Sunday, March 16, 2008

Physics of the Impossible-- Michio Kaku-- Review

Physics of the Impossible A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation and Time Travel by Michio Kaku is a popular science title. The purpose of popular science titles is to entertain the layman or the casual reader about science. It is an interesting genre of nonfiction books.

Michio Kaku like many budding scientists got his inspiration to become a scientist from watching science fiction. He wanted to emulate Professor Zarkov from Flash Gordon. He thinks that many young scientists were inspired by science fiction.

This book covers where science meets science fiction. It is broken down into three sections, the first is those things which look possible in the immediate future, those things which may be possible in the far future, and those which may never be possible. He opens the first chapter with Arthur C. Clarke's three laws:

I. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
II. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
III. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

From this point onward, Michio Kaku pushes the limits of the possible. He discusses many new ideas in science that are pushing the boundaries of what might be true. Things like quantum telephortation, metamaterials, plasma fields, lasers, and other currently possibel ideas are discussed. We get to learn about how man machine interfaces seem like telepathy to some. He also debunks many ideas in the process; everything from telepathy to precognition.

As he moves into the second part of the book, he pushes the absolute limits of possibility. You get to read about the Alcubierre Warp Drive
and the Nikolai Kardashev Scale . Many interesting subjects like the latest information on searching for extrasolar planets that might be earthlike are covered.

Each chapter is mostly an outline of a specific issue in physics that is related to science fiction. Thus we have a chapter on time travel, faster than light, and alternate universes. This is more of an overview of the subject than a book with a lot of depth. There are not a lot of technical details, it is written for the layman, and it is meant to be entertaining.

If you like hard science fiction or you like to speculate about what is possible in science, this book would be very entertaining. It pushes the limits of reason. I rather liked it.


fairyhedgehog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fairyhedgehog said...

Sorry, I posted before engaging brain.

That book looks very interesting. I love science fiction and I've read quite a bit of science for lay people. I feel like there isn't enough hard science fiction around now.

I'm amazed at how many things that were science fiction when I was young are now just part of normal life, such as doors that open as you approach them and tiny communication devices. I can remember the time when a "computer" was a room full of equipment that had to be fed with punch cards.

I'm sure it's right that "Whatever an eminent scientist says is impossible,isn't".

I'll be looking out for the book in my local library.

Book Calendar said...

There is, it is just at the fringes a lot of the time. Most people want to read space opera. Wil McCarthy, Kim Stanley Robinson, and others. If you an excellent anthology written in 2002, the Hard SF Renaissance edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer lists a lot of the contemporary hard science fiction writers.

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm not above reading space opera myself but it's good to know that the hard stuff is still out there.