The Daily Bongo

Physics of the Impossible

I just finished reading the latest book by theoretical physicist, Michio Kaku, titled Physics of the Impossible. The book is an exploration of how scientifically possible phasers, teleportation, time travel, and perpetual motion machines (to sample a few) are. Kaku breaks up the items into three classes. Class I are for items that are sound physics and can potentially be accomplished within the next century. Phasers, invisibility, force fields, Death Stars, teleporation, telepathy, psychokinesis, robots (with human intelligence), extraterrestrials/UFOs, starships, antimatter, and anti-universes fit into this category according to Kaku. The class II category is reserved for items that don't break the laws of physics, but we don't have the wherewithal to accomplish these tasks at any time in the near future. Understanding time travel, parallel universes, and creating faster than light ships fall into this category. The final category is class III and is reserved for those items that are not possible to accomplish with the laws of physics, or at least as we currently understand those laws of physics. Only perpetual motion machines and precognition are in this category.

The book is meant for readers who really don't have a background or understanding of science or physics and want their science spoonfed to them in palatable bites. Because of the format and simplicity of the text, the book is a quick and easy read, and is for the most part entertaining. The problem that I had with the book is that it is very simplistic and superficial. If you want a more detailed explanation of the science behind the topics, this isn't the book for you. Most of the other reviews that I have seen of the book have been positive but are for the most part from people who have only a cursory knowledge or interest in physics or science. That's not a bad thing because any book that gets people interested in and reading about science is a positive. I think that I only wished for more. I will say that after reading the teleportation section, I did go on to do some more research about the teleportation method that a group of Australian researchers propose. This method shows that teleportation is possible without resorting to quantum entanglement. Unfortunately, it does require a BEC box which has atoms at a near zero Kelvin temperature (which is an expensive and difficult endeavor.)

I would recommend the book to others. However, I would add the stipulation to those who have a more scientific background that the book is meant for a lay audience. At only 303 pages, it is a very quick read. I will say that after reading the book, I did request a few of the books on time travel that Kaku mentions in the bibliography.

May 15, 2008