We found 8 Reddit comments about Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray. Here are the top ones, ranked by their Reddit score.
> Holography has provided rich insights into the study of strongly correlated quantum matter without quasiparticle excitations, advances in the nonperturbative bootstrap approach are inching toward a complete reformulation of quantum field theory in a nonlagrangian framework, quantum information perspectives have generated totally novel schemes for understanding entropy in field theories ...the very concept of symmetry has been generalized to higher-form gauge fields and higher-dimensional charged objects (allowing for symmetry-breaking perspectives on topological phases, previously thought to be beyond the Landau paradigm), and for the first time in over a century theoretical physics is generating deep new insights into the most ambitious mathematical programs like Geometric Langlands and Morse theory.
Finding a dozen new ways to reach the same old conclusions, or discovering a slightly different way to describe a field, is precisely what I mean when I say spinning wheels. What is dark matter? What is beyond the standard model? How does gravity operate on the quantum level? We have no idea, and what's worse our best hope of finding even a hint of a direction to go in for real answers fell apart.
Once upon a time physicists rocked the world with every discovery, changed how people perceived everything around them from sunlight to matter to time itself. To say we have not entered a period of relative stagnation compared to the halcyon days of yesteryear, especially with regards to "big" discoveries that get laypeople excited, just doesn't seem to be accurate.
>If the LHC had detected superpartners or signatures of dark matter it would definitely have been among the biggest discoveries of early 21st century physics, but theoretical physics has gotten along just fine without it.
I'm only an undergrad, so you may well be right. I'm just describing my perspective as I saw things when I looked into whether I wanted to continue my studies into graduate school, and it's quite possible I read the wrong blogs and looked at the wrong books. But what do you think about posts like this one:
Or more broadly I suppose her claim (which she wrote a book about that's soon to be released) that theoretical physics' obsession with mathematical beauty and sophistication is to blame for the modern period of failure to innovate? That theoretical physicists have just been re-arranging the mathematical deck chairs rather than doing real work?
I agree that you can't just accept the notion that things work as they are, and entire fields can lock themselves into a rut. I actually read recently a book by Sabine Hossenfelder on how this seems to be the case for modern particle physics, Lost in Math, and I tend to agree with her on that. But I'm also really wary of anything that suggests that I should take at face value the idea that this thing that looks simple to crack is actually that simple and everyone else is just too stuck in their own assumptions and can't think outside the box.
To make an example, I do have a feeling that medicine suffers from some of these problems. Seen from the outside, a lot of the field seems stuffy, locked into practices and habits (especially in terms of how things are taught and learned) that seem more the product of its historical tradition than of sensible didactic practice. The gap between the state-of-the-art researchers and your common GP seems immense. It seems hardly believable that there could be anything beyond simple gut-level decisions or optimism-biased assumptions going on when a doctor hears you describing a bunch of symptoms and rules out that it's just some trivial thing in three minutes without even touching you. I don't think there is, in fact. But the problem is also, while I do have these suspicions (and the right to express them, I think), every time I talked with people who actually are doctors about them I always got the answer that basically the whole shebang is just such a convoluted fucking mess that these sort of heuristics are still the only effective way we seem to have to navigate them. Of course, one could argue, maybe they just say that because they're doctors; they've been trained a certain way and can't see beyond the habits and prejudices that have been drilled into them together with the knowledge. That can be true. But either way, I can't imagine any serious reform coming from anyone but a doctor who still understands the knowledge sufficiently to realise what could be done to amend the way it's applied, because mine are just surface level feelings. There's too many things I ignore to actually make any kind of constructive proposal.
And when EY for example makes the Bank of Japan example in his book (just started reading), he does mention the opinion of professional economists. It's not something out of thin air. Rather, you get actual experts who don't have the sort of ties that will coax them into a socially-reinforced or biased position ("I don't want to criticise my senior colleagues, therefore I will not openly question their decisions even if I think they're wrong), and develop a contrarian opinion. It's not literally just one person.
Well, it may sound tidy but the basic laws of nature are often tidy in that way. But at a more fundamental level it's not that people bring some expectation that things should precisely cancel, (obviously it shouldn't!) but rather that's the answer you get when you run the calculations (as I understand it, that's waaaaay above my pay grade).
The expectation isn't exactly that things work in reverse, some laws do work that way (Newton's laws, most basic quantum mechanics, a bunch of others) but some don't. Entropy (the 2nd law of thermodynamics) is a great example. But we do expect CPT to be a true symmetry, although I forget the exact reason why (it may have something to do with Noether's theorem).
Does that make sense? You can find some people who will argue that physicists have certain weird blind spots (Lost in Math is a recent book that makes that argument), but generally speaking the big questions in our current theories are guided by the theories themselves. Baryogenesis is a big one, merging QM and Relativity is another, the nature of dark matter/energy yet another. The main thing these have in common is that our current theories/models can't explain them, so the question is what direction to go in.
There was a time when String Theory was viewed as promising, but I think that era has past. These days, a large percentage of Physicists view ST as failed and a cautionary tale about what happens when science becomes decoupled from experiment. There are lots, and lots, and lots of books about this topic.
I like to think about things as follows... As far as we know, ST is the only consistent way to unify the 4 fundamental forces while quantizing gravity. This unification requires multiple dimensions, super symmetric particles, and a negative cosmological constant. Unfortunately, Dark Energy is in direct conflict with a negative cosmological constant, super symmetry is looking less likely, and LIGO has found no evidence of extra dimensions. So if anything, ST is strong evidence that a Grand Unification Theory does not exist, and perhaps a new approach is needed. I know many Physicists realize this (perhaps not publicly but at least privately). This is why at the bleeding edge of research we are seeing forays into new areas, e.g. emergent gravity from quantum information, space-time from entanglement, etc.
The End of Theoretical Physics As We Know It Computer simulations and custom-built quantum analogues are analogy of inquiry based "research" in psychology: they tend to produce results expected during their design.
In its present stage mainstream physics suffers with overproduction of overly conservative and dogmatic proponents of unitary theories based on (self-imagined indeed) beauty rather than adherence with experiments in the same way like with overly liberal phenomenological approach, which resigned to whatever attempt for unification with attitude: "every opinion can be equally right here".. The most loud apologists of both groups of physicists used to fight wildly each other (1, 2) - but at the end both approaches spectacularly failed in the same way. Whereas the actually effective theories are still heartily ignored with both groups at the same moment, because both attitudes are occupationally motivated at their very end.
i didn’t say it was defunct, that’s your own reading. i don’t think political systems are right or wrong, they are different principles for organising the state. for example, neo-liberalism is trying to take liberal principles to their logical end, a part of this end is getting rid of as much bureaucracy as possible because bureaucracy often impedes on the individuals freedom and right to choose for themselves. ofc there is nothing wrong with that principle but the result has been that this principle organises a society in a way that overloads poorer citizens with stress as opposed to rich citizens who have the capital to farm out their labour, think of nannies and au pairs as examples. so there’s a result of that organisation and it’s rightness or wrongness is up to the principles of the person evaluating that outcome.
liberals don’t challenge their beliefs, that’s the entire point. destiny will never challenge steven pinker’s “best timeline ever” theory for example. a part of that is because it’s an ideological pillar of liberalism just like fukuyama‘s “end of history”.
i also didn’t say that he’s an ideologue for promoting rational discussion, i said he’s an ideologue because a part of the liberal project is thinking your political system, even when it’s emprically shaky like rational choice theory or neoclassical economics as I said before, is based on reason and that other political systems are irrational. here I’ll get you started: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/enlightenment/#
you’ll notice that neoclassical economics is mathematically consistent and not empirically consistent, see laffer curve etc. liberals are okay with this because according to rationalism math has the deeper truth embedded in it. sabine hossenfelder touches on this in her “beauty leads physics astray” book: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Math-Beauty-Physics-Astray/dp/0465094252
so the point stands, a part of liberal ideology is thinking you are rational/truth seeker/a political (i realise now I should have said “anti-ideology” instead of “apolitical, my bad) and those of other ideologies are irrational. you’re doing it right now, you’ve taken “ideology” as a slur because liberals are supposed to be anti-ideology by definition. im not using ideologue in the way you are using it.
im not making a value judgement on whether or not hussan’s principles are better than destiny’s or vice versa, I’m saying that both are ideological and pointing out the ways in which destiny’s displays his ideology.
if you’d like me to critique soclaism and hasan’s idealogical bent i can but maybe dm me as it has nothing to do with this discussion.
sorry for all the edits, I’m trying to use as many examples as I can so I’m not jargoning past you
I am in the middle of Lost in Math by Sabine Hossenfelder. It is so far an engrossing read. If you have any interest in particle physics you will enjoy it.