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Lost in Math

Lost in Math

How Beauty Leads Physics Astray

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 decades. The belief in beauty has become so dogmatic that it now conflicts with scientific objectivity: observation has been unable to confirm mindboggling theories, like supersymmetry or grand unification, invented by physicists based on aesthetic criteria. Worse, these “too good to not be true” theories are actually untestable and they have left the field in a cul-de-sac. To escape, physicists must rethink their methods. Only by embracing reality as it is can science discover the truth.
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Genre: Nonfiction / Science / History

On Sale: June 12th 2018

Price: $17.99 / $22.99 (CDN)

Page Count: 304

ISBN-13: 9780465094264

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reader reviews


"Entertaining and engaging."—Ars Technica

"This layreader-friendly, amusing treatise gives an enlightening look at a growing issue within physics."—Publishers Weekly

"Emphasizing how much researchers have achieved in quantum mechanics while using math that is decidedly ugly, Hossenfelder urges her colleagues to start focusing on reality, not conceptual style. A provocative appeal for unattractive but fruitful science."—Booklist

"Even educated readers will struggle to understand the elements of modern physics, but they will have no trouble enjoying this insightful, delightfully pugnacious polemic about its leading controversy."—Kirkus (starred review)

"Born too late to
savor the heady era when the standard model of particle physics came together,
Sabine Hossenfelder is impatient for new waves of discovery. Might the pace of
insights be slowing because illusions of mathematical beauty have beguiled her
fellow theorists? Lost in Math chronicles her quest--through interviews
and conversations--to set her own course for exploration."—Chris Quigg, Distinguished Scientist Emeritus, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

"Lost in Math is a delight. It is engaging, witty, and utterly profound. If you want to know why so many contemporary theoretical physicists choose to believe unbelievable things, this is a great place to start."—Jim Baggott, author of Farewell to Reality

"Centered around insightful interviews with leading theorists, Lost in Math provides a well-informed take on the current state of fundamental physical theory, from a physicist who is utterly fearless, completely honest, and quite funny."—Peter Woit, mathematical physicist at Columbia University and author of Not Even Wrong

Meet The Author: Sabine Hossenfelder

Sabine Hossenfelder is a research fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies and the author of the popular physics blog Backreaction. She has written for New Scientist, Scientific American, and NOVA. She lives in Heidelberg, Germany. Discover More