How the Hippies Saved Physics: Reviews


Davis Prize for best book aimed at a general audience.

History of Science Society.

Book of the Year!

Physics World. Read the citation here

“Great book for non-physicists who want to understand quantum physics.”


Pick of the crop“: One of the “best books of the year.”

Financial Times. See the full list here

One of the top “popular science books to put on your Christmas list.”

New Scientist. See the full list here

One of the “summer’s best books,” among the top 20 “smartest nonfiction titles for summer reading.”

Christian Science Monitor. See the full list and read the review here

One of the top 10 nonfiction books of the summer.

Philadelphia Inquirer. See the full list and read the review here

“One of the most enjoyable and informative books on the history of science that you’ll read, full-stop.”

Carla Nappi, review in New Books in Science, Technology, and Society. Read the full review and listen to the interview here

A Scientific American Notable Book.

(Starred Review) “Science has never been more unpredictable — or more entertaining!”

Booklist. Read the full review here

(Starred Review) “Readers will enjoy this entertaining chronicle of colorful young scientists whose sweeping curiosity turned up no hard evidence for psychic phenomena but led to new ways of looking into the equally bizarre quantum world.”

Kirkus Reviews. Read the full review here

(Recommended) “This entertaining, worthwhile read is as much about the nature of society at the dawn of the New Age as it is about quantum physics.”

Choice. Read the full review here.

“Meticulously researched and unapologetically romantic, How the Hippies Saved Physics makes the history of science fun again.”

Matthew Wisnioski, review in Science. Read the full review here

“It is hard to write a book about quantum mechanics that is at once intellectually serious and a page-turner. But David Kaiser succeeds in his account of a neglected but important group of physicists who brought together quantum mechanics, Eastern religion, parapsychology and the hallucinogen LSD. … Illuminating.”

Hugh Gusterson, review in Nature. Read the full review here

“The effort to harness entanglement is in itself a story worth telling, and Mr. Kaiser tells it very well. … No wonder Mr. Kaiser was drawn to the story: It’s rare to find quantum physics mentioned in the same breath with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. … I heartily enjoyed How the Hippies Saved Physics … The moral is that it is always useful to have a few mavericks prodding away at the fringes of science to keep folks on their toes.”

John Gribbin, review in The Wall Street Journal. Read the full review here

“Exhaustively and carefully researched. [Kaiser] has uncovered a wealth of revealing detail about the physicists involved, making for a very lively tale. … Fascinating.”

Peter Woit, review in American Scientist. Read the full review here. Woit continues: “a marvelous book, … highly recommend[ed],” Not Even Wrong blog.

A “fascinating journey through some of the more unusual footnotes in the annals of quantum physics. … A book brimming with colourful and curious characters.”

Peter Rodgers, review in Times Literary Supplement. Read the full review here

“What a freaking great space-time. … The Fysicists were among the first to see that a truly deep issue had been raised by Bell’s paper, and this formed the basis for their wide-ranging discussions.”

Chris Sachrajda, review in Times Higher Education. Read the full review here

“What fascinates Kaiser is the mismatch between the FFG scientists’ ‘soaring intellectual aspirations and their modest professional platform’ … As the FFG grappled with Bell’s theorem it forced more conventionally minded physicists to pay attention. Today only the provenance of its successes would raise an eyebrow. Like so many of their peers, the hippies who ‘saved’ physics have been absorbed by the mainstream.”

Manjit Kumar, review in Financial Times. Read the full review here

How the Hippies Saved Physics … turns to those wild days in the waning years of the Vietnam War when anything seemed possible: communal marriage, living off the land, bringing down the military with flower power. Why not faster-than-light communication, in which a message arrives before it is sent, overthrowing the tyranny of that pig, Father Time?”

George Johnson, review in The New York Times. Read the full review here

“A wonderful romp. … The story of this group is worth telling in its own right and in Kaiser’s hands it is told well. He is good at chasing down loose ends, has a wonderful eye for detail and humor, and he has uncovered troves of new information. As one would expect he explains the mysteries of Bell’s Theorem beautifully.”

Trevor Pinch, review in Metascience. Read the full review here

“An inspiring story of underdogs overcoming the odds, and a colorful story of oddballs and eccentrics teaching the world the value of astonishment and speculation. In telling it, Kaiser skillfully avoids the pitfalls of a lurid eposé or credulous apologia. … Entertaining for the lay reader and indispensable for the specialist.”

Cyrus Mody, review in Social Studies of Science. Read the full review here.

“Kaiser illuminates the complex ways in which information travels between entangled electrons and between entangled people. The concepts may be mind-bending, but the lesson is simple: Enjoy the quest.”

Discover Magazine. Read the full review here

“An entertaining argument that quantum-information theory owes its origins to a group of New Age physicists-cum-hippies who lived on the US West Coast in the late 1970s.”

Andrew Whitaker, review in Physics World. Read the full review here

“A surprising mixture of characters and plots. … I liked learning about early discussions regarding Bell’s theorem, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox and the nature of reality, sometimes taking place in workshops with sessions in hot baths, interspersed by drum playing and yoga exercises. … Kaiser’s basic message is that, sometimes, crazy ideas push the understanding of science beyond the frontiers set by people working in conventional environments.”

Carlos Lourenco, review in CERN Courier. Read the full review here

“This book will fuel your cocktail-party cred, and it’s a blast to read at the same time.”

Joel Gardner, LitSnap Review. Read the full review here.

“A fascinating history not only of science but also the counter culture and New Age Movement. … Inspiring. … A great book.”

Ryder Miller, review in San Francisco Book Review. Read the full review here.

“A remarkably accessible sub-atomic joyride.”

Chris Bergeron, review in MetroWest Daily News. Read the full story here.

(Five Stars) What do spoon-bender Uri Geller, coed hot tubs on the California coast, the CIA’s interest in Russian parapsychology, Richard Feynman and the book The Dancing Wu Li Masters all have in common? That’s easy: hippie physicists! David Kaiser’s seriously documented history of science book … [shows how] these counterculture physicists refused, as a common moniker of the time demanded, ‘to shut up and calculate.'”

Michael Barton, review in Portland Book Review. Read the full review here

A “likeable history of an idiosyncratic recent period in science. … Although interesting in its own right, the Fundamental Fysiks Group didn’t usher in a new scientific paradigm or age of Aquarius. It did, however, give a kick up the backside of the scientific method of the time, and its work has been successfully built upon in recent fields such as quantum encryption and quantum computing. The hippies didn’t so much save physics, as give it a good bong hit that opened its eyes a little.”

Doug Johnstone, review in The Independent. Read the full review here

“This all happened at a critical point in history, which Kaiser … brings to life in his captivating narrative.”

Daniel Honan, BigThink. Read the full story here

“An interesting tale, with a kaleidoscope of bizarre characters. … An enjoyable read.”

Frank Close, review in Literary Review. Read the full review here

“A well-written and entertaining book that does an excellent job of explaining for the layperson the fundamental ideas of quantum mechanics.”

James Kakalios, review in Books and Culture Forum. Read the full review here

“Kaiser takes readers on a delightful and occasionally trippy historical tour of 1960s and ’70s quantum physics, as practiced on the fringe. …A well-crafted and engaging tale of hippies and quantum weirdness [that] provides us with a fascinating case study of what the scientific process is — and what it is not.”

Elise Crull, review in Books and Culture Forum. Read the full review here

“General and science collections alike will find this a winner!”

Midwest Book Review. Read the full review here

“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.”

Kel Munger, review in the Sacramento News & Review. Read the full review here.

(Featured Title) “The shape of popular science would look dramatically different — more stodgy and conservative, less expansive — were it not for a long-ago mini-revolution in the field of physics that melded the hippie sensibility of far-out daydreaming with a Newtonian fervor for theorizing and testing. MIT professor David Kaiser finds the hidden affinities between cosmic consciousness and laboratory protocols in this absorbing account of a time when longhairs with slide rules stalked the planet.”

Barnes and Noble Review. Read the full review here.

(Starred Review) “In How the Hippies Saved Physics, author David Kaiser has written a provocative book about a 1970s cohort of young physicists. … If this extraordinary book doesn’t win prizes, it will only be because more years will be required to deliver solid goods based on the imaginations and creativity of the Fundamental Fysiks Group.”

Blanchard Hiatt, review in SB&F, the review journal for Science Books & Film of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Read the full review here

“Kaiser argues convincingly for their role as provocateurs … a quest How the Hippies Saved Physics imbues with the joy of nerdy discovery. The transition between a view of physics limited to practical applications and one in which less-solvable questions predominated might have happened anyway, but Kaiser successfully makes his case that younger generations of scientists who were at least open to those questions helped usher it in.”

Ellen Wernecke, review in The A. V. Club of The Onion. Read the full review here.

“David Kaiser’s new book, How the Hippies Saved Physics, paints a carnival atmosphere of psychedelic imagery. … While many books about physics, even popular ones, tend to suffer from too much headiness, Kaiser … does an admirable job of making the very concepts of quantum mechanics palpable. What Kaiser’s storytelling does best is make a case for the value of freewheeling free thinking, particularly now, when institutions of higher learning are under siege.”

Todd Wilkinson, review in The Christian Science Monitor. Read the full review here.

Something to read: How the Hippies Saved Physics … documents the history of the experimental, Berkeley-based “Fundamental Fysiks Group,” which injected fresh blood into the world of quantum physics in the 1970s.”

San Francisco Examiner. Read their other recommendations here.

“These are stories you won’t find in a standard physics textbook, and Kaiser’s great service is to illuminate the messy interface between solid-yet-fringe science and open-to-fringe society. How the Hippies Saved Physics is an excellent primer for understanding how popular notions of quantum mechanics came to arise. … [Kaiser] brilliantly shows how science on the cutting edge can be co-opted in all sorts of other areas.”

Alexandra Witze, review in The Dallas Morning News. Read the full review here

“A reminder of the unexpected influence a bunch of freewheeling 1970s physicists had on fundamental theories. … Entertaining … a curious and largely forgotten episode in the history of physics.”

Marcus Chown, review in New Scientist. Read the full review here

“History of science at its most entertaining and accessible.” Read the full review here

“A thought-provoking read. … If you’re interested in fundamental questions about quantum mechanics — and you know who you are — you should pick up a copy. It’s a fun and engaging story about a highly colorful and shamefully underreported chapter in the history of physics.”

Chad Orzel, review at Uncertain Principles. Read the full review here

“David Kaiser’s How the Hippies Saved Physics is a fabulous social and science history about the relationship between consciousness culture, philosophy and physics in the 1970s. … Kaiser is a great science writer.”

Erik Davis, review at Techgnosis. Read the full review here

Advance praise for How the Hippies Saved Physics:

What happens when you mix the foundations of quantum mechanics with hot tubs, ESP, saffron robes, and psychedelic drugs? David Kaiser’s masterly ability to explain the most subtle and counterintuitive quantum effects, together with his ability to spin a ripping good yarn, make him the perfect guide to this far-off and far-out era of scientific wackiness.”

Seth Lloyd, author of Programming the Universe

How The Hippies Saved Physics takes readers on a mind-bending trip to the far horizons of science—a place where the counterculture’s search for a New Age of consciousness opened the door to a new era in physics. Who knew that the discipline that brought us the atom bomb had also glimpsed Utopia? Amazing.

Fred Turner, author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture

“This book takes us deep into the kaleidoscopic culture of the 1970s—with its pop-metaphysicians, dabblers in Eastern mysticism, and counterculture gurus—some of whom, it turns out, were also physicists seeking to challenge the foundations of their discipline. In David Kaiser’s hands, the story of how they succeeded—albeit in ways they never intended—makes a tremendously fun and eye-opening tale. As the physicist I. I. Rabi once remarked: ‘What [more] do you want, mermaids?’

Ken Alder, author of The Measure of All Things and The Lie Detectors

At first it sounds impossible, then like the opening line of a joke: What do the CIA, Werner Erhard’s est, Bay Area Hippie explorations, and the legacy of Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger have in common? It turns out, as David Kaiser shows, quite a lot. Here is a book that is immensely fun to read, gives insight into deep and increasingly consequential questions of physics, and transports the reader back into the heart of North Beach zaniness in the long 1960s. Put down your calculators and pick up this book!

Peter Galison, author of Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps

How the Hippies Saved Physics gives us an unconventional view of some unconventional people engaged early in the fundamentals of quantum theory. Great fun to read.

Anton Zeilinger, co-winner of the 2010 Wolf Prize in Physics and author of Dance of the Photons

“David Kaiser shows us the wonder, mystery, and joy of the scientific pursuit that helped define, and inspire, a particular moment within the counterculture. Some have seen and long appreciated these resonances, but no one has stated the case this authoritatively, this fully, and this colorfully.”

Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion

Quantum theory inspired strong passions and controversial questions right from the start. What does quantum theory tell us about the ultimate nature of reality, consciousness, and our place in nature? How the Hippies Saved Physics takes us back to a time when these question had become marginalized. It provides a fascinating account of their long journey back to the mainstream, culminating in today’s quantum renaissance with quantum cosmology, quantum cryptography, and quantum computing.

Max Tegmark, Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, MIT

Links to additional reviews will be posted here as they appear.