Scientific aesthetics

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The science aesthetics examines the aesthetic dimension of scientific processes. Science produces numerous images, films, but also noises of an aesthetic character. In a broader sense, scientific theories and findings also have aesthetic properties. Even creative scientific work has some similarities to the creative process of artistic creation .

Galaxies captured by the Hubble telescope

Aesthetic Motives Within Science

Many mathematicians , physicists or biologists find similarities between scientific and artistic activities . That includes

  • the elegance of mathematical and physical laws and relationships (e.g. the golden ratio with its fascinating mathematical properties)
  • the wealth of forms in the animal and plant world

In addition, any form of images that "aestheticize" the respective science:

The aesthetic dimension of science as a whole

Proponents of this approach believe that aesthetics is not an aesthetic side aspect, not an epiphenomenon of science, but an essential prerequisite. Science is just as inconceivable as art without an aesthetic sensibility. Physicists in particular often hold this conviction. The physicist Paul Dirac said that it is more important that equations that are developed are beautiful than that they adapt to the results of his experiments. The mathematician Roger Penrose, on the other hand, is convinced that the correctness of a theory is related to its beauty. In general, this approach turns against the old idea that aesthetics as a "sensual form of knowledge" is the opposite of " rationality " - on the contrary, mathematical rationality could be highly aesthetic. The physicist Sabine Hossenfelder appeared as a particular critic of the approach , for whom the aesthetic suggestion in basic research leads to retention of personnel and bad investments.

However, aesthetic motifs can be found in all sciences. Some historians of science investigate the aesthetic properties of theories. The science historian James W. McAllister establishes a connection between aesthetic development and the so-called paradigm shift , as described by Thomas S. Kuhn .

"Art forms of nature" according to Haeckel

Similarities and differences between scientific and artistic aesthetics

Scientists often deal with objects whose shapes have an aesthetic character. The biologist and natural philosopher Ernst Haeckel demonstrated this using the example of his “art forms of nature”. Similar aesthetic objects can be found in biology in many other disciplines, from mathematics to mineralogy to geography and astronomy. Historical maps or anatomical maps already show that the artistic component of scientific creation is not a new phenomenon, but that it has accompanied science from the beginning. Conversely, artists were repeatedly inspired by scientific knowledge, such as MC Escher or René Binet (1866–1911). The aestheticization of scientific knowledge is evident today not least in elaborately designed illustrated books and calendars with scientific motifs.

Despite the parallels between art and science, there are some differences, especially when it comes to the applied aesthetic criteria. This is what the philosopher Nelson Goodman pointed out. So artistic works are characterized by "abundance": every detail counts. Everything that can be perceived in a work of art can become the object of judgment. Nobody is satisfied with a piece of music in which the melody is recognizable “in principle”, and nobody judges a painting according to whether it represents an object “essentially” correctly. It is different with scientific works: When evaluating a scientific article, the abstract content counts: the statements must be plausible, the text understandable and the graphics drawn correctly, but it is not important in which font the text is printed or whether the lines in the graphics are red or blue, dashed or dotted, as long as they basically reflect the relationships correctly. Linguistic style is also of secondary importance when evaluating a scientific theory - in contrast to a poem or a novel.

Science poetry

The aesthetic dimension of science is also expressed in lyrical works that explicitly deal with science and science-related topics. In German-speaking countries, this includes volumes of poetry such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger's "The Elixirs of Science" and Gábor Paál's "Poetry is Logic". The most prominent science lyricist in the Anglo-Saxon region is the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Roald Hoffmann . Hoffmann sees many parallels between science and poetry: Both work with very artificial, condensed forms of expression in which accuracy is important. Both require a certain skill. Similar motifs can also be observed in scientists and poets.

Science and pop culture: science slams, music videos, etc. a.

Science slams usually do not have a lyrical format, although they owe their creation to the poetry slams . In science slams, scientists try to get the audience enthusiastic about their own research in a short, understandable, entertaining and original way. Similar to the Poetry Slams, there are now numerous competitions here. Scientific content is also aesthetically processed in music videos. An example of this is the series "Symphony of Science" by US composer John Boswell. With the advent of social networks, popular websites have established themselves that combine scientific curiosities with aesthetic motifs. One of the best-known is IFLScience ("I fucking love Science"), which has more than 15 million subscribers on Facebook alone (as of 2014).


Science poetry
  • Hans Magnus Enzensberger: The Elixirs of Science - Side Glances in Poetry and Prose . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt, 2002.
  • Gábor Paál: Poetry is logic - poems from science . Geest-Verlag, Vechta, 2009.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Gábor Paál: Oh, how beautiful is science from: "What is beautiful? Aesthetics and knowledge"  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF file; 94 kB)@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  2. ^ Sabine Hossenfelder: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray. SFI Community Lecture 2018. In: YouTube. Santa Fe Institute, August 28, 2018, accessed October 15, 2019 .
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