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# Beautiful, intriguing, elegant ideas

43 replies to this topic

### #1 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 12:12 AM

I would like to know what scientific ideas you have found to be stunningly beautiful, breath-taking, elegant, intriguing, inspiring.

I'll start. Kepler's Second Law of Planetary Motion. This is the one which says if the orbit of a planet around a heavier body (i.e. sun) is an ellipse, and if one considers the distance the planet travels along the ellipse in the same amount of time, but at two different parts of the ellipse; one span being near perihelion and another near aphelion, the areas "covered" will be equal.

The idea I am trying to convey, which most of the readers here already know, is much more clearly stated with an accompanying diagram. Also, some of you probably know how to just use language better to express his seminal idea more simply and clearly.

Back to the point; I think this idea is stunning. The geometry of euclidean space is such, and the nature of gravity within that space is such, that it sweeps out equal areas. Who would have thought....!!

### #2 Pess

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:49 AM

Pesse ( E=MC^2 ) Mist

### #3 FirstSight

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 10:28 AM

relativistic mass:
m® = m(0)/sqrt(1 - v^2/c^2)

Also very elegant is how e = mc^2 is directly derived from the above expression for relativistic mass; first restate the equation for relativistic mass as:

m® = m(o)*(1 - v^2/c^2)^-1/2
...using the binomial theorum to expand the above expression in a power series:
m® = m(0)(1 + 1/2(v^2/c^2) + 3/8(v^4/c^4) +....)
...which, when v is small, converges rapidly to:
m® = m(0) + 1/2 m(o)v^2(1/c^2)
...now, multiply both sides by c^2
m®c^2 = m(o)c^2 + 1/2m(0)v^2
...the last term on the right side is ordinary kinetic energy, the left term on the right side is the intrinsic energy of a body at rest. The term on the left is usually encapsulated as simply 'e', which incorporates both the intrinsic "rest" energy and kinetic energy expressions on the right.

*thanks to Feynman's "Lectures on Physics", pp 15-8 through 15-11 for providing this clear, and surprisingly straightforward mathematical explanation.

### #4 scopethis

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 02:48 PM

Og...inventing the wheel...

### #5 ColoHank

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:31 PM

The Mayan calendar...

### #6 mountain monk

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 08:55 PM

FirstSight:

I would say that the beauty of your example lies in the mathematics, not in the science, and that the line between the two is in itself interesting. I cannot think, offhand, of a scientific idea that is beautiful without it receiving a mathematical formulation. This is one of the main points of Penrose's The Road to Reality, section 34.2 (page 1014). I can think of beautiful experiments--Newton's prism--but scientific ideas...? On the other hand, mathematics is filled with beauty---IMHO. Thanks for your example.

Dark skies.

Jack

### #7 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 09:43 PM

Making fire burn downwards.

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle asserted that persons are not born morally good or bad but are taught good behavior and bad behavior. This idea was the birth of all subsequent moral education in the western world. If good behavior could be learned, it could then be taught.

To make this point Aristotle contrasted moral values with things that happened "by nature". He pointed out that things which occurred "by nature" always happened the same way regardless of how many attempts were made to change their "way"; their "habit". One example he used was that although a person could be taught to be generous, a flame could never be taught to burn downwards.

However, in his 1869 Christmas lectures to children at the Royal Institution of Great Britain entitled The Chemical History of a Candle, Michael Faraday described and executed an experiment in which the fire of a candle was induced to burn downwards.

This novel idea, experiment and description in no way affect Aristotle's ethical ideas. However they do evidence an improvement of modern science compared to the more deductive methodology of ancient science; the importance of testing assumptions such as, fire always burns upwards.

### #8 Mike Casey

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 10:25 PM

If true, the discovery of the Higgs boson.

### #9 Mister T

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 07:02 AM

NOBODY would be here discussing this if Ice didn't float....

### #10 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 01:39 PM

Two equations from Sir Isaac certainly got the ball rolling: F=ma and F=Gm1m2/d^2

Dave Mitsky

### #11 Rick Woods

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 03:31 PM

Natural Selection is one.

### #12 star drop

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 03:39 PM

e^(i*pi) = -1

### #13 saxmaneagle

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 06:03 PM

http://www.space.com...paceflight.html

### #14 Ravenous

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 10:41 AM

e^(i*pi) = -1

This is the one I was going to reply with too.

The Euler identity. A simple looking equation but it involves three fundamental constants - e, pi and i. (And 1 if you count that as a fundamental constant.)

I don't understand most of the maths behind it, but it's one of the most thought-provoking single lines of mathematics known...

### #15 deSitter

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 01:34 PM

e^(i*pi) = -1

-i^2 like

You can argue, this is the most important formula in all of science and engineering.

-drl

### #16 Rick Woods

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 02:44 PM

You can argue, this is the most important formula in all of science and engineering.

I always thought that honor belonged to the formula for beer...

### #17 scopethis

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 04:12 PM

the square root of a negative number..

### #18 EJN

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 05:53 PM

.

### #19 llanitedave

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 08:26 PM

And there was light.

### #20 deSitter

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 04:24 PM

You can argue, this is the most important formula in all of science and engineering.

I always thought that honor belonged to the formula for beer...

Zounds, I had forgot the beer.

-drl

### #21 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 11:50 AM

Demonstration of the Pythagorean Theorem using squares (actual squares) of the various sides of the various triangles created by connecting and extending lines of the sides of the original right triangle and connecting points of the original corners of the right triangle with various corner points of the original three squares or rectangles of the three sides, etc.

This demonstrated the truth of the proof not trigonometrically, or algebraically, or even with the use of the axioms and conclusions of geometry, but in a totally visual manner.

### #22 Ravenous

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 12:03 PM

Demonstration of the Pythagorean Theorem using squares (actual squares)

Can we prove (or disprove) similar for, say, cubes?

### #23 Qwickdraw

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 01:09 PM

Magic squares have always intrigued me particularly the 6X6 sided where the sum of all rows,columns and diagonals add up to 111 and the the sum of all rows or columns is 666

magic square examples

### #24 Rick Woods

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 02:34 PM

When I was small, my dad showed me a Mobius strip.
That totally blew my mind! (which probably explains a few other things.)

### #25 ColoHank

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 03:49 PM

The Golden Ratio:
a+b/a = a/b = 1.618033988...
and its reciprocal b/a = 0.618033988...

I used it quite a bit back in my cabinet-making days.

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