Yunger Halpern's Book Receives AAP Prose AwardMarch 6, 2023
The book, Quantum Steampunk: The Physics of Yesterday’s Tomorrow, is a popular science introduction to Yunger Halpern’s research focus, which she describes as “quantum steampunk.” Steampunk is a science fiction and fantasy subgenre that imagines an alternate reality in which 19th-century steam engines power futuristic technologies. Similarly, Yunger Halpern’s research brings together thermodynamics—the 19th-century study of heat and energy—with quantum computation—the 21st-century theory that is powering novel technologies today.
“Steampunk is coming to life at the intersection of quantum physics, information science, and energy science,” says Yunger Halpern, who is also a Fellow of the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, a NIST physicist, an adjunct assistant professor of physics at UMD and the Institute for Physical Sciences and Technology, a member of the NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Robust Quantum Simulation, and a founding member of the Maryland Quantum-Thermodynamics Hub.
Each chapter of the book opens with a short vignette from an imagined steampunk novel, illustrating the physics concepts that follow. Yunger Halpern worked with editors to bring the steampunk aesthetic to the book as much as possible, in explanations, illustrations, and even fonts.
The Prose Awards have been presented since 1976 to distinguished professional and scholarly books "whose landmark works have made significant advancements in their respective fields of study each year,” the AAP explains on their website. They have selected 40 books across a range of fields, with Yunger Halpern’s book topping the popular science and mathematics category. Yunger Halpern expressed gratitude for receiving this honor.
Although research has always been her primary focus, Yunger Halpern has been a writer as long as she has been a physicist. She has been writing short stories since second grade and has been a regular contributor to the Quantum Frontiers blog, where among other things she detailed her book publishing experience. Her writing can also be found in Scientific American, Quanta Magazine, and New Scientist.
Story by Dina Genkina