Lost in Math: Beauty != truth

From Ars Technica

Enlarge / Algorithms, a complicated work in progress.

A review of Sabine Hossenfelder’s book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray begs for a Hamlet introduction. Phrases like “something is rotten at the heart of theoretical physics” fly about like vampire clichés, ready to suck the joy out of any passing writer.

Nevertheless, Hossenfelder is sounding that alarm by suggesting that perhaps theoretical physicists need to spend a little more time on introspection and examining some of their working assumptions. Theoretical physics has been starved of new data for more than an entire generation. How can a theoretician choose a good model in the absence of data? And how do you choose which experimental options to pursue based on competing theoretical models?

Hossenfelder, who’s a theoretical physicist herself, argues that physicists’ solution to this problem is an aesthetic one, not a scientific one—and the generation-long failure means…

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