Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Truth and beauty in physics and biology

Physicists and biologists have different conceptions of beauty. A better appreciation of these differences may bring the disciplines closer and help develop a more integrated view of life.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Zeki, S., Romaya, J. P., Benincasa, D. M. T. & Atiyah, M. F. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8, 68 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Breitenbach, A. Eur. J. Phil. 23, 955–977 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Feynman, R. P. The Messenger Lectures on “The Character of Physical Law” (Cornell Univ., 1964).

  4. Gell-Mann, M. Beauty, truth and … physics? TED (2007).

  5. Dirac, P. Proc. R. Soc. 59, 122–129 (1939).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bernal, J. The Social Function of Science (George Routledge & Sons, 1939).

  7. Darwin, C. On the Origin of Species (John Murray, 1859).

  8. Nurse, P. What is Life? Understand Biology in Five Steps (David Fickling Books, 2020).

  9. Sacks, O. Gratitude (Picador, 2015).

  10. Mulas, R. Preprint at (2020).

  11. Turing, A. M. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 237, 37–72 (1952).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. Kondo, S. & Takashi, M. Science 329, 1616–1620 (2010).

    ADS  MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Surridge, C. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. (2004).

  14. Maini, P. & Othmer, H. (eds) Mathematical Models for Biological Pattern Formation (Springer, 2012).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ben D. MacArthur.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

MacArthur, B.D. Truth and beauty in physics and biology. Nat. Phys. 17, 149–151 (2021).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing