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Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel

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Teleportation, time machines, force fields, and interstellar space ships—the stuff of science fiction or potentially attainable future technologies? Inspired by the fantastic worlds of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, renowned theoretical physicist and bestselling author Michio Kaku takes an informed, serious, and often surprising look at what our current unde Teleportation, time machines, force fields, and interstellar space ships—the stuff of science fiction or potentially attainable future technologies? Inspired by the fantastic worlds of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, renowned theoretical physicist and bestselling author Michio Kaku takes an informed, serious, and often surprising look at what our current understanding of the universe's physical laws may permit in the near and distant future.Entertaining, informative, and imaginative, Physics of the Impossible probes the very limits of human ingenuity and scientific possibility. Contents Preface Acknowledgements PART I: CLASS I IMPOSSIBILITIES 1. Force fields 2. Invisibility 3. Phasers and death stars 4. Teleportation 5. Telepathy 6. Psychokinesis 7. Robots 8. Extraterrestrials and UFOs 9. Starships 10. Antimatter and anti-universes PART II: CLASS II IMPOSSIBILITIES 11. Faster than light 12. Time travel 13. Parallel universes PART III: CLASS III IMPOSSIBILITIES 14. Perpetual motion machines 15. Precognition Epilogue: The future of the impossible Notes Bibliography Index


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Teleportation, time machines, force fields, and interstellar space ships—the stuff of science fiction or potentially attainable future technologies? Inspired by the fantastic worlds of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, renowned theoretical physicist and bestselling author Michio Kaku takes an informed, serious, and often surprising look at what our current unde Teleportation, time machines, force fields, and interstellar space ships—the stuff of science fiction or potentially attainable future technologies? Inspired by the fantastic worlds of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, renowned theoretical physicist and bestselling author Michio Kaku takes an informed, serious, and often surprising look at what our current understanding of the universe's physical laws may permit in the near and distant future.Entertaining, informative, and imaginative, Physics of the Impossible probes the very limits of human ingenuity and scientific possibility. Contents Preface Acknowledgements PART I: CLASS I IMPOSSIBILITIES 1. Force fields 2. Invisibility 3. Phasers and death stars 4. Teleportation 5. Telepathy 6. Psychokinesis 7. Robots 8. Extraterrestrials and UFOs 9. Starships 10. Antimatter and anti-universes PART II: CLASS II IMPOSSIBILITIES 11. Faster than light 12. Time travel 13. Parallel universes PART III: CLASS III IMPOSSIBILITIES 14. Perpetual motion machines 15. Precognition Epilogue: The future of the impossible Notes Bibliography Index

30 review for Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mario the lone bookwolf

    ENGLISH Understandable and neutral, the bow spans from possible to fantastic. To gild the skills of a highly regarded and successful scientist by cultivating such an accessible and entertaining writing culture that is second to none in the current non-fiction field is at least as much a part of Kaku as the co-founding of string theory. If not a bit more, because the awakening of enthusiasm of others for the miracles around us is considered to be almost even higher than the important, but for most ENGLISH Understandable and neutral, the bow spans from possible to fantastic. To gild the skills of a highly regarded and successful scientist by cultivating such an accessible and entertaining writing culture that is second to none in the current non-fiction field is at least as much a part of Kaku as the co-founding of string theory. If not a bit more, because the awakening of enthusiasm of others for the miracles around us is considered to be almost even higher than the important, but for most inaccessible basic research. Three categories make up the well-conceived basic structure of the work, starting with the "impossibilities of the first degree," which includes expected inventions in the foreseeable future such as invisibility, force fields, artificial intelligence, robots, teleportation, psychokinesis, telepathy, nanotechnology, and antimatter. Those foundations and functionality are already explored, but not yet implemented. The second round is formed by the "impossibilities of the same, second degree," which fall within the theoretically possible, but with a substantially longer announced development time. Whereby it could take millennia or millions of years to the completion. Representatives of these species include parallel universes and communication with the same, over-light speed, contact with aliens and time travel. The distinction between the third and last supreme discipline of the book forms the harmony with the physical laws of nature and the associated realizability. The "impossibilities of the third degree" have entirely alienated themselves from the standard order of things and are therefore in an area of seeming an impossibility. Examples of these, a little pitiable, since damned to be never discovered, species of inventions include the Perpetuum mobile or precognition. Even if some readers are instinctively tempted to roll their eyes in case of some of these categories, one should consider the point of view of a few hundred or even just a few decades of years ago. Moreover, the accompanying worldview, or the same supporting hypotheses for the probabilities of various theories. Then legions of former impossibilities will be found, which have since become antiquated and forgotten. Thus, to regard it as exceedingly arrogant to attest immutable and everlasting veracity to our momentary tiny fragments of parts of the whole thing. On the contrary, the author's ease of acknowledging that in many ways we have not even plunged into the deeper surf zone of the Cosmic Ocean would undoubtedly be useful for some of the established luminaries of the science community. As a motivation to open their intuition. Kaku is also to be credited additionally, that he closes all dogmatics and instead has an open and critical approach to the matter. So that without reducing the entertainment value by drifting into too theoretical explanations, to instead bring in bright and varied images, to make the world of his beloved physics understandable to the layman. Also, this love for his profession thankfully sparks from each new paragraph when turning the pages. This is how science didactics has to work. GERMAN Grandios gewandt, verständlich und neutral spannt sich der Bogen von möglich bis allzu fantastisch. Die Kompetenzen eines noch dazu so angesehenen und erfolgreichen Wissenschaftlers zu vergolden, indem man eine so zugängliche und unterhaltsame Schreibkultur pflegt, die im momentanen Sachbuchbereich ihresgleichen sucht, gereicht Kaku mindestens ebenso zu Ehren wie die Mitbegründung der Stringtheorie. Wenn nicht gar einen Deut mehr, da die Begeisterung anderer für die Wunder um uns als fast noch höher zu erachten ist, als die wichtige, aber für die meisten doch unzugängliche Grundlagenforschung. Drei Kategorien bilden das gut durchdachte Grundgerüst des Werks, den Anfang machen die „Unmöglichkeiten ersten Grades“, womit in absehbarer Zukunft zu erwartende Erfindungen wie Unsichtbarkeit, Kraftfelder, künstliche Intelligenz, Roboter, Teleportation, Psychokinese, Telepathie, Nanotechnik und Antimaterie fallen, deren Grundlagen und Funktionsweise bereits erforscht, allerdings noch nicht umsetzbar sind. Den zweiten Reigen bilden die „Unmöglichkeiten eben selben, zweiten Grades“, unter die theoretisch ebenfalls mögliche, aber mit einer wesentlichen längeren Entwicklungszeit avisierte Entwicklungen fallen. Wobei es durchaus in die Jahrtausende oder Jahrmillionen bis zur endgültigen Fertigstellung gehen könnte. Vertreter dieser Spezies sind unter anderem Paralelluniversen und die Kommunikation mit selbigen, Überlichtgeschwindigkeit, Kontaktaufnahme mit Außerirdischen und Zeitreisen. Die Abgrenzung zur dritten und letzten Königsdisziplin des Buches bildet der Einklang mit den physikalischen Naturgesetzen und damit einhergehende Realisierbarkeit. Die „Unmöglichkeiten dritten Grades“ haben sich von der normalen Ordnung der Dinge komplett entfremdet und gastieren daher in einem Bereich der vermutlichen Unmöglichkeit. Beispiele für diese, dadurch ein klein wenig bemitleidenswerte, da zum niemals entdeckt werden verdammte, Spezies an Erfindungen sind unter anderem das Perpetuum mobile oder Präkognition. Auch wenn manch Leser instinktiv versucht ist, bei manchen der genannten Kategorien die Augen rollend laut auszuatmen, sollte man sich den Gesichtspunkt von vor ein paar Hundert oder auch nur paar Dutzend Jahren betrachten. Und das damit einhergehende Weltbild, beziehungsweise selbiges untermauernde Thesen für die Wahrscheinlichkeiten verschiedenster Theorien. Dann werden sich Legionen von einstigen Unmöglichkeiten finden lassen, die mittlerweile selbst antiquiert und vergessen worden sind. Somit es als überaus hochmütig anzusehen, unseren momentanen Fragmenten von Teilen des Ganzen unverrückbare und ewig währende Richtigkeit zu attestieren. Im Gegenteil täte die Leichtigkeit des Autors, einzugestehen dass wir in vielerlei Hinsicht noch nicht einmal in die tiefere Brandungszone des kosmischen Ozeans eingetaucht sind, einigen etablierten Koryphäen des Wissenschaftsbetriebs als Motivation zur Öffnung der eigenen Anschauung gewiss gut. Kaku ist noch zusätzlich anzurechnen, dass er sich sämtlicher Dogmatik verschließt und stattdessen offen und kritisch an die Materie herangeht. Und das ohne den Unterhaltungswert durch Abdriften in allzu theoretische Erklärungen zu mindern, um stattdessen in anschaulichen und abwechslungsreichen Bildern die Welt seiner geliebten Physik auch dem Laien verständlich näher zu bringen. Und diese Liebe zu seinem Steckenpferd schießt einem dankenswerterweise beim Umblättern aus jedem neuen Absatz funkensprühend entgegen. So muss Wissenschaftsdidaktik funktionieren.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Servius Heiner

    This book is standard Michio Kaku. He starts off discussing the three classes of impossibilities. (Understand that much of what you would think of as impossible is not really impossible. In order to be proven impossible it must break a law of physics, there is not much that does.) “Class 1 Impossibilities: These are technologies that are impossible today but that do not violate the known laws of physics. So they might be possible in this century, or perhaps the next, in modified form. They includ This book is standard Michio Kaku. He starts off discussing the three classes of impossibilities. (Understand that much of what you would think of as impossible is not really impossible. In order to be proven impossible it must break a law of physics, there is not much that does.) “Class 1 Impossibilities: These are technologies that are impossible today but that do not violate the known laws of physics. So they might be possible in this century, or perhaps the next, in modified form. They include teleportation, anti-matter engines, certain forms of telepathy, psycho kinesis, and invisibility.” “Class 2 Impossibilities: These are technologies that sit at the very edge of our understanding of the physical world. If they are possible at all, they might be realized on a scale of millennia to millions of years. They include time machines, the possibility of hyperspace travel, and travel through wormholes.” “Class 3 impossibilities: These are technologies that violate the known laws of physics. Surprisingly, there are vary few such technologies. If they do turn out to be possible they would represent a fundamental shift in our understanding of physics.” He also goes into detailing the classes of civilizations, which is important because there are just something you can’t do until you have the power to do them. We are a class “0” civilization. Type 1 civilization: Those that harvest planetary power, utilizing all the sunlight that strikes their planet. They can, perhaps, harness the power of volcanoes, manipulate the weather, control earthquakes, and build cities on the oceans. All planetary power is with in their control. Type 2 civilization: Those that can utilize the total power of their sun, making them 10 billion times more powerful then a type 1 civilization. The Federation in Star Trek is a type 2 civilization. A type 2 civilization in a sense, is immortal; nothing known to science, such as ice ages, meteor impacts, or even supernovae, can destroy it. (In the event their mother star is about to explode they can just move to another system, perhaps even move their planet.) Type 3 civilization: Those that can utilize the power of an entire galaxy. They are 10 billion times more powerful then a type 2 civilization. The Borg in Star Trek, the Empire in Star Wars, and the galactic civilization in Asimov’s Foundation series correspond to a type 3 civilization. They have colonized entire star systems and can exploit the black hole at the center of their galaxy. They freely roam the galaxy. Over all I was fascinated by this book, Michio has a way of explaining heavy physics without losing a reader without a doctorate. There are some things I wish he would have went into in greater detail, but I guess there are always more books. I am growing tiered of this universe I think I will go check out the one next door.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    Looking for something substantive? Look for this author, his books are so interesting and engrossing. Here he dissects all the Sci-Fi tropes and explains how each of them is impossible, or what the hell it would take to make it a reality. I learned quite a lot and it was not too jumbled for a non-scientist like me to read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    There is no denying that this is an interesting book and one that presented many of the problems of physics in a way that is comprehensive, comprehensible and engaging. I think other people (people with a greater interest in science fiction, particularly) will find this book even more interesting than I did and more accessible than your standard pop science book on physics. I hadn’t realised I knew quite so little about science fiction – I hadn’t ever really thought about the fact that I hadn’t There is no denying that this is an interesting book and one that presented many of the problems of physics in a way that is comprehensive, comprehensible and engaging. I think other people (people with a greater interest in science fiction, particularly) will find this book even more interesting than I did and more accessible than your standard pop science book on physics. I hadn’t realised I knew quite so little about science fiction – I hadn’t ever really thought about the fact that I hadn’t seen any of the Superman films or any of the Star Trek films or any of the Star Wars films after the first couple. If you’d asked me I would have said that my disillusionment with film had only really started a couple of years ago, but clearly it goes back much further than I realised. I think it would have helped to have known more about popular culture and thereby to have gotten some of the references here – but really, I could make do without this knowledge. So, if you don’t know which end it is best to hold your light sabre or (and even though he doesn’t actually quote Dr Who) how to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow (sorry, that one always amuses me) you will still be able to follow what is going on. This book looks at what it says it will look at – impossible stuff. It then tries to work out just how impossible this impossible stuff is. The answer generally being, not terribly. Basically, he identifies three levels of impossibility. Stuff that is impossible now, but might not be for all that long. Stuff that is impossible now and might remain so for the next couple of thousand years. And finally, stuff that is pretty damn well close to being totally impossible and is likely to stay that way unless there is a fairly impressive overturning of some of the fundamental laws of physics. (And do you know what, if I was killed by a bullet aimed under Newtons Laws and these ended up being proven to be wrong, well, I'd be asking for my money back) What he doesn’t like to do is say stuff is completely impossible and will always remain impossible (even when discussing faster than light travel, for example, or perpetual motion machines – although he does point out that there are one or two fairly serious problems that need to be addressed if these are ever likely to work). I really do understand that people don’t like it when other people (you know, like me) start talking about things being impossible. I know that they point back to past predictions of the impossible and smirk and tut or whatever they think is the best way to express their disgust. And look, all that is fine – but just because you’ve seen something rather cool happen on your favourite science TV show doesn’t mean that the world has to be made to conform to your desires. For example, it is pointed out in this book that to open a wormhole that might allow us to travel backwards in time might require all of the energy contained in a body the size of Jupiter. The wormhole still might not work, of course – it still might collapse as soon as we enter it – or it might not even open at all in the first place. Is there really ever going to be a time when we are likely to convert all of the matter in Jupiter into energy just so as to try out a wormhole that may or may not work? Look, I could be completely wrong (I have been known to be in the past) but I’d have thought we might have other uses for that amount of energy, even in some strange, undefined future. Margaret Wertheim’s criticism in Pythagoras' Trousers God, Physics, and the Gender Wars of the high priests of physics (ever noticed how often these boys talk about the mind of God?) and their preference for BIG science in a world were the majority of our species are barely scratching out an existence is apt and worth keeping in mind while reading this book, I think. I know, I know, ‘where’s your sense of adventure and your desire to dream the dream, McCandless?’ But I want more than ‘there might not be anything in the laws of physics as we know them to stop us from …’ as a reason to believe my grandkids will be living on Mars. And he does a very good job in presenting the ‘problems’ here, even if he ends up being a bit more optimistic than I would be. Given I’ve rather strong doubts we will see out another century without destroying ourselves with nuclear weapons (a threat we seem to have ignored rather bizarrely as the threat increased following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the relative safety of the Cold War) many of these questions are likely to remain academic. There is talk of interstellar flights (and this from a creature whose furthest adventures to date have been to the moon and who nearly kills astronauts (cosmonauts) whenever we leave them on space stations for any length of time). Still, we are talking millions of years into the future – so why not? Well, economics is probably one reason. If travelling away from Earth at near light speeds is necessary for those traveling to the stars it is hard to see why any future society would bother. The stars are an awfully long way away and by the time the people on the rocket would reach these far away places billions of years will have elapsed here on Earth. Why would the people on the Earth (the people paying the bills, after all) bother sending other people so far away only for us to never hear from them again? (Well, unless they are telephone hygienists, of course) I just can’t see how we would ever think that this would be the way to go. I’m not saying we never will go off to the stars, but if we do it will not be with the same sense of exploration that Columbus was sent off with. We will be sending off these ships with the certain knowledge that we will never hear from them again. Despite Kaku being very interested in string theory, he does present it here as having many failings and also presents some interesting questions about the possibility of us ever developing a theory of everything, either made of strings or not. He discusses this concern on the basis of Gödel's incompleteness theorem in mathematics – and given physics is the most mathematical of the sciences this ought to provide some pause for thought. Gödel's theorem says that there will always be things in mathematics that we know must be true, but can never prove to be true within mathematics itself. The goal of mathematics throughout the ages (since the Greeks, in fact) has been to create a system of proven axioms that build upon each other to create the whole structure of mathematics as a logically complete whole – Gödel proved this dream could never be realised. The fear now is that this may also be true in Physics. Kaku does not think that very much is impossible (given enough time, enough knowledge, enough energy). He also handles some of the philosophical issues in some of the impossibilities mentioned (teleportation is an interesting case – are you the same person on the other side of the teleportation device as you were on the side you entered or should Scotty be charged with your murder?) The stuff on lasers – and why light sabres might not be the weapon of choice for quite some time (a bit of a problem with the necessary power source) was very interesting. There is a question I’ve always wondered about which is mentioned here, but not explained. We now have images of single atoms. In fact, I’ve seen pictures of atoms spelling IBM. All well and good (although I am rather surprised it didn’t spell Coke). But I’ve always wondered how this is possible given the uncertainty principle. The uncertainty principle says that we can’t know both the position and velocity of a particle with absolute certainty, I’d have thought a photo of an atom would violate that. All the same, this book presents lots of material on many fascinating topics in a way that is very accessible (no maths required). My favourite was a discussion on how to point a star that is collapsing to form a black hole so that it becomes a kind of huge gamma ray weapon. I mean, you’d really have to hate the people you were aiming it at. I would say that to go to all that trouble you would really have to hate them rather a lot. Presumably they would need to be responsible for Vogon poetry or something equally atrocious.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Simon Clark

    When I was a schoolkid I studied physics in part because - like many physics students - I wanted to know how to build the cool stuff in science fiction. The death star. Lightsabers. Warp drive. This is the stuff of Kaku's riotous introduction to modern physics and if I'd read it when I was in school it would have blown my goddamn mind. I went into this book anticipating that I wouldn't learn all of that much - after all I have a masters degree in physics and read widely before studying at univers When I was a schoolkid I studied physics in part because - like many physics students - I wanted to know how to build the cool stuff in science fiction. The death star. Lightsabers. Warp drive. This is the stuff of Kaku's riotous introduction to modern physics and if I'd read it when I was in school it would have blown my goddamn mind. I went into this book anticipating that I wouldn't learn all of that much - after all I have a masters degree in physics and read widely before studying at university - and that all the stories Kaku covered would be all too familiar to me already. For the first half of the book this was true, and his explanations of the science part of science fiction was either familiar to me or stuff I had worked out for myself. The second half of the book, where he took trips into the real bleeding edge of modern physics and invoked predictions of string theory, cosmology, and the standard model included fascinating nuggets of information that were totally novel to me. So if you are a sci fi nerd and are interested in physics (that Venn diagram being all but a circle) then regardless of whether you are a high school student or a university student, I highly recommend this book. It certainly left me wanting to learn more, and further my reading - which after being jaded by four years of hardcore physics is saying something!

  6. 5 out of 5

    John Stevens

    Dr. Michio Kaku is perhaps the or one of the most brilliant minds in theoretical physics living today. I've seen him present several concepts and theories on the Discovery Channel. I am a man who truly appreciates the marvel of theoretical physics. The stuff of Albert Einstein. Although I have some education along these lines and have watched and read quite a lot, I still find it very difficult to follow. In this book/audio book, Dr. Kaku takes us on a journey into all of those "sci-fi sciences" Dr. Michio Kaku is perhaps the or one of the most brilliant minds in theoretical physics living today. I've seen him present several concepts and theories on the Discovery Channel. I am a man who truly appreciates the marvel of theoretical physics. The stuff of Albert Einstein. Although I have some education along these lines and have watched and read quite a lot, I still find it very difficult to follow. In this book/audio book, Dr. Kaku takes us on a journey into all of those "sci-fi sciences" we've witnessed on Star Trek and the like. He helps the lay person to understand what is or is not "potentially" possible in accordance with the laws and theories of physics that are most accepted today. It is a real pleasure to take this journey if you are, in the least, a sci-fi reader or a geek who gets excited by science. That's me! If you're going to attempt reading in this direction I highly recommend this as a good starting place. John

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Description: A fascinating exploration of the science of the impossible—from death rays and force fields to invisibility cloaks—revealing to what extent such technologies might be achievable decades or millennia into the future. One hundred years ago, scientists would have said that lasers, televisions, and the atomic bomb were beyond the realm of physical possibility. In Physics of the Impossible, the renowned physicist Michio Kaku explores to what extent the technologies and devices of science Description: A fascinating exploration of the science of the impossible—from death rays and force fields to invisibility cloaks—revealing to what extent such technologies might be achievable decades or millennia into the future. One hundred years ago, scientists would have said that lasers, televisions, and the atomic bomb were beyond the realm of physical possibility. In Physics of the Impossible, the renowned physicist Michio Kaku explores to what extent the technologies and devices of science fiction that are deemed equally impossible today might well become commonplace in the future. From teleportation to telekinesis, Kaku uses the world of science fiction to explore the fundamentals—and the limits—of the laws of physics as we know them today. He ranks the impossible technologies by categories—Class I, II, and III, depending on when they might be achieved, within the next century, millennia, or perhaps never. In a compelling and thought-provoking narrative, he explains: · How the science of optics and electromagnetism may one day enable us to bend light around an object, like a stream flowing around a boulder, making the object invisible to observers “downstream” · How ramjet rockets, laser sails, antimatter engines, and nanorockets may one day take us to the nearby stars · How telepathy and psychokinesis, once considered pseudoscience, may one day be possible using advances in MRI, computers, superconductivity, and nanotechnology · Why a time machine is apparently consistent with the known laws of quantum physics, although it would take an unbelievably advanced civilization to actually build one Kaku uses his discussion of each technology as a jumping-off point to explain the science behind it. An extraordinary scientific adventure, Physics of the Impossible takes readers on an unforgettable, mesmerizing journey into the world of science that both enlightens and entertains. TR Parallel Worlds CR Physics of the Impossible

  8. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Great introduction to current issues in Physics - without the pain of complex equations. Also, fun as the author esplores the plausibility of the physics in the Star Trek, Star Wars, and Time travel movies and books.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    I was never promised a flying car. What I mean to say is that my generation was never the generation of flying cars. We grew up knowing better. It’s been seventy years since we started breaking open atomic nuclei to harness their incredible capacity for destruction and creation, and we are still sucking fossilized plants from the bowels of the Earth and lighting it on fire as fuel. My parents grew up watching men go to the moon. I grew up watching NASA’s budget bleeding out on the table, their sh I was never promised a flying car. What I mean to say is that my generation was never the generation of flying cars. We grew up knowing better. It’s been seventy years since we started breaking open atomic nuclei to harness their incredible capacity for destruction and creation, and we are still sucking fossilized plants from the bowels of the Earth and lighting it on fire as fuel. My parents grew up watching men go to the moon. I grew up watching NASA’s budget bleeding out on the table, their shuttle fleet slowly becoming more obsolete and decrepit until it was only a matter of time that Challenger repeated itself. The euphoric spirit of technological progress that had so long balanced its darker fear of nuclear apocalypse waned, its promises seemingly hollow. Of course, that’s not to say that my generation hasn’t been promised things, or that we haven’t been promised good things. Global warming and economic recession aside, we’re being told that computers are going to continue to shrink and become more mobile. Wearable computing is just around the corner (hello, Google Glass). My car might not fly, but it will probably drive itself. And, if Kurzweill and his buddies are right (they probably aren’t), we will either be immortal or computer uploads by the middle of the century, so hey, how bad can it get? I say this all just to underscore the constant tension between what we have now and what we might have, what we envision as our future for science and technology. This is an entire academic field, one that is as important as it is dangerous in the sense that nothing it says can really be trusted, but we ignore what it says at our own peril. Futurists are increasingly valuable, because it seems like Gibson is right about the future already being here, just not evenly distributed—but they are human, like the rest of us, and fallible, prone to overexcitement and unable, sometimes, to step back from something in which they’ve invested so much time and energy. I wouldn’t necessarily call Michio Kaku a futurist, but sometimes he plays one in books. Physics of the Impossible is his stab at categorizing certain things that are impossible now but might not remain that way forever. For example, the type of teleportation you see on Star Trek won’t be putting airlines out of business any time soon—but does teleportation really go "against" the laws of physics, or is our technology and understanding of physics just not there yet? In this way, Kaku distinguishes between things that we might be able to do in the next century or so, things we might be able to do in the next few millennia when we grow up, and things that we won’t ever be able to do unless our understanding of physics drastically alters. These Class I, II, and III impossibilities form the backbone for the structure of a book that is a mixture of physics lecture, geeky enthusiasm for cutting-edge tech, and optimism for the boundless ingenuity of the human species. Kaku’s classification approach is a very useful one. We bandy about the word “impossible” quite often. The lay public, the scientifically-literate public, and the scientist public all seem to have different ideas about what it might mean, much like the confusion over the “theory” of evolution or “law” of gravity. Is anything really impossible? (The answer is yes, things that are logically impossible, but that is a much smaller domain than what we generally refer to when listing impossibilities.) Kaku has taken the time to give “impossible” a more well-formed definition that we can actual use. In this way, even if one’s understanding of physics is quite limited, one gets a better sense of the relative difficulty of creating or harnessing some of these phenomena. The book contains ten Class I impossibilities, three Class II, and two Class III. The first category includes such things as teleportation, telepathy, and psychokinesis. From this, it’s clear that Kaku is either using a very loose definition of “within a century” or is incredibly optimistic about our how much progress we’ll make in the next century. Think “best case scenario”. In some cases, such as with telepathy and psychokinesis, Kaku doesn’t so much explain possible physics approaches as point to existing technology (brain-computer interfaces) and upcoming research (brain-mapping projects) and enthuse about how much we’ll probably learn in the next few decades. Hmm. In other cases, such as with force fields and invisibility, he seems to present the challenges of replicating what we see in Star Trek and other science fiction much more realistically. While this might not be as reassuring, I definitely find it more interesting. I learned lots of interesting tidbits about physics from this book. I love reading books about physics, although lately the more I read, the less I feel I understand. Quantum physics is just so weird—and yes, I know that if this is the way the universe actually works, then technically that makes quantum physics the ultimate standard of normality. However, it’s still weird, OK? And the more you learn, the weirder it gets, until you’re so far down the rabbithole it doesn’t matter how many blue pills you take; you’re not going home, Alice. Physics of the Impossible is a little more “pop sci” than many of the other physics books I’ve been reading lately, such as The Universe Within . There is only one equation in this book, and it’s one you’ve all seen: E = mc². Kaku doesn’t go into too many concepts in depth—he tosses out certain facts that I was able to accept, because I’ve been exposed to these ideas in other books, but they might cause another person to doubletake. I think it’s asking a little much to expect him to give in-depth treatises on all the concepts he touches upon, though. There’s just so many. It’s one of those situations where, if something intrigues you or confuses you, you should seek out a book specifically about that subject. Since this book is lighter on a lot of the explanation, I suspect that many more people will find it accessible. My favourite fact is one I have not, as far as I remember, seen mentioned before: antimatter is actually just ordinary matter travelling back in time. How cool is that? And as a corollary, it’s possible that our entire universe is just a single electron travelling back and forth through time infinitely many times. And you know what, I get so frustrated with technology sometimes. Some days I feel like I’m living in the future. Other days I wonder why everyone else seems so happy with their mobile devices while mine chug along at a sluggish pace. But maybe it doesn’t matter if I never get a flying car, or self-driving car for that matter. Sometimes, it’s reward enough just to learn the true depths of the weird and wondrous place that is our universe. Kaku definitely captures that here, and he does it in a way that is both edifying and gratifying.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Muhammad

    How often do you wonder about The Future? Can you conceive of the technologies people are going to use in the next millennium? Or is it at all conceivable? Is the ever growing ‘Technology Monster’ finally going to define or explain ‘every’ phenomenon around us some time in the far future? What about super intelligent extraterrestrials? Do they really exist? Are they going to invade us like the Hollywood ones? Can humans use psychokinesis in their regular lives as Jean Grey does in the X-Men comi How often do you wonder about The Future? Can you conceive of the technologies people are going to use in the next millennium? Or is it at all conceivable? Is the ever growing ‘Technology Monster’ finally going to define or explain ‘every’ phenomenon around us some time in the far future? What about super intelligent extraterrestrials? Do they really exist? Are they going to invade us like the Hollywood ones? Can humans use psychokinesis in their regular lives as Jean Grey does in the X-Men comic books? Is a speed faster than light ever be attainable? Can we travel through time and alter the course of history? Is it at all possible to unveil what’s going on in the other universes (considering the idea they really do exist)? Are robots going to be so intelligent that someday ‘Terminator’ becomes a reality? Are these all going to happen or they are just fancy theories written on paper only, practically being impossible? If possible, then how long we have to wait? Few centuries? Millennium? Or may be Millions of years? Well, the answers my friend, are NOT blowing in the wind! Trillions, may be quadrillions, may be even larger number of phenomena are still left to be explained. With each discovery, more questions are popping up. We’re completely in the darkness about the technology of nature and the night is yet too young! The use of science since the last couple of centuries has taken us to a somewhat considerable point. But how many miles must we walk to meet these (at least some of these) ‘impossibilities’, is a matter of great debate. You have to know precisely where our science course is set to and where we are standing now for making such ‘predictions’. Michio Kaku, the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of New York, tries to answer these questions from a physicist’s point of view and draws a possible outline when should these impossibilities turn into ‘almost’ everyday regularities. Being a human, if the rapid progression of science makes you wonder about what are the technologies individuals of your species are going to enjoy in the far, far future, this book is for you! The organization of the book is excellent. Kaku divides the book into three parts according to the classes of the impossibilities (Class I, Class II and Class III). These impossibilities are, of course, impossible with respect to our current time frame. The Class I impossibilities (invisibility, teleportation, telepathy, psychokinesis, robots etc.) are the technologies that are not feasible today but they obey the laws of physics. They might be possible in this century, or perhaps the next. Class II impossibilities (faster than light, time travel and parallel universes) are the ones that “sit at the very edge of our understanding of the physical world.” They may be understood on a scale of millennia to millions of years. The final category is the Class III impossibilities (perpetual motion machines and precognition) which violate the laws of physics. “If they turn out to be possible, they would represent a fundamental shift in our understanding of physics”-Kaku’s remark on the Class III ones. Starting from 1960’s Star Trek to modern days’ Eternal Sunshine on The Spotless Mind, the book refers to various TV serials, movies and sci-fi/ fantasy books. Apparently, the movie directors and the storywriters from the old days were far more’ visionary’ than scientists for they pictured the impossible happenings decades earlier while scientists have started taking these into account only in the recent days (human brain’s Imaginative part prevails maybe?!) From pop culture items to pure scientific field, the book declares quite a large realm of itself and these references made the read a very enjoying one. Kaku’s explanations raised some ‘philosophical’ thoughts in my mind as well. For thousands of years people have been dreaming of teleportation, psychokinesis, precognition, telepathy or extraterrestrials. These have been the cores of the fairy tales. If these impossibilities are made possible someday, will it draw a conclusion to the fairy tales? In these days you certainly won’t like to hear a fairy tale about a prince who uses an hp laptop with internet connection, as they are too trivial today! There’s absolutely no fun hearing this story. In the far future, when precognition is achieved, would children want to read the stories about precognition? Who knows? On a different note, I think this book could be a great influence for aspiring sci-fi writers. A writer with enough imagination can take lots of information and ideas from this book. Keeping all the nice words aside, let’s point out that the book has some lacking as well! A popular science book without a single diagram is something I find ‘odd’. Any scientific paper, book, dissertation or thesis needs lots and lots of diagrams for making the ideas clear which this book didn’t address. When Kaku talked about quantum mechanics or matter-antimatter annihilation, the lack of figures really made me stumble on the letters. For making the book a little vague for me sometimes, I am ‘penalizing’ Kaku 1 star, and this is the explanation of a 4 star out of 5. ‘Prediction’ is always a tricky business and often improvident too! One prediction goes wrong and people will start hurling stones. Running the risk of ‘being proven wrong’, Michio Kaku did a splendid job. Things that he understands easily being a physicist are not very digestible for regular people and Kaku's attempt to make it digestible is appreciable. Surely Kaku deserves an applaud. P.S: Before starting each chapter, Kaku mentions one or two quotations by famous people from different walks of life. I couldn’t resist the temptation to pick some of them and re-mention them here in this review! (The last two ones are mentioned as a mean of sarcasm!) “If at first an idea does not sound absurd, then there is no hope for it”-Albert Einstein . “If you haven’t found something strange during the day, it hasn’t been much of a day.”- John Wheeler “Either we are alone in the universe, or we are not. Either thought is frightening” –Arthur C. Clarke “Radio has no future. Heavier-than- air flying machines are impossible. X-ray will prove to be a hoax”-Physicist Lord Kelvin, 1890 “The (atomic) bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives”- Admiral William Leahy

  11. 5 out of 5

    owilkumowa

    If school textbooks were written by Michio Kaku, half of the kids would grow up to be engineers.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Fred Forbes

    When the author appeared at a convention I attended last year I was surprised not to have heard of him as he was listed as a NY Times best seller. I was impressed enough with his talk to order a couple of his books, this one among them. He divides phenomena into 3 levels of the impossible. Class I impossibilities are those that are "impossible today but that do not violate the known laws of physics." Examples would include teleportation, antimatter engines and "certain forms of telepathy, psychok When the author appeared at a convention I attended last year I was surprised not to have heard of him as he was listed as a NY Times best seller. I was impressed enough with his talk to order a couple of his books, this one among them. He divides phenomena into 3 levels of the impossible. Class I impossibilities are those that are "impossible today but that do not violate the known laws of physics." Examples would include teleportation, antimatter engines and "certain forms of telepathy, psychokinesis and invisibility." Class II phenomena include those that "sit at the very edge of our understanding of the physical world" and include time machines, travel through wormholes and hyperspace travel. The final category, III, includes "technologies that violate the known laws of physics" and include precognition and perpetual motion machines. I thoroughly enjoyed the references to Star Wars movies, Star Trek episodes and various pieces of well known science fiction literature. If you are the type who enjoys mind benders like "... the true secret of anti-matter: it's just ordinary matter going backward in time" and who can get excited about the LISA program scheduled for next year which "consists of 3 satellites circling the sun, arranged in a triangle, each connected by laser beams 3 million miles long ...orbiting the sun about 30 million miles from earth ... able to detect vibrations to within one part in a billion trillion, about 1/100th the size of an atom" in search of gravity waves, then this is probably a book you will enjoy. And nary a math equation anywhere! I had a good time with it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    While I really liked this book, a lot, it felt incomplete to me in that much of the math and science behind these concepts is not very in depth. Sure, it's not a text book, but I would have liked to have seen equations or at least references to something that could explain the math. Also, while there is a TARDIS on the cover, there is no TARDIS, and no mention of Doctor Who at all in the book. I felt slightly cheated, but not enough to not give it a five star rating. Oh, and the other quibble. V While I really liked this book, a lot, it felt incomplete to me in that much of the math and science behind these concepts is not very in depth. Sure, it's not a text book, but I would have liked to have seen equations or at least references to something that could explain the math. Also, while there is a TARDIS on the cover, there is no TARDIS, and no mention of Doctor Who at all in the book. I felt slightly cheated, but not enough to not give it a five star rating. Oh, and the other quibble. Vulcan was a Roman God, Hephaestus was the Greek God. Bad editor. Bad.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Judyta Szaciłło

    After a five-star impression that the Author had left me with his "Parallel Worlds", I couldn't give this book more than a four. I liked it very much, but I didn't feel that interested in all those ray guns, death stars and light sabres. The second and the third part of the book were more like "Parallel Worlds", exploring the very edge of theoretical physics and its impact on our understanding of the reality - and these parts I liked much better. I can't say I've understood everything, but even After a five-star impression that the Author had left me with his "Parallel Worlds", I couldn't give this book more than a four. I liked it very much, but I didn't feel that interested in all those ray guns, death stars and light sabres. The second and the third part of the book were more like "Parallel Worlds", exploring the very edge of theoretical physics and its impact on our understanding of the reality - and these parts I liked much better. I can't say I've understood everything, but even the phantom of the picture is bewildering.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert Day

    I don't have a TV. That used to be a radical statement, but now that everything (yes - everything!) is on the Internet, people don't fuss so much. Thing is though - I don't know people - unless they appear in movies or in the ads that clog up websites. Which brings us to Michio Kaku. Without my knowledge, he has sneaked into the world and done stuff like this: he is a futurist, populariser of science, and theoretical physicist, as well as a bestselling author and the host of two radio programs. He i I don't have a TV. That used to be a radical statement, but now that everything (yes - everything!) is on the Internet, people don't fuss so much. Thing is though - I don't know people - unless they appear in movies or in the ads that clog up websites. Which brings us to Michio Kaku. Without my knowledge, he has sneaked into the world and done stuff like this: he is a futurist, populariser of science, and theoretical physicist, as well as a bestselling author and the host of two radio programs. He is the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory. Imagine that! This book of his starts by outlining three classes of impossibilities: Class 1 - impossible today but that don't violate the known laws of physics (teleportation, anti-matter engines, telepathy, psychokinesis, & invisibility) Class 2 - stuff that's at the frontiers of our understanding of the physical world (time machines, hyperspace travel, wormhole travel) Class 3 - technologies that violate the known laws of physics or would represent a fundamental shift in our understanding of physics (perpetual motion machines & precognition). It was a bit of bummer when he told me that on an inter-galactic, multi-dimensional and trans-chronological scale, the human race has only reached the point of being a class zero civilisation where class one civilisations can control and harvest the entire power of their planet, class two the power of their sun and class three the power of their whole galaxy! Class Zero! That sounds like Coke Zero, only without cool metal container that you can cut the top off and use as a tiny plant-pot. I love reading about all this sciency/geeky stuff and this book is clever and it ties in Science Fiction movies, so what's not to like; but here's a better idea for a book - 'Things That Were Impossible When The Human Race Was Still Competing With Sabre-Tooth Tigers For Food But Are Now For Sale In Your Local Shopping Centre'. My head got swooped upon by a helicopter-buzzy-thingy (no, that's not the official name if you want to buy one) in Designer Outlet in York at the weekend and just for a moment I pictured myself roaring like a T-Rex, snatching it out of the sky with my feeble forepaws and then crushing it with my gigantic, razor-sharp dinosaur jaws!! Thankfully, I just managed to restrain myself. But just think - all of this helicopter-buzzy-thingy stuff would have been impossible not long back. Look how far we've come! (ok - yeah, I'm being ironic again)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Huda

    i love love love this book. There, I had to say that first before I get anything else out. Searching for the right person to talk to me about science has proven difficult, and I probably didn't even know it was difficult to connect to an author on this subject before I got to know Michio Kaku. In Physics of the Impossible, readers will explore possibilities of sci-fi features in real-time. So they would be questions like: how close are we to building a force field? Is invisibility actually possib i love love love this book. There, I had to say that first before I get anything else out. Searching for the right person to talk to me about science has proven difficult, and I probably didn't even know it was difficult to connect to an author on this subject before I got to know Michio Kaku. In Physics of the Impossible, readers will explore possibilities of sci-fi features in real-time. So they would be questions like: how close are we to building a force field? Is invisibility actually possible? And can we successfully embark on an interstellar voyage? What he does is categorise these 'impossibilities', from inventions that would take decades to build, to leaps of science that would take centuries to fulfil. What makes it so special to me is the very approach used. Michio Kaku is an optimistic child where sci-fi is concerned -- something I think takes a real purist to be able to defend against time. I get the idea that most scientists, the deeper they get in calculations and theories, become more prone to dismiss ideas as impossible, because so much is riding on a conjecture alone. Humiliation among peers, the domino-effect of one theory proven wrong, positions, etc., all these factors can weigh down considerably on a scientist's pure ambition to discover scientific truth. That's why I think the optimism I see in Physics of the Impossible is a treasure -- it's an ambition unsullied. Also, I read a book on Quantum Physics before I got to this, and although I'm pretty sure the book was simplified enough, I vowed to get something more 'elementary' in order to understand the subject. Michio Kaku had a wonderful gage on how to convey ideas to the masses, neither pandering nor caught up on his own interest. He wants you to know there are exciting things happening in the field, that there are players with interesting lives outside their contributions and what great things he thinks we can look forward to in the future. One vivid moment I had while reading was when the ending of Men in Black was mentioned. It was a scene I remember well, because at the time I liked the idea so much, but I didn't know what to do with it. So carrying the memory of that scene until today, I end up in a giddy mess when it was pointed out in the book. Here's the clip: Men in Black Ending I must be entirely biased, but everything about this book is interesting. From its characterisation of other scientists, timeline of discoveries or even all the movie spoilers it provides, Michio Kaku is my favourite professor now.

  17. 4 out of 5

    47Time

    There are plenty of references to physical phenomena and theory, stuff that has been tested thoroughly and is believed right now to be the truth about the universe. I say this because there have been plenty of times that stuff believed to be true were disproved years down the line, e.g. the Sun rotating around the Earth versus the reverse. I'm glad to see that I understand most of these things, so I didn't go through school for nothing. The author speculates that the future can hold many wonderf There are plenty of references to physical phenomena and theory, stuff that has been tested thoroughly and is believed right now to be the truth about the universe. I say this because there have been plenty of times that stuff believed to be true were disproved years down the line, e.g. the Sun rotating around the Earth versus the reverse. I'm glad to see that I understand most of these things, so I didn't go through school for nothing. The author speculates that the future can hold many wonderful things that will, like all the breakthroughs so far, change our lives completely. He does this by basing everything on known fact, but also assuming that future discoveries will open up new avenues of research and development. He is optimistic about the future, so he is clearly a supporter of science and believes that the future can make our lives better.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mohamedridha Alaskari محمد رضا العسكري

    There's no denying in the scientific researches. Kaku encouraged for free thinking, "thinking out of the box!" I believe teleportation is the most interesting matter in this book. Hence it doesn't matter what's your beliefs bit you need to bear in mind that everything is possible if not at the current time it going to be happening in the future. Whether you like it or not. Thank you Kaku

  19. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    Michio Kaku is nothing if not optimistic. Is there anything currently in the realm of SF that we cannot do (in some fashion), eventually? Apparently not. Even perpetual motion and precognition may be possible with a better understanding of our universe (or multiverse). In Physics of the Impossible, Kaku, theoretical physicist and one of the developers of string theory, looks at some of the common technologies found in SF and discusses – in a very general and user-friendly way – whether or not th Michio Kaku is nothing if not optimistic. Is there anything currently in the realm of SF that we cannot do (in some fashion), eventually? Apparently not. Even perpetual motion and precognition may be possible with a better understanding of our universe (or multiverse). In Physics of the Impossible, Kaku, theoretical physicist and one of the developers of string theory, looks at some of the common technologies found in SF and discusses – in a very general and user-friendly way – whether or not they are possible and when they might be achieved. He divides these technologies into three categories. Class I impossibilities are advances that our current physical model can accommodate but not our current technology; however, they will be available within the next century or so. An example of this is the force field (chapter 1). The force fields of “Star Trek” or the Culture are unlikely but scientists have been experimenting with things that could produce similar results. Kaku focuses on two. The plasma window, invented by Ady Herschovitch in 1995, and magnetic levitation, which we already have in a limited way. The window is a plane of plasma shaped by electromagnetic fields. Theoretically, an envelope could be created that separates atmosphere from vacuum, useful in airlocks and certain manufacturing processes like electron beam welding. And it is possible to envision supercharged plasma windows, part of a layered defense system, vaporizing incoming objects (the other two layers would be a laser curtain and a carbon nanotube screen). We already use magnetic levitation (maglev) to move trains at high speeds. If we can develop high-temperature superconductors, we would have the capability to cheaply create powerful magnetic fields that would open the door to true flying vehicles (or even flying belts) or the floating cities of Niven’s Ringworld (though their ultimate fate might give us pause in that particular application). Class II impossibilities are also advances conceivable within our current understanding of physics but require technologies far beyond what we’re capable of and probably impossible for civilizations of less-than-interstellar scope (see NOTE below). An example of a Class II impossibility is faster-than-light (FTL) travel. In the chapter “Faster Than Light,” Kaku discusses physicists’ attempts to get around Einstein’s light-speed barrier. For example, in 1994, Miguel Alcubierre proposed a “warp drive” (see the Wiki entry) capable of producing an effect that stretched space behind a theoretical starship and contracted it before the vessel. Unfortunately, it depends upon utilizing negative matter (whose existence has yet to be proven) or negative energy (whose existence was detected as early as 1948 but which exists in such small known quantities and exerts such little force as to be useless). Worm holes offer another avenue to FTL travel but they too depend upon manipulating enormous quantities of negative matter or negative energy (Kaku points out that we would need a particle accelerator 10-light-years long to achieve the minimum energies necessary to create a usable worm hole). And even if humanity becomes capable of using such exotic material or generating such enormous energies, it’s unclear that stable worm holes could be created or that the radiation produced wouldn’t destroy anything trying to enter them. Class III impossibilities are technologies that can’t exist with our current understanding of physics and may well be truly impossible. But – and it’s a big but (sorry) – if/when we develop a better theory, even the impossible may become reality. In this category Kaku places the perpetual-motion machine, which has been pursued by charlatans as well as serious scientists for centuries (our author traces the first recorded PMM to eighth century AD Bavaria). Dark energy, though, holds out the possibility – if physicists can unravel the mystery of how much is there and where does it come from – of a technology that uses this zero-point energy to develop machines with essentially unlimited power (e.g., Iain Bank’s Culture novels). Overall, Physics of the Impossible is OK. I round up to three stars because I’m a science geek and I want to believe we are headed for the bright future Kaku imagines. I do have problems with the book. The first is purely one of content. Kaku covers a lot of ground in only a little more than 300 pages and gives short shrift to many of his topics. I found this particularly galling in the chapter on time travel (“only” a Class II impossibility according to him), where he throws out the idea that anti-matter is matter traveling backwards in time without much in the way of context. Admittedly, many of these concepts are difficult to conceptualize and notoriously difficult to analogize but I think Kaku often rushes through his explanations and falls short in making them understandable to the reader. The second problem I have with the book is a philosophical one. Somewhere in Physics of the Impossible Kaku writes of the highly advanced civilization of the future as one that has transcended fundamentalism, tribalism, racism and all the other plagues that are ravaging our world but it is unclear how this will be achieved or even why it would be achieved simply through technical advance. Nevertheless, Kaku believes that continued progress in technology and knowledge will miraculously bring this about but is unclear on the details. Considering humanity’s record so far, it’s not at all certain that it’s possible. Why should it follow that a highly advanced civilization is a highly enlightened one? Why should we be hopeful that technology will create a Utopia rather than a police state? Why should we be hopeful that a civilization that can handle 10 billion billion times more energy than ours won’t use it malevolently (at least from our point of view – I refer you to Clarke’s Childhood’s End)? Or why should we assume that technical advances will come in these particular areas? It may be that overpopulation, resource depletion and climate change will focus humans on an entirely different range of technologies, delaying further physical and cosmological exploration. And possibly precluding it since a post-industrial, post-capitalist, post-fossil fuel world may have entirely different priorities. In the end I have no real answer to my quandary. It’s terrifying to see how we treat each other and what we’re (potentially) capable of doing to ourselves and this planet with the limited technology we have. Yet…outside of resorting to the Battlestar Galactica solution (watch the series finale), it’s by mastering the technology we have and developing further innovations that we have any hope of saving ourselves and preserving an advanced society. And even then, it’ll be a crap shoot if we don’t have some concomitant advances in the areas of social and economic organization (subjects about which I have opinions as well but which fall outside of the scope of this review and of this book). I’ve only touched on a single example from each of the book’s three sections. Kaku also explores the possibility of invisibility, death rays, teleportation, robots and starships, and parallel universes, among others in an engaging and contagiously optimistic (at least while you’re reading it) manner, and I would recommend it to the science geek or anyone who hopes one day that there really will be a Captain Kirk (or – probably better – a Captain Picard) “going boldly where no one has gone before.” ______________________________ NOTE: Kaku assumes the reader is familiar with a number of concepts. One of which is Kardashev’s Scale, which – broadly speaking – measures the technological level of a civilization based on its energy use (see the Wiki entry). Briefly, it goes like this: Type 0: Civilizations use less than the total energy output of a planet (us, barely). Type I: Civilizations use the energy output of a planet (according to Kaku, us in another century or two). Type II: Civilizations use the energy output of a sun. Type III: Civilizations use the energy output of a galaxy. Elaborations on the theory have carried the original classifications further – Type IVs are intergalactic in nature and Type V civilizations merrily jump from universe to universe.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Reid

    Absolutely loved this, but unfortunately had to gloss over some of the waffly parts as I too much uni reading to do at the time. I will probably re-read this book at some point though because I enjoyed most of it, and the parts I skipped over may be worth revisiting when I'm in a better mood.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Petra

    Theories have four stages of acceptance: i. this is worthless nonsense; ii. this is interesting, but perverse; iii. this is true, but quite unimportant; iv. I always said so. —J. B. S. HALDANE, 1963 This is book basically deals with the concept of "Impossibility", and arrive at the conclusion that impossibility is a relative concept. Throughout history, notable scientists labeled things impossible, only to be realized in a relatively short time. For example :one of the most prominent scientist of Theories have four stages of acceptance: i. this is worthless nonsense; ii. this is interesting, but perverse; iii. this is true, but quite unimportant; iv. I always said so. —J. B. S. HALDANE, 1963 This is book basically deals with the concept of "Impossibility", and arrive at the conclusion that impossibility is a relative concept. Throughout history, notable scientists labeled things impossible, only to be realized in a relatively short time. For example :one of the most prominent scientist of the 19th century, declared that " heavier than air" devices, such as airplanes were impossible. Others claimed that atomic bombs and black holes were laughable stretches of the imagination that might fit into sci-fi novels but surely have no place in the real world. So when we label something impossible today, we have to be very careful. In this book, the author divided the things that are impossible into three categories: 1. Class I impossibility :They are technologies that are impossible to achieve with today's standards, however they do not violate the laws of physics, and should be achievable in the next century or so in one form or the other, they include: teleportation, antimatter engines and telepathy to list a few. 2. Class II impossibility: these are technologies that do not violate the laws of physics, however our understanding of them is not complete. If they are possible at all, we will need millions of years to achieve them. Time machines and wormholes fall into this category. 3. Class III impossibility : these ideas violate the known laws of physics, they very few ( surprisingly) and can only be achieved if our fundamental understanding of physics is changed,so possible ( it had happened before) but highly unlikely. To get a clearer view of what that means, he also classified the type of civilizations needed to achieve certain technologies so we have: Type I civilizations: these civilizations can harness all the energy on their planet, be it sunlight, wind, volcanoes or earthquakes. Type II civilizations: to get there, we need to be able to harness all of the sun's energy. A type 2 civilization is 10 billion times more powerful than a type 1 civilization. and finally a Type III civilization: these guys can utilize the energy on an entire galaxy, and they are 10 billion times more powerful than a type 2 civilization. Just to put that in perspective: we are a type 0 civilization. The book itself deals with these three types of technologies, it is a very interesting , but be warned, there is a ton of science involved in the explanation, I had to read a few paragraph a couple of times to fully understand. So if you are not really that much into science, specifically physics, then I wouldn't recommend it. On the other hand if you are a nerd like me, I'm sure you will enjoy it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jenny williams

    I love Michio Kaku's approach, theories and views. I follow his website from time to time to see what different discoveries he makes every day. Physics Of The Impossible is a novel that requires some background knowledge and understanding of physics to truly get what he is saying. This book had example after example after example of all of the different things they said we would NEVER be able to do as a human race and just a decade or so later we are doing far more than what scientists said was I love Michio Kaku's approach, theories and views. I follow his website from time to time to see what different discoveries he makes every day. Physics Of The Impossible is a novel that requires some background knowledge and understanding of physics to truly get what he is saying. This book had example after example after example of all of the different things they said we would NEVER be able to do as a human race and just a decade or so later we are doing far more than what scientists said was impossible. Basically it applies the same way today on the different things we may consider as impossible, you never really know if something is impossible or not because over time things could change. Kaku does a great job illustrating that point while still keeping a level head. The coolest part about this book in my opinion is the concept of time travel. Time travel sounds so ridiculous and out of the question at this day and age but there are many notable scientists that agree with Kaku when he says it's not a probability; it's more of a "when?". That thought puts chills down my spine. Definitely recommend.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gendou

    Notice that I filed this one under fiction. Kaku is a HACK. This whole book is an exercise in misunderstanding the word "impossible". There is no scientific value to this book. It is a fanciful weave of outright scientific untruth, confusing metaphors, and semantic diarrhea. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Aya

    This book is a must read. it explains whether the phenomenon happening in sci-fi are impossible or not with our current knowledge of physics. Its explaining physics in a fun way

  25. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    Nothing is imposible :)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Janet Tomasson

    This is an easy read for the general public that physics is relatively far from. The advantage (and its disadvantage of it) is that it is an easy physics book, in that, it doesn't go into details, but it covers vast areas in the world of physics. However, the book is highly recommended for teenagers or for the general public who wants to enrich their general knowledge.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Todd Martin

    I’ve had this book for a while but have been a bit hesitant to read it because I’ve seen videos of Michio Kaku and find him incredibly annoying. I was thus pleasantly surprised that his personality is not prominently on display in his writing. In Physics of the Impossible Kaku examines the plausibility of futuristic technology that we’re familiar with through science fiction books and films. He categorizes them into three types of impossibilities: Class I impossibilities – Technologies that are i I’ve had this book for a while but have been a bit hesitant to read it because I’ve seen videos of Michio Kaku and find him incredibly annoying. I was thus pleasantly surprised that his personality is not prominently on display in his writing. In Physics of the Impossible Kaku examines the plausibility of futuristic technology that we’re familiar with through science fiction books and films. He categorizes them into three types of impossibilities: Class I impossibilities – Technologies that are impossible today, but that do not violate the known laws of physics. Class II impossibilities – Technologies at the very edge of our understanding of the physical world, possibly taking thousands or millions of years to become available. Class III impossibilities – Technologies that violate the known laws of physics. Topics examined include such things as: force fields, invisibility, phasers and other beam weapons, teleportation, telepathy, telekinesis, interstellar space travel, artificial general intelligence, time travel, space elevators, and others. The format of the book is to take an impossible technology, then examine the current science with respect to that technology and possible ways in which it might be developed in the future to produce the thing in question. The nice thing about this approach is that Kaku spends much of the book reviewing the science and state of the art technologies that pertain the various subjects discussed. It should be noted that the ‘state of the art’ in question was that available more than a decade ago (2007) when the book was written. Although the science has progressed since that time, have no fear, the book is still relevant given that the impossible technologies are still impossible today. On the downside … all of the cool stuff he discusses is still impossible today. I’ll take minor exception with one point. In the epilogue Kaku states that, while these things are currently impossible, physicists are making new discoveries all the time thus IMPLYING that there may be a mysterious force waiting to be discovered out there that will give us say … force fields (note: to be fair, he doesn’t explicitly state this, so I may be reading into it somewhat). However, as physicist Sean Carrol has written “the laws underlying the physics of everyday life are completely understood”, meaning - we know about all the forces that act on a macro scale. We can therefore conclude that such a discovery is unlikely to happen since, if any such a force existed, it would already have made itself known to us. I'm therefore not going to hold my breath on this one.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    Kaku (Parallel Worlds, Beyond Einstein, Hyperspace) introduces complex theories of physics to general readers. As The Economist notes, Kaku "makes a good stab at explaining difficult physics. But his grasp of his subject is perhaps trumped by his knowledge of science fiction." While Kaku writes in language designed to captivate nonscience readers, it's his references to pop culture

  29. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    This is a well written, engaging, informative and even entertaining work of popular science. Kaku takes a lot of the most popular ideas from science fiction, from light sabers to multiple universes, and then he asks the question, "based on our understanding of the laws of physics, is this possible?" It turns out this is a fun way to learn some serious science, especially since Kaku has a gift for making the subject matter understandable to laymen such as myself. I'll read more of his books for s This is a well written, engaging, informative and even entertaining work of popular science. Kaku takes a lot of the most popular ideas from science fiction, from light sabers to multiple universes, and then he asks the question, "based on our understanding of the laws of physics, is this possible?" It turns out this is a fun way to learn some serious science, especially since Kaku has a gift for making the subject matter understandable to laymen such as myself. I'll read more of his books for sure.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jake Buchanan

    When you think of a high school science fair, I'm sure memories of Baking Soda volcanoes and potato light bulbs come racing to mind. Kaku had a different plan; he built an Atom smasher (also called a particle accelerator) in his basement. This led him on the fast track to a successful life as a theoretical physicist, popularizing science for much of the public eye. Kaku has done this by appearing on many television shows, hosting talk radio shows, and even writing books. In Michio Kaku's 2008 b When you think of a high school science fair, I'm sure memories of Baking Soda volcanoes and potato light bulbs come racing to mind. Kaku had a different plan; he built an Atom smasher (also called a particle accelerator) in his basement. This led him on the fast track to a successful life as a theoretical physicist, popularizing science for much of the public eye. Kaku has done this by appearing on many television shows, hosting talk radio shows, and even writing books. In Michio Kaku's 2008 book "Physics of the Impossible", Kaku theorizes ways for the most popular ideas of science fiction into their most realistic concepts. Physics of the Impossible is laid out in a way that makes it easy for just about anyone to pick up and start reading. It is split into 3 sections, Class I Impossibilities, are "technologies that are impossible today, but that do not violate the known laws of physics." These could take a few hundred years to develop, but are foreseeable in the future. Class II Impossibilities are “technologies that sit at the very edge of our understanding of the physical world," and therefore are only realistic thousands to millions of years from now. Lastly, Class III Impossibilities are “technologies that violate the known laws of physics." and would require all that we know about the laws of physics to go through immense change. In each of these sections are the subsections of the book, where the specific topic at hand is discussed. These topics consist of robots, time travel, force fields, going faster than light, parallel universes, perpetual motion, and much more. In "Physics of the Impossible", Kaku lays out not only the most talked about things in science fiction, but he explains about how they would realistically work. He realizes that, for example, force fields come in varying states and theories. He then makes his own theory, and explains how it would be most probably made and used effectively. And that's what he does for the next 300 pages. Kaku does a great job on explaining the theories, where they came from, and how they would work realistically. The entire time you read the book you feel that Kaku is knowledgeable, that he know's exactly what he is talking about. This book is not specifically written for physics majors, nor is it dumbed down to the point where you feel as if you knew all the material prior to reading. Anyone with a thirst for knowledge or enjoys science fiction would love this book and I highly recommend it.

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