For me, the study of these laws is inseparable from a love of Nature in all its manifestations. The beauty of the basic laws of natural science, as revealed in the study of particles and of the cosmos, is allied to the litheness of a merganser diving in a pure Swedish lake, or the grace of a dolphin leaving shining trails at night in the Gulf of California.
My colleagues in elementary particle theory in many lands [and I] are driven by the usual insatiable curiosity of the scientist, and our work is a delightful game. I am frequently astonished that it so often results in correct predictions of experimental results. How can it be that writing down a few simple and elegant formulae, like short poems governed by strict rules such as those of the sonnet or the waka, can predict universal regularities of Nature?
Perhaps we see equations as simple because they are easily expressed in terms of mathematical notation already invented at an earlier stage of development of the science, and thus what appears to us as elegance of description really reflects the interconnectedness of Nature's laws at different levels.
All of modern physics is governed by that magnificent and thoroughly confusing discipline called quantum mechanics ... It has survived all tests and there is no reason to believe that there is any flaw in it. We all know how to use it and how to apply it to problems; and so we have learned to live with the fact that nobody can understand it.
Modern language must be older than the cave paintings and cave engravings and cave sculptures and dance steps in the soft clay in the caves in Western Europe, in the Aurignacian Period some 35,000 years ago, or earlier. I can't believe they did all those things and didn't also have a modern language.
The mathematics clearly called for a set of underlying elementary objects-at that time we needed three types of them-elementary objects that could be combined three at a time in different ways to make all the heavy particles we knew. ... I needed a name for them and called them quarks, after the taunting cry of the gulls, "Three quarks for Muster mark," from Finnegan's Wake by the Irish writer James Joyce.
Three principles - the conformability of nature to herself, the applicability of the criterion of simplicity, and the "unreasonable effectiveness" of certain parts of mathematics in describing physical reality - are thus consequences of the underlying law of the elementary particles and their interactions. Those three principles need not be assumed as separate metaphysical postulates. Instead, they are emergent properties of the fundamental laws of physics.
What is especially striking and remarkable is that in fundamental physics, a beautiful or elegant theory is more likely to be right than a theory that is inelegant. A theory appears to be beautiful or elegant (or simple, if you prefer) when it can be expressed concisely in terms of mathematics we already have. Symmetry exhibits the simplicity. The Foundamental Law is such that the different skins of the onion resemble one another and therefore the math for one skin allows you to express beautifully and simply the phenomenon of the next skin.
One thing that makes the adventure of working in our field particularly rewarding, especially in attempting to improve the theory, is that... a chief criterion for the selection of a correct hypothesis... seems to be the criterion of beauty, simplicity, or elegance.
What I try to do in the book is to trace the chain of relationships running from elementary particles, fundamental building blocks of matter everywhere in the universe, such as quarks, all the way to complex entities, and in particular complex adaptive system like jaguars.