Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The nature of understanding and interest   posted by rosko @ 11/15/2006 04:17:00 PM

I just had a short conversation with one of my professors about one of my most common topics of discussion, namely the role of human understanding in science and engineering. He made a comment like "the most interesting things in the universe are ones we cannot understand", which seemed like a quite unusual thing to say. For me, there is basically no (intellectual) interest in things that I cannot hope to understand. I think this is part of the reason I am not much interested in the social scene. I insert the word "intellectual" simply to exclude things that are "interesting" solely because the result benefits or harms me personally, or members of the opposite sex I am "interested in" in the sense of attraction.

For me there is an interest, as sort of "beauty", that is initially present in almost all complex physical systems, and which disappears when they go outside the grasp of understanding. Again, beauty is in quotes because there are things that look beautiful in a non-intellectual way. I was wondering about whether people on here find that interest and understandability also go hand in hand. By "understandable" I don't mean simple, I just mean something that can be mentally captured in some way other than a series of equations impenetrable to anything but a computer.