Copernicus’ aesthetic objections to provided one essential motive for his rejection of the Ptolemaic system. All of us had been trained by Kelly Johnson and believed fanatically in his insistence that an airplane that looked beautiful would fly 911 math homework same way.
Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in this world for ugly mathematics. I was talking recently to a friend who teaches at MIT. His field is hot now and every year he is inundated by applications from would-be graduate students. A lot of them seem smart,” he said.
What I can’t tell is whether they have any kind of taste. You don’t hear that word much now. And yet we still need the underlying concept, whatever we call it. What my friend meant was that he wanted students who were not just good technicians, but who could use their technical knowledge to design beautiful things. Mathematicians call good work “beautiful,” and so, either now or in the past, have scientists, engineers, musicians, architects, designers, writers, and painters. Is it just a coincidence that they used the same word, or is there some overlap in what they meant?
If there is an overlap, can we use one field’s discoveries about beauty to help us in another? For those of us who design things, these are not just theoretical questions. If there is such a thing as beauty, we need to be able to recognize it. We need good taste to make good things. Instead of treating beauty as an airy abstraction, to be either blathered about or avoided depending on how one feels about airy abstractions, let’s try considering it as a practical question: how do you make good stuff?
If you mention taste nowadays, a lot of people will tell you that “taste is subjective. They believe this because it really feels that way to them. When they like something, they have no idea why. It could be because it’s beautiful, or because their mother had one, or because they saw a movie star with one in a magazine, or because they know it’s expensive. Their thoughts are a tangle of unexamined impulses.