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Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray

Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray

Escrito por Sabine Hossenfelder

Narrado por Laura Jennings


Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray

Escrito por Sabine Hossenfelder

Narrado por Laura Jennings

valoraciones:
4.5/5 (35 valoraciones)
Longitud:
8 horas
Publicado:
Dec 4, 2018
ISBN:
9781978643369
Formato:
Audiolibro

Descripción

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 mind boggling 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.

Publicado:
Dec 4, 2018
ISBN:
9781978643369
Formato:
Audiolibro


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  • (4/5)
    “The time it takes to test a new fundamental law of nature can be longer than a scientist’s career. This forces theorists to draw upon criteria other than empirical adequacy to decide which research avenues to pursue. Aesthetic appeal is one of them. In our search for new ideas, beauty plays many roles. It’s a guide, a reward, a motivation. It is also a systematic bias“In “Lost in Math - How Beauty Leads Physics Astray” by Sabine HossenfelderOne of the most obnoxious notions I’ve ever read in Physics is the one that purports that we’re a simulation. If it's all a simulation, why wouldn't the world that simulated us be a simulation too? This is the turtles all the way down idea. This doesn't mean it isn't true but it's also the same question as, if God created the universe and us, who created God? The answer I sometimes get when I say it’s all hogwash, is that the theory is aesthetically pleasing. Where is the evidence? And more importantly, is it “implausifiable” (I’m borrowing here Hossenfelder’s term)? The supposed evidence for our universe being a simulation seems to largely include the idea that if we extrapolate our technological progress further ahead in time, we will be able to build such a simulation ourselves *therefore* we are a simulation. That's not a very good argument for a lot of reasons. First, how do we know there aren't hard blockers that prevent us from ever getting to the point in our technology to actually build a simulation equal to the world we live in? Of course those blockers might be because we are in a simulation. But like string theory, you might have a theory of everything but if it can't predict anything, its utility is questionable without some other actual theory that predicts things in a testable way.But in actually thinking about this idea (I always do this thinking before my morning bowel movement), the one word that best describes the world we live in is "lazy". It answers why water doesn't go uphill, why everything seems to submit to math, even quantum mechanics and the weird observer question. The answer is, if you are lazy, why bother to do something unless you have an observer or something that impacts an observer in some manner? Why bother building other galaxies when you can just show them to us as photons of light? Why bother actually building Mars until humans bother to send spacecraft there?If I were programming our universe, a computer language with lazy evaluation would be ideal. Write the whole thing out but only actually calculate each function when it is actually needed. We could be living in a Haskell REPL and God could be having fun making changes at the command line. Of course the full Schrödinger equation is rather complicated so perhaps our universe could be termed "mostly lazy". Make it complicated enough to confuse us with a dazzling array of possibilities but down deep, lazy. At this point, even entropy is reduced to a notion of laziness, the glass shatters on the floor but it never fixes itself and returns to its original form because that would be too much bother.Why do physicists embark on the “Aesthetically-Pleasing-Bandwagon”? Because Physicists belong to the Human Race (at least some of them do). I think it’s due to the human need to believe in an ordered universe. It's all part of our pattern-finding instinct that lets us turn separate flashes of colour into a tiger hiding behind some trees. It can be very useful, this desire to provide simple, aesthetically and pleasing explanations. We get chemically rewarded when we make links, so we feel satisfied when we identify a tiger and successfully run away. Unfortunately, we also feel satisfied when we make a wrong link, as long as it doesn't eat us. Hence a String Theory (the TOE of all answers), provides the same three-letter answer for pretty much anything and everything (TOE that is). The same goes for the Multiverse. Fortunately, some people are less than satisfied by this. We call these people "well-grounded physicists". In millennia gone by they would all probably have been eaten by tigers while they checked the rigour of their solutions. It might be a tiger, or a series of birds, or possibly some oranges carefully positioned, so what I am calling for is more research into... chomp!If the universe is simple, as it was for early man, simple answers will do. Now we know it to be more complicated, we need better answers than just yelling "Tiger!" every time we see something orange. Sabine says: “Since Pauli's days, postulating particles has become the theoretician's favorite pastime. We have preons, sfermions, dyons, magnetic monopoles, simps, wimps, wimpzilla, axions, flaxions, erebons, cornucipons, giant magnons, maximons, macros, branons, skyrmions, cuscutons, planckons, and sterile neutrinos – just to mention the most popular ones. We have unparticles. None of thse has ever been seen, but their properties have been thoroughly studied in thousands of published research articles.” It’s quite a jungle. General Relativity was invented based on facts that were already known for a long time and it opened doors to new insights. What Einstein did is play with ideas to come up with something unique. In that sense if you let more people play with ideas on what the Vacuum is made of connected to how the Higgs Field works and how Dark Matter works, doing (thought) experiments with something like granular and CFD simulators than 'something' interesting might pop up. What the LHC is doing is like sifting through the desert to gain an important clue of what 'sand' is, while with simulations you can explore the idea of grains and interactions on a whole new level, we already know almost everything there is to know and can find out with these machines. Now with powerful supercomputers we have a chance to play with as many different kind of simulations we like, this is the new world that is opening up and new to explore, and where we should focus on.Bottom-line: “Physics isn’t math. It’s choosing the right math”. I fully agree with Hossenfelder. What a load of BS what’s happening in the world of Physics nowadays. This is nothing more than a pack of hack physicists trying to explain what they can't understand with absurd fantasies just to justify tenure. I like the proverbial analogy with Copernicus, which alludes to certainty to give a modicum of credibility to their erroneous reasoning. If I can rip holes in these absurd claims, anyone can. The people who make them have below average intelligence; real not simulated. Billions of weirdos and thickos think otherwise...Who cares!
  • (5/5)
    I stumbled on Sabine on Youtube and instantly fell in love with her. That's why I decided to listen to this book and I loved it. She is very good at storytelling as well as very objective, brave, smart, and witty. She seems to lack any ego and is obviously someone who'd worked hard on checking her biases and spends a lot of time making sure she's being as objective as possible. If you liked the book and you like physics check her channel on Youtube. And vice versa, if you liked her channel and wanted more of Sabine you will love this book. She really is amazing at communicating science from a rational and objective standpoint.
  • (4/5)
    Really great book explaining the problems that plague physicists today! Humor and sobriety blended well in the writing.
  • (5/5)

    Esto les resultó útil a 2 personas

    This is a bravely honest appraisal of the state of physics in an era when some are proposing that experimental support is unnecessary if the math is pretty enough. This solves the problem of not having experimental tools for sure. But not the epistemological problem of how in the hell can we belief any of it. There is physic, math, sociology, cognitive psychology, a bit of humor and a lot of honesty here. I can see academic medicine, for example, as a field that can also benefit from the insight here offered (where weak science, academic echo chambers and publication bias are also at play).

    Esto les resultó útil a 2 personas

  • (5/5)

    Esto le resultó útil a 1 persona

    The universe is unacceptable to physicistsWell back into history, Man has tried to force nature into symmetry. Some of our greatest scientists spent their lives trying to force the solar system and then the universe into spheres, cubes, cones and cylinders. Or to find superpartners for every particle so they fit the (newish) theory of supersymmetry. That it has never worked has deterred no one, it seems. Sabine Hossenfelder is a theoretical physicist whose very job it is to create new theories (and let mathematicians sweat the details). She has admitted defeat. Her book, Lost in Math, is all about the blizzard of theories we all hear about. They have not only remained unproven, they are often unprovable. She quotes colleagues who admit “It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the world’s particle physicists believe that supersymmetry must be true,” because it so elegant and easy to work with. And despite the facts.Hossenfelder says she got into physics because she couldn’t understand people. Physics made sense; people were indecipherable. With no little irony, she wonders if she should get out of physics, because she can’t understand the people. This is a great basis for a book, and Hossenfelder pulls it off with humor, charm, and almost no resorting to math. It makes for a fabulous tale, as she travels the world to meet with the who’s who of physics. She records their near-unanimous dissatisfaction with their field, both because it is not proving beauty wins over ugly, and because ironically, no progress is being made. The book quickly becomes totally informed irreverence from an insider.Physicists have problems with large numbers. First, they can’t justify or even explain them. Second, when you take the inverse of a large number, it is uncomfortably small, which they also can’t justify or explain. The latest disappointment was the long awaited discovery of the Higgs boson, which seems to have disappointed everyone with its ungainly mass. Physicists like numbers to be as close to 1 as possible. They call those numbers “natural” and they lend themselves to pretty theories and formulas. But the universe repeatedly refuses to co-operate in this matter. With all the components and predictions of the current standard model, a total of one qualifies as natural. Everything else is classified as “fine tuning.” Whole theories that utterly fail claim to have discovered “interesting boundaries.” And all with a straight face.The later 20th century found physicists chasing three principles: symmetry, unification, and naturalness. These guiding lights have led them far astray. They have invented numerous unproven theories that are far more elegant than what they observe in nature. They are so elegant, physicists insist that nature must employ them, and their quest becomes to prove nature has done so, not whether or not it is valid. Beauty, Hossenfelder says, is a treacherous guide.In 2018, there remains absolutely no evidence for:-extra dimensions beyond visible 3D and time-new elementary particles beyond the 25 fundamental particles known since the 1960s- vortex theory-string theory-multiverse. Even Stephen Hawking got into it. His posthumously published (second to last) paper explores the beauty of multiverses, though no one has ever been able to demonstrate their existence or influence. Or need, other than for mathematical beauty.Hossenfelder finds some of it comes from sheer boredom. The multibillion dollar Large Hadron Collider has given physicists no new particles or proven any new theories. Physicists are used to rapid advances, dozens yearly, and everyone getting a Nobel Prize sooner than later (most often by age 30 in the 20th century). In the absence of concrete advances, they are trying to fit a cube into a round hole. Or as one string theorist put it – physicists are using a map of the Alps to travel the Himalayas.It has come to the point where anything that isn’t natural and elegant can simply be assigned to another universe, and the job is done. Hossenfelder interviewed one renowned physics professor who complains that physicists now insist their theories need no proof at all, that they should simply be accepted as true, and developed from there. This is precisely why Hossenfelder got into physics; she couldn’t understand people like this. The professor agrees; he is baffled and worried about the whole field.One of the many nice things about Hossenfelder’s style is that she doesn’t begin with 50 pages of dreary history and instruction. She gets right to the issue and only then backpedals into origins. She advises that readers can skip this if they know it. But that would be a mistake. She writes so smartly and her perspective is so untainted by the usual academic constraints, it’s even a pleasure to read the history.She tries to explain the bias that physicists exhibit. But she can’t get past the fact it is about aesthetics and not science. Everyone she speaks with is in favor of it. They admit the pretty theory gains automatic acceptance, while the complicated answer founders. She fears this is precisely why theoretical physics has made no advances in decades. And why she thinks she might be better off leaving it.Truth be told, many of the sciences foster these same viruses. Biology says it is in crisis. I reviewed the excellent Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans deWaal, in which he comes down hard on social scientists for their totally prejudiced studies unconsciously designed to prove animals don’t measure up to Man. They are basically all invalid, and Hossenfelder thinks the same thing is going on in theoretical physics.Douglas Adams said that in the whole history of written English, you will never find the combination of words: “as pretty as an airport”. Here’s another I never thought I’d see: a fun theoretical physics book.David Wineberg

    Esto le resultó útil a 1 persona