The Quantum-Steampunk Laboratory Theoretical-physics research group of Nicole Yunger Halpern


Quantum Steampunk: The Physics of Yesterday's Tomorrow (cover)

From the publisher:

The Industrial Revolution meets the quantum-technology revolution! A steampunk adventure guide to how quantum physics is transforming our understanding of information and energy.

Victorian era steam engines and particle physics may seem worlds (as well as centuries) apart, yet a new branch of science, quantum thermodynamics, reenvisions the scientific underpinnings of the Industrial Revolution through the lens of today’s roaring quantum information revolution. Classical thermodynamics, understood as the study of engines, energy, and efficiency, needs reimagining to take advantage of quantum mechanics, the basic framework that explores the nature of reality by peering at minute matters, down to the momentum of a single particle.

In her exciting new book, intrepid Harvard physicist Dr. Nicole Yunger Halpern introduces these concepts to the uninitiated with what she calls “quantum steampunk,” after the fantastical genre that pairs futuristic technologies with Victorian sensibilities. While readers follow the adventures of a rag-tag steampunk crew on trains, dirigibles, and automobiles, they explore questions such as, “Can quantum physics revolutionize engines?” and “What deeper secrets can quantum information reveal about the trajectory of time?”

Yunger Halpern also describes her own adventures in the quantum universe and provides an insider’s look at the work of the scientists obsessed with its technological promise. Moving from fundamental physics to cutting-edge experimental applications, Quantum Steampunk explores the field’s aesthetic, shares its whimsy, and gazes into the potential of a quantum future. The result is a blast for fans of science, science fiction, and fantasy.

Praise for Quantum Steampunk:

“Like any good quantum system, this book is complex, entangled, and unpredictable. Nicole Yunger Halpern provides an expert tour of the bustling new research frontier at the intersection of physics, information, and technology. Complete with goggles and brass fittings.”

– Sean M. Carroll, New York Times bestselling author of Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime

“To most people, quantum information science is an enigma. Yet, it is expected to shape much of the future of computation. To dive into this brave new world we need a patient, kind, and fun guide. In Quantum Steampunk, Nicole Yunger Halpern performs a magnificent trick, presenting tomorrow’s science in the guise of yesterday’s scientific landscape with great clarity and originality. Science writing at its best.”

– Marcelo Gleiser, 2019 Templeton Prize Laureate

“With the heart of both an artist and a scientist, rising star Nicole Yunger Halpern explores two of the hottest fields in modern physics: quantum thermodynamics and quantum information. This wild and entertaining work will take you on an enchanting ride, illuminating the deeper meaning of knowledge, time, and even reality itself.”

– Leonard Mlodinow, author of Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics

Quantum Steampunk, written by one of the most gifted quantum theorists of her generation, is a must-read. It is filled with poetic illuminations of quantum mysteries and storytelling so captivating that I could not stop reading. This book will be a classic.”

– Stephon Alexander, President of the National Society of Black Physicists and author of Fear of a Black Universe

“With whimsy and flair, Nicole Yunger Halpern explores what happens when we fuse the physics of steam engines and the mathematics of information flow with the latest advances in quantum theory. The result: a scintillating view of nature and a preview of fantastic technological possibilities.”

– David Kaiser, Professor of Physics, MIT, and author of How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival

Quantum Steampunk shows in clear and engaging language how to combine the cutting-edge science of the nineteenth century (thermodynamics) with the cutting-edge science of the twentieth century (quantum mechanics and information science) to create a dynamic new science for the twenty-first century.”

– Chad Orzel, author of How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog

“Introducing curious, STEM-inclined novices to the concept of quantum steampunk, Yunger Halpern fluidly weaves together a playful tone with a steampunk narrative and her own personal experiences.”

– Anna Weltman, author of Supermath: The Power of Numbers for Good and Evil

Available for preordering through, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Waterstones, etc.

For press inquiries and review copies, contact Kait Howard at For public lectures and book talks, email Nicole.