Why is the Universe comprehensible?
Nima Arkani-Hamed embraces a deep and beautiful mystery
Of course the universe is comprehensible we’ve been comprehending it for over 2,000 years since the ancient Greeks; why it’s comprehensible is a much more interesting question. It certainly seems rather magical that it is comprehensible. (This is manifest) especially in the context of our understanding of the laws of fundamental physics, in that that our understanding takes the form of mathematical concepts. Even more surprising still that these mathematical concepts tend to have a life of their own. (These concepts) tend to be discovered by mathematicians (who) don’t even bother looking at the world outside (but instead discover these concepts) purely from the internal logic and harmony (of the mathematics itself).
(It is a) fact that as we understand more things, we don’t come up with a separate explanation for every new thing that we see, but in fact we find that fewer things (are able to) explain more. Those (patterns) give us tremendous confidence that that we are on the right track but none of it decreases the mystery in the majesty of the fact that this (phenomena) is true.
Even with Newton, who did something mind-blowing, still the things he was talking about were (physical) things that you could see out there in the world things (that move through physical space). Things move around in curves, you might wonder why they go around in those (types of trajectories). These sort of questions were natural ones and there were more immediately tied to human experience.
With quantum mechanics (it was) more important to come up with the correct equation and and figure out what it meant later than to try to obsess a lot about the meaning ahead of time. This is because words are slippery and vague and even conceptual thinking can be slippery and vague. But, an equation is precise, and a good equation has a certain perfection to it that can lead you by the nose to the right way of thinking about it. You know that something good is happening when it’s not your power doing it. (Instead it is) the power of the things that you are studying which is dragging you, often kicking and screaming, to the right conclusion and the right way of thinking about things. Even when you don’t know exactly which words you should be using, even when you’re not sure what concept comes first and what’s derived and and how you should go about putting things together (you can still make progress). If you find a few mathematical structures that have this have this gleam of perfection to them the whole thing can start being put together often from the inside out. Quantum mechanics was the first example of how this happened to us and and we suspect this is going to happen to us again.
You just get the feeling when you think about these things that your holding some gargantuan mind-blowing huge object. (You have the sense) that you’re only ever seeing little parts of it, and and it’s and it’s got a sort of depth and structure to it which no single human being can come remotely close to a containing in their head at one time.