Friday, 16 July 2010

Dirac: Elegance is more important than empirical fit

Scientific American has re-printed a 1963 article by Paul Dirac, The Evolution of the Physicist's Picture of Nature, in which he says: "It is more important to have beauty in one's equations than to have them fit experiment." The sentiment expressed here by Paul Dirac, the celebrated quantum physicist, isn't that surprising to those who recall Einstein's famous quote:
Reporter: What would you do if the measurements of bending starlight at the 1919 eclipse contradicted his general theory of relativity?

Einstein: Then I would feel sorry for the good Lord. The theory is correct.
In all, the article provides an enjoyable glimpse into the mind of a great scientist, showing that scientists do not always think and operate the way we expect them.

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