“Trying to appreciate mathematics without understanding its inner workings is like reading a description of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony instead of hearing it.” Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor, on the differences between generic and exceptional beauty, and why one type of beauty proves more useful in describing the universe.

The artwork by Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor, depicts Russian nesting to capture the different scales of knowledge about the natural world, from the largest matryoshka doll that depicts our universe through the cosmic microwave background, the “first light” emitted soon after the Big Bang, to the smallest doll, the Planck scale, where spacetime becomes a quantum phenomenon.