[EconTalk] Sabine Hossenfelder on Physics, Reality, and Lost in Math

Sabine Hossenfelder on Physics, Reality, and Lost in Math

30/09/2019 by EconTalk: Russ Roberts

Web player: https://podplayer.net/?id=82601861
Episode: http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2019/Hossenfeldermath.mp3

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder talks about her book Lost in Math with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Hossenfelder argues that the latest theories in physics have failed to find empirical confirmation. Particles that were predicted to be discovered by the mathematics have failed to show up. Whether or not there is a multiverse has no observable consequences. Hossenfelder argues that physicists have become overly enamored with the elegance and aesthetics of their theories and that using beauty to evaluate a model is unscientific. The conversation includes a discussion of similar challenges in economics.

Listen date: early January 2020


  • From the description, I was worried that Hossenfelder would turn out to be a crank. Fortunately not, and I’m glad I listened to this episode instead of deleting it, even if I didn’t learn a huge deal.
  • What I did learn is that a lot of the GUTs, especially supersymmetry seem mathematically elegant, but keep proposing more and more outlandish particles in order to remain plausible – and these particles are harder and harder to detect.
  • “Socially reinforced is the polute way of saying groupthink” made me giggle.
  • I enjoyed the discussion about how you can’t see the beauty in something up until the point where you realise that it’s empirically true.

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