Our Universe: marble or wood?

If there is any fundamental quality of nature that has eluded physicists and sparked debates of a fearful scale, it is the question as to whether the universe has a simple (beautiful) underlying principle that runs quite everything in existence.

Undoubtedly, the dream of every physicist is, as Leonard Lederman creatively summed it up, ‘…to live to see all of physics reduced to a formula so elegant and simple that it will fit easily on the front of a T-shirt.” On a serious note, this highlights the strong belief in most physicists that nature is elegance and simplicity bundled into one.

Physicist Albert Einstein likened this world to marble. In the pith his idea was that the world as we first see it would appear to the observer like wood. Various observations would seem vastly different, unpredictable and complicated. It was his strong belief that we could, on further investigation, chop off these wooden structures to reveal an inside made of marble. Marble he likened to an elegant and simple universe with predictability. Apart from the fact that wood and marble seemed, for some reason, to represent chaos and cosmos to Einstein, it was also an idea that would hold true for almost all discoveries in physics preceding, and including, relativity.

“Maybe nature is fundamentally ugly, chaotic and complicated. But if it’s like that, then I want out.”

—Steven Weinberg

From Newton’s laws to Maxwell’s equations to Einstein’s relativity, with every passing discovery we seemed to have united another chunk of our universe to form a whole; and it was as if we either found new explanations for phenomena or found that new, unexplained phenomena happened to be in coherence with previously explained processes/laws.  Continue reading