Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Review: "How the Hippies Saved Physics" by David Kaiser

I'm always excited to see a new science book available for checkout from the library online.  Especially since I'm still elbows deep in Stephen King's The Dark Tower Series.  

So I read (listened to) How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival by David Kaiser.

If nothing else, this book reminded me that I am, at my Core, an Engineer.  The book covered the fringe physics research from about the 1950's through present day.  I don't like fringe.  That's not entirely true, but I can solidly and easily place myself among the critics throughout the book who thought that studying parapsychology and ESP as scientific amounted to basically nonsense.  I can't help myself.  I like Newtonian Physics.  I like things I can see, touch, understand and break down to pieces that make logical sense to me.

I am, however, willing to accept that this particular rigid and logical way of thinking isn't what develops new ways of looking at the Universe and the basic make up of matter.  In college, things like Bell's Theorem and non-locality gave me a headache.  This apparently hasn't changed much.  Even in the context of a pop audio book when things go too far out for me, I simply zoned out for a few minutes until it came back to something I could relate to a bit better.

Discovering that some of the theories of Quantum Physics were first explored and discussed by hippies on drugs and lounging naked in hot tubs doesn't really help legitimize it in my mind.  I refuse to accept that mind altering substances of any ever kind reveal any type of greater understanding of the universe.  My world view insists that I believe that any type of understanding comes from hard work, and clear headed thinking.  But I'm an engineer and the world benefits from me holding this position.  I'll leave the mind altering drugs and consequent 'discoveries' to the philosophers, artists and fringe physicists. 

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