Book Review: Physics of the Impossible

I have a fairly eclectic taste in books, so this isn’t really an off-the-wall read for me. Plus, I was a science nerd for all of my years in the educational system, so when I saw this book and read a bit of the first chapter, I knew I had to have it.

This book is a whole bunch of fun. Whether you are a die-hard science fiction fan, real-science nut, or just plain curious about how our universe works, this book is for you.

Michio Kaku is an engaging and entertaining writer who makes the principles of physics he discusses both fun to read and easy to understand (not always an easy thing to do). He takes a look at diverse science fiction subjects from books, movies and television. He presents it all as a sly mix of scientific history and real physics that entertains while it educates. Hey, learning can be fun.

Kaku offers us, at the beginning of each chapter, quotes from well known scientists and philosophers that are amusing and enlightening. Some quotes demonstrate well how wrong we can be sometimes as well as how presciently right. Although Kaku considers precognition to be a Class III Impossibility.

He breaks his “impossibilities” into three classes. Class I Impossibilities “… 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.” For example, Kaku considers teleportation, antimatter engines, certain forms of telepathy, psychokinesis, and invisibility to be Class I Impossibilities.

Class II Impossibilities are technologies “that sit at the very edge of our understanding of the physical world.” Kaku says that if they are realized at all, it will be in millennia instead of centuries. He includes time machines, the possibility of hyperspace travel and travel through wormholes in this category.

His third category, Class III Impossibilities, is ideas that violate the known laws of physics. There are only two topics he covers in this Class:  perpetual motion machines and precognition.

Kaku writes, “As a physicist, I have learned that the ‘impossible’ is often a relative term.” And it seems that many physicists agree with him. I remember in my university physics class, our professor once said to us that physicists believe that anything is possible. He made the statement that the table before him (bearing the day’s demonstrations) could spontaneously levitate. You should have heard the laughter. Then he went on to explain the conditions under which this could happen and added that given infinite time, anything is possible. Kaku also wrote, “In my own short lifetime I have seen the seemingly impossible become established scientific fact over and over again. So is it impossible to think we might one day be able to teleport ourselves from one place to another, or build a spaceship that will one day take us light-years away to the stars?

While presenting his ideas about the main topics in each Class, he touches on so many other ideas and topics that his book plays out like a who’s-who of science, past and present. It’s an absolute delight full of discussions of robots, artificial intelligence, force fields, phasers and Death Stars. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Michio Kaku has also written five other books:  “Parallel Worlds,” “Einstein’s Cosmos,” “Visions,” “Hyperspace,” and “Beyond Einstein.” You can bet I will be checking these out as well. Sounds like loads of fun.

Michio Kaku is the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (that’s a mouth full). He is also the co-founder of string field theory. Dr. Kaku has hosted numerous science documentaries for the Discovery Channel and BBC-TV.

Published by Dianne Lehmann

I'm a writer. But I'm also a wife and a mom to a couple of fur babies. You could call me a cook (but never a chef, I'm not that good) and provisioner as well. Laundress? Yeah. Probably. I design jewelry and I crochet. But mostly I love to write. I love words and how they sound. I love their meanings and origins. I love stringing them together. And of course, I love to read. Thinking about it just now, I realize that what I love most is life and the people around me with a special place set aside for my wonderful husband, our adorable dog and our inscrutable cat. It's the world and the people in it that fuels my writing. So thanks to you all for being the amazing beings that you are.

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