College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Centers & Institutes > DePaul Humanities Center > Events > My Brilliant Pen Pal > Sabine Hossenfelder (AQ 2020)
“I am a physicist. More exactly, I am a theoretical physicist. People often wonder what a theoretical physicist does. You might not believe it, but most of the time I think. Sometimes, I scribble funny looking things with a pencil on a notebook. Processes like this usually involve lots of coffee and walking up and down the corridor." —Sabine Hossenfelder
Sabine Hossenfelder, Ph.D., is a physicist, artist, and popular author. Her celebrated book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray (which has been translated into German, Italian, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic, Romanian, and Korean) is an attempt to sound an alarm in contemporary physics. Hossenfelder argues that the reason there has been no progress in the foundations of physics for more than forty years is that physicists are being led by mathematics rather than empirical observation—and more troubling than this, even, they are being led by a mathematical sense of aesthetics, by the belief that “beautiful" math must lead to “true" descriptions of reality. In some ways, Hossenfelder is even claiming that physics has stopped being a science when it comes to the search for quantum gravity, for the smallest particles that make up everything, for the foundations of the universe itself.
Currently a research fellow at the Frankfort Institute for Advanced Studies, Hossenfelder has published numerous scientific articles on topics in general relativity, quantum gravity, particle physics, quantum foundations, and statistical mechanics. But her work has also been featured in Scientific American, New Scientist, Nautilus, Aeon, and the New York Times. With degrees in math, physics, and theoretical physics, Hossenfelder's keen ability to make complicated ideas understandable for non-scientists without sacrificing meticulous attention to technical detail makes her an exemplary model of “the public intellectual." Her curious mind has led her to think about questions of free will, artificial intelligence, cryptography, time travel, and, recently, the nature of human consciousness. All of that, plus she has given the world really cool quantum physicist trading cards, the opportunity to pay to chat with a scientist, as well as some pretty amazing music videos about antiparticles, racing light, and a very famous cat that might very well be both alive and dead at the same time.