published book, WHAT MAKES NATURE TICK.
He seems to have written a wonderful book explaining the mathematical essence of modern physics for those who seem tobe outside looking into the field. The epiloque is good evidence that one can speak from the heart using language forms that scientists understand and without resort to the symbolic language of "esoterics".
In this book we have explored some parts of the elaborate structure of physics built by the imagination of many scientists in the course of the last 400 years. Although this structure has an impressive, if imperfect coherence, it should not be considered as a revelation of the ultimate "truth" about nature.
Science is not holy scripture, nor do its practitioners consider themselves priests protecting a glittering grail, forever unchanging and pure. What drives scientists on is the thirst to UNDERSTAND more than to USE(capitals are mine, EC) nature, to build rather that to exploit a comprehensible universe.
The future will, no doubt, bring many surprises, revealing some of our present ideas to be flawed or incomplete, but sciencemust be a contiinuing activity; once its creativity is exhausted, our civilization will crumble and and we will return to the dark ages. It cannot be sustained by technological ingenuity alone or by a routine search for and classification of more and more observations and phenomena.
I have endeavored to demonstrate that science, at the most fundamental level, is very far from being merely an efficient enumeration of experimental facts and empirical rules, nor is its structure simply determined by induction from observations. To think of it onlyas an orderly collection of intriguing and useful bits of information is to misunderstand its cultural value and its fascination altogether. Science is, in fact, an intricate edifice erected from complex, imaginative designsin which esthetics is a more powerful incentive than utility. Beauty, finally, comprises its greatest intellectual appeal.
This seems a good example of someone who'sabstract mind is alive and well and living in Roger Newton.