The Artful Universe

Oxford University Press (1995)
Abstract
Our likes and dislikes--our senses and sensibilities--did not fall ready-made from the sky, argues internationally acclaimed author John D. Barrow. We know we enjoy a beautiful painting or a passionate symphony, but what we don't necessarily understand is that these experiences conjure up latent instincts laid down and perpetuated over millions of years. Now, in The Artful Universe, Barrow explores the close ties between our aesthetic appreciation and the basic nature of the Universe, challenging the commonly held view that our sense of beauty is entirely free and unfettered. Barrow argues that the laws of the Universe, its environments and its astronomical appearance, have imprinted themselves upon our thoughts and actions in subtle and unexpected ways. Why do we like certain types of art or music? What games and puzzles do we find challenging? Why do so many myths and legends have common elements? Who created the cornucopia of constellations in the night sky? And why? In this eclectic and entertaining survey, Barrow answers these questions and more as he explains how the landscape of the Universe has influenced the development of philosophy and mythology, and how millions of years of evolutionary history have fashioned our attraction to certain patterns of sound and color. Barrow casts the story of human creativity and thought in a fascinating light, considering such diverse topics as our instinct for language, the origins and uses of color in Nature, why we divide time into intervals as we do, the sources of our appreciation of landscape painting, and whether computer-generated fractal art is really art. Barrow reconsiders the question of whether intelligent extraterrestrial life exists, showing that the benefits (and even the likelihood) that might follow from the discovery of life on other worlds could be very different from what we might have been led to expect. Remarkably, we find that some of the properties of the Universe that are essential for the existence of any form of life play a key role in determining psychological and religious responses to the Cosmos. Drawing on a wide variety of examples, from the theological questions raised by St. Augustine and C.S. Lewis to the relationship between the pure math of Pythagoras and the music of the Beatles, The Artful Universe covers new ground and enters a wide-ranging debate about the meaning and significance of the links between art and science. It will change our view of the creation of art and the way we see the world in which we live.
Keywords Nature (Aesthetics  Philosophy of nature
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Call number BH301.N3.B37 1995
ISBN(s) 0198539967
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