Science: Assumptions of Symmetry

Always seeking harmony, man sees the universe—for a few brief moments—as a pleasingly simple machine. Then curiosity about the nature of matter gets the better of him. Democritus conceived matter as only a whirl of tiny, indivisible units called atoms. Plato disagreed, saw it as a symmetrical expression of mathematical relations between five basic structures. Then came the theory of light radiating in continuous waves. German Physicist Max Planck overturned that in 1900; he said energy comes in discontinuous particles—or quanta—and Einstein followed him with the idea that light can be thought of...

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