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Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel Paperback – Apr 7 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (April 7 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307278824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307278821
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this latest effort to popularize the sciences, City University of New York professor and media star Kaku (Hyperspace) ponders topics that many people regard as impossible, ranging from psychokinesis and telepathy to time travel and teleportation. His Class I impossibilities include force fields, telepathy and antiuniverses, which don't violate the known laws of science and may become realities in the next century. Those in Class II await realization farther in the future and include faster-than-light travel and discovery of parallel universes. Kaku discusses only perpetual motion machines and precognition in Class III, things that aren't possible according to our current understanding of science. He explains how what many consider to be flights of fancy are being made tangible by recent scientific discoveries ranging from rudimentary advances in teleportation to the creation of small quantities of antimatter and transmissions faster than the speed of light. Science and science fiction buffs can easily follow Kaku's explanations as he shows that in the wonderful worlds of science, impossible things are happening every day. (Mar. 11)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“[Kaku explores] what we still do not quite understand, those grey areas that are surely the most fascinating part of physics.”

New Scientist


“Kaku's latest book aims to explain exactly why some visions of the future may eventually be realized while others are likely to remain beyond the bounds of possibility. . . . Science fiction often explores such questions; science falls silent at this point. Kaku's work helps to fill a void.”

The Economist


“A fascinating exploration of the interface between science and science fiction, extremely well researched, lively, and tremendously entertaining.”

—Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics and The Science of Leonardo


“Mighty few theoretical physicists would bother expounding some of these possible impossibilities, and Kaku is to be congratulated for doing so. . . . [He gets] the juices of future physicists flowing.”

Los Angeles Times



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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By George Poirier TOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 24 2008
Format: Hardcover
Will something that is impossible now eventually become possible? In order to answer this question, the author has divided various potentially outrageous ideas into three levels of impossibility, based on current and expected future technological capabilities and the known laws of physics: Class I impossibilities, occupying over 60% of the book, Class II impossibilities and Class III impossibilities. The higher the class level, the more impossible (or farther in the future) the possible realization of the idea is perceived to be. In progressing along these classes, the author goes from practical nuts-and-bolts solutions to various problems that may be possible in a matter of decades to centuries (Type I), to dreams whose realizations may never happen according current very abstract ideas that are at the very forefront of scientific thinking and thus very far removed from our everyday experience (Type III). The writing style is clear, friendly, authoritative and quite engaging. The book contains no diagrams whatsoever. In most cases, they are not really essential because of the author's excellent ability to express complex ideas into clearly understandable prose. However, in a few cases, diagrams would have been quite welcome. Technical terms are clearly explained as they occur so that anyone could read this book and learn a great deal from it. However, science buffs would probably appreciate it the most.

On a more technical note, on a couple of occasions the author has pointed out that when an electron and an antielectron (positron) meet, they annihilate producing "gamma rays at an energy of 1.02 million electron volts or more" (p. 184) and "annihilate one another and create a gamma ray" (p. 278).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on June 10 2009
Format: Paperback
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." -- 1 John 4:1

If books about physics had been this entertaining when I was a child, I'm sure I would have become a theoretical physicist. Professor Michio Kaku begins with ancient beliefs about gods, moves on to science fiction, proceeds through theories proven false, and examines some of the most interesting questions and devices raised by science fiction stories to describe when, if ever, we might see such results. In all but a few cases, he sees hope.

Talk about a ray of sunshine . . . this is a profoundly optimistic book that looks realistically at our geometrically increasing rate of learning how to measure and solve problems about the fundamental characteristics of the universe such as matter, energy, time, gravity, and the universe's origins. I loved it!

If I had a choice between reading this kind of book and even the best science fiction, I would pick this one. Why? Because it helps point the way toward the important questions and the value of answering them. I miss this in most science writing.

Most science writing, by contrast, is either trying to prove too much about current theories or is of little interest to people outside the particular field.

Professor Kaku puts various concepts into one of three bins:

1. Likely to be accomplished or understood in the next 100 years.

2. Likely to be accomplished or understood only after millions of years.

3. Apparently impossible, no matter how much we learn.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Don on Feb. 29 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting, but needs another edit. Seems hastily written. This idea of ranking possible civilizations according to their power output only, seems short-sighted to me. It's easy to talk about future (or extraterrestrial) civilizations powerful enough to juggle star clusters as easily as juggling tennis balls, but do astronomers ever see stars being juggled like that? No. Even if it were possible, maybe ETs have other interests besides power output. Kaku occasionally tosses in off-topic opinions that can be distracting and annoying. That said, he is an accomplished physicist who knows his stuff, and who is careful to avoid making outright false statements, and despite the above caveats, I found this an interesting and entertaining read. It is mainly about the feasibility of sci-fi techs like you see in shows like Star Trek. I gave it only 3 stars because it seems like it was written in a hurry and rushed to print.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By George Smith on Oct. 23 2009
Format: Paperback
For me, this was more speculative than technical, leaving me feeling that almost anyone could have written it. I prefer reading material about more current applications and research than this book provides. The author certainly knows his physics and makes the information easy to digest for those who want to be working in physics over the next 60 years. I wish I had such information when I was in high school in 1944.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Paul Weiss on Nov. 27 2008
Format: Hardcover
What do Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Lawrence Krauss Clifford Pickover, Brian Greene, Douglas Hofstadter and Michio Kaku have in common? Aside from being respected physicists, scientists, mathematicians and theoreticians, they also have the uncanny ability to write at a level that we mere mortals can understand. Happily this allows our workaday world of common non-scientists to participate in at least a rudimentary understanding of the esoteric mysteries of the universe that are fascinating in the extreme and so bizarre as to outstrip the most obtuse imaginings of fiction writers.

Michio Kaku takes us on a grand tour of the modern world of physics by grouping topics that either were or are still considered impossible into three large classes - first, those items that don't appear to violate the currently known laws of science and having been considered as impossibilities in times past are either now realities or are verging on reality as technology and experimentation makes progress with such blinding speed; second, items that also don't appear to break the rules as we know them but await the development of technology that is likely centuries or millennia beyond whatever skills we might even envisage at this point in history; and, finally, those things that our current knowledge of scientific law would suggest are genuinely impossible.

Kaku treats the eager science loving reader with a generous and formidable list of topics - force fields, telekinesis and ESP, faster-than-light travel, time travel, parallel universes, perpetual motion, telepathy, phaser weaponry, precognition, antimatter, negative matter, hyperspace travel, extraterrestrials and much more.
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