The Beauty Of Equations


20151201Jim Al-Khalili and fellow physicists explain why they think equations are beautiful.

Jim al-Khalili was sitting in a lecture at the University of Surrey when he suddenly understood the power of equations to describe and predict the physical world. He recalls that sadly his enthusiasm was lost on many of his fellow students.

Jim wants to persuade the listeners that equations have a beauty. In conversation with fellow scientists he reveals the surprising femotions they feel when describing the behaviour of matter in the universe in mathematical terms.

For Carlos Frenk, Professor of Computational Cosmology at Durham University, one of the most beautiful equations is the one that is at the heart of Einstein's theory of general relativity. A century ago, Einstein wrote down his now famous field equations that linked the shape of the universe to the matter in it.

For Jim, it's Dirac's equation that explains how the electron behaves.

And Jim discovers that although mathematics goes back centuries it was only in the 17th century that it was applied to the real world. Historian of science at Cambridge University, Dr Patricia Fara, explains that before Newton scientific observations were described in words not algebra.