Nicole Yunger Halpern: When Physics Marries the Past to the Future

In this interview, Nicole Yunger Halpern describes her effort to tie quantum physics to the retro-futuristic steampunk genre.
Chris Gorski, Editor

In this episode of Inside Science Conversations Dr. Nicole Yunger Halpern tells host Chris Gorski about what drew her to physics and the how having a liberal arts education makes her a better scientist. She also discusses her upcoming book and the similarities between quantum science and the steampunk genre. Her book, Quantum Steampunk: The Physics of Yesterday's Tomorrow, comes out on April 12, 2022 but is available for pre-order now.

The show is available on  your favorite podcast platforms, including Apple and Spotify. It's also on YouTube.



Here are some excerpts from the interview (full transcript coming soon):

"What really brought me to physics is the tradition of natural philosophy behind physics. I also am fascinated by a lot of the world. And I appreciate having a physicist's toolkit to be able to think about different facets of it, and also to use tools from different disciplines to look at physics itself. ...

"Early in grad school, I realized that this field, what we call quantum thermodynamics often has the same flavor as steampunk. Steampunk is this genre of literature, art and film. It juxtaposes Victorian settings with futuristic technologies like time machines, you mentioned Jules Verne, he was one of the earliest steampunk writers. Captain Nemo's ship is a steampunk technology. So this field has this wonderful sense of adventure together with nostalgia and quantum information theory. ... 

"I've been very grateful that a lot of scientists have been really excited about my book, and enthusiastic and looking forward to reading it and have also been really supportive of me personally, when I was writing the book, I admit, I didn't tell any scientists more or less that I was writing the book until I was just about finished, so that I could show this entire time, I've just been my usual productive scientific self. ...

"I think that it's important to tell stories about our science to the general public for multiple reasons. One of it which it is, is it is really beneficial to us. Again, this gave me great ideas, it helped me learn a lot about my own science. And it is exciting. So this has even increased my enthusiasm about my own field."


This is our last episode. Inside Science will no longer produce new content after the end of March 2022. We have six other interviews in this show, and elsewhere on the website and YouTube channel we have an archive full of enjoyable, enlightening science content. Please check out all the episodes of this show on your favorite platform. An appreciation of Inside Science and its long history is also available.

The Inside Science Conversations podcast showcases the human side of science. It's about what makes scientists and researchers tick. We'll cover a wide variety of subjects, from record-breaking running to the hidden history of science. Please, like and subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform. Join us as we talk to researchers and authors about their work, their lives and why science is important for everyone.

Author Bio & Story Archive

Chris Gorski is the Senior Editor of Inside Science. Follow him on twitter at @c_gorski.