OSTI's diffusion researcher David Kaiser has a new book on "How the Hippies Saved Physics" that is getting great reviews. A Science Magazine review says "Meticulously researched and unapologetically romantic, ‘How the Hippies Saved Physics’ makes the history of science fun again."
Professor David Kaiser is both a physicist and an historian, on the faculty at MIT. David has done several pioneering studies for OSTI, exploring the diffusion of scientific knowledge and the role that OSTI might play in accelerating this diffusion, using computer modeling. He began as part of a team that applied a disease model to the happier case of the spread of scientific knowledge. See their report – “Population Modeling of the Emergence and Development of Scientific Fields” (2006).
Kaiser and team member Luis Bettencourt, from Los Alamos National Lab, then went on to discover what appears to be a communication phase transition that occurs when a scientific community embraces new idea. See “The dynamics of scientific discovery: the spread of ideas and structural transitions in collaboration networks” (2008) and “General Critical Properties of the Dynamics of Scientific Discovery” (2011)
In his new book Kaiser explores the unlikely interaction between quantum physics and the “consciousness expansion” movement in the 1970’s. Quantum theory has always had a “mind blowing” aspect and this really came to the fore during the period in question. As someone who taught Philosophy of Science at this time I can attest to the wonderful strangeness of it all. Even today the language of consciousness is threaded throughout the quantum literature.
The remarkable thing is that David has been able to capture this strangeness in a scholarly fashion. In the process he raises important issues regarding the nature of science and the way science grows. I hope his pioneering OSTI work has helped him do this.
“How the Hippies Saved Physics Science, Counterculture and the Quantum Revival”
By David Kaiser
Norton, New York, 2011, 400 pp
Congratulations to David Kaiser!
Senior consultant for innovation