05 January 2013

How the Hippies Saved Physics, A Book About California Physicists in the 1970s Is Physics World's Book of the Year

The Institute of Physics' website, physicsworld.com, has chosen, How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture and the Quantum Revival, a book about a group of physicists in California who brought quantum physics to the forefront of mainstream science.

The book by associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Kaiser, looks at the these new age thinking scientists who called themselves the “Fundamental Fysiks Group” and how they influenced modern physics to focus on the weird world of quantum theory.

Physics World's editor, Matin Durrani, and reviews editor, Margaret Harris help choose 2012's Book of the Year based on factors such as its relevance to science (with emphasis on physics), readability, how well the book is written, it's originality, and scientifically interesting.

David Kaiser was asked why he wrote the book. He says, "I've been interested for a long time in the fortunes of physics as a discipline over they years since World War 2. The physics that came out of the war in a whole new orientation, a whole new place compared to how it ever been..."

Kaiser continues, "There was a temporal boundedness to that kind of post WW2 era of big enrollments tremendous funding, of almost glamour especially in the US to the physics profession. And that came tumbling down horribly quickly around the early 1970s.

So I was interested to how is it like to be a young physicist as assumptions about the field were changing so rapidly. What was it like to be a young physicist in 1975 versus 1955 and so I was curious to that larger question. I stumbled on this group.

I've been interested to Bell's theorem since I was a physics student. I knew about John Klauser's wonderful early experiment that I learned about later on. I've read books like the Tau of Physics by Fritjof Capra as an interested high school kid.

I didn't know they were all related...

Video: How the Hippies Saved Physics — David Kaiser

Margaret says the book is a fun and interesting read and that It's been a front runner for book of the year since was reviewed by Physics World on August 2012. Even half of Physic's World facebook followers have voted for the book.

Aside from, How the Hippies Saved Physics, Matin and Margaret also revealed their shortlist for the years top books. These are (in no particular order):


Physics World
Physics World Book of the Year 2012
ESP and LSD on the CIA's dime: How the Hippies Saved Physics
Physics Technology and Education Key Factor To Advances In Medical Sciences
Discovery of Higgs Particle Chosen As Scientific Breakthrough of the Year by the AAAS
The Importance of Maintaining an Unbiased and Accurate View In Online Science and Technology Reporting
Earning A Doctorate Degree or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Studying The Innate and Cultural Cognitive Origins of Math
STEM Jobs Act Giving Green Cards To Foreign Students Hit a Snag