Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jack Sarfatti on Twitter

After I finished How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser, I found Nick Herbert's blog, Quantum Tantra. Since then, I have begun following Jack Sarfatti's Twitter feed, @JackSarfatti. Mr. Sarfatti's interests have not changed very much since he was mentioned in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger I.


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michael said...

I used to read the Usenet group sci.physics a lot, and Sarfatti posted there, and was almost universally attacked by other (presumable) physicists and others who seemed to know something of physics and its *appropriate* methodologies.

Rarely was the idea of free speculation about the foundations of QM accepted as legit by the attackers, and if they seemed to admit it was a legit discourse, they (mostbunall) disagreed with Sarfatti.

Almost no one seemed to link the Berkeley groups with breakthroughs in quantum cryptology, etc.

Although Sarfatti seems to now be on the outside looking in, something of a physics raconteur these days, I'm glad Kaiser's well-researched and wildly entertaining book puts his freewheeling eccentric look at the philosophical underpinnings of the quantum theory in a hardcore philosophy of science discourse.

One of my favorite tropes in every history of science is the narrative about the geniuses and the new paradigm, and established Kuhnian "normal science," and then the stories about the weirdos who have outlandish things to say about flaws in the theory. It seems it always takes too much time to get a clear picture: were the weirdos right after all, to some extent? Or did they turn out to be all wet?

Other times a thinker is a bid deal, then falls, is discredited, and eventually not even mentioned in the standard text books. But then they come back, seemingly via a commodius vicus of recirculation. EX: Lamarck.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

One of the interesting things about "How the Hippies Saved Physics" is the rather mixed picture it presents. It really doesn't sound as if Sarfatti, et al., came up with much in the way of real scientific discoveries. But their willingness to have freewheeling discussion and speculation seems to have stimulated the "real" scientists.

Apparently Sarfatti is still the right winger he's depicted as in the book. Most of the people he follows are very interesting, but I have no interest in following Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, etc.

michael said...

Yes, Sarfatti seems like one weird dude. See his depiction in Herbert Gold's book Bohemia.

The history of 20th c. physics usually has the PhDs specializing in either developing ideas for experiments, and then getting together with the kinds of guys who know how to set up the experimental conditions. Some guys into the math and dreamy aspects didn't want to even get near a lab.

I see some of the PCRG as being a species of the theoretical sort. Certainly Clauser went out of his way to test Bell's Theorem. And Herbert loved to tinker with gadgets (the bits about the "metaphase typewriter" seem like something Rudy Rucker would dream up!), but Wolf and Sirag seem more math-and-theory-inclined.

I disagree with the idea of "real" scientists. I think it privileges only certain types over others, and historically, I don't think that's accurate.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Well, you'll notice I put quotes around the word. In the Kaiser book, the two groups seem to have a symbiotic relationship.

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