The Beautiful Invisible: Exploring Physics, Fiction, and Reality

3 credits


College of Arts and Science

This course explores the conceptual structure of modern physics from a humanistic perspective. Rather than describing the natural world “as it is”, physical science weaves some key observations in a convincing and memorable narrative. It is not within its power to explain reality, but it can make it understandable, sometimes even predictable. Due to the presence of internal and external constraints, physical theories are akin to myths, i.e., fiction created by many authors over an extended period of time. The mythical character of a theory does not diminish its scientific validity – quite the contrary. Convincing myths are not easily found and better observations demand better myths. The mythical content of the theory is not some extraneous content that we introduce for the sake of popularization, but an essential part of the science itself.