Quantum hot tubs

Physics in the Cold War years had become pretty darned boring, all about bombs, spaceships and doing calculations—lots and lots of calculations. But just as the hippies opened up music, politics, literature and, uh, sex, they also did wonders for science by freeing their minds. David Kaiser’s How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival is all about the mind-expanding effects on science of the Berkeley-based Fundamental Fysiks Group and the new territory they opened for inquiry. Quantum entanglement (what Albert Einstein called “the spooky effect”), the many-worlds theory and other “far out” ideas were explored in a scientific community that had room for hot tubs, ESP and even a little LSD. Kaiser’s style is engaging, which makes this history of the time when physics left the short-sleeved white shirts, skinny ties and plastic pocket protectors behind one of the best science books of the year.