Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser - Physics World Book of the Year

How the Hippies Saved Physics : science, counterculture, and the quantum revival
by David Kaiser (M)

*Starred Review* Strange science requires stranger scientists. Behind the mystifying but potent new physics of quantum encryption, Kaiser uncovers a ragtag band of scientists, the Fundamental Fysiks Group, a bizarre but brilliant company that coalesced at Berkeley in the 1970s, hanging together long enough to dabble in psychedelic drugs, experiment with extrasensory perception, toy with Asian mysticism and launch audacious new science. These are hippie scientists who conduct electronic seances to communicate with Houdini, delving into the I Ching as a guide to quantum complementarity, and testing the telepathic powers of spoon-bending psychics. Even in funding their unlikely projects, these hippie savants defy the conventions, shrewdly leveraging their ties to New Age gurus with big checkbooks.

Though Kaiser can recognize bunkum, he lauds this group for exposing the impossibility of drawing a firm boundary between science and nonscience and for so breaking the scientific community out of the philosophical sterility of Cold War pragmatism. Thanks to the hippie iconoclasts, scientists could again think Big Thoughts. And though many of the Fysiks Group's thoughts veered into the outre, one line of thought rescued John Bell's pioneering work on quantum entanglement from obscurity, so making possible the marvels of quantum encryption. Science has never been more unpredictable or more entertaining!" - Booklist

These shortlisted titles are also available:

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the great age of American innovation
by Jon Gertner (M)

Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution
by John R. Gribbin (M)

How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog
by Chad Orzel (M)

A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: the race to kill the BP oil gusher
by Joel Achenbach (M)

previous Physics World Books of the Year:

The Strangest Man : the hidden life of Paul Dirac, mystic of the atom
by Graham Farmelo (M)

Quantum Man : Richard Feynman's life in science
by Lawrence M. Krauss (M)

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