As the story is usually told, science began when some deep thinkers in ancient Greece decided to reject the popular mythological explanations for various natural phenomena. Those early philosophers sought logical explanations for things like thunderstorms, rather than attributing them to Zeus throwing temper tantrums in the form of thunderbolts.
But early Greek scientific philosophy was not merely about replacing myth with logic. For the Greeks, explaining reality did not mean just devising a logical reason for each natural phenomenon in isolation — it was also about seeking a deep, coherent explanation for everything. And that meant identifying fundamental principles that explained a diversity of phenomena, encompassing the totality of physical reality. That’s the essence of science.
Science today is vastly more advanced, accurate and complex than it was in ancient times. Nevertheless, all of today’s sophisticated knowledge of physical reality is also rooted in a few fundamental principles, which physics Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek attempts to identify and explain in his latest book, Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality.
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