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In general, it seems cosmological theories that encompass more and more of the phenomena of the universe are expected to be more and more mathematically elegant, in conception if not in detail.

Our experience seems to teach that it is a reasonable expectation to assume more fundamental theories will be more "elegant" or "beautiful" than previous theories.

Two questions:

  1. It seems like a similar expectation is what triggered Einstein to reject Quantum Mechanics. We know his experience led him astray. How do we know our experience isn't causing a similar result in our search for a Theory of Everything?

  2. A correllation between "mathematical elegance" and explanatory power would seem to infer that "elegance" is more than just a human construct. How can that be? Why should there be a correllation between what we find pleasing, and how the Universe works?

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Related: Why beauty is a good guide in physics?. Indeed it verges on a duplicate. –  dmckee Mar 7 '11 at 1:32

2 Answers 2

up vote 0 down vote accepted
  1. We dont.
  2. See Why beauty is a good guide in physics?
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I'm accepting this as the answer. I didn't see the linked question, as I believe I was searching on elegance, not beauty. Sorry for the psuedoduplicate –  Tommy Hinrichs Mar 7 '11 at 2:05
    
"!#¤!%&%#¤! anyonymous downvoter. run fast –  user1708 Mar 7 '11 at 2:31

What exactly does "elegance" mean? To me, your question seems to answer itself: if elegance is explanatory power, then the best theories are elegant, since explanatory power is what makes them good in the first place. If it's some kind of mystical beauty or simplicity, then we can't count on it.

It's perfectly possible that people are being limited by expectations or hopes for a simple theory of everything, so I suppose we should all do our best to make sure that any human desire for "beauty" doesn't influence our scientific decisions.

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