The Book

Lost in Math chronicles the author's quest to find out why so many physicists today believe the laws of nature must be beautiful. A first person account, Hossenfelder's story begins with her frustration that, despite 40 years of failure, researchers in the foundations of physics do not change their methods. Though progress has stalled, they still consider beauty a good guide to select promising hypotheses. 

Besides bringing the reader up to speed on physicists' currently best explanations for the structure of matter and the beginning of the universe, Lost in Math presents a lively picture of physics through the author's conversations with some of her field's most influential minds. She meets with Princeton prodigy Nima Arkani-Hamed, speaks with Nobel laureates Frank Wilczek and Steven Weinberg, and talks to fellow blogger Chad Orzel. She flies half around the world to Maui, where she visits the new institute of Garrett Lisi, the surfer dude with the Theory of Everything, then returns to Germany to hear why George Ellis worries about the disconnect between physics and philosophy. [see full list]

Along her travels, Hossenfelder introduces the relevant terminology so that even readers without prior knowledge will have no trouble following the discussions about supersymmetry, the multiverse, dark matter, or string theory.

The closer Hossenfelder looks at the question why physicists rely on aesthetic criteria for guidance, the more evident it becomes that an obsession with beauty alone cannot explain the current crisis in the foundations of physics. Hossenfelder concludes that the problems in her discipline have the same origin as other, recent, crises in different areas of science: Groupthink, peer pressure, and professional hubris.

The book finishes with a call to action and a proposal for change. 

(304 pages, 18 black-and-white figures)