In this talk I explore the aesthetic dimensions of scientific experimentation, addressing specifically the question how aesthetic features enter the construction, evaluation and reception of an experiment. I highlight the relationship between experiments and artistic acts in the early years of the Royal Society where experiments do not serve only epistemic aims, but also aim to generate feelings of awe and pleasure. I turn to analysing which aspects of experiments are appreciated aesthetically, identifying several contenders, from the ability of an experiment to uncover nature’s beauty, to encapsulating original designs and human creativity. Following this analysis, I focus on the notion of beauty: what makes an experiment beautiful? Several common qualities are explored, from the simplicity and economy of the experiment, to the significance of the experimental results.
Philosophy of Physics Seminar Convenor for MT21: James Read | Philosophy of Physics Group Website