We tend to understand that art and science are two opposing concepts, but that is only because of the painful inability of our educational and academic system to break boundaries and stimulate interdisciplinary projects. In the hazy semantic areas of our cerebral cortex, art is the world of creativity, and science is the world of precision. Silly stuff. At the dawn of the Quattrocento, the artist, architect and scientist Filippo Brunelleschi discovered laws of perspective that not only possess mathematical precision, but have also been hailed by Nobel laureates such as Frank Wilczek as a paradigm of elegance, the pinnacle of scientific thought. It consists of finding a short and understandable description of a large number of hitherto unrelated phenomena.
Looking at the same issue from the opposite perspective, physicists often consider Einstein's general relativity to be a work of art. The theory says – in an insurmountable linguistic equation by physicist John Archibald Wheeler – that matter tells space how to bend, and space tells matter how to move. It is the gravitational theory that surpassed Newton's by many decimals in predicting what happens in the cosmos – time and space expand or contract, propagate gravitational waves and form black holes – and constitutes one of the major milestones history scientists. But it is also a work of art, triggered more by imagination than by observation, endowed with a self-consistency similar to that of a great novel or a perfect painting. Relativity is the Meninas of science.
Music has had an intimate relationship with science since the prehistory of both disciplines. Some cuneiform tablets show that the ancient Mesopotamians already knew what we now call the Pythagorean scale (do re mi fa sol la si do… and start over). This scale is the universal foundation of all music, and it is obtained with algorithms of insulting simplicity, such as dividing the string to two-thirds of its length and repeating seven times (for musicians: start with F). The experiment of Pythagoras, or the forgotten Mesopotamian who did it, shows that our aesthetic experience is based on mathematics.
Relativity is the 'Meninas' of science
The result is so astonishing that Pythagoras and his sect overreached and invented a religion, in case any more was needed, known as the harmony of the spheres, which tried to apply these simple numerical relationships to the Solar System. That was a disaster. The point is that 'yes' there are simple numerical principles that govern the solar system, such as Kepler's laws, but Pythagoras could not have discovered them in his time, even less believing that the Earth was the center of the universe.
Long before Pythagoras
The harmony of the spheres is not a beautiful theory, among other things because it is wrong. The beauty of our solar system lies in Kepler's laws and their interpretation by Newton. It is an aesthetic that cannot be appreciated with the naked eye, but with high school mathematics. Let the artists come back.
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