Monday, February 12, 2018

Book Update: First Review!

The final proofs are done and review copies were sent out. One of the happy receivers, Emmanuel Rayner, read the book within two days and so we have a first review on Goodreads now. That’s not counting the two-star review by someone who I am very sure hasn’t read the book because he “reviewed” it before there were review copies. Tells you all about online ratings you need to know.

The German publisher, Fischer, is still waiting for the final manuscript which has not yet left the US publisher’s rear end. Fischer wants to get started on the translation so that the German edition appears in early fall, only a few months later than the US edition.

Since I get this question a lot, no, I will not translate the book myself. To begin with, it seemed like a rather stupid thing to do, agree on translating an 80k word manuscript if someone else can do it instead. Maybe more importantly, my German writing is miserable, that owing to a grammar reform which struck the country the year after I had moved overseas, and which therefore entirely passed me by. It adds to this that the German spell-check on my laptop isn’t working (it’s complicated), I have an English keyboard, hence no umlauts, and also did I mention I didn’t have to do it in the first place.

Problems start with the title. “Lost in Math” doesn’t translate well to German, so the Fischer people search for a new title. Have been searching for two months, for all I can tell. I imagine them randomly opening pages of a dictionary, looking for inspiration.

Meanwhile, they have recruited and scheduled an appointment for me with a photographer to take headshots. Because in Germany you leave nothing to coincidence. So next week I’ll be photographed.

In other news, end of February I will give a talk at a workshop on “Naturalness, Hierarchy, and Fine Tuning” in Aachen, and I agreed to give a seminar in Heidelberg end of April, both of which will be more or less about the topic of the book. So stop by if you are interested and in the area.

And do not forget to preorder a copy if you haven’t yet done so!


  1. Hi Sabine! I didn't know if I should buy your book or not, and then I read the review. Sounds too interesting to pass up, need to find out how I can get it in Finland.

    Also, if it's true that you won't get tenured because of your rather realistic views, then I have the utmost respect for you speaking your mind. Physics (and the world in general) needs more people who think on their own and don't just regurgitate used ideas.

  2. If I may make a suggestion: "Irritierendes Kalkül: Wie die Schönheit die Physik aus der Fassung bringt"

  3. Mathias,

    The main reason I won't get tenure is that there are basically no permanent positions in the field I happen to be interested in. My own contract runs out next year. But the book for sure isn't going to help find another job in physics, hence the decision to write it didn't come easily to me. I think it'll become clear why I am saying this as more reviews come in.

  4. Sabine,

    I guess your field is just so highly specialized that there aren't that many positions even in the whole world. But you never know, at least in marketing they say that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

    I hope you all the best!

  5. Matias,

    On the contrary, it's not specialized enough. I'm not even sure what you mean by "my field" ;)

  6. Always enjoy your blog although I found it sad that politics of science sounds just like politics. Look forward to reading your book. Not being a mathematician, I hope I don't get lost in the math. You should be proud for saying what you believe.

  7. "'Lost in Math' doesn’t translate well to German, so the Fischer people search for a new title."

    Gefangen in den Paradigmen der Mathematik (Trapped in the paradigms of mathematics)?

  8. I preordered the book when you first mentioned it. I have written some 100+ Amazon reviews now most in philosophy, cosmology, and physics. There are certainly others in the field (taken broadly) who agree with you, Lee Smolin for example. I'm very much looking forward to reading your take on the subject

  9. Ich spreche kein deutsche but hows this for a title: "Wissenschaftlerin Phsyicische Book" ;)

  10. “Lost in Math” works pretty well in German - don´t get “Lost in Translation” ;-). The movie also had no German title. The unofficial title was “Zwischen den Welten” (between the worlds), but never got popular. It is fascinating what message we get from the Platonic realm and where we have to break the symmetry.

  11. "’Lost in Math” doesn’t translate well to German’ “Verwirrt in Mathe” “In Mathe verloren.” Cultural innuendo? “Schildas Physiker,” “Physik in Schilda.” Perhaps.

    "the stakes have gotten so high that the physics gambling syndicate can only afford to play a few hands."

    Opposite shoes differentially embed within a trace left foot, 10^(-9) chiral anisotropic vacuum. Extreme geometric chiral divergent enantiomer molecules in 3:1 ratio have cryogenic microwave rotational spectra that are not exactly identical and exactly superposed, or with 3:1 broadened lines. Sakharov conditions, Milgrom acceleration, chiral and parity parametrizations are sourced. SUSY and M-theory bleed. Unlike all else, it has not yet failed. Look.

  12. Dr H: will there be an audio book version?

  13. How about a punny Denglish title: Mathematricked?

  14. "Also, if it's true that you won't get tenured because of your rather realistic views"

    You seem to think that tenure is somehow the default, or at least not improbable. Many good people, even many who want it, don't get tenure. Think about it: every tenured academic who has students will, on average, to first order, have ONE student who will become a tenured academic with students.

  15. "I will not translate the book myself"

    You should, however, authorize the translation (assuming that your command of German mathematical and physical terms is good enough, which presumably it is), or at least get someone knowledgeable to proofread it and get goofs corrected (hint, hint).

    I remember a review of the German translation of Weinberg's Dreams of a Final Theory in Physikalische Blätter. The original was recommended; the translation was not. One howler: "the light-element abundances" was rendered as "eine Fülle von Lichtelementen", which demonstrates that the translator had way too little knowledge of physics. And this was a book by Weinberg from a major publisher! There are occasions when it is good do be mentioned in the same breath as Weinberg, but this is not one of them.

    A similar howler in a music encyclopedia: Drittelgesang. Think about it. Let it sink in.

  16. What will be your time slot in Aachen, or do you at least know on what day you will be speaking? Or not known yet?

  17. General relativity arises from thermodynamics given black holes and the Bekenstein limit. Massively publish stochastic thermodynamics generalized to quantum field theories uniting gravitation with quantum mechanics. The h-index nexus of two warring factions wholly overrides empirical applicability.

  18. hey Sabine.......good luck in finding a permanent position.......having been a Physics Professor for 36 years now, I
    have seen the world & especially the Physics world change drastically......many schools, my own included, seem to prefer
    to hire adjuncts at a much much lower pay scale (& no benefits!) one truly must be passionate to pursue
    a career in the pure sciences.......I have been very very fortunate in my career......loving Physics has been very good to me,
    & so I sympathize with the younger generation........
    all the best.....jay mancini

  19. --- Zitat ---
    Problems start with the title. “Lost in Math” doesn’t translate well to German, so the Fischer people search for a new title.

    Mein Vorschlag:
    "Wissenschaft auf Abwegen, eine Kritik zu ....."

  20. Vincent,

    I've been told my talk is Feb 28 at 4:30, but I can't find a schedule on the website, so I'm not sure. (In case you can find it, let me know!)

  21. Bee,

    You gave your own book 5 stars on goodreads... Yes, we can all see that.

    You might want to cancel that rating, or at least back up the rating with a gushing review where you sing your own praises in the third person.

  22. Of course I give my book 5 stars. It's the best book that has ever been written. And in contrast to the guy who gave it a 2 star rating I actually read it.

  23. Things were pretty bad for physics people in the early 70s. "Physicists driving taxi cabs" was a meme.

    I went into industry in 1974, in lieu of 5 more years of MS/Ph.D time, with few prospects.

    Going to a small physics-centric company, Intel, worked out well.

    (I left in 1986 and have pursued mostly tech interests since then.)


  24. What kind of grammar reform has been so disastrous?!

  25. If you are looking for a job, quantum computing might be right up your alley. The technology is not mature enough for wide-spread industrial adoption, but large companies are already looking at possible applications. There is so much hype around it, I guess the topic won't go away any time soon.

  26. "In Zahlen Verloren"
    This sounds good, but probably does not fully convey your meaning. Congratulations.

  27. Maybe (forgive my immodesty) something along the lines of "Bezaubert" ? A powerful spell of beauty that's leading astray ...

  28. Can't wait to read the book :)

  29. "Problems start with the title. “Lost in Math” doesn’t translate well to German, so the Fischer people search for a new title. Have been searching for two months, for all I can tell. I imagine them randomly opening pages of a dictionary, looking for inspiration.:

    All those awesome German words with no good translations into English and they've got nothing? smh.


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