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Why Is Science in Debt With Imagination?


Despite what many people think, scientific thinking is not rigid, but rather imaginative and risk-taking.

One of Einstein’s most famous phrases is “imagination is more important than knowledge;” this is not only a life lesson but a premise of quantum physics that has been developed for a little more than a century taking into account random interventions of the unknown.

Nobel Prize winner in Physics Frank Wilczek believes that Einstein’s premise regarding scientific imagination is more important now than ever. As he says, much of what is done is to try to understand the mind of nature, closely following his “sense of beauty.”

But does nature have the ability to produce beauty? Is it not rather that the human mind has the ability to perceive and build beauty? In other words, can an equation be beautiful?

The physical understanding of the universe is encrypted in equations: pieces of a puzzle whose complete figure no one has seen, although some have tried to. Stephen Hawking, like Albert Einstein, has over the years pursued the elusive theory of everything: the overall shape that scientific knowledge offers about the universe. And although we have a significant and verifiable knowledge of many laws of physics and their equations, it seems that we have not been able to decipher all of them.

As Wilczek would say, there are gaps in our understanding of many things; we try to fill holes with imagination. More precisely, a hole can be understood as an uncertainty, a unit of the unknown amid something known. When we talk about quantum physics, we place ourselves in an infinitesimal universe with laws that differ from and elude the macroscopic universe; the only map of the world is the imagination; that is, the idea we have of it.

Imagination produces theories that subsequently are applied and are accepted or refuted. According to Wilczek, in general the explanations we give for the gaps of the unknown are wrong, but every so often an equation approaches reality, that is, it approaches the explanation of a law of nature, and only very sporadically that explanation is correct beyond all doubt.

We tend to believe that science is something like the opposite of art, a series of cold and rigid methodologies to solve practical issues. But not all science is like that: it is a way of creating suitable explanations to explain the form and function of the universe. As Einstein also said, “God does not play dice with the world;” it is about working and imagining what happens each time God throws the dice.

What happened before the Big Bang? Are the laws of physics linked by an intimate agreement that can be deciphered mathematically? The form of the question largely determines the answer, for which we must imagine new ways to ask, to ask what is still unknown to us, because in so far as we encrypt our ignorance we receive an intuition of unknown beauty: the space it occupies in the universe suddenly fills up.

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