I’m David Kaiser, a physicist and historian featured in NOVA’s “Einstein’s Quantum Riddle.” Ask me anything!
I’m the Germeshausen professor of the history of science in MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society, and also a physics professor in MIT's Department of Physics. I completed an undergraduate degree in physics at Dartmouth College and PhDs in physics and the history of science at Harvard University.
I’ve helped to design and conduct novel experiments to test the foundations of quantum theory, including the recent “Cosmic Bell” experiment on quantum entanglement that was featured in the NOVA episode. I also study the physics of the very early universe, trying to understand the Big Bang and how our present-day universe might have evolved from very different conditions.
My historical research focuses on the interplay between science, politics, and culture, especially as these have unfolded over the past century.
Currently, I’m working on two books about gravity: a physics textbook on gravitation and cosmology co-authored with Alan Guth, and a historical study of Einstein's general relativity over the course of the twentieth century. My other books include Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics (University of Chicago Press, 2005), which traces how Richard Feynman's idiosyncratic approach to quantum physics entered the mainstream, and How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival (W. W. Norton, 2011), which charts the early history of Bell's theorem and quantum entanglement, and was named "Book of the Year" by Physics World magazine. In 2010, I was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society. My work has also been recognized with the Pfizer Prize for best book in the field (2007) and the Davis Prize for best book aimed at a general audience (2013) from the History of Science Society, and the LeRoy Apker Award for best undergraduate physics student from the American Physical Society (1993). In 2012, I was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, which is MIT's highest honor for excellence in undergraduate teaching. That same year, I received the Frank E. Perkins Award for excellence in mentoring graduate students.
I enjoy writing about physics and the history of science for broad audiences, in venues ranging from the New York Times and the New Yorker magazine to Scientific American and the Huffington Post. I also do my best to describe complicated topics in accessible ways on National Public Radio, BBC Radio, and NOVA television programs, such as “NOVA Wonders: What’s the Universe Made Of?” Most recently, my group’s work was featured in NOVA’s “Einstein’s Quantum Riddle,” which premiered on Jan. 9, 2019, and explored how my colleagues and I grabbed light from across the universe to put quantum entanglement to the ultimate test.
Ask me anything about my research in physics and the history of science.