Labyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science (Mit Press)
The scientific quest seen as a search for nature's secrets.
Nature has secrets, and it is the desire to uncover them that motivates the scientific quest. But what makes these secrets secret? Is it that they are beyond human ken? that they concern divine matters? And if they are accessible to human seeking, why do they seem so carefully hidden? Such questions are at the heart of Peter Pesic's enlightening effort to uncover the meaning of modern science. Pesic portrays the struggle between the scientist and nature as the ultimate game of hide-and-seek, in which a childlike wonder propels the exploration of mysteries. Witness the young Albert Einstein, fascinated by a compass and the sense it gave him of something deeply hidden behind things. In musical terms, the book is a triple fugue, interweaving three themes: the epic struggle between the scientist and nature; the distilling effects of the struggle on the scientist; and the emergence from this struggle of symbolic mathematics, the purified language necessary to decode nature's secrets. Pesic's quest for the roots of science begins with three key Renaissance figures: William Gilbert, a physician who began the scientific study of magnetism; Fran ois Vi te, a French codebreaker who played a crucial role in the foundation of symbolic mathematics; and Francis Bacon, a visionary who anticipated the shape of modern science. Pesic then describes the encounters of three modern masters--Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein--with the depths of nature. Throughout, Pesic reads scientific works as works of literature, attending to nuance and tone as much as to surface meaning. He seeks the living center of human concern as it emerges in the ongoing search for nature's secrets.