"It's tempting to picture a bunch of long-haired ruffians turning the particle accelerators on themselves in David Kaiser's new book, even if the eponymous "hippies" were just a group of scientists slightly apart from mainstream physics." -- Ellen Wernecke
Scientific inquiry in an established field of study as physics, when departs significantly from mainstream theories, may be classified in the 'fringes' of a credible mainstream academic discipline. According to Fringepedia, "The term fringe science is sometimes used to describe fields which are actually pseudo-sciences, or fields which are referred to as sciences, but lack scientific rigor or plausibility. Scientists have also coined the terms voodoo science and cargo cult science to describe inquiry lacking in scientific integrity." Such concepts are considered highly speculative, hardly supported by mainstream scientists. Though there are examples of academia scientists supporting maverick ideas within their own discipline of expertise, many fringe science ideas are advanced by individuals without an academic science training, or by scientists straying outside the mainstream of their own disciplines.
This history of science book sounds weird; it recounts an eccentric and interesting story, which explores how quantum physics, considered to be fringe science became accepted as a mainstream discipline. The book focuses on a group called the Fundamental Fysiks Group which held sessions at the University of California Berkeley. Berkeley is famous for its counterculture, let alone eccentricity. The Fundamental Fysiks Group was instrumental in making quantum mechanics an accepted science. MIT David Kaiser, recalls those waning years of the Vietnam War, overflowing with war dogs, rip-off joint smokers, sex-industry addicts, and peace demonstrators. In those wild days everything seemed possible: communal marriage, living off the land, bringing down the military with flower power. Why not faster-than-light ( FTL) communications refer to the propagation of information faster than one Mach, the speed of sound communication, reaching the speed of light, the message arrives before it is sent, overthrowing the absolute power of Time!
By the time the hippies were in school, physics textbooks had all but abandoned the disarray and confusion of meaning. Ultimately the futile attempts to apprehend something beyond language and maybe beyond intellect. More specifically, Kaiser argues that the hippies, with their lofty failures, contributed to a cutting-edge technology called quantum cryptography. Quantum physics worked, with the message to 'Shut up and calculate'. I remember the letdown. I thought for a while that I wanted to be a physicist. I was rejoicing to read here that philosophizing, to speculate or theorize about physics, has made a revival in university classrooms. Without the enthusiasms of the radical Fysiks Gang, Kaiser speculates, the inquisitive spirit might never have a comeback. The Fundamental Fysiks Group, was a Bay Area collective driven by the notion that quantum mechanics, maybe with the help of a little LSD, could be harnessed to convey psychic powers. Concentrate hard enough and perhaps you really could levitate the Pentagon.
Consciousness Theory Group and the Research Group were part of the scene, and before long Sarfatti, Wolf and their associates were conducting physics and consciousness workshops at the Esalen Institute annually. This is a fascinating history about an unusual topic which many people have a hardship to understand. The author expounds a process where fringe science becomes accepted science. The story is very engaging and outright eccentric to the point of becoming funny. It is composed in a biographical mode, focusing on the characters behind the story. While the writing style is very fine, the book utilizes clear diagrams, and includes many black and white photographs. I found it to be a delightful read, that on occasion tickles your curious bone.
Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness