Sunday, July 10, 2011
How The Hippies Saved Physics, Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival by David Kaiser
David Kaiser is a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This book is a history of science book. It is also a popular science book. The book describes how quantum physics which many considered to be fringe science became accepted science. It is a very strange, eccentric, and interesting story.
The book focuses on a group called the Fundamental Fysiks Group which held sessions at the University of California Berkeley. Berkeley California is known for its eccentricity and counterculture. The Fundamental Fysiks Group was instrumental in making quantum mechanics acceptable science.
The cast of characters in this book is very different; Jack Sarfatti, Paul Sirag, and Nick Herbert are the central people covered. There is also quite a bit in the early chapters on Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein, and Erwin Schrodinger. There are also numerous scientists spread throughout the book including Richard Feynman and Fritjof Capra who wrote The Dancing Wu Li Masters.
The story is very eccentric and outright strange to the point where it is funny. There are very surprising sources of funding for the experiments which helped establish quantum physics. There is the Esalen institute a New Age retreat in California, Werner Erhard and Est who were part of the human potential movement, Henry Dakin the philanthropist and supporter of paranormal research, and the CIA with its remote viewing experiments.
The experiments themselves are very interesting to read about. They prove things like quantum encryption, nonlocality, and entanglement. Some experiments do not succeed like faster than light communication.
This is a fascinating history about a very unusual topic which most people have a difficult time understanding. It shows a process where fringe science is made into accepted science.
The book is very easy to read. It mostly focuses on the people behind the story, not the physics. The writing is very clear. There is an index, extensive notes, and bibliography. There are numerous black and white photographs and easy to understand diagrams. I found it to be a delightful book to read.