Today I watched the BBC 4 programme Beautiful Equations. I loved it. If slightly off centre for my research, it certainly asked the question can maths be beautiful? and gave scientists opinions on the answer, delving back as far as Isaac Newton and ending with Stephen Hawkins view today.
This programme was brilliant for me as it was made by an artist and art critic Matthew Collings, so was asked from a similar perspective to mine, whilst being answered, for the viewers benefit, in fantastically simple laymens terms. Hooray! I actually feel as if I understand a bit about maths, and am a little clearer about where I am headed with my research.
The conclusion of this programme is that equations are "masterpieces that explain the universe we live in". It would seem that several of the scientists featured in this programme used the idea of mathematical beauty to guide their work. Both Dirac and Einstein believed that the laws that governed the universe would have an elegant beauty, or simplicity, and therefore so would the equation that described them. Therefore, the idea of mathematical beauty comes back to nature, to simplicity and to purity of ideas, and leads to the notion that by pursuing beauty you end up with truth.
Unfortunately it is only available to watch on BBC iplayer for another few days, so if anyone wants to catch up download now!