Monday, June 11, 2018

Are the laws of nature beautiful? (2nd book trailer)

Here is the other video trailer for my book "Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray". 

Since I have been asked repeatedly, let me emphasize again that the book is aimed at non-experts, or "the interested lay-reader" as they say. You do not need to bring any background knowledge in math or physics and, no, there are no equations in the book, just a few numbers. It's really about the question what we mean by "beautiful theories" and how that quest for beauty affects scientists' research interests. You will understand that without equations.

The book has meanwhile been read by several non-physicists and none of them reported great levels of frustration, so I have reason to think I roughly aimed at the right level of technical detail.

Having said that, the book should also be of interest for you if you are a physicist, not because I explain what the standard model is, but because you will get to hear what some top people in the field think about the current situation. (And I swear I was nice to them. My reputation is far worse than I.)

You find a table of contents, and a list of people who I interviewed, as well as transcripts of the video trailers on the book website.


Matthew Rapaport said...

Two video trailers??? If the International film academy creates a category for video trailers you may be up for an award! :)

Uncle Al said...

Lost in Math is beautiful and not beautiful. Beauty is a beast if observed. Look.

Baryogenesis requires trace chiral anisotropic vacuum toward hadrons. Beautiful achiral isotropic vacuum fails given an hour microwave rotational spectroscopy measurement of an unequal enantiomer mix of prolate top polar molecules, 2-cyano- or 2-trifluoromethyl-D_3-trishomocubane.

Quantum mechanics demands (Hund's paradox) chiral molecules racemize absent collisional decoherence. Diffraction fails if pathways are observed - no decoherence to tattle. Diffract a molecular beam of one enantiomer above – racemization, no diffraction, or QM is wrong. Enantiomerically quantitate nanogram samples with microwave rotational spectroscopy.

One substance, one day, one lab, two front ends, one back dies twice. Look.

naivetheorist said...


nice scenery in the video (although i prefer a library setting).

one note: in the link you give, it says " she pursued research in the foundations of physics for more than 15 years. ".

why the past tense? it indicates that you are no longer doing research in the field. is that true?

naive theorist

intergalactic said...

as a non-physicist and non-english native speaker i assume it will make more sense to read the book in german.
why do we have to wait so long for the german version? and out of curiosity, did you write both versions or did you have one of them translated?

Ole Trinhammer said...

Dear Sabine Hossenfelder,

Thank you for taking all the time needed to write the book. I got my copy from my bookshop on Friday and read it during the weekend. Maybe my memory cheats me, by it is very seldom I read a book, cover to cover in just two days. I think the total number can be counted on one hand. When I ordered Lost in Math a long time ago, I was afraid it might be incomprehensible to me with specialized technical terms, but you managed to write about the crisis in plain words. I particularly like this phrase: "...if you want to solve a problem with math, first make sure it really is a problem." (p. 234 in the English edition). If you get to a second edition/second print out, please leave some blank pages at the end for personal notes on nice phrases, be it from the people you interviewed or be it from your clear and seriously concerned analysis. As it is now, I used the place under your author photo, the page next to the preface and the one next to the chapter one opening. But maybe that is what beauty is? Kind regards, Ole Trinhammer

sean s. said...

I should receive your (preordered) book tomorrow. I look forward to it.

sean s.

Arun said...

Another review

Bruce Rout said...

Wonderful. Perhaps you should work on being far worse than your reputation, quantum mechanically speaking. A really, really, badly needed piece of work. Thank you. ­čśŐ

Sabine Hossenfelder said...


Because "She pursues research in the foundations of physics for 15 years" isn't grammatically correct.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...


Wow, that was fast! Glad you enjoyed it :)

Sabine Hossenfelder said...


I wrote the book in English. The German publisher has it translated to German, hence it appears with a few months delay. I haven't seen the German version and assume the translation isn't yet done. Best,


Denis Boers said...

It's the story of a man who sees someone going round and round a street lantern at night." What er you doing?" . "I lost my wallet". " There's no wallet here ...". "I know, I must have lost it someplace else". " So why are you looking here ?" " 'Cause here there's light !".

naivetheorist said...


"Because 'She pursues research in the foundations of physics for 15 years" ''isn't grammatically correct." true but ''she has been pursuing' would be grammatically correct. the question was whether or not you are still doing research in the 'foundations of physics' (although i don't consider quantum gravity to be either foundational or fundamental. as you - or someone else perhaps - once wrote 'the theory of everything is really only the theory of everything that interests theoretical physicists' and i'm still waiting for Tegmark or another of his ilk to establish the theoretical physics basis of consciousness. that would IMO, be both foundational and fundamental).

naive theorist

Michael Sharples said...

I see Lubos Motl has already read it and given it one star on "goodreads". For most that will count as a resounding recommendation. I must confess a little disappointment that he has not written a review though.

Phillip Helbig said...

"as a non-physicist and non-english native speaker i assume it will make more sense to read the book in german."

That depends on how good the German translation is. I remember a review of the translation of Weinberg's Dreams of a Final Theory which recommended the original but not the translation. "Eine F├╝lle von Lichtelementen" for "the light-element abundances" was one howler. (Another example: in a book about music, I stumbled over "Drittelgesang", until I realized that "Terzgesang" was meant. Both are "third" in English. This shows that the translator had essentially no knowledge of music, like the one for Weinberg's book had no knowledge of physics.)

If the author is fluent in the language of the translation, I think that she has a moral duty to check it for correctness. :-)

There are, of course, good translations, for example:

(scroll down half-way and/or search for my name).

It's not enough to have someone reasonably competent; the translator has to know the field as well as both languages. Another example: "measurement problem" is "Messproblem" in German while "measure problem" is "Ma├čproblem". The two are very different.

Phillip Helbig said...

"Because 'She pursues research in the foundations of physics for 15 years" ''isn't grammatically correct." true but ''she has been pursuing' would be grammatically correct.

Right. The present perfect (whether continuous or not---not much difference in this particular case) is what one needs in English to express "in the past but also up to and including the presence". In German, this is "since" together with the present tense, which is ungrammatical in English and so perhaps why Sabine avoided it in favour of something grammatically correct but wrong. (Hhmmm---was she "lost in grammar" there, going for something beautiful but false? :-D ) (The present perfect in German basically corresponds to a simple past for something which is complete, like the passe compos├ę in French. It's actual detailed usage varies somewhat by region.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...


I asked to see the German translation before the final proofs. Having said that though, I didn't want to translate the book myself exactly because I do not know most of the common German terms for the more technical English expressions. I'd probably have made the measurement problem into "Messungsproblem". In any case, I thought that having to fight with the text once was sufficient suffering on my behalf ;) Best,


Lawrence Crowell said...

Minor nitpick: Nature is not really cruel. It is not benevolent either. It has a pitiless indifference.

David Schroeder said...

What an idyllic setting for a book promotion trailer. The lake reminded me of the many lakes I kayak on here in New Hampshire.

sean s. said...

If "pitiless indifference" isn't cruel, nothing is. Nature is not deliberately cruel, but cruel it is.

sean s.

Matthew Rapaport said...

Dr. H. here is a link to my review (Amazon) of Lost In Math... Hope you enjoy it..

Sabine Hossenfelder said...


Thanks for the amazon review. It is both informative and well-written! Glad you enjoyed the book :)

Matthew Rapaport said...

I did very much enjoy the book and you're welcome!