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Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific…

Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of… (2008)

by Michio Kaku

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Wonderful book, simplifying the physics of why some things can never be, and how some other might possibly be in the distand future. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
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
( )
  Shaker07 | May 18, 2017 |
This wasn't really helpful , until I got to the two or three pages near the end that laid out several things I'd been wondering about for maybe ten years ( and hadn't been able to find out or stumble over any place else ! ) ( )
  Baku-X | Jan 10, 2017 |
"… it is always dangerous to declare that something is absolutely impossible in the physical sciences." (pg. 285)

A fantastically engrossing book in which renowned physicist Michio Kaku explains how outlandish science-fiction mainstays like time travel, phasers, interstellar travel, invisibility and teleportation may actually be scientifically possible. Even more remarkably, he argues that many of these things may not only be possible but probable. He splits the various ideas into three classes: Class I, which are impossible today but could be possible within the next century or so; Class II, which are possible according to our understanding of physics but will only be realised in the distant future; and Class III, which are ones that violate the known laws of physics. It says a lot that most of the ideas – even some surprising ones – end up in the first class.

It is a book that really brings home just how fascinating science is and the exciting boundaries present and future physicists are and will be pushing. Kaku's writing is occasionally clunky, but he explains the core concepts well. There is an enthusiasm for the wonders of science present in these pages that seems to seep through the pages into the skin of the reader. Similar to other popular science books like Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, your brain becomes giddy as it contemplates such highly stimulating ideas.

But this is not just geeking out and fantasising about one day owning your own lightsaber. It makes you realise not only how remarkable the future may be, but how remarkable the present is. Not only can we theorise about these outlandish concepts but there are significant efforts underway to one day make them a reality. We already live in a remarkable age; think of the complexity of the various technologies we use in our day-to-day lives. On page 11, Kaku talks about 'maglev' trains which are already becoming operational in our time: trains that use magnets to levitate above the tracks. These are things which are coming to bear in our lifetimes, and think about how much more may just be around the corner. Think about a hypothetical book from fifty or one hundred years ago which speculates about the internet and personal computers and mobile phones and so on, and how such things must have seemed like science fiction to people of that time. Quite aside from any of its particular qualities – and there are many – books like Physics of the Impossible are incredibly life-affirming to those willing to engage with them, because they make you dream and make you realise that wild dreams for the future can come true. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Bello! Il titolo mi stuzzicava, e l'avevo in wishlist da tempo, quindi quando è spuntata un'offerta l'ho acchiappato al volo.
È il primo libro che leggo di questo scienziato, e penso che non sarà l'ultimo.
La fisica dell'impossibile è non solo ma anche quella della fantascienza di Star Trek, Guerre Stellari, dei supereroi, e viene presentata con un linguaggio tecnico il giusto, una prosa scorrevole e accattivante, mai noiosa, la chiarezza non viene mai meno nonostante l'argomento non sia di quelli di cui si discute in coda dal panettiere. Ovviamente l'esigenza di chiarezza e concisione impatta sulla precisione, ma questo è solo un pregio per un libro di divulgazione scientifica. E mi tolgo tanto di cappello davanti al signor Kaku, perché non deve essere per niente facile per uno scienziato di quel livello rinunciare ad andare a fondo nella materia in cui è maestro.

Mi è piaciuta la divisione degli argomenti per tipo d'impossibilità, cose impossibili oggi ma probabili in un futuro non lontano, visto che in alcuni campi la tecnica ha fatto e sta facendo passi da gigante, cose non impossibili in linea teorica ma di difficile attuazione in un futuro anche più lontano, perché le innovazioni tecniche che ne potrebbero permettere la realizzazione sono ben lontane dall'essere possibili a breve, e la terza classe, cose impossibili perché sfidano le leggi della fisica (ma impossibili per ora, lasciamo la porta aperta perché ogni giorno porta una nuova scoperta, e poi questa parte ha solo due capitoli .....).

Sebbene non sia digiuna di fisica delle particelle per gli studi fatti da giovane e le letture fatte (matematica e fisica e la loro storia sono rimaste una mia passione) devo dire che questo è uno dei libri più comprensibili che ho letto al riguardo, dunque lo consiglierei decisamente a chi volesse avvicinarsi a questo genere, e a tutti gli amanti di Star Trek, che scopriranno con piacere che alcune delle cose che vediamo nella serie sono vicine, anche se purtroppo non ancora davvero a portata di mano (e con mio rammarico il viaggio a curvatura non è uno di questi, è un'impossibilità di seconda classe).

E se per caso qualcuno volesse diventare srcittore di fantascienza, beh, leggere questo libro è un must. ( )
  LdiBi | Oct 24, 2015 |
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One day, would it be possible to walk through walls?  [Preface]
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307278824, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:52 -0400)

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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.

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