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The Physics of Star Trek [Paperback]

by Lawrence M. Krauss, Stephen Hawking
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)


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Book Description

September 25, 1996 0060977108 978-0060977108 1st HarperPerennial Ed
What warps when you're traveling at warp speed?

What's the difference between a holodeck and a hologram?

What happens when you get beamed up?

What's the difference between a wormhole and a black hole?

What is antimatter, and why does the Enterprise need it?

Are time loops really possible, and can I kill my grandmother before I am born?

Discover the answers to these and many other fascinating questions from a renowned physicist and dedicated Trekker.

Featuring a section on the top ten physics bloopers and blunders in Star Trek as selected by Nobel-Prize winning physicists and other devout Trekkers!

"Today's science fiction is often tomorrow's science fact. The physics that underlines Star Trek is surely worth investigating. To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit."
--From the foreword by Stephen Hawking

NATIONAL BESTSELLER!

This book was not prepared, approved, licensed, or endorsed by any entity involved in creating or producing the Star Trek television series or films.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sure, we all know Star Trek is fiction, but warp drives and transporters and holodecks don't seem altogether implausible. Are any of these futuristic inventions fundamentally outlawed by physics as we understand it today? The Physics of Star Trek takes a lighthearted look at this subject, speculating on how the wonders of Star Trek technology might actually work--and, in some cases, revealing why the inventions are impossible or impractical even for an advanced civilization. (Example: "dematerializing" a person for transport would require about as much energy as is released by a 100-megaton hydrogen bomb). The Physics of Star Trek deserves merit for providing a refresher course on topics such as relativity and antimatter, but let's face it: the reason most people will want to read this book is simply that it's fun to poke holes in the premises of their favorite science fiction shows!

From Publishers Weekly

Even those who have never watched an episode of Star Trek will be entertained and enlightened by theoretical physicist Krauss's adventurous investigation of interstellar flight, time travel, teleportation of objects and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Case Western Reserve professor Krauss maintains that Star Trek's writers were sometimes far ahead of scientists?and famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking's foreword, endorsing the possibilities of faster-than-light travel and journeying back in time, supports that notion. On the other hand, Krauss also argues that the show is riddled with bloopers and huge improbabilities, as when the Voyager's crew escapes from a black hole's interior. This informal manual for Trekkers offers a porthole on the wonders of the universe as it ponders the potential existence of aliens, "wormholes" that allow astronauts to tunnel through space, other dimensions and myriad baby universes. $75,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPB alternates; Astronomy Book Club dual main selection; Library of Science, Natural Science Book Club and Newbridge Computer Book Club alternates.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Star Trek Series
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; 1st HarperPerennial Ed edition (September 25, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060977108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060977108
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 6.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,154,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 65 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Did you know that many of the world's best physicists like to watch Star Trek, and then discuss what's right and wrong about the science displayed? Well, apparently they do.
Drawing on contacts within the scientific community and on-line bulletin boards, Professor Krauss has written a sprightly review of what physicists think about when they see these shows. He translates these observations into simple concepts that the average reader should be able to follow, assuming an interest in Star Trek or science.
As a non-scientist, I had always assumed that 70 percent of the "science" on a Star Trek show was just so much imagination. The reason I thought that was because I could see so many obvious errors (seeing phaser light in space, hearing sounds in space, effects occurring too soon on the space ship, holograms acting like they were made of matter, and permanent worm holes) based on what little I knew. Was I ever surprised to find out that these obvious errors were the bulk of all the errors in the shows!
Apparently the writers have been working closely with scientifically knowledgeable people to keep what is covered reasonably possible . . . along with some poetic license.
The physics of cosmology are fascinating, but I can quickly get lost in matching quantum mechanics to general relativity and so forth. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that I could follow the arguments much better when they used a familiar Star Trek episode as a reference. Like the child who learns math when it involves counting his or her own money, I can learn physics more easily when it relates to Star Trek. Very nice!
The book takes a look at the common Star Trek features like warp drive, transporters, replicators, phasers, sensors, subspace communications, and tractor beams.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and enlightening November 15, 1998
Format:Hardcover
As both a Star Trek (old series) fan and popular science reader, I was greatly intrigued to see Lawrence Krauss' The Physics of Star Trek at my local bookstore. Often disappointed by past efforts to connect to the bandwagon of popular culture, I was delighted at how learned, clear, yet sprightly Krauss' short book was. In the first part, Krauss attempts nothing less than an explanation of Newtonian physics, general and special relativity, and other physics concepts to explain warp drives, tractor beams, wormholes, and other Star Trek staples that -- under the laws of physics as we now understand them -- are probably impossible. Subsequent chapters address and deconstruct the transporter beam, warp drive, etc. The clarity and humor of Krauss' writing is just wonderful. Perhaps the most amusing chapter is the last, in which Krauss lists his "top ten" Star Trek scientific bloopers -- events, plot devices, and the like that just could not occur. Because he is a trekker, Krauss does not treat these foibles with contempt or ridicule; as a scientist and writer, he ably outlines those errors.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not too shabby... January 21, 2001
Format:Paperback
As I looked through my local bookstore for an interesting read, I could not help but notice this interesting title in the Physics science section. Being a sporatic viewer of Star Trek myself, I picked it up for a closer look. As I read the first section of the book, I realized that it was more than blatant critique on scientific errors. Rather, it was an interesting view of future possibilities and also impossibilities in the field of science. In this book, Krauss explores the existence of things such as wormholes, black holes, and existence of other intelligent life in space. Krauss is also relentless in his discussion of Einstein and other renowned Physicists. He often writes about highly esoteric subject matter, but on the whole this book is well rounded and a relatively interesting read. However, keep in mind that one must have an interest in science, specifically fields such as quantum mechanics and relativity.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Book December 13, 2005
Format:Paperback
Lawrence Krauss examines the technology of the Star Trek universe and discusses whether such technology is possible or not according to physics as we know it today. As it turns out, most of the technology is either impossible or improbable when considering the laws of physics. For example, to use warp drive or impulse drive, it would take more energy than the entire planet uses at present. Another example, which would probably be impossible, is the transporter. Krauss raises the issue of whether the transporter transmits the matter or just the information of a person. If it transmits the matter, there is the problem of scanning, storing, and transmitting the data of the location of each molecule,--a feat that would take an astronomical amount of calculating power. If it only transmits the data, then the transporter is effectively a human replicator. If that is the case, what do they do with the original body? Also it raises a lot of ethical issues as well.

I really recommend this for those fans of Star Trek who are interested in finding out if the science in the Star Trek world is feasible or not. It's very easy to read and very entertaining too. Check it out.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Today's Science Fiction Is Often Tomorrow's Science Fact February 24, 2000
Format:Paperback
Nearly everyone on the planet has seen at least one episode of Star Trek. At the same time, nearly everyone has wondered about certain aspects of the show. For example, if their civilization is so advanced, how come no one has invented a cure for baldness? On the more technical side, certain questions pop up again and again. For example, what really happens during the process of "beaming up"? Why is warp 10 not attainable? How does a tractor beam work?...
Like Mr. Wizard, Lawrence Krauss, who holds a Ph.D. in physics, answers all your questions - or most of them. All the major topics are covered, including a few minor ones. The text is non-technical, clear and concise, but also complete. Although it is impossible to discuss certain ideas without the use of graphs and equations, Krauss keeps them to a minimum.
For each particular advanced technology of the future, the theory behind each application is dissected, explained, and examined. Also, given present day knowledge, the author examines the theoretical or practical obstacles that would have to be overcome in order to achieve this technology. In transporter technology, for example, what exactly would be involved? Would the actual atoms and molecules have to be sent, or would just the information (code) be sufficient?
Would both (atoms and information) be necessary and how would such a task be accomplished, if at all?
This book is highly recommended. Even if you are not a Star Trek fan, you will be interested. This book is easy to read, faithful to the physics, full of Star Trek trivia and always entertaining. Voyager and Deep Space Nine episodes are also mentioned, when relevant to the particular topic under discussion.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
A truly fantastic read! The explanations of physics are great and while not exactly necessarily easy concepts, Krauss explains them well, also while not being patronising to the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Suzie Kim Thomassen
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun
From a old Trekkie and a wannabe scientist, great stuff! Hoping that our sciences will meet these concepts sooner than later...
Published 1 month ago by Charles Kaus
4.0 out of 5 stars intriguing
The book was very interesting. I liked the correlation between reality and fiction and what could come in the future.
Published 2 months ago by Wade Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars an interesting tome for trekkers and non-Star Trek fans as well
This book is a very easy to read and comprehend volume explaining the physics of Star Trek in real world scientific knowledge. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Christopher Perkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!
We got this for our Treky teenager and he totally loves it! Prompted him to speculate of other physics theories of his own. Would recommend!
Published 2 months ago by B. Friesen
4.0 out of 5 stars t's Just what I've been looking for
This is a good video for everyone's video library, good for the whole family to enjoy, especially for us older folk.
Published 3 months ago by Raymond
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun
A really fun book.... Any Trekkie should enjoy it.... And you don't have to be a physicist either. I loved it. Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. Loustaunau
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow to pick up
Reviews very basic concepts in the beginning. Takes a while to get through that - sitting on my shelf while I've gone to read other books.
Published 9 months ago by Jeff F. Lin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
I really enjoyed reading this book. Being just a fan of both Physics and Star Trek, it made for an entertaining read. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Michael
4.0 out of 5 stars good for Star Trek fans
those haven't read or watch the Star Trek series may find a little confused when reading parts that describe things from Star Trek. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Qian
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