You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Physics of the Impossible

Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel is an account by Michio Kaku of the different technologies that may or may not be possible given today's understanding of the laws of the universe. Kaku divides the ideas into three categories: things that are possible with today's knowledge but require more technology; things that science does not rule out but there's no known way to accomplish them; and things that physics says is impossible.

Kaku starts with ideas such as force fields and invisibility, which he says are possible impossibles. Force fields use basic magnetism as it is understood. An invisibility cloak could use metamaterials--substances with properties that affect how light works. Other ideas such as telepathy are an extension of technologies currently under study today. Mental images can be read from the brain with smaller and smaller resolution, and there is technology to send signals to the brain.

I was impressed with the fundamentals of science and presented in the book. Kaku gives an accurate and informative analysis of artificial intelligence and the possibilities it holds. There is a lot more to the science but his overview is pretty solid. He does end up pretty optimistic and, I believe, gives too little attention to the difficulties involved.

The next class of impossibilities are those that would require a new understanding of physics. He includes faster than light travel and time travel, both of which would require understanding the shape of the universe and the nature of existence. He gives a pretty good analysis of string theory and quantum mechanics and the extent of our knowledge of reality.

The only truly impossible ideas are precognition and perpetual motion machines. Kaku describes many hoaxes and frauds that claim to defeat the second law of thermodynamics. Overall I was impressed with the science background presented to explain the reasoning for each classification. Kaku selects some fun fantastic technologies and explores the scientific possibilities that would enable them. B+

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