Lost in Math - Sabine Hossenfelder

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In summary, the conversation discusses the book's premise that the requirement for naturalness and mathematical elegance has hindered the discipline of theoretical physics. The speakers question the impact of this on the field and compare it to the endless succession of fads in English literature. They also discuss the seductiveness and potential addiction to math, and the potential for different approaches to solving problems. They reference past instances of classical mechanics being replaced by new math approaches and mention Sabine Hossenfelder's interviews with recognized leaders in the field. The conversation ends with a mention of a PF thread on the topic.
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Opinions on the book? Enjoying it, but I am an non-scientist sympathetic to the notion that we may have reached the practical end of theoretical physics. I wonder what happens to the field as we reach the point where no working theoretical physicist has added anything that expanded our actual knowledge of nature. Does the discipline become like English lit, with an endless succession of fads good for nothing but generating papers to obtain tenure? Is quantum foundations like that?

Anyway the premise is that the requirement for naturalness and mathematical elegance has hindered the discipline
 
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BWV said:
asthmatically elegance
I haven't read the book, but that doesn't sound right, @BWV
 
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gmax137 said:
I haven't read the book, but that doesn't sound right, @BWV

Lol, horrible typo fixed
 
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I have read it and liked it too. I was once an experimental physicist. However I have in the past been caught up in the search for underlying truths hidden in the complexity of the physical experiences as revealed by math. We have been tantalized by the elegance of mathematics and its ability to lead or guide us to new discoveries in our physical world. Physicists have faith in math as well they should. I do not think math lies but sometime it may babble or we may inappropriately apply it or interpret it and try hard to make sense of it. I guess math can be seductive and perhaps addictive leading us to loose sight of reality. You can have so much faith that you refuse to see the futility of the endeavor. We should encourage different approaches to solving problems but that is risky because it is not mainstream and the community does not share your vision or reward you for trying. So new people just jump into the milieu. Some math is just not appropriate for certain problems.

It's not like we haven't seen something like this before with the description of the atom using classical mechanics. Then Schrodinger/Dirac came along with new math approaches and voile problem solved.

Sabine didn't write the book in a vacuum having interview many recognized leaders in the field.

OK, I'm through rambling.

Have you seen this PF thread?
https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/sabine-hossenfelder-and-beauty-in-physics.951354/
 
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gleem said:
I do not think math lies but sometime it may babble
Funny and well said. :smile:
 

1. What is "Lost in Math" about?

"Lost in Math" is a book written by physicist Sabine Hossenfelder that explores the current state of theoretical physics and the role of mathematics in the field. Hossenfelder argues that the emphasis on mathematical beauty and elegance has led physicists astray and hindered progress in understanding the fundamental workings of the universe.

2. What are some of the main criticisms Hossenfelder presents in "Lost in Math"?

Hossenfelder criticizes the trend in theoretical physics to prioritize mathematical beauty over empirical evidence, the overreliance on certain theories like string theory, and the pressure to conform to mainstream ideas in order to secure funding and recognition. She also questions the validity of the multiverse theory and the search for a "theory of everything."

3. How has the scientific community responded to "Lost in Math"?

The book has sparked a lot of debate and discussion within the scientific community, with some agreeing with Hossenfelder's criticisms and others defending the current state of theoretical physics. Some physicists have also praised the book for bringing attention to important issues within the field.

4. What are some key takeaways from "Lost in Math"?

Hossenfelder's main message is that the pursuit of mathematical beauty and elegance should not take precedence over empirical evidence and that physicists should be more open to considering alternative theories and ideas. She also emphasizes the importance of being critical and questioning established beliefs in order to make progress in understanding the universe.

5. Who would benefit from reading "Lost in Math"?

The book is written for a general audience and can be beneficial for anyone interested in the current state of theoretical physics and the role of mathematics in science. It may also be of interest to scientists and researchers in the field, as well as those interested in philosophy of science and the scientific method.

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