How the Hippies Saved Physics

How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival by David Kaiser

QC 15 .K26 2011

“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 was 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.” – publisher description

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