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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Robert Anton Wilson article from Oui magazine

How the Hippies Changed Physics by David Kaiser is a new book about the oddball physicists that Robert Anton Wilson discusses in Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati — people such as Jack Sarfatti, Nick Herbert, and so on.

In the notes, Kaiser references an article by Robert Anton Wilson from Oui magazine, published in 1979, which discusses quantum mechanics and many of the topics which the "hippie physicists" obsessed over. In fact, if you read Wilson's article first, you can read the Kaiser book as a "sequel" to many of the topics Wilson raises. (For example, Sarfatti and then Herbert both used Bell's theorem to try to invent a way to achieve faster than light communication. Both ideas were not viable, but according to Kaiser, Herbert's idea was so clever, it helped give birth to quantum cryptography.)

Anyway, I have now obtained a PDF of that Wilson article, which is a valuable explanation of certain concepts of quantum mechanics and has much other useful material. (It's surprising that it's never been reprinted, to my knowledge.) You can read it here (right click to download, then read it in any PDF viewer. Google "PDF viewer" in the unlikely event your computer doesn't already have one.) I also have posted it under "Feature Articles and Interviews." I gratefully acknowledge the help of Michael Johnson, who supplied the article from his copious RAW files.


michael said...

Yes: science, once one delves deep enough into the actual social level of scientists as members of fluid yet disparate communities over time - discard the Great Man idea, working and discovering alone in his lab idea from movies and the early 19th century - we find the value of daring thought and ideas that didn't pan out. This thought, these ideas shadow all the "winners" because the guys who were "wrong" are of, at times, immense value in science. That's why I balk at the idea that only the ones who made the breakthrough discovery are the true scientists, and it's too bad that's still such a common notion. I think that is the major strength of Kaiser's wonderful book: he focused on the people who dared to go back to the philosophy of quantum mechanics, played with ideas, tinkered here and there, boldly delved into "fringe" areas. And their basic attitude towards physics turned out to spur the field on to incredible new discoveries, new directions. I was in a Physics-Cosmology discussion group for awhile in Berkeley, and dared to venture that Nick Herbert's book was a great basic text for ordinary smart folk who wanted to understand the weirdness of the many interpretations of the Schrodinger wave equation, and even there I got snickers: isn't Herbert that weirdo? Yes, he's a wonderful weirdo: all the best thinkers are "weirdos!" And a couple guys checked Quantum Reality out, and they saw. And it was good.

Michael Paul Goldenberg said...

Super! I had just started listening to Kaiser's book and was hoping I could find the article to which he referred from OUI in '79. When I Googled "Oui Magazine quantum" and found your piece and saw that the author of the article was Robert Anton Wilson, I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised, but it was definitely a pleasant one. And I'm really grateful that you provided a link to a pdf of that piece. I have long been a great admirer of RAW. This should be a treat indeed.

Michael Paul Goldenberg said...

Yes, QUANTUM REALITY is a wonderful book that my reading of Wilson led me to.