Lost in Math by Sabine Hossenfelder

Lost in Math

A contrarian argues that modern physicists' obsession with beauty has given us wonderful math but bad science. Whether pondering black holes or predicting discoveries at CERN, physicists believe the best theories are beautiful, natural, and elegant, and this standard separates popular theories from disposable ones. This is why, Sabine Hossenfelder argues, we have not seen a major breakthrough in the foundations of physics for more than four decad...

Details Lost in Math

TitleLost in Math
Release DateJun 12th, 2018
GenreScience, Physics, Nonfiction, Mathematics, Philosophy

Reviews Lost in Math

  • Manny
    Sabine Hossenfelder is a theoretical physicist, and she's pretty mad about the way her subject has gone over the last thirty years. She's written this book to tell you why she's mad, and what she's done to try and find out what went wrong. She's talked with a bunch of people, some of them major stars of the physics world. She's asked them questions and she reports their answers. Somehow, even though a fair amount of it is near-incomprehensible ph...
  • Manuel Antão
    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Implausifiability in Physics: “Lost in Math - How Beauty Leads Physics Astray” by Sabine Hossenfelder“The time it takes to test a new fundamental law of nature can be longer than a scientist’s career. This forces theorists to draw upon criteria other than empirical adequacy to decide which research avenues to pursue. Aesthetic appeal is one of them. In our search for new ideas, ...
  • David Wineberg
    The universe is unacceptable to physicistsWell back into history, Man has tried to force nature into symmetry. Some of our greatest scientists spent their lives trying to force the solar system and then the universe into spheres, cubes, cones and cylinders. Or to find superpartners for every particle so they fit the (newish) theory of supersymmetry. That it has never worked has deterred no one, it seems. Sabine Hossenfelder is a theoretical physi...
  • G.R. Reader
    I figured that if Luboš Motl hated the book this much, it had to be worth reading. It's usually a sound principle, and it didn't let me down this time either.
  • Brian Clegg
    One of my favourite illustrations from a science title was in Fred Hoyle's book on his quasi-steady state theory. It shows a large flock of geese all following each other, which he likened to the state of theoretical physics. In the very readable Lost in Math, physicist Sabine Hossenfelder exposes the way that in certain areas of physics, this is all too realistic a picture. (Hossenfelder gives Hoyle's cosmological theory short shrift, incidental...
  • Sebastian
    It is reassuring to know that there are quite a few people out there not happy with how physics is going these days. Reading, for example, Krauss’ half-assed pompous non-explanation for why there is something instead of nothing, or reading Tegmark’s incoherent ramblings about his mathematical universe as he pats himself on the back for being oh such a crazy maverick, or basically watching the entire string community pat their collective backs...
  • Nick Black
    reads like a Mary Roach book about particle physics -- altogether too many "human interest physics" elements, including descriptions of one interviewee's cats ("Astrokate", apparently a ...twitter authority). Woit already handled a lot of this in 2007 with [title: Not Even Wrong]. Hossenfelder makes no useful suggestions, instead just dumping on people when she's not flying to Hawaii. I couldn't disagree with her central thesis -- leaning hard on...
  • Eric
    One thought experiment that I love is the Theseus Paradox, which asks the question that if a ship is repaired and all of its old parts replaced, is it the same ship that was originally built or a new one? When looking at modern theoretical physics, I start to wonder if we’re approaching a similar paradox where physics has been replaced by math and philosophy. In Lost in Math, Sabine Hossenfelder seeks to answer a similar question. Her contentio...
  • Rod Van Meter
    A fascinating philosophical take on how philosophical physics has become. Physicists are hooked on various definitions of simplicity, involving fewer mathematical terms and especially fewer "magic constants" or "voodoo constants" (as we would call them computer systems).The author is having deep existential doubts about how physics will peel back the next layer of reality. Many modern theories not only are not currently being tested, but *cannot*...
  • Jeremy
    Note: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley.This was a great book, and one I hope that many people (particularly within physics) choose to read. It's not the most uplifting book, but that's the point. I'm a student within physics, and I'm happy that someone is at least shedding some light on the less appealing aspects of physics at this time. It's great to be hopeful, but if everyone is sharing the same mass delusion about supersymmetry a...
  • Ben Babcock
    Is truth beauty and beauty, truth? It can be hard to tell.In Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, Sabine Hossenfelder argues that these two concepts are not equivalent. As the subtitle implies, Hossenfelder feels that theoretical physicists are too obsessed with creating “beautiful” theories, in the sense that the mathematics that underpins the theories (because these days, theories are basically math, even though, as Hossenfelder s...
  • Mark Gomer
    Thematically similar to Smolin's "The Trouble with Physics" but not so similar as to be uninteresting. Contains some brief excerpts from interviews with a variety of physicists with widely differing views on the relevance of aesthetic principles in cooking up new physics. I found the style informal in a pleasant way, and there was enough technical detail (especially in the notes) for my taste as well.
  • Jo
    Sabine shares her experience with physics and math inside a chaotic world where beauty can bright up. She brings a fresh and new perspective to classic theories. This book is a most for new science students. It will encourage them to explore unconventional and innovative paths.
  • Gavin Leech
    A look at high-energy particle physics* in its present nightmare (of deep inconsistency and vastly expensive new data). Her thesis is that the problem is sociological and aesthetic: in the absence of new data sources, we form cliques and regroup around incompatible, unempirical beauty intuitions. it leads me to conjecture that the laws of nature are beautiful because physicists constantly tell each other those laws are beautiful. experimentalis...
  • Yzabel Ginsberg
    [I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]I can’t say for sure that I understood everything in this book, since my knowledge of physics in general is very patchy, but overall, I liked its tone, and its global idea, because I can get why one would be easily led astray by theories that look ‘beautiful’. It’s something that I feel is very human, after all, as we often look for a form of harmony in the world surrounding us, if only to t...
  • L S
    One of the 'Trouble with Physics" books, with similar ideas to the books of Smolin and Woit. Her writing style is funny and fluid and it is overall a very fun read, but if you already knew about the topics she talks about (the failure of String theory, SUSY, etc), you won't learn much new.I do think that her emphasis on the arbitrariness of the 'naturalness' criteria is very interesting.
  • Manolo
    Mucho más ligerito y lleno de anécdotas de lo que pensaba. La tesis central no se define claramente, sino que se critica el criterio estético como delimitador de la buena Física a base de comentarios e historias. Es difícil no coincidir con Hossenfelder, pero el libro podría haberse quedado en un artículo largo y algo más denso la mar de cuco.
  • Bruce Rout
    A Review of Lost in Math by the Master HereticDr. Sabine Hossenfelder has written a book on theoretical physics in the modern era. tldr: buy it, read it.Dr. H. is a young, female, brilliant, German theoretical physicist who says she is deciding on whether or not to pursue a tenure track. She has lost faith. She says physics is in a crisis. This is something we have all known for a very, very long time — that physics is in a crisis, that our...
  • Cindy Lauren
    Really interesting approach to looking at math, theories of physics. Its always great to look at things we have been taught for granted, and it can be a little disconcerting, if not liberating to look at things through a new prism.Really enjoyed, made me use my brain. Try it, you will like it.
  • Harm ten Napel
    This book from someone who is inside the community of theoretical physicists gives an account of the deplorable state of the field which hasn’t produced any verifiable results in roughly the period starting this century. The main criticism focuses on the theoreticians being ‘lost in math’ using criteria such as simplicity, naturalness and elegance to build mathematical models of nature that have an aesthetic appeal to them. Their search for...
  • Kyle Bunkers
    I have enjoyed reading Sabine's views on her blog before, and so I was not completely surprised by this book's premise nor its arguments. I was surprised by the interviews. This was different than I expected but quite enjoyable. Overall I found this hard to put down as Sabine's writing style and the interviews really kept me interested in the book's overall discussion. As a quick summary, this is about theoretical physics focusing on particle phy...
  • Elentarri
    NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.Lost in Math is the story of how aesthetic judgement drives contemporary research; how theoretical physicists produce ideas that are "highly controversial and yet exceedingly popular, speculative yet intriguing, pretty yet useless"; and how these theories are untestable but the physicist believes them to be too good not to be true. ...
  • Ilya
    This book is an overview of the state of today's fundamental physics. I mostly knew it but haven't read such a concise overview in a popular book before. There are two fundamental theories dating to the early 20th century, quantum mechanics and General Relativity, which have been proven true to a gigantic precision. In the 1940s, quantum mechanics and Special Relativity were combined into quantum field theory, which by the 1970s had expanded into...
  • Josh
    Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray by Sabine Hossenfelder is a book about the current state of affairs in high-energy physics. Hossenfelder’s primary thesis is that modern physicists have been seduced by the beauty of mathematics rather than holding fast to the scientific method in their development of theoretical descriptions of nature. Hossenfelder interviews many of the heavy hitters in the field, including Nobel laureates, to pro...
  • Ksenia Kulichik
    “Lost in Math” tackles the topic announced in the subtitle: how enchanted by orderly and beautiful math, physicists stray further away from hypotheses testable in (or even descriptive of) the real world. With experiments in modern physics becoming more and more long-term and expensive, it is harder than ever for physicists to find the right paths of exploration. One “solution" that is employed (and that has been present in physics historica...
  • John
    Theoretical physics is hard - who knew? This charming little book makes the iron clad case that our “feelings” about our physical theories are not scientific. Yes physicists prefer “beautiful” theories to “ugly” theories in much the same way men prefer “beautiful” women to ... well you get the point. It’s been known forever that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s more of a fashion statement than a scientific one. I am ...
  • mm
    α - recommended by Peter Woit.Ω(=,Ĩ,Φ,β) - Full marks for standing up against the establishment! Even if I think picking on CERN is unwarranted. The LHC is the world's largest scientific collaboration. Einstein's gravitational waves took 100 years to find. The plethora of open source tools/data freely available is money well spent. With that said, science's reliance on grants & funding innately corrupts the motivations behind its persuit. If...