For centuries the beauty of the universe was seen as evidence for a divine creator. Now we are more likely to see beauty as an adornment to life, a colourful addition but at root a side-show. But might our rejection of the importance of beauty be a profound mistake? Mathematicians call on beauty to explain the quality of a proof. Cosmology and particle physics employs theories chosen for their elegance and beauty. Einstein concluded, 'the only physical theories we are willing to accept are the beautiful ones'. While we all seek beauty in key aspects of our lives, from geography to fashion, from what we eat to who we live with.
Should we conclude that beauty is not a subjective or passing cultural fashion but instead an objective and vital quality of the universe? Does the centrality of beauty tell us something about the very character of the universe and reality? Should we place the pursuit of beauty at the centre of our lives or are we right to have relegated beauty to a passing entertainment, valuable and even important but essentially superficial?
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