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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.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Published: Doubleday an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780385525442
List price: $11.99
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Interesting concept, covering some of the same ground as "The Physics of Star Trek" but going a lot deeper into contemporary physics.more
Physicist Michio Kaku looks at various ideas and technologies that are staples of science fiction, but are not -- or are not yet -- possible in the real world, from force fields to sentient robots to time travel. He divides these "impossible" things into three categories. Most of the concepts he talks about are "Class I Impossibilities": they're not quite possible with current technology, but there's no reason why they might not be achievable in the future, and we already have at least some vague idea of how that might happen. Laser pistols are a good example of this; the main reason cops aren't carrying ray guns is that they require way too much power. "Class II Impossibilities" are things that aren't necessarily ruled out by the laws of physics, but involve technology and an understanding of the universe so far in advance of our own that it's hard to even imagine. This category includes faster-than-light travel via wormholes. "Class III impossibilities" are things that really do seem to be completely and eternally impossible according to our current understanding of the most basic laws of the universe. Perpetual motion machines are the big example here.For each "impossibility," of whichever class, Kaku describes a few examples from science fiction TV shows, books, or movies; explains some of the science involved; tells us why it's not possible right now; and discusses what would be necessary to make it possible in the future. This is definitely written for the layman, and he walks a pretty fine line between treating the physics too superficially and getting too technical about the experiments and calculations that provide the basis of our scientific knowledge. For the most part, I think he walks that line fairly well. Some readers will probably start feeling a little confused when the book gets into the more abstruse areas of quantum mechanics, but I think that's just about inevitable. Even when you understand the mathematics behind that stuff, it's still hard to make sense of.I don't think Michio Kaku is quite as lively and engaging a writer as, say, Laurence Krauss (who wrote The Physics of Star Trek, among other things), but his writing is readable enough, and this book will probably be of at least some interest to science fiction fans, especially ones who've often found themselves wondering, "Could you really do that?"more
Physics of the impossible explores common themes in science fiction, and explains in simplified physics whether such things are possible soon, or far in the future. Kaku has an engaging writing style, and his physics is basic enough that most popular readers would be able to follow. However, I don’t think people who follow physics regularly would enjoy the simplified science. I enjoyed this book, though I have one major complaint: Kaku would give examples of science fiction phenomena from popular novels. Apparently assuming that everyone has read all of these books, he almost always tells the ending of the book. I hadn’t read several of these books and was quite annoyed since telling the end of the book did not add any merit to his own arguments. The book lost star-points because of this problem.more
People who do not really follow what is going on in the world of physics will likely find this book more interesting than I did. It had a few moments I found worth reading, especially in that latter half, but I generally found its breadth of coverage versus depth of information to not be very enlightening.The writing was okay but not particularly inspiring, and the episodic nature made the narrative a bit jerky for my tastes. It's a bit more informative than his related TV series, but not much.more
Michio Kaku explores common ideas from sci-fi, assessing their viability in the real world in a popular writing style. The first half of the book drags on a bit, and doesn't present anything new to someone who has any idea of the concepts beforehand. The writing also lacks some rigor and critical thinking - it reads more like a summary of the subjects rather than a deep analysis by an expert. The AI / robots part, which I know the most about, seemed the worst - a sign that other chapters might not be top quality either. The second half does pick up the pace, however, as Kaku explains string theory, dives into cosmological speculation and advanced subjects such as bending space and time. The writing remains clear and enjoyable throughout, even if the thinking is a bit shallow.more
Basically a collection of essays speculating on what might or might not be possible in the near or very far future, given what we know today.more
This is a fascinating collection of thoughts on what might be possible in areas most people think is impossible. In the process, it provides a broad overview of what is happening on the edges of science. By describing how such concepts as invisibility, teleportation, time travel, parallel universes, and faster than light travel might…just might…be possible, Kaku introduces the reader to some of the latest scientific thinking going on in the most bizarre areas. (Don’t get me wrong – this is solid scientific study – it just seems bizarre when you think about what this research might mean.)The approach is very accessible. While there are a few instances where the reader has the opportunity to get lost in the physics, Kaku is a master at explaining incredibly complicated concepts in a way that we common folk can understand. Sure, at times it comes off too simplistic, but that is the sacrifice that comes with trying to take these strange concepts and make them real. If I have any complaint, it is that Kaku is trying almost too hard to show he is “of the people”. In particular, there is constant reference to science fiction. That, in and of itself, is not an issue. What is an issue is that the references, while showing knowledge of the area, are a bit limited. How many times can references to Star Trek be the only appropriate analogy? (And how can you talk about robots without Asimov’s Three Laws?) It is hard to tell if this is a function of Kaku inadvertently pandering to the audience, or an actual limitation on his knowledge of the subject. (After all, he has been a bit busy with his science studies to have a well-rounded knowledge of science fiction.) At times it is a bit distracting, but it is easily forgiven when he jumps back into describing the new pioneers of science.In the final analysis, in spite of a few bumps and bumbles, this book is a fun exercise in exploring the impossible and learning just how weird reality really is.more
A fun and interesting read about the physics of wondrous and fantastic technology you see in science fiction. Kaku shows us how it can almost be possible to do those things that only seem to work in someone's imagination. He explores the physics behind such things as energy weapons, faster than light travel, invisibility, extraterrestrials, time travel, perpetual motion machines, etc and shows through science that some of this stuff may be a reality in the future.more
A fun read, let down a little by a writing style prone to repetition. The first half drags a little, but it certainly gets more interesting towards the end where you get into the more impossible stuff, and I learnt a few things I wasn't aware of around the different types of matter.more
Enthusiatic on possible impossibilities Kaku leads into mostly modern physics but also a slight touch of modern neuroscience. Wonderful to read a scientist approaching science in this way. I dont understand the precognition chapter: Kaku puts precognition as one of the most difficult impossibilities but fails to explain precognition, e.g., what about weather forecasts?more
A neat, easily understandable breakdown of the physics behind some of the inventions and innovations that feature prominently in science fiction stories including time travel, lightspeed engines and parallel universes. Good for readers with an interest in science, but a deep background isn't necessary to follow any of the explanations.more
Kaku explains the real science behind some of our favorite technologies in science fiction, including time travel, teleportation, invisibility, alternate worlds, and more. He explains that some of the technologies we consider commonplace now, would have been considered impossible 150 years ago. And in the same sense many of the things we consider impossible today may become commplace in the future. He breaks these impossibilities into 3 categories:Class I Impossibilities are those technologies that are currently unavailable, but that could be commonplace in our society within the next 50 to 100 years.Class II Impossibilities are those technologies that are possible within the laws of physics, but would require a civilization 100,000 to a million years more advanced than our own. Class III Impossibilities are technologies that are either impossible, or would require a complete restructuring of our known laws of physics in order to exist. Surprising most of the science talked about in this book falls into Category I, including invisibility, light sabers, and teleportation. This was a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable look at the science of science fiction.more
Is predicting the future, making ourselves invisible, or teleporting ourselves possible according to the laws of physics? Will we be able to build starships that travel faster than light or backwards in time? Kaku examines these and many more questions in his book, as possible or impossible according to our understanding of the laws governing the world. He examines them in all earnestness, and classifies them as Class I, II and III Impossibilities and as non-violating or violating the laws of physics as we know them today. Technologies that are impossible today, but do not violate the known laws of physics, and may become reality once we attain a higher stage of technological development are classified as Class I Impossibilities. They include teleportation, antimatter engines, certain forms of telepathy, psychokinesis and invisibility. They may become reality within a century or so as our technological know-how gets more advanced. Class II Impossibilities include the ones that rub on the fringes of our understanding of the laws of physics, require a lot more energy than our civilization is able to harness, and may take thousands of years to realize. They include time machines, travelling through wormholes and hyperspace (and yes, we meet Alice again as she enters Wonderland through a wormhole), but they don’t seem to be impossible given our understanding of physics and with more energy at our disposal. They may be possible to more advanced civilizations able to harness much more energy, e.g. the energy of their stars. Precognition, as in being able to predict the future, and perpetual motion machines represent Class III Impossibilities and are feats impossible in view of the known laws of physics, and would need a fundamental shift in our understanding of those laws.Fascinating stuff, especially because Kaku presents it in a very interesting manner discussing developments in science and existing theories on the way, interspersing it with anecdotes and examples from literature and science fiction.more
Well written and interesting enough to be a smooth read, not above the heads of non-physicists (such as myself). The explanation of Class I, II and III impossibilities puts every concept discussed in perspective, and the explanation of levels of civilization needed to institute these "impossibilities" in cogent and well informed.more
This book has considerable charm and covers a lot of fields conjecturally. I don't doubt that Professor Kaku is a competent academic scientist rigorous in anything he means to publish. But he shows lots of sloppy thinking and sloppy writing in this work, most of which is about subjects in which he is not expert. I was disappointed, so two stars, but it is still worth reading, in paper or borrowed.more
Read all 20 reviews

Reviews

Interesting concept, covering some of the same ground as "The Physics of Star Trek" but going a lot deeper into contemporary physics.more
Physicist Michio Kaku looks at various ideas and technologies that are staples of science fiction, but are not -- or are not yet -- possible in the real world, from force fields to sentient robots to time travel. He divides these "impossible" things into three categories. Most of the concepts he talks about are "Class I Impossibilities": they're not quite possible with current technology, but there's no reason why they might not be achievable in the future, and we already have at least some vague idea of how that might happen. Laser pistols are a good example of this; the main reason cops aren't carrying ray guns is that they require way too much power. "Class II Impossibilities" are things that aren't necessarily ruled out by the laws of physics, but involve technology and an understanding of the universe so far in advance of our own that it's hard to even imagine. This category includes faster-than-light travel via wormholes. "Class III impossibilities" are things that really do seem to be completely and eternally impossible according to our current understanding of the most basic laws of the universe. Perpetual motion machines are the big example here.For each "impossibility," of whichever class, Kaku describes a few examples from science fiction TV shows, books, or movies; explains some of the science involved; tells us why it's not possible right now; and discusses what would be necessary to make it possible in the future. This is definitely written for the layman, and he walks a pretty fine line between treating the physics too superficially and getting too technical about the experiments and calculations that provide the basis of our scientific knowledge. For the most part, I think he walks that line fairly well. Some readers will probably start feeling a little confused when the book gets into the more abstruse areas of quantum mechanics, but I think that's just about inevitable. Even when you understand the mathematics behind that stuff, it's still hard to make sense of.I don't think Michio Kaku is quite as lively and engaging a writer as, say, Laurence Krauss (who wrote The Physics of Star Trek, among other things), but his writing is readable enough, and this book will probably be of at least some interest to science fiction fans, especially ones who've often found themselves wondering, "Could you really do that?"more
Physics of the impossible explores common themes in science fiction, and explains in simplified physics whether such things are possible soon, or far in the future. Kaku has an engaging writing style, and his physics is basic enough that most popular readers would be able to follow. However, I don’t think people who follow physics regularly would enjoy the simplified science. I enjoyed this book, though I have one major complaint: Kaku would give examples of science fiction phenomena from popular novels. Apparently assuming that everyone has read all of these books, he almost always tells the ending of the book. I hadn’t read several of these books and was quite annoyed since telling the end of the book did not add any merit to his own arguments. The book lost star-points because of this problem.more
People who do not really follow what is going on in the world of physics will likely find this book more interesting than I did. It had a few moments I found worth reading, especially in that latter half, but I generally found its breadth of coverage versus depth of information to not be very enlightening.The writing was okay but not particularly inspiring, and the episodic nature made the narrative a bit jerky for my tastes. It's a bit more informative than his related TV series, but not much.more
Michio Kaku explores common ideas from sci-fi, assessing their viability in the real world in a popular writing style. The first half of the book drags on a bit, and doesn't present anything new to someone who has any idea of the concepts beforehand. The writing also lacks some rigor and critical thinking - it reads more like a summary of the subjects rather than a deep analysis by an expert. The AI / robots part, which I know the most about, seemed the worst - a sign that other chapters might not be top quality either. The second half does pick up the pace, however, as Kaku explains string theory, dives into cosmological speculation and advanced subjects such as bending space and time. The writing remains clear and enjoyable throughout, even if the thinking is a bit shallow.more
Basically a collection of essays speculating on what might or might not be possible in the near or very far future, given what we know today.more
This is a fascinating collection of thoughts on what might be possible in areas most people think is impossible. In the process, it provides a broad overview of what is happening on the edges of science. By describing how such concepts as invisibility, teleportation, time travel, parallel universes, and faster than light travel might…just might…be possible, Kaku introduces the reader to some of the latest scientific thinking going on in the most bizarre areas. (Don’t get me wrong – this is solid scientific study – it just seems bizarre when you think about what this research might mean.)The approach is very accessible. While there are a few instances where the reader has the opportunity to get lost in the physics, Kaku is a master at explaining incredibly complicated concepts in a way that we common folk can understand. Sure, at times it comes off too simplistic, but that is the sacrifice that comes with trying to take these strange concepts and make them real. If I have any complaint, it is that Kaku is trying almost too hard to show he is “of the people”. In particular, there is constant reference to science fiction. That, in and of itself, is not an issue. What is an issue is that the references, while showing knowledge of the area, are a bit limited. How many times can references to Star Trek be the only appropriate analogy? (And how can you talk about robots without Asimov’s Three Laws?) It is hard to tell if this is a function of Kaku inadvertently pandering to the audience, or an actual limitation on his knowledge of the subject. (After all, he has been a bit busy with his science studies to have a well-rounded knowledge of science fiction.) At times it is a bit distracting, but it is easily forgiven when he jumps back into describing the new pioneers of science.In the final analysis, in spite of a few bumps and bumbles, this book is a fun exercise in exploring the impossible and learning just how weird reality really is.more
A fun and interesting read about the physics of wondrous and fantastic technology you see in science fiction. Kaku shows us how it can almost be possible to do those things that only seem to work in someone's imagination. He explores the physics behind such things as energy weapons, faster than light travel, invisibility, extraterrestrials, time travel, perpetual motion machines, etc and shows through science that some of this stuff may be a reality in the future.more
A fun read, let down a little by a writing style prone to repetition. The first half drags a little, but it certainly gets more interesting towards the end where you get into the more impossible stuff, and I learnt a few things I wasn't aware of around the different types of matter.more
Enthusiatic on possible impossibilities Kaku leads into mostly modern physics but also a slight touch of modern neuroscience. Wonderful to read a scientist approaching science in this way. I dont understand the precognition chapter: Kaku puts precognition as one of the most difficult impossibilities but fails to explain precognition, e.g., what about weather forecasts?more
A neat, easily understandable breakdown of the physics behind some of the inventions and innovations that feature prominently in science fiction stories including time travel, lightspeed engines and parallel universes. Good for readers with an interest in science, but a deep background isn't necessary to follow any of the explanations.more
Kaku explains the real science behind some of our favorite technologies in science fiction, including time travel, teleportation, invisibility, alternate worlds, and more. He explains that some of the technologies we consider commonplace now, would have been considered impossible 150 years ago. And in the same sense many of the things we consider impossible today may become commplace in the future. He breaks these impossibilities into 3 categories:Class I Impossibilities are those technologies that are currently unavailable, but that could be commonplace in our society within the next 50 to 100 years.Class II Impossibilities are those technologies that are possible within the laws of physics, but would require a civilization 100,000 to a million years more advanced than our own. Class III Impossibilities are technologies that are either impossible, or would require a complete restructuring of our known laws of physics in order to exist. Surprising most of the science talked about in this book falls into Category I, including invisibility, light sabers, and teleportation. This was a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable look at the science of science fiction.more
Is predicting the future, making ourselves invisible, or teleporting ourselves possible according to the laws of physics? Will we be able to build starships that travel faster than light or backwards in time? Kaku examines these and many more questions in his book, as possible or impossible according to our understanding of the laws governing the world. He examines them in all earnestness, and classifies them as Class I, II and III Impossibilities and as non-violating or violating the laws of physics as we know them today. Technologies that are impossible today, but do not violate the known laws of physics, and may become reality once we attain a higher stage of technological development are classified as Class I Impossibilities. They include teleportation, antimatter engines, certain forms of telepathy, psychokinesis and invisibility. They may become reality within a century or so as our technological know-how gets more advanced. Class II Impossibilities include the ones that rub on the fringes of our understanding of the laws of physics, require a lot more energy than our civilization is able to harness, and may take thousands of years to realize. They include time machines, travelling through wormholes and hyperspace (and yes, we meet Alice again as she enters Wonderland through a wormhole), but they don’t seem to be impossible given our understanding of physics and with more energy at our disposal. They may be possible to more advanced civilizations able to harness much more energy, e.g. the energy of their stars. Precognition, as in being able to predict the future, and perpetual motion machines represent Class III Impossibilities and are feats impossible in view of the known laws of physics, and would need a fundamental shift in our understanding of those laws.Fascinating stuff, especially because Kaku presents it in a very interesting manner discussing developments in science and existing theories on the way, interspersing it with anecdotes and examples from literature and science fiction.more
Well written and interesting enough to be a smooth read, not above the heads of non-physicists (such as myself). The explanation of Class I, II and III impossibilities puts every concept discussed in perspective, and the explanation of levels of civilization needed to institute these "impossibilities" in cogent and well informed.more
This book has considerable charm and covers a lot of fields conjecturally. I don't doubt that Professor Kaku is a competent academic scientist rigorous in anything he means to publish. But he shows lots of sloppy thinking and sloppy writing in this work, most of which is about subjects in which he is not expert. I was disappointed, so two stars, but it is still worth reading, in paper or borrowed.more
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