Monday, July 7, 2008

Physics of the Impossible

OK, I admit it, I am a science nerd. Even though I only ended up with a minor in physics, I still love it. The whole idea that you can describe the real world with mathematics is just so cool. So I liked this book which combined two things I like about science: the real stuff and science-fiction movies. The author, who is a real physicist by the way, not someone who just writes science books for a living, takes a number of special effects things from movies and goes over how they could work from a real world perspective and how close we are to achieving the same results.

The thing that impressed me about this book was how the author seriously went into the science of things that most of us just blow off as not in a million years. Like force fields, he describes the types of forces we know know; gravitation, electricity & magnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and then why they don't make a cool blue shield that will keep out laser bolts. He went on to describe the types of things we have today, that maybe someday could be used to keep out laser bolts, but they still won't be visible in the real world, no matter how many Star Wars movies you watch.

It had the best and most understandable description of string theory I have ever read. Not surprising considering the author is one of the people who developed it. He graded everything by how soon, if ever we could accomplish that particular technology. He had only two that he graded as flatly impossible, contradicting the laws of physics as we now know them: perpetual motion and precognition. I was impressed that with everything else he could see a way that maybe it could work. But I'm not going to explain the arguments on time travel, you will have to look the book up yourself.

Physics of the Impossible. Michio Kaku. Doubleday. 2008

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