Another way in which scientific thinking can help is to recognize the significance of scale. For financial matters, time scales matter but also the scale of the population you care about. Are you interested in your personal finance, that of a company, that of a country, or that of the global economy? A move that is good on one scale can be detrimental on others.

YOU'VE SUGGESTED AN AFFINITY BETWEEN SCIENCE AND ARTISTIC BEAUTY. WHAT DO YOU SEE THERE? A lot of people speak about a connection between science and beauty. I think it's more interesting to note how subjective that can be. People often mean simplicity or economy when they refer to beauty or elegance in this context. You want a theory with as few ingredients as possible to explain as much as possible.

Sometimes they mean symmetry. But you might note that symmetry isn't entirely beautiful. Look at Japanese art. What is striking is the breaking of symmetry. I would say the same is the true for the world. We want underlying order but clearly the world around us doesn't manifest all that order and symmetry. So there is an art, too, to finding how to break symmetries so that they explain but also accurately match what we see.

WHAT WAS THE CENTRAL CHALLENGE IN TURNINGWARPED PASSAGES — A TRACT ON THEORETICAL PHYSICS AND EXTRA DIMENSIONS — INTO AN OPERA WITH SPANISH COMPOSER HÈCTOR PARRA? I didn't think of it as turning my tract into an opera. I thought of the book and opera as two very different ways to communicate. In my books Warped Passages and Knocking On Heaven's Door, I try to logically build up a sequence of ideas so that readers can follow and understand as much as they choose. With the opera, we were making art. To the extent that physics was conveyed, it was to make people aware of the types of ideas we think about and the insights and creativity that enters when we do so.

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