How the Hippies Saved Physics
David Kaiser Norton Publishers 2011
This is a well written, researched, and informative book on scientific discovery at a critical time in modern history. The author seems to exhibit a love-hate relationship with a primary focus of the book, members of the Fundamental Fysics Group; at once criticizing them and praising them.
“These days quantum information science sports a multi-billion-dollar research program, ten thousand published research articles, and a variety of devise prototypes. The field has leaped to the cutting edge of physics…”
“In 1979, some of the most exclusive coverage [on the unsettled debates over quantum physics] appeared in an unpublished memorandum of the Central Intelligence Agency”
…The breakthroughs [in quantum information science] … ultimately owe their origins to the hazy, bong filled excesses of the 1970s New Age movement.
The woolly pursuits of the
1970s harkened back to an earlier way of doing physics and being a physicist.
In the development of quantum theory, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg and
Schrodinger confronted counterintuitive notions, resulting in catchphrases such
as wave-particle duality, Schrodinger’s cat, etc. They made attempts to tackle
these concepts philosophically. They held in mind a model of aspiring physicist
as a Kulturtrager; a bearer of culture. but this style of physics did not last long. [It soon became
handmaiden to the world’s military industrial complex] Physics in the
“Before a field like quantum information science could develop, a critical mass of researchers needed to embrace a different mode of doing physics once more. They had to incorporate philosophy, interpretation and even bald speculation. Quantum physicists had to daydream again”
Amid the social and political
upheavals of the 1970s,
This group’s intense, unstructured brainstorming sessions planted the seeds for today’s mainstream (military industrial complex) interest in quantum information science, which shields the missives of bankers and politicians. Along the way, this group, with parallel efforts from a few other isolated physicists, contributed a sea change in how we think about information, communication, computation, and the quantum world.
While the physics profession
floundered, members of the FFG emerged as the public avant-gard
of the new physics, with patrons such as the CIA. They were able to carve out a
few institutional niches, the best known being the Esalen
notes the impossibility of cleaving off the group from the “real” physics of the day. Members were entangled with mainstream physics on multiple levels, including people, patronage, and intellectual pay off.
Despite the significance of QIS today, the FFG’s contributions lie buried still, overlooked of forgotten in physicists collective consciousness. Maybe because nothing of lasting value was expected to come from the environment in which it was born.
The FFG saved physics in three ways: First they opened up space again for freewheeling speculation; second, they rescued Bell’s theorem and quantum entanglement from a decade of unrelenting obscurity; Their push on Bells Theorem and quantum entanglement led to the third way they saved physics: the “no-cloning theorem”, which stipulates that it is impossible to produce perfect copies (clones) of an unknown or arbitrary quantum state. Efforts to copy it necessarily alter it. The fact that unknown quantum states in fiber optic cables cannot be copied is what makes decoding or decryption of the QIS message impossible.
“I find this mismatch between their soaring intellectual aspirations and their modest professional platform especially captivating.”
Chapter 1 “Shut up and Calculate”
In the spring of 1974, Fred
Alan Wolf and Jack Sarfatti sat down with Werner
Erhard in the lobby of the Ritz hotel in
p. 2 f:
In the development of quantum theory, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg and Schrodinger confronted counterintuitive notions, which they believed required extended philosophical engagement. Some envoked the writings of Emmanuel Kant, others quotations from the Hindu Upanishads, and still others the work of Carl Jung.
…..grown men argued into the night….
Especially in the
“Shut up and calculate” became the new dictum.
p. 5 f:
The many peculiarities of quantum mechanics were captures in the double slit experiment, which became the favorite demonstration of quantum champions.
When light is shined from a distance onto a double slitted wall, a plane light wave hits the wall, and the light passing through each slit fans out into two circular arcs. When the two circular arcs merge, an interference pattern is formed and displays on a wall behind the two slits.
Single electrons fired towards the double slit act as particles which may pass through one of the slits and be registered on the screen. However, as more electrons; hundreds, or thousands, are fired towards the double slit, the ones that make it through either of the two slits form an interference pattern, rather than piling up behind one or the other slit.
Even more strange, physicists could shoot a thousand electrons at the double slitted wall, one at a time an hour apart. The result will be the same interference pattern as would have resulted from photons being fired at the double slits. Einstein pressed his quantum colleagues to explain the electron result. What did the “waving”? each electron had been fired separately so the result could not be due to some particle interaction, (say by repelling electric charges). Each electron had been detected as a tiny particle; none showed up at the screen as a washed out wave.
The quantum colleagues developed an interpretation of what was happening: every quantum system has an associated wave function Ψ (psi). The values the wave function assumed in different locations, and the way those values change over time were governed by an equation introduced by Schrodinger in 1926. Max Born advanced the interpretation that psi was related to probability:
(the wave equation) |Ψ|2 = probability
In this interpretation, the electron’s wave function spread out like a wave and went through both slits, leading to the interference pattern.
Einstein was unconvinced, calling this the Heisenberg-Bohr tranquilizing philosophy.
Heisenberg-Bohr considered modifying the double slit experiment by placing small test particles behind one of the slits, which would be scattered by electrons passing through that slit. In this way they hoped to tell which slit each electron passed through. This would have worked had it not been for another problem, since named Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle: one can never know exactly where a particle is and what it’s velocity is at the same time. The resulting uncertainty in the electron and test particle position and velocity in the double slit experiment would be enough to erase any wave like interference.
To Bohr, the paradox of the slit detector exemplified a more general feature of quantum physics :
Ask a particle like question, get a particle like answer; ask a wave like question, get a wave like answer; he coined the term for this characteristic “complimentarity”. Einstein mocked Bohr’s philosophy, the notion that the QM answer is only a probability, and accorded QM only “transitory significance”. He agreed that the probabilistic equations of QM gave reliable practical results, but argued that this was not enough to grant it significance.
Schrodinger and Einstein commiserated on their view of the unsatisfactory state of QM in producing probabilities. The result was Schrodinger’s half alive, half dead cat, and both were convinced that there must be more to physics than probabilities. Bohr turned to Kant and Kierkegaard, and Heisenberg to Plato’s Timaeus [Often treated by modern scholars as a weak work]
The quantumists struggled to understand how the world could possibly work via the QM they had developed.
p. 14 f.:
To the dismay of grad students in QM, in the early 1950s, academia suddenly shifted away from philosophical interpretation. Essay questions disappeared from grad student exams across the country, replaced by a collection of standard problems to calculate.
During the war, all efforts went toward the engineering of weapons. This situation continued during WWII and the Cold War. In 1951 a top member of the Atomic Energy Commission described physicists as a “war commodity”, a “tool of war”, to be “stockpiled” and “rationed”. Congress dumped lots of money into education for science and engineering, which became very popular studies in universities across the country.
p. 18 f:
It was found that during the
1950s in the
p. 20 f.
p. 21 f:
Twenty years later another informal discussion group convened, bent on exploring the big questions of QM. As Freistadt’s group, it was peopled with physicists on the margins. But where Freistadt’s group toiled in obscurity, members of the Fundamental Fysics Group became media darlings, published a series of best selling books, and leaving a genuine imprint on physics research and cirricula throughout the country. These physicists were caught at the wring place at the wrong time, bystanders of a systematic political upheaval that rocked the physics profession.
Since WWII, physics had been more reliant on federal (military) funding than any other. With unrest on campus and the small military return on its physics investment, physicist enrollment plummeted faster and deeper than any other field. Demand disappeared even more quickly.
Chapter 2: Spooky Actions at a Distance
P. 26 f.:
One recent development
dominated the FFG’s deliberations:
Bohm had been a grad student under J. Robert Oppenheimer
In the midst of this controversy Bohm crafted his own hidden variables interpretation of QM. He believed the troubling QM probabilities arose from averaging over real but hidden variables. Rewriting Schrodinger’s wave equation in a new way, Bohm showed it could also be interpreted in a non-probabilistic way. An electron may behave deterministically much like a billiard ball. To do this Bohm had to introduce a new force field; the “quantum potential”, which accounts for the hidden variables.
Freistadt had been interested in Bohm’s
hidden variable concept, and now fired
p. 33 f. :
Because the source of the two particles had zero spin, the total spin of the two particles must sum to zero: if A’s spin is up, B’s spin will be down, and vice versa. Schrodinger had termed such perfect correlations “entanglement”
Since spin values could only
be up + or down - one unit for each side, then the expected maximum value when
the spin of both sides is summed will always be between +/- 2. However, QM theory
predicted clear violations of the -2 LE sum LE +2 rule. For certain angles the
quantum prediction exceeded the boundary by more than 40%. Particles A and B
were more strongly correlated than the expected boundary. Thus
The physical outcome, entanglement vs locality, was now testable.
Many scientists have tried
to articulate what QM’s violation of the -2 LE sum LE +2 rule
would mean about the structure of the micro [or macro] world. From today’s
(2011) perspective, Bells theorem is of great significance.
When his papers were
published, in the 60’s, there was no acknowledgment or activity whatsoever. Interest
pockets began to coalesce in the 70s. Active groups formed around David Bohm, then a
Interestingly, the largest
proportion of articles published came from physicists working un the
Chapter 3: Entanglements
was a grad student in physics in the
During this period, the
bottom dropped out of the physics profession, which made finding a job difficult.
On top of that, he was interested in the big questions of QM, which got him
kicked out of some of the finest physics departments in the
With department director
Charles Townes approval, he cobbled together the equipment, and in 1972
published the first experimental results on
Elizabeth Rauscher brought people in to visit Clauser’s lab.
p. 51 f
While working at Lawrence Livermore (nuclear weapons) Lab, Elizabeth Rauscher joined and chaired the Livermore Philosophy group, oriented towards lighthearted humor.
Back at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, she offered short summer courses on the “philosophy of science”, focusing on the relationship between science and society.
She visited Arthur Young’s
Institute for the Study of Consciousness in
Sirag studied physics as an undergrad, but dropped out in
his senior year to pursue theater, and was cast for a part in the original
Broadway production of Hair, but could not come up with the $600 to join the
Actor’s Equity union, so was unable to accept the part. He returned to
Sirag met Nick Herbert, who earned a “no nonsense shut up
and calculate QM” PhD in 1967. Herbert had been through lean times, and when he
applied for an opening as an industrial physicist at Memorex, the personnel
manager insisted he be screened by a psychologist before being hired. Although he eventually found a normal physics
job, he continued to wonder about the big questions. When he was introduced to
a senior theoretical physicist at LBL was perhaps the first prominent physicist
to pay attention to
Stapp’s work at LBL inspired George Weissmann,
who came from
p. 59 f:
Fred Alan Wolf worked in the
early 60s on nuclear projects for General Atomic, but was not satisfied working
on such gadjets. He then took up teaching at San
Diego State College/University, which he enjoyed, but then the bottom dropped
out of physics funding. Starting in 1970, strangers began dropping by his
campus office, eager to tell him about their psychic experiences. He had not
invited them, but did not turn them away, and the visits stirred something
inside of him. He took a world wide tour in 1971, and had his first
transcendental experience in a Buddhist temple. Later he was invited to
p. 61 f:
had gone thru similar experiences; successfully embracing mainstream physics,
gaining a half dozen distinguished physicists in the
P. 65 f.
Chapter 4 From Psi to Psi
The FFG had been founded not
to explore the meaning of
The CIA, Pentagon, and
PhD physicists from elite
programs dabbling in the occult? On a longer view the combination
appears neither shocking nor unprecedented. Mesmerism in the 1770s and
spiritualism in the 1870s had become international sensations. In both cases
leading scholars from
In Britain, major scientific authorities, including Lord Rayleigh, JJ Thompson, William Ramsay, and William Crooks, several of whom became Nobel laureates, devoted decades to investigating the latest claims.
Several founders of QM looked into this area. Schrodinger delved into Sanskrit to clarify various Hindu beliefs. Later he lectured a Berlin journalist on the “Brahman doctrine that the all equals the unity of consciousness”; “it would be a vast error to believe that science knows any better or clearer answer [than the Brahman teachings] “.
Pascual Jordan, who helped develop QM with Werner Heisenberg and Max Born in the 1920s, wrote a book about quantum physics, the Freudian unconscious, and parapsychology.
In the 1930s Wolfgang Pauli worked with Carl Jung in trying to build a bridge between quantum physics and the collective unconscious. Pauli wrote essays extolling the need to synthesize “rational understanding” with “the mystical experience of one-ness.”
“Over time, however, the occult movement quietly faded from the mainstream, lumbering under the weight of so many decades of disappointment, spiked by occasional evidence of outright fraud.”
Whereas the Society for Psychical
Research, founded in
“When the Newsletter for Parapsychology Foundation announced in September 1955….that “World wide research moves ahead”, few outside its dwindling membership seemed to care or notice.
“Just a few weeks earlier the [yellow] journal Science had carried a devastating critique of “ Science and the Supernatural”, and commentators from the New York Times and Time magazine had gladly declared the field dead.”
The FFG, in their investigation of Psi phenomena, were resurrecting a once proud tradition.
In the summer of 73, Sarfatti read a story in the SF Examiner about research
underway at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Early in the 1970’s, to
quell mounting protests,
had previously worked as a naval intelligence officer and civilian researcher
at the National Security Agency (NSA). He completed his PhD at Stanford in 1967
on a new type of tunable laser. He taught for several years to teach in
Stanford’s electrical engineering department, where he coauthored a text on
quantum electronics. He worked for SRI,
and as government contracts declined, he asked his SRI supervisor for
permission to begin conducting tests f parapsychological effects. He was a
practitioner of scientology at the time, a controversial set of beliefs “that
centers on mystical connections between mind and body.” He also dabbled in
workshops on gestalt therapy and consciousness expansion. He worked with
another laser physicist from
In 1972, Uri Geller visited Puthoff and Targ’s lab at SRI.
After weeks of tests, they concluded he demonstrated psi abilities. Sarfatti discovered their research and visited their lab,
where he also met Brendan O’Regan and Edgar Mitchell,
who conducted telepathy experiments during the Apollo 14 mission of Feb 1971,
and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) on his return. Andrija Puharich asserted in the
book Uri that Geller had received
telephone calls from a voice calling itself “Spectra”, that claimed to be an
extraterrestrial computer circling earth, contacting select individuals in preparation
for future contact. Sarfatti’s mom told him that he
had also received such calls, which he forgot about. By 1974, he and Wolf helped David Bohm and a colleague at
In the 1960s,
p. 75 f
Wigner’s friend John A
Wheeler picked up on the theme of consciousness and QM during the early 1970s.
Wheeler studied with Niels Bohr in
To Wheeler, the participatory nature of quantum theory explained not only the outcome of quantum experiments, but the emergence of the universe itself. Along with physicists, Wheeler’s essays sited the Greek Parmenides and enlightenment philosopher George Berkeley. No consciousness? Then no world. Wheeler and Sarfatti stayed in touch.
p. 82 f
After lunching with magician James Randi and watching him duplicate many of Uri Geller’s feats by conjuring, Sarfatti distanced himself from Geller, though not from the psi phenomena. Geller became the focus of great controversy. For every debunking by a magician, a new endorsement appeared.
Nick Herbert and Saul-Paul Sirag were captivated by Wigner’s proposal about the
central role of consciousness in quantum measurement. They turned this proposal
on it’s head, asking what quantum theory implied about
the nature of consciousness. They supported Physicist Evan Harris Walker’s postulate
that consciousness might be an infinite set of hidden variables, real but
beyond direct physical observation. This postulate in turn led to calculations
that supported the possibility of psi effects. Herbert built the “metaphase
typewriter” to explore
Herbert reasoned that if walker were correct, then mind might be at root a quantum effect, separate from the physical body.
p. 90 f.
In the 1970s, the
Decades later, a fuller
picture began to emerge. Documents revealed an extensive program, clandestinely
funded by the CIA, DIA, and other orgs, to develop the use of ESP to peer into
secret military bases in the
Rauscher showed up on Puthoff and Targ’s doorstep one
day. They tried to ignore her til she showed them a
paper she had been working on concerning theoretical efforts to explain
non-locality. She connected with John Wheeler, who met and communicated often
with her, and encouraged her forays into relativity and cosmology. She realized
that one way to account for nonlocal effects, and perhaps to explain
Chapter 5 New Patrons, New Forums
With flair, members of the FFG secured financial backing from unusual patrons. With the CIA and Pentagon officials, self-made millionaires stepped in to keep the group going. There was pushback. Psychologists questioned experimental protocol; James Randi criticized Puthoff and Targ’s SRI experiments. John Wheeler went on the warpath. He appealed to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to revoke the membership that had been granted to the Parapsychological Association. Then he trained his sites on Sarfatti, Rauscher and company, denying the possibility of quantum interconnectness between separate consciousnesses, calling it “moonshine”. He joined forces with (naysayer) Martin Gardner.
Sarfatti noted that the great nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford had rejected the concept of nuclear fission as “moonshine”.
Critics such as Randi, Gardner, and Wheeler also organized. They formed groups such as CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), which funded the journal Skeptical Inquirer and issued their own press releases, at times blurring the line between a seemingly objective scientific group and a self-interested lobbying group.
[Pinch and Collins (1984), 539 (“scientific-vigilante”); Hess (1993), 11-13; Rensberger (1976), 19; Dewar (1977), 11; and Gilliam (1978b)
Pinch, Trevor and Harry Collins 1984 “Private science and public knowledge: The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and it’s use of the literature.” Social Studies of Science 14: 521-46
Hess, David. 1993. Science in the New Age: The Paranormal, its
Defenders and Debunkers, and American Culture.
Rensberger, Boyce, 1974. Physicists test telepathy in a ‘cheat proof’ setting. NYT October 22:43.
Gilliam, Harold. 1978a. The power to see the invisible. San Francisco Chronicle, January 4:4
1978b Skeptics of mind power call it superstition. SF Chronicle January 11:4
Despite the through
criticism, research on remote viewing continued unabated for more than 20
years, paid by for $20 million in taxpayer money (in 2010 dollars). Budgets
swelled, Top-secret spin offs sprang up around the country, usually established
with Puthoff’s help. Many failed replications [?]
Just like the FFG, investigators at
Ronson, Jon (2004) The Men Who Stare at Goats, NY Simon and Schuster
physicists tried to get funding from private doners, philanthropical foundations, and local industries, as did
physicists in the 20s and 30s. First to help out was Arthur Young, designer of
What is Kaiser doing here? He is trying to cordon off a scientific movement that was integral to the scientific community, and by calling it a perjorative 6 letter word, discredit it.
Later, Henry Dakin, a paranormal enthusiast, helped FFG members expand and enrich this group.
The controversial Werner Erhard (born Jack Rosenberg) also became a generous patron, who converted his SF mansion, and EST headquarters, the Franklin House, into a dazzling intellectual salon. Erhard also provided startup funds to the FFG for the Physics/Consciousness Research Group (PCRG) which included in its goals the education of the public on the connection between consciousness and physics. They resorted to popular culture and composed a science-fiction opera in which a physicist invents time travel, and attempted to shore it up with actual concepts from physics. The goal was to educate and entertain.
The playwright Robert Anton Wilson reported on a PCRG seminar in an article in a Bay Area underground newspaper, saying “The PCRG is into encountering quantum reality totally-intellectually, emotionally, intuitively”, and that the universe of modern physics might best be described “in the metaphors of Zen, Taoism, and Vedanta, or even in the language of parapsychology, ESP, and shamanism.” George Koopman, another eccentric entrepreneur with military connections, who also co-authoring a book with Timothey Leary, also became interested in the PCRG, and provided funding. During this time, Sarfatti and Sirag picked up salaries, and Nick Herbert, Fritjof Capra, FA Wolf picked up consulting fees. For a time, they began to thrive outside the usual funding model.
These overlapping discussion
groups, institutes and public education forums merged in 1976 for the first
annual workshop on physics and consciousness at the Esalen
Institute, nestled in the cliffs overlooking the Pacific ocean,
at Big Sur
Michael Murphy, one of Esalan’s founders, had long been fascinated by the
possibilities for “human potential” latent within modern science. In the 1950s,
Murphy had stumbled into religious studies at Stanford, and spent 16 months at
a remote ashram in
p. 111 f.
Richard Feynman was invited.
Although he participated in a 1974 Esalen workshop
led by John Lilly, he demurred due to his aversion to philosophy. Most of the
FFG participated. David Finkelstein participated, who would soon become
Director of Georgia Tech’s
The conference was a
success, and these types of workshops became a fixture. Henry Stapp warned FFG organizers that physicists might too
easily slip into the more comfortable math formalisms than grappling with the
task of constructing new realities. There was a lot of contention about how Bell’s
Theorem and nonlocality might relate to consciousness,
but the workshops became an annual event, meeting almost every year till
1988.Herbert, Sirag, Clauser,
Stapp and Finkelstein became regulars. Fritjov Capra organized workshops on the parallels between
modern physics and eastern mysticism. Feynman finally relented,
giving a 1983 workshop entitled “The Quantum Mechanical View of Reality”,
featuring in depth discussions of
German physicist Dieter Zeh participated, and nearly a decade passed before his “decoherence” interpretation of quantum measurement, now undeniably at the forefront of research, began to attract much attention beyond the Esalen crowd.
French physicist Bernard d’Espagnat’s 1971 book Conceptual
Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, focused of
Chapter 6 Spreading (and Selling) the Word.
The longtime editor of Physical Review, the
mainstream workhorse journal, covering all topics in physics, actually banned
articles on the interpretation of QM. Well into the 1970s, these policies
shunted papers into unusual venues. Many went to the Italian journal Nuovo Cimento, which was more open minded. Other papers went to Foundations of Physics, a new journal
founded in 1970 by two philosophically oriented non-US scientists working in
p. 122 f:
Others circulated in photocopy form thanks to Ira Einhorn, darling of the New Left, who led huge anti-war protests and had a hand in early environmental mass events, including the first earthday, in 1970. By the early 70s, he served as a one man distribution center for the FFG’s ideas. By this method they were able to spread their message far and wide for almost a decade. Although interested in physics, he also fell in love with literature.
p. 123 f:
One of the first books he read was Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, later to become one of the most influential books of the 20th century. Everyone from historians and sociologists to physicists, economists, and political scientists assigned the book in their classes.
Einhorn was especially captivated by Kuhn’s argument about
anomalies: stubborn findings that fail to fit within prevailing scientific
theories. Some of Kuhn’s examples included the accidental discovery of x-rays
in 1805, and the unexpected detection of fission in a
p. 124 f:
Einhorn, a 24 year old grad school drop out, wrote to Kuhn
early in 1964. The first exchange revealed not only confidence and passion, but
familiarity- with references at his fingertips, with interesting ideas across a
broad spectrum of subjects and disaplines. He also
had faith that people with common interests should communicate directly and
informally, like the “
Kuhn, a full professor responded that his (Einhorns) letter was probably the most perceptive response he had yet received, and asked for more information on Nelson Goodman, a renowned philosopher whose work would often in later years be compared with Kuhn’s. He also agreed that the notion of paradigm still required all sorts of work. A few years later a scholar isolated 22 ways in which Kuhn had used the term ‘paradigm” in his book. Sometimes he used the term to denote a concept or theory; other times to denote a social structure such as a discipline or community, and still others as a method or lab practice. Kuhn worked to rectify the conceptual muddle in later editions. Kuhn hoped that he and Einhorn could meet, and so began a “curious” relationship that lasted several years, including personal visits and shared meals.
“”publications should be
precise; conversation and letter writing a mess- how else can we learn?” The
notion of unencumbered free-spirited sharing of ideas by letter became Einhorn’s organizing principle. Einhorn began
making trips from his
p. 126 f:
Quickly he established
himself as the leading guru of the “
p. 127 f:
In January 1967, the first
Be-In, held in SF’s Golden Gate park, aimed to unite
New Left political protesters of
p. 130 f:
Preparations for the
Philadelphia Earth day celebration brought Einhorn
into contact with executives from Bell Telephone. With his people skills,
Jeffrey Mishlove crossed paths with Einhorn at Young’s consciousness institute, and met members of the FFG. His best selling book was The Roots of Consciousness: Psychic Liberation through History, Science and Experience, appeared in 1975. He earned the first doctorate in parapsychology. He was also running his own local radio show in the Bay area on the paranormal.
Gary Zukav crafted his book The Dancing Wu Li Masters, around discussions at
the Esalen Institute, and featured the thinking of
the FFG, but focused on Sarfatti’s ideas. The Chinese
word for physics was “Wu
Li”, which could be translated literally as “patterns of organic energy”, and
also had many other meanings. Despite similarity in title to Fritjov Capra’s The Tao of Physics, Zukov’s
point was not to draw parallels between modern physics and insights from
Eastern religions, but focused on the development of quantum physics and
relativity in the West. The book hit something like a speed bump, revealing the
limits as well as the promise of communicating ideas in such books. Zukov’s book was launched in 1979 and brought out the
critics which attacked the dominance in the book of Sarfatti , dubbed a
“renegade physicist”. Zukov rewrote several sections
of the book, removing Sarfatti to footnotes, and
coming closer tto Henry Stapp’s
Although Zukov’s friendship with Sarfatti came to an end, the revised book became a great success, sharing an American Book Award in 1980 with Douglas Hofstader’s Godel Escher and Bach.
Einhorn’s longtime girl friend left him, and his behavior became erattic. The body of his former girl friend was recovered from his house, and he was charged with murder. He was released on bail, but his network halted. He evaded authorites for two decades, but was convicted of murder in absentia, and was ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment.
Chapter 7 Zen and the Art of Textbook Publishing
The FFG, catalyzed by Ira Einhorn and his contacts at major publishing firms, launched a new type of popular book in the 1970s: accessible books that compared striking features of modern physics with staples of the counterculture, Sometimes blurring the genres of popular books for the masses and textbooks for science students. Austrian born Fritjov Capra’s The Tao of Physics, published in 1975, remains the most popular of this type. Capra became a core member of the FFG, also participating in Esalen events.
p. 150 f:
Capra came to
p. 152 f:
He sought the advise of MITs Victor
Weisskopf, another native of
p. 154 f:
The book was hugely successful. 43 editions in 23 translations, and millions of copies sold worldwide. His book capitalized on some tremendous, diffuse, unquenched human thirst. As a trained physicist, modern physics, as he saw it, had undergone a sea change in its understanding of reality, yet most physicists failed to appreciate this. The mechanistic fragmented world view of classical physics had been toppled by QM and Relativity, but Western society still carried on with the “classical” mentality. “The further we penetrate into the submicroscopic world, the more we realize how the modern physicist, like the Eastern mystic, has come to see the world as a system of inseparable, interacting and ever-moving components..[with human beings an integral part of this system] Capra saw deep parallels between the koans, or riddles of Buddhist thought, the constant interplay of opposites in Taoism, and the paradoxes of quantum theory. Little wonder, Capra noted, that Bohr adopted the yang-yin symbol for his family coat of arms.
p. 158 f:
Capra saw similarities in the methods-the Tao of Eastern thought and physics. Both he insists, are empirical. Capra also compared quotes from mystics and physicists to illustrate the parallels.
Some complained that similar philosophical notions can also be found in Western traditions: The philosophy of the Greek Parmenides and Anaximander; Plato’s Timaeus, with its notion of the “womb of becoming”, and Immanuel Kant’s meticulous analysis seemed just as robust an anticipation of QM as the Hindu Concept of Maya.
p. 159 f:
Others were less accepting of the “parallels” approach itself. What rules were in effect to guard against “cherry picking” of good quotations out of context? How did Capra handle subtle nuances in translation of concepts? Quotations might be not only be ripped out of context, but also out of their original vocabulary, introducing distortions. Physicists still debate many of the points about modern physics that Capra presents to represent modern physics. Are mystic’s intuitions comparable to physicist’s experiments? Finally, what was Capra’s point? Capra seemed to flip flop between the argument that the two traditions yielded separate but complementary visions of reality, and the suggestion that one tradtion confirmed or validated the other. In the end, might the similarities, striking as they may seem, tell us only about “basic tendencies of the human mind, or perhaps about similarities in metaphor” rather than how the world really works? In the end, all the learned critiques reinforced the remarkable point that Capra’s book had hit a nerve: No other popularization received such seriius and sustained scrutiny; that continued to fill academic journals fifteen years after it first appeared in print.
Perhaps the most surprising response came from physicists.
Some certainly responded by downplaying the book. Biochemist and science
fiction writer Isaac Asimov dismissed it as bowing to all things Eastern.
Physicist Jeremy Bernstein called the book superficial and profoundly
misleading. These negative responses were not the norm. Mysticism aside, Capra
offered a vision around which many physicists could rally. Capra stated that “physics
can be a path with a heart, a way to spiritual knowledge and self-realization.”
On the positive side: The Tao of Physics integrated “the abstract, rational
world view of science with the immediate, feeling oriented vision of the mystic
so attractive to many of our best students”. The American Journal of Physics began carrying articles on how best - not whether – to
use The Tao of Physics in the
classroom. There was a desire to
explore or even exploit this interest in parallels to draw students into the
classrooms. As late as 1990, scholars
noted that university physics
courses throughout the
Chapter 8 Fringe?!
No clear demarcation separated the FFG from “real” physics. In fact, highly successful physicists often sought to cross paths with members of the FFG.
When pressed to give an opinion on possible connections between parapsychology and his own work on quantum entanglement, John Bell refused to dismiss the matter out of hand.
Yale’s eminent physicist Henry Margenau, who launched the journal Foundations of Physics, was sympathetic to the idea of parapsychology. He and psychologist Lawrence LeShan, author of The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist, wrote a short submission to the top flight journal Science, urging the scientific study of ESP. Not only did Science fail to publish the submission; it failed to acknowledge receipt of the submission.
The FFG had embraced Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner’s idea that human consciousness might be necessary to collapse the quantum wave function, as they searched for a mechanism for Psi. Wigner in turn supported Rauscher’s working explanation of remote viewing.
Gerald Feinberg, who predicted the existence of the tachyon,
which earned three other physicists Nobel prizes when they confirmed its existence,
communicated with Rauscher on her work for almost a decade, and contributed his
own paper to a conference on quantum theory and parapsychology. Soon after, he
served as physics department Chair at
David Bohm also enjoyed close
relations with members of the FFG, hosting Rauscher, Wolf and Sarfatti at his home department in
theoretical physicist Olivier Costa de Beauregard also made several visits to
the FFG. By the time he had visited Puthoff and Targ at their SRI psi lab in 1975, de Beauregard had
published a well received textbook on QM, and had become a sought after speaker
in physics departments in Europe and North America. He also served as director
of research at the
French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), and often dropped hints in his
mainstream physics articles of possible connections between
p. 172 :
By the early 1970s, Richard Mattuck, an MIT trained theorist, had published more than 20 articles on condensed matter physics in leading journals, and in 1967 published A Guide to Feynman Diagrams in the Many-Body Problem. Then, for eight years, his name disappeared from mainstream journals, and he turned his attention squarely to the QM of Psi. He built on Evan Harris Walker’s model of consciousness as a collection of hidden variables, and drew on many calculation tricks he had masteded in his many-body work, summing over the combined effects of many tiny quantum processes, that demonstrated that larger psychokinetic effects would result if consciousness sent out pulses of information, rather than as a continuous information flow, as Walker had assumed. The summed pulses could account for psi phenomena of the magnitude reported in several lab studies, including one of his own. He spoke on the same lecture circuit as Rauscher, Puthoff, Targ, and de Beauregard. When he returned to mainstream publishing, they were all on hidden variables, Bells theorem, and the foundations of QM.
p. 172 f:
While a grad student at
A conference was held in 1986 in honor of Eugene Wigner’s 90th birthday. Nick Herbert’s former roommate from grad school, Heinz Pagels, who had served as the New York Academy of Sciences executive director, helped organize the event. The conference, featuring more than 50 invited lectures and 20 presentations, served as a kind of “coming out” party for researchers who had toiled for years on the foundations of QM. The meeting drew several top notch contributors. Wigner and three other Nobel Laureates or soon-to-be participated, as well as John Wheeler, and of course members of the FFG.
p. 175 f:
The results of French Physicist Alain Aspect’s elegant experiment confirming Bells theorem, which were published in 1982, were covered in this conference.
In Clauser’s original experiment
p. 178 f:
By 1975, physicist Robert W. Fuller was employed by Werner Erhard. Fuller told Erhard about Ernest Solvay, who had funded conferences for giants in the field of physics, to facilitate their work on the mysteries of quantum physics. Erhard decided he wanted to become the next Solvey. Fuller worked to gather a group of world class physicists. The resulting 1977 conference, backed by Sidney Coleman and Roman Jackiw, with no interference from Earhard, was a success, but no new developments in physics resulted from it.
After the Coleman Jackiw conference, Erhard decided to finance a new fellowship for Sarfatti to teach as a visiting lecturer at the San Francisco Art Institute. Sarfatti was thrilled. MIT’s Victor Weisskopf, based on reports of EST authoritarian tactics, urged Sarfatti to give up his affiliation with Earhard. Spurred by this advise, and insulted about not having been consulted about the Coleman Jackiw conference, Sarfatti broke with Earhard, one of his principle sources of funds.
For the next annual Earhard conference, Coleman, Jackiw, and Fuller chose the topic of quantum gravity, and began soliciting participants. Sarfatti got wind of these plans, and tried to sabotage it by warning physicists not to attend. Earhard and Fuller took the threats seriously and arranged for extra security guards. Robert Fuller also quietly withdrew from EST. Nevertheless, the EST backed physics conferences developed into a robust annual tradition. These conferences were the backdrop for the debate between physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Susskind over whether QM implied that information could leak out of black holes. Two decades later Hawking finally acknowledged that information might indeed escape black holes.
Every year for a decade the EST foundation’s physics conferences attracted star after physics star. After about 10 years, bad publicity stopped the conferences, and in 1991 forced Earhard to sell his EST enterprise.
“The multiple entanglements between the [FFG] and leading physicists of the day strain …Karl Popper’s …hope that clear criteria might demarcate authentic science from pseudoscicnce”
Chapter 9 From FLASH to Quantum Encryption
In the closing paragraphs of
Nick Herbert’s succinct re-derivation of
What would it mean to send signals faster than light? Seen from the right perspective, superluminal signals would travel back in time. As one acclaimed textbook author put it…physicists are “squeamish about superluminal influences”.
p. 196 f:
To several members of the FFG, including Henry Stapp, the verification of Bells theorem led to the conclusion that superluminal transfer of information is necessary. This, and the question of whether it could be controlled to send messages occupied the FFG for almost a decade.
The no-cloning theorem, important for quantum encryption, was discovered at least 3 times, by physicists working independently.
Sarfatti submitted a first step for patenting of a superluminal communication devise in May 1978. The idea was to emit pairs of entangled photons directed at two detectors, A and B, on opposite sides of the photon source. An Experimenter at one detector could choose to let the photons pass thru a double slit, and produce the typical interference pattern, or use a slit detector to observe which slit the photons pass thru. By providing a slit detector which varies in efficiency from 0 to 100 percent, and by the experimenter varying the slit detector efficiency in a systematic way, an encoded message could be sent to the experimenter at the other detector. Sarfatti reasoned that such a devise could transmit a human voice across vast distances, with no possibility of eavesdropping, by having the slit detector efficiency controlled by a microphone.
Another FFG member, Philippe
Eberhard, emphasized that Clauser’s
P 201 f:
Eberhard made clear however that his analysis was based on several assumptions, anyone of which might break down. These assumptions included holding the current Bells theorem and Einstein’s relativity as complete and unassailable. The result was intense thinking and discussion within the FFG.
P. 202 f:
Sarfatti was the most committed to the possibility of superluminal communication, and looked to the military establishment for funding of research along those lines, creating the “i2 Associates, a Meta-Corporation of the Emerging Post Industrial Order”.
Nick Herbert entered the superluminal fray with a design aiming to exploit differences between various polarizations of light. Classically polarization refers to the direction in which a light wave’s electric field changes. In linearly polarized light, the electric field [oscillates sinesoidally in a flat plane]. In circular polarization, the electric field may spin around in a circle, tracing out a helical shape. Linearly polarized light can be polarized either horizontally or vertically [with respect to what reference frame?
Note 26: In general other states of polarization are possible as well. Any linear combination of the linear and circular polarization states are possible, leading to the most general state of elliptical polarization.
The helix of circular polarized light may be either right or left handed.
A (linear) polarizing filter acts like a picket fence. Most of the light reflected off of a flat body of water is polarized horizontally, so vertically polarized sunglasses filter out most of the light reflected from that body of water. Circularly polarized light resolves into horizontal and vertical components, so half the light will come through a linear polarizing filter.
at the quantum level, polarization of light behaves much like the electron’s spin. While electrons have two spin states; spin up or spin down, photons come in various polarization states: Physicists abbreviate these states as H for horizontal, V for vertical, R for right handed circular polarization, and L for left handed circular polarization. Pairs of photons that emerge from a common source in opposite directions, as in Clauser’s experiments, show perfect correlations. If one photon is H, the other will be a V; if one is R, the other will be L. The nature of polarized light had around since the early 19th century. Application to individual photons was postulated in the 1920s. Herbert wanted some way to exploit observable differences between individual H,V, R, and L photons so as to allow encoding of messages.
Herbert became interested in quantum optics. The American Association of Physics Teachers had recently bundled together some of the most important articles on the subject and re-published them as Quantum and Statistical Aspects of Light. Included was an article published in 1936 by Richard Beth who, using a “half wave plate”, had managed to measure the angular momentum of circularly polarized light. Beth’s device had measured angular momentum for light waves; huge collections of photons acting together.
This was the distinction between photon states that Herbert had been looking for. Herbert imagined a similar device that could measure angular momentum of individual photons.
He reasoned that the R and L photons would each impart equal but opposite amounts of angular momentum, so a half wave plate at a detector would move one direction or the other, but that H and V photons would register zero angular momentum, so the half wave plate at the detector would not move.
An experimenter at one of the two detectors could send a message to the other detector merely by choosing to measure linear or circular polarization.
He wrote and circulated a preprint, which he called QUICK, detailing his design. His preprint stimulated lots of controversy in the FFG and beyond.
p. 208 f:
Carlo Ghirardi and Franco Selleri,
who were connected to the FFG by Einhorn, both had an
interest in foundational QM. Selleri and his
colleagues at Beri
Independently, Henry Stapp had made the same critique of FLASH, and argued intensely with Herbert, who responded that the objection seemed to rule out ordinary operation of lasers, which amplify signals all the time.
p. 216 f:
A copy of Herbert’s proposal also made it to the offices of Wojciech Zurek and Bill Wootters, recent PhDs interested in foundational QM, who were encouraged and supported by John Wheeler. Regardless of the anathema associated with foundational QM, Wheeler and his small circle persisted. Wheeler brought in a steady stream of visiting FQM scholars, and organized new seminars, such as one on quantum measurement: the process by which arrays of quantum possibilities get reduced to single measurable results.
p. 218 f:
Zurek had also been wondering about trying to amplify an
entangled state; he wondered if one could rotate the polarization of individual
photons, exactly what Herbert had proposed. Zurek
thought of doing experiments to see if a laser could be used to amplify a
single photon of an entangled pair of photons. He then went to a conference in
p. 220 f:
He was convinced that the linear nature of quantum theory would place the ultimate limit on superliminal signaling, by making it impossible to duplicate arbitrary quantum states. He wrote up his thoughts and sent them to Wootters for review. They concluded that although it was possible to design a device that could make perfect copies of a known incoming state; or a state orthogonal to it, R or L for example, it was not possible according to the laws of QM to make perfect copies of an unknown or arbitrary state. Wheeler, who coined the term “black hole” a decade earlier, stated that in essence what Zurek and Wootters were saying was that a single quantum cannot be cloned, which they chose as the title of their submission to Nature.
p. 221 f:
a Dutch physicist and member of the Dutch Quantum Club, was coming to the same
conclusion. The Dutch group had been connected to the FGG, as had been Wheeler’s
p. 225 f. :
By the mid 1980’s the “No Cloning” theorem the first proposals arose for quantum encryption: an encryption system that could be perfectly secure, sending encrypted messages that could never be hacked, stolen, altered, or imitated.
The path toward quantum
encryption began with a physics grad student Stephen Wiesner.
Although flunking out of grad school at Caltech, he later was admitted to grad
Finally Charles Bennett, who
was just finishing up his PhD at Harvard on computer models of molecular behavior,
took notice. He worked for the IBM research lab and his interests shifted more from
computer simulations of physical systems to the nature of computation and
information. How should scientists conceive of information, computation, and
communication in the light of quantum theory? Did those topics offer any
insights into quantum theory? He became interested in Weisner’s
thoughts on quantum money. He and Wiesner teamed up
on quantum money using various encryption methods. Maybe some of the
information could be public and the rest hidden, perhaps like a quantum version
of the RSA algorithm. Bennett’t work caught Wheeler’s eye, who invited him to a
Like Hebert’s FLASH scheme, BB84 relies on encoding messages using the polarization states of photons, but carries the communication process between experimenter A (at detector A) and experimenter B (at detector B) much further.
Since that time, experiments took off, and real world demonstrations were realized. Subsequently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has lavished millions of dollars of funding, and other national labs, such as NIST and Los Almos, maintain active groups in quantum cryptography. The private sector has also show interest.
Kaiser continues to pile on disparaging comments of Herbert and his work.
Herbert’s ideas forced a look at how lasers actually work at the single photon level. It was found that when stimulated by a single photon, lasers emit “noise” photons in random uncorrelated states of polarization.
Many textbooks on quantum information science have elevated various critiques of superluminal communication to a “no signaling theorem: no operation using entangled states can allow faster than light communication.
Chapter 10 The Roads From
After meeting every week for nearly 4 years, the FFG disbanded early in 1979. Rauscher and Weissmann had completed their dissertations and were no longer available to manage it. From an initial 10, the group had grown to 40 or 50, few of which were affiliated with the lab.
Capra’s book The Turning Point solidified his position as a major New Age thinker. He wrote a screenplay on the book with his brother, a filmmaker. It was released in 1992 as the movie Mindwalk.
Since then he has concentrated more on environmental actfvism.
Fred Alan Wolf and Nick Herbert also turned successfully to book writing.
Rauscher and Weissmann eventually became self-employed entrepreneurs.
She founded her own consulting company, Tecnic
Research Laboratories, and got contracts from the
Note 52: www.heartmath.org press release
Weissmann realized that his heart was no longer in mainstream
particle physics. He became interested in herbal remedies, in particular a
Tibetan concoction that seemed to do wonders. He returned to
The FDA eventually stepped
in, and in 1986 ordered all shipments of Padma 28 be destroyed. The next year
they issued a permanent injunction against the product. Weissmann still believed in this product.Indeed,
biomedical researchers in
P 254 f.:
Henry Stapp, one of the few core members of the FFG who had a regular position as a physicist at the time, continued to work on QM and consciousness from his post as senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Lab. Kaiser goes into great detail regarding a psi experiment Stapp participated in during the 1990s, which ultimately returned a null outcome. However, initially, positive results were returned, and on this basis Stapp realized that the equations of QM could be modified to account for psi effects, while still reproducing the usual well tested behavior of atoms predicted by ordinary quantum theory.
John Clauser also managed to craft a career as a working physicist, but even though his experimental ingenuity was recognized, he never landed an academic position. On his own, he designed a new method for high contrast x-ray imaging, and secured a number of research grants to develop noninvasive imaging tests for breast cancer, and designed a noninvasive biopsy. He kept up his interest in Bells theorem and quantum entanglement and often spoke at conferences during the 80s and 90s, after the topic moved into the mainstream. He and two other physicists, Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger (masterminded the 2004 quantum encrypted bank transfer) won the 2010 Wolf Prize in physics.
Rauscher and Weissmann organized a reunion of the FFG; the 25th anniversary, held on November 18, 2000. Nearly all the original core members participated.
Coda: Ideas and Institutions in the Quantum Revival
p. 265 f:
During the 1970s, other
similar groups sprang up, as loose and informal as the FFG, who also chased
deep questions that the mainstream scientific community either overlooked or
ignored. For example, the “Dynamical Systems Collective”, also known as the
“Chaos Cabal” was born from physics grad students at UC at
Another set of Bay Area
dreamers set up shop in
Every one of the now standard responses for how to accommodate Bell-style nonlocality with Einstein’s Relativity came either from members of the FFG, or from other physicists concerted efforts to comprehend or critique their ideas.
Today it is no longer
uncommon for Nobel laureates to debate the interpretation of quantum theory.
The latest textbooks showcase topics like
Given the astounding
As John Clauser, Alain Aspect, and their colleagues learned, positive results of scientific experiments cannot force the scientific community to pay attention.
The disrespect shown toward serious efforts to interpret quantum theory, even when driven by ingenious and original lab experiments, made life difficult ….[for anyone attempting such work]
An acceptance of interpretive work as “legitimate” did not depend on new data or experiments; but rather on the authority of institutions; a slow grinding cultural shift.
The severity with which physicist’s Cold War bubble burst in the early 1970s occasioned sustained soul-searching by many physicists. The National Academy of Sciences convened a blue-ribbon panel, the Physics Survey Committee, to assess the damage and plot a new course forward. MIT’s Victor Weisskopf and 16 equally prominent colleagues organized the massive study. Like the FFG, the committee was concerned about the direction physics had taken during the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s. Just as the FFG, the committee concluded that the boom years had exaggerated one among many legitimate styles in physics, and the pragmatism required for technological development had crowded out other important approches.
The committee argued that
the best way to accomplishs such a top-down
refashioning was through a change in education. Classroom conditions changed. Essay questions
began to reappear on doctoral students exams and in
textbooks, and interpretation became a legitimate issue. Beyond the formal
curricula, physics departments began to offer informal seminars for grad
students. Physicists began to make room for the kind of free-wheeling
philosophical discussions that had animated the founders of QM in the 1920s and
that Rauscher and Weissmann had re-created with the
FFG. Some of the earliest lesson plans on
Physicists have crafted new ways to seek out and sustain the longshot efforts that might otherwise be lost amid the discipline’s boom and bust cycles. New centers, like the Perimeter Institute, to seek out and sustain the longshot efforts have sprung up, privately funded. Founded in 1999, this organization has sponsored physicists who work on “foundational, non-directed research” in QM. A “Foundational Questions Institute”, FQXi, has formed on the internet, and whose stated goal is to “catalyze, support, and disseminate research on questions at the foundations of physics; particularly those that promise some “deep understanding of reality”.
Many recipients of funding by FQXi are professional physicists with university affiliation, but even less recognized people receive funding. Garrett Lisi is one of thousands of young physicists looking for the Holy Grail “Theory of Everything”; yet Lisi’s approach to combining quantum theory with gravitation seemed appealing. He was able to post his papers on the central web-based physics pre-print server, arXiv.org. These garnered little attention until he got some publicity. Following a New Yorker profile, he became a sensation. As with members of the FFG, his efforts have stirred leading experts to clarify the underlying physics. Unlike members of the FFG however, young thinkers such as Lisi do not have to create their own perch. Institutions like the Perimeter Institute, web based FQXi and web based preprint server arXiv.org provide a safety net to catch those out-of-mainstream ideas that might otherwise be lost.
We have overlooked contributions from collectives like the FFG because their efforts have been so smoothly reabsorbed within the mainstream, like so many other once-radical 1970s innovations: yoga, organic food, networked PCs. These days the phrase “New Age” seems more like a marketing ploy than an alternative world view.
The last decade has seen a sharp uptick in interest in the physics of consciousness. Leading physicists and popular authors like Michio Kaku tackle the physics of the impossible, including excursions into telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation, while keeping their books squarely on the New York Times best seller list.