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Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel Hardcover – March 11, 2008
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
- Publisher : Doubleday; 1st edition (March 11, 2008)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0385520697
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385520690
- Item Weight : 1.35 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.41 x 1.27 x 9.61 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #611,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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general absence of mathematical equations. The equations are important, of course, and if you want
to learn more you have to get into them. But they are for the reasoning process of proof and are not
necessary for understanding the implications of the results of the process.
Kaku focuses on the interesting questions with a deep knowledge of science fiction, which he will be
teaching online at CUNY during the coronavirus. These films include Independence Day, ET, Star Wars,
Star Trek, Back to the Future, 2001 and its author Arthur C. Clarke, and the novels of H.G. Wells such
as War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and Time Machine.
In Star Wars we have things like the light sabres, the Death Star, the image of Princess Leia, hyperspace,
and Kaku explains what those concepts would mean in real life. There's the question of time travel which
has always fascinated mankind. The end of intelligent life on earth will come eventually-as the sun expands
will we be able to go to other planets or stars? There's the question of extraterrestrial life and UFOs.
Also telepathy or mind reading, multiverses, and teleportation. There's a fascinating story about a guy
who was in the Philippines hundreds of years ago when Spain got there, and all of a sudden ended up
in Mexico City! Catholics also have the phenomenon of bilocation in saints such as Padre Pio, and
the faith in the Eucharist.
Kaku has three levels of what are considered "impossible" according to the current understanding of
the laws of physics. He also relies often on a schema of three levels of civilization based on the ability
of life to appropriate the energy of the planet, the star, or the whole universe. The hypothetical Level
3 groups should be able to accomplish a lot that is currently impossible. We aren't even able to use
much of the energy from earth yet. Kaku has an optimistic way of speculating thousands of years
into the future, based on the current rates of scientific progress.
This book also provides a nice review of the history of physics, with topics like black holes, antimatter,
and dark matter. Of course you have Newton with gravity etc., Einstein with general and special relativity,
and quantum and string theory. Among the names are Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Feynman, Hawking.
The current interest is in string theory. Kaku teaches how these ideas all relate to each other better
than most I have seen. I also liked the broad intellectual scope. Democritus was right about atoms, but it took over two millennia to demonstrate it!
Me? I'd pick Michio Kaku. This guy is phenomenal! I'd love to sit down across the table from him, ply him whatever libations he prefers and then let him verbally go to town while I sit there and listen to him and occasionally interject asking questions.
For this man to be able to not only explain previous futuristic predictions made by his predecessors with ease and an astutely keen perception of where they were correct and incorrect, but to also be able to go into such great detail about what's to come, based upon where we are now and where we've come from, it's actually something marvel over as you roll around what he's written in your brain and let it sink in.
If you have ANY interest in physics or even just in the progress of mankind -- past, present and future -- this book will not disappoint.
It isn't able to hold my attention for more than about one chapter at a time, though. If you're looking for a book for a long plane flight, this could fill up an hour or so, but you should have something else as well. This isn't meant to be a criticism, just a usage note for people looking for a book they can read for several hours in one shot.
He also rates different kinds of civilizations based on their access to energy. A type 1 is for instance a civilization that is able to harness most of the power of the earth; a type 2 most of the power of the sun; a type 3 most of the power of the galaxy etc.
He uses the latest knowledge of physics to comment on cases ranging from time travel, force fields, anti-gravity and so forth. In each case he gives the (im)possibility rating and type of civilization he expects would be able to realize it. Watching sci-fi after reading this book will be different indeed, you will be able to jeer or praise the stories with much more authority.
As I believe " science fiction ... contains elements of known, extrapolation of known or logical theoretical science" -- I find myself going back to from time to time to re-read parts of this book as I continue to walk the journey of the razor's edge.
It's an easy read and a must for any die hard science fiction fan--unless, of course, you follow John W. Campbell's infamous "Science fiction is what I say it is."
Top reviews from other countries
Both of these concerns were unfounded. Although each chapter is based around an element of science fiction (invisibility, force fields, etc.) it's taken as the basis for discussing a wide variety of developments in modern day physics. As a result you don't just come out of the book with an understanding of the plausibility of science fiction, but with a broad knowledge of many other aspects of physics as well. Overall, this principle works really well: draw people in with a fantastical topic, pique their interest and then use the opportunity to explain something (e.g. room temperature superconductors) that many people might never have read about in isolation.
The only negative for me was the style of writing. It's not difficult to understand, but there are a few sloppy, badly structured sections that will probably annoy some readers. I don't think this is enough to take anything away from the book as a whole, though, so I think it's definitely worthy of five stars.
Reviewed in India on June 17, 2019
Kaku is a real physicist, and it's nice to see that he's also well versed in popular culture. He takes examples of technologies from popular fantasy and science fiction (like Star Trek, Harry Potter and Back to the Future) and analyzes the physics, categorizing each thing into three levels of impossibility. He covers faster than light travel, death rays, invisibility, time travel, and many other things that SciFi writers have come to rely on.
A very entertaining book, and really a must for anyone that enjoys reading about physics.