Published: June 17, 2011

“What the Bleep Do We Know!?,” a spaced-out concoction of quasi physics and neuroscience that appeared several years ago, promised moviegoers that they could hop between parallel universes and leap back and forth in time — if only they cast off their mental filters and experienced reality full blast. Interviews of scientists were crosscut with those of self-proclaimed mystics, and swooping in to explain the physics was Dr. Quantum, a cartoon superhero …

Dr. Quantum was a cartoon rendition of Fred Alan Wolf, who resigned from the physics faculty at San Diego State College in the mid-1970s to become a New Age vaudevillian, combining motivational speaking, quantum weirdness and magic tricks in an act that opened several times for Timothy Leary. By then Wolf was running with the Fundamental Fysiks Group, a Bay Area collective driven by the notion that quantum mechanics, maybe with the help of a little LSD, could be harnessed to convey psychic powers. Concentrate hard enough and perhaps you really could levitate the Pentagon.

… While the hippies shared the wonderment of their more successful colleagues, they lacked their skepticism. Just because an equation can be parsed to show a time-traveling particle doesn’t mean that We of Many Particles can pull off such a stunt.

Maybe the Bay Area mavericks did serve physics in a smaller way: by helping to bring its fascination to the masses. Some good books came out of San Francisco. Capra’s “Tao of Physics,” read metaphorically, provides a stimulating flyover of both physics and Eastern religion. Herbert’s “Quantum Reality,” Kaiser tells us, is assigned in undergraduate physics courses. But a lot of what was inspired by that era was just physics porn — titillating but with no follow-through. Who the bleep needs that?


A great review & brief history of New-Age philosophers’ adaptation of quantum physics. The wonderment of hippie counterculture is exactly { what got me interested } as well… but isn’t it { a problem } when inspiration is taken for fact by unquestioning multitudes?