Physics needs art – and vice versa

Richard Feynman’s ‘Female Posing’

Why Physics Needs Art to Help Picture the Universe

It is sometimes said that science and art are fundamentally different in their approach and their dominion, since science strives to be objective while art is inherently subjective. The science of perspective demonstrates the superficiality of such claims. With perspective, our concern is how a scene actually looks to a particular person from aspecific vantage point. It might be defined, indeed, as an objective study of subjectivity.

It is remarkable how perspective anticipates the concepts that dominate our basic understanding of Nature’s laws. Many of the central ideas of modern physics are unfamiliar to most people. They can seem abstract and forbidding if they are introduced abruptly, in the strange contexts that are their natural habitat. That’s why those of us who try to bring those ideas to a broad audience must often work in metaphors and analogies. But it’s challenging to find metaphors that are both faithful to the original ideas and readily accessible; and even more challenging to do it in a way that does justice to their beauty. I’ve struggled with that problem many times over the years. Here, I’m happy to present a solution that’s given me a real feeling of satisfaction.

Scientists are often fascinated by art – from Brainpickings’ ‘The Art of Ofey’

Richard Feynmanchampion of scientific culture, graphic novel hero, crusader for integrity, holder of the key to science, adviser of future generations, bongo player — was a surprisingly gifted semi-secret artist. He started drawing at the age of 44 in 1962, shortly after developing the visual language for his famous Feynman diagrams, after a series of amicable arguments about art vs. science with his artist-friend Jirayr “Jerry” Zorthian — the same friend to whom Feynman’s timeless ode to a flower was in response. Eventually, the two agreed that they’d exchange lessons in art and science on alternate Sundays. Feynman went on to draw — everything from portraits of other prominent physicists and his children to sketches of strippers and very, very many female nudes — until the end of his life.

Feynman - equations and sketches
Feynman – equations and sketches