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Chen Ning Yang on Aesthetics and Physics


Beauty is a form that people are always in pursuit for, while physics is an objective law that requires people to explore. It seems that they have nothing to do with each other. But in the eyes of Chen Ning Yang, the Nobel laureate in physics and the world celebrated physicist, beauty and physics are quite closely related with each other.

April 26, Yang made this remark in the open air of Tsinghua University. Nearly 2,000 students listened to him and were charmed away by his inspiring speech.

Yang said that he ever hit upon such an idea, when he was very young, as how to make a man who had never studied physics to understand how a scholar really felt when he discovered a certain law in physics.

He said, people may get to know the authors by appreciating their music-pieces or reading their literary works. That is because these works are different in styles. To ordinary people, science is to study facts. Fact is a fact. There's no style about it at all. Actually it's not like this, said Yang. Physics is to study structures of the matter in the nature. There is a difference of beauty and wonderfulness in it. Different researchers have different feelings and experiences, and every one will eventually come to have ones own method and approach to it. That is ones style.

He pointed out that to differentiate things by instincts is a very important ability for a scientist to achieve success. Citing an example, he said, Einstein had never engaged in the study of mathematics but devoted himself to physics. That is because Einstein found out that his ability in math study by instincts was no better than that on physics.

He put it in a nutshell by saying that the description of physics makes the complicated phenomena in the nature offer people a very accurate sensation. And the beauty of physics lies in its solemnity, mystery and horrified feelings when people come to confront the nature's strength for the first time.

Yang summed up the relationship between beauty and physics in one word that structures of things in the world of nature are very beautiful and subtle and my study on physics over the years have helped me realize its beauty.

He explained that as a physicist, he is not only interested in physics, but also has a wide range of interests in literature and history. He said that life is so wonderful and colorful, talking with friends in the field of literature and history can increase my inspiration and aspiration for life.

(People's Daily 04/29/2001)

In This Series

Chen Ning Yang: China's Sci-tech Development Surprising

Sci-tech Development and Educational Reform Expounded

China to Have Nobel Prize Winner Within 20 Years

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