How the Hippies Saved Physics
Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival
Named one of the Top Physics Books of 2012 by Physics World
The surprising story of eccentric young scientists who stood up to convention—and changed the face of modern physics.
Today, quantum information theory is among the most exciting scientific frontiers, attracting billions of dollars in funding and thousands of talented researchers. But as MIT physicist and historian David Kaiser reveals, this cutting-edge field has a surprisingly psychedelic past. How the Hippies Saved Physics introduces us to a band of freewheeling physicists who defied the imperative to “shut up and calculate” and helped to rejuvenate modern physics.
For physicists, the 1970s were a time of stagnation. Jobs became scarce, and conformity was encouraged, sometimes stifling exploration of the mysteries of the physical world. Dissatisfied, underemployed, and eternally curious, an eccentric group of physicists in Berkeley, California, banded together to throw off the constraints of the physics mainstream and explore the wilder side of science. Dubbing themselves the “Fundamental Fysiks Group,” they pursued an audacious, speculative approach to physics. They studied quantum entanglement and Bell’s Theorem through the lens of Eastern mysticism and psychic mind-reading, discussing the latest research while lounging in hot tubs. Some even dabbled with LSD to enhance their creativity. Unlikely as it may seem, these iconoclasts spun modern physics in a new direction, forcing mainstream physicists to pay attention to the strange but exciting underpinnings of quantum theory.
A lively, entertaining story that illuminates the relationship between creativity and scientific progress, How the Hippies Saved Physics takes us to a time when only the unlikeliest heroes could break the science world out of its rut.
- June 2011
- 6.5 × 9.6 in
/ 372 pages
- Territory Rights: Worldwide
Endorsements & Reviews
“Starred Review. An enthusiastic account of a coterie of physicists who, during the 1970s, embraced New Age fads and sometimes went on to make dramatic discoveries…Readers will enjoy this entertaining chronicle of colorful young scientists whose sweeping curiosity turned up no hard evidence for psychic phenomena but led to new ways of looking into the equally bizarre quantum world.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Starred Review. Science has never been more unpredictable—or more entertaining!” — Booklist
“It is hard to write a book about quantum mechanics that is at once intellectually serious and a page-turner. But David Kaiser succeeds in his account of a neglected but important group of physicists who brought together quantum mechanics, Eastern religion, parapsychology and the hallucinogen LSD. … Illuminating.” — Hugh Gusterson, Nature
“Exhaustively and carefully researched. [Kaiser] has uncovered a wealth of revealing detail about the physicists involved, making for a very lively tale. … Fascinating.” — American Scientist
“This entertaining, worthwhile read is as much about the nature of society at the dawn of the New Age as it is about quantum physics.” — Choice
“Kaiser’s style is engaging, which makes this history of the time when physics left the short-sleeved white shirts, skinny ties and plastic pocket protectors behind one of the best science books of the year.” — Sacramento News & Review
“Meticulously researched and unapologetically romantic, How the Hippies Saved Physics makes the history of science fun again.” — Matthew Wisnioski, Science
“How the Hippies Saved Physics takes readers on a mind-bending trip to the far horizons of science—a place where the counterculture’s search for a New Age of consciousness opened the door to a new era in physics. Who knew that the discipline that brought us the atom bomb had also glimpsed Utopia? Amazing.” — Fred Turner, author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture
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