5.0 out of 5 stars Scotty was right: "You canna change the laws of physics."
I never took biology or chemistry let alone physics in school, so I am easily intimidated by big words with Latin prefixes and Greek suffixes that explain the mysteries of the real world let alone the Star Trek universe. Lawrence M. Krauss, Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics and Professor of Astronomy and Chairman of the Department of Physics at Case Western Reserve...
Published on Oct. 21 2000 by Lawrance Bernabo
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of light physics fun
After having it on a wishlist of one form or another for almost ten years, I decided to give The Physics of Star Trek a try as some light reading. Krauss' book lived up to this expectation, though for a reader unfamiliar with modern physics, this will not be the case. Using some of Star Trek's most memorable concepts—warp drive, the holodeck, and the transporter to...
Published 2 months ago by Jayson Vavrek
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3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of light physics fun,
This review is from: The Physics of Star Trek (Paperback)
After having it on a wishlist of one form or another for almost ten years, I decided to give The Physics of Star Trek a try as some light reading. Krauss' book lived up to this expectation, though for a reader unfamiliar with modern physics, this will not be the case. Using some of Star Trek's most memorable concepts—warp drive, the holodeck, and the transporter to name a few—as motivation, Krauss gives the reader quite an introductory-level overview of modern physics and how these technologies could theoretically—though often incredibly impractically—work. A particularly good chapter was that on the transporter, in which Krauss does some back-of-the-envelope calculations to show the absurd amounts of data storage and bandwidth that would be required to copy and then transport the data of the atoms in a single human being, then raises the more philosophical questions about the notion of immaterial souls that accompany any discussion about rebuilding a human from the atomic level. This also tangentially relates to the concept of mind-uploading, which I'm planning to read more about above just the popular level.
On a side note, if you do decide to read Krauss' book, be sure to get the revised and updated edition. My second-hand, first-edition copy from 1995 wonders at the absence of the cosmological constant (shown to exist in 1998) and at the solar neutrino puzzle (solved in 2002).
As mentioned, The Physics of Star Trek was a good light read, so I'll give it three stars for its interesting concept, but no more, since I had to wade through several chapters of the almost boilerplate physics that accompanies almost any popular-level physics book. On that note, I have also decided to adopt (or realized I have been using) some tentative guidelines for these star ratings: a three-star book such as this was overall enjoyable but I wouldn't recommend it to most friends; a four (five)-star book I would (enthusiastically) recommend; a two-star book (I think Neuromancer is my only example) I did not enjoy but would not actively recommend against; a one-star book should be avoided except to bash it thoroughly with friends.
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Idea but limited vision,
This volume by Lawrence Krauss is a physicists' exploration of the scientific feasibility of "Star Trek science". As a student of science myself and a Star Trek fan for many years, I was intrigued by this book. Apart from drawing attention to curious inconsistencies (such as "how come we hear explosions in space, where there's no air to carry the sound?") this book addresses a wide range of issues, such as WARP drive, transporters, the Holodeck, Black Holes, and Data, among other things.
What this turned out to be is a nice and easily accessible introduction to modern day physics using Star Trek as a model. Overall the book is very interesting to read and often thought-provoking. Unfortunately, the book suffers from a significant limitation because of its attitude. The "Physics of Star Trek" tests the feasibility of Star Trek phenomena based on our understanding of physics today. Thus many things are deemed "impossible" because the author cannot visualize a way to make them work using 20th century science. The problem with this attitude is that it lacks vision. Had he been writing with this attitude in the 1940s for instance, he would have discounted any possibilities of having any automated thinking machines and dismissed any aspect of the computerized world that we enjoy and take for granted today. The beauty of Star Trek is that it is visionary in nature, and a fair analysis of the show needs to make some educated guesses about what the science of the future will look like and not merely confine thinking to the science of today.
Having said that, I do concede that this book is a very nice, fun to read, and interesting introduction to the science of today, and I highly recommend it to any Trek fan interested in real science!
4.0 out of 5 stars good gimmick,
I'm sure some 'true blue' Star Trek fans will be disappointed that this book doesn't agree with all the 'science' used in Star Trek. Actually 'Star Trek' is only used as a jumping off point to talk about physics and possible advances of physics in the future. It also presents the other side, and will give the scientific reasons that some form of Star Trek technology (such as transporters) will probably never be possible. I thought the explanation of various scientific principles (usually related to something in Star Trek) were done well without being either condenscending or obtuse. I was actually surprised that the author (apparently a Start Trek fan) found that, for the most part, the scientific concepts used in Start Trek were generally more accurate than the usual SF TV show or movie. Usually the science in these shows is pretty bad. It appears that the Star Trek technical advisors have been doing their homework. I recommend this book to those interested in science and physics and are also familiar with Star Trek. The connection between the two makes the science more palatable and enjoyable.
4.0 out of 5 stars The Physics of Star Trek: Many Questions--- Few Answers,
It is not often a cultural phenomenon like Star Trek is responsible for a spurt of growth of interest in the hard sciences that serve as a backdrop for the various television shows and movies in its canon. Lawrence Krauss in THE PHYSICS OF STAR TREK attempts to confront the unspoken assumptions that go on in the viewer's mind under the helm's countertop when Captain Kirk orders, 'Warp factor three, Mr. Sulu.' Apparently what goes on in reality is the merging of pseudo-science with some very clever writing that distracts an audience that is not particularly science-literate anyway. Krauss discusses the widespread Star Trek use of holograms, warp travel, matter transportation, phasers, inertial dampers, time travel, and nano-technology. In each case, he points out with some tongue in cheek the present impossibility of actually developing and using such devices. Krauss is a physicist who likes to write,or judging by his lengthy list of published books, he is a writer who likes physics. He has a smooth style of explaining the grotesquely unfamiliar in terms of the beloved familiar world of the Federation. TPST is a book written for those whose knowledge of basic science is gleaned from watching shows like Star Trek. He asks many questions, elaborates many details, but provides precious few answers. In short, he is just like my 10th grade physics teacher. Perhaps that is the inner lesson of this book: to probe beneath the smoke and mirrors of the writer-magician's blanket to see if the immutable laws of reasonability are being obeyed.
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, with a misleading title,
Although the title suggests otherwise, this is not really a book about Star Trek. Lawrence Krauss, a physicist, quotes Star Trek, but his further explanations largely neglect what can be seen in the series and, rather than that, strictly adhere to the laws of real physics. This alone is no criticism. We need popular books about physics (and this is a good one), but the title just doesn't suit it.
A typical chapter begins with examples from the series, but subsequently it becomes like a general analysis of science (and) fiction where one could easily replace "Enterprise" with "Star Destroyer" or anything else. In the chapter on warp propulsion, for instance, Krauss discusses a general theory of FTL travel without even mentioning the term "subspace" which is actually the key Star Trek's warp drive. The same happens in his reflections on the transporter. He assumes that a human being should be reduced to bits, although Star Trek's transporter is supposed to transmit the very matter of an object or person. Agreed, from the viewpoint of actual physics Krauss is right, and I would wish that he gave certain Trek authors a few repetitional lessons in physics. Anyway, I don't understand why he calls a book with rather few Trek-specific content and much more real world physics The Physics of Star Trek and not "The Physics of Science Fiction". I usually don't like to speculate, but maybe because the book sells better with "Star Trek" in the title, or does he intend to disillusion or even convert die-hard Trek fans? Well, I rather go with a positive explanation that Star Trek just covers all facets of fictional science and technology, so it was the obvious choice.
Speaking of disillusions, this book will have several for those fans who firmly believe that it just needs a bit of research until we get warp or only impulse drive or a transporter to work. Krauss makes very clear how much fuel it would take to accelerate a starship to "only" 0.5c and decelerate again (6561 times the ship's mass!), and what a resolution would be required to beam up a person's atoms from a planet surface (that of a lens as wide as the distance to the planet!). As I said, I think the book isn't supposed to spoil our fun of Star Trek, and I hope it won't have this effect on anyone. So if we keep in mind that Krauss is just talking about general concepts and not about how the technology works in Star Trek, this is a very good lecture for all who like Star Trek and all who like to know more about the limits of physics.
4.0 out of 5 stars How Physicists Think About Star Trek Movies and Series,
Did you know that many of the world's best physicists like to watch Star Trek, and then discuss what's right and wrong about the science displayed? Well, apparently they do.
Drawing on contacts within the scientific community and on-line bulletin boards, Professor Krauss has written a sprightly review of what physicists think about when they see these shows. He translates these observations into simple concepts that the average reader should be able to follow, assuming an interest in Star Trek or science.
As a non-scientist, I had always assumed that 70 percent of the "science" on a Star Trek show was just so much imagination. The reason I thought that was because I could see so many obvious errors (seeing phaser light in space, hearing sounds in space, effects occurring too soon on the space ship, holograms acting like they were made of matter, and permanent worm holes) based on what little I knew. Was I ever surprised to find out that these obvious errors were the bulk of all the errors in the shows!
Apparently the writers have been working closely with scientifically knowledgeable people to keep what is covered reasonably possible . . . along with some poetic license.
The physics of cosmology are fascinating, but I can quickly get lost in matching quantum mechanics to general relativity and so forth. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that I could follow the arguments much better when they used a familiar Star Trek episode as a reference. Like the child who learns math when it involves counting his or her own money, I can learn physics more easily when it relates to Star Trek. Very nice!
The book takes a look at the common Star Trek features like warp drive, transporters, replicators, phasers, sensors, subspace communications, and tractor beams. You also get special looks at less common features like multiple universes and special forms of radiation.
You can read this book from several perspectives as a result: (1) to appreciate what's happening in an episode; (2) to learn some science; (3) to think about where Star Trek could become real and where it is less likely to become so; and (4) what problems have to be solved in order for Star Trek technology to develop. I found the last perspective to be the most interesting. Professor Krauss's speculations about how rapidly technology might develop and what could be done with it were most fascinating.
Where the book fell down a little was in being quite strong in stating that certain "laws" of physics would never be changed. If we go back in 100 year increments, we find that a lot of earlier "laws" are later somewhat amended if not totally changed. That may happen in the future as well, as we learn more. Professor Krauss is a little too confident in many places that there is nothing else to learn. Most modern technology would look like Star Trek science fiction to someone living in 1700, despite being based on sound scientific principles not understood then.
After you finish enjoying this interesting book, think about what questions no one is trying to solve. Why not? What benefits would occur if they were solved? How could curiosity be stimulated about these questions?
Ask and answer important questions in interesting ways to make faster progress!
4.0 out of 5 stars Chocolate Milk.,
For me, this book was like chocolate milk for children. If you have had a child, or had a clever mother, you may have been given chocolate milk in the past. Your mom probably didn't want you to have more sweets, but she also know that it was the best way for you to drink your milk. Same concept here.
Mr. Krauss is a scientist and a teacher who loves physics. He knows, however, that physics aren't loved by many people. So he has hit on a clever idea. He teaches us physics while discussing a popular and fun series, Star Trek. So, beware, you will learn, if you read this book.
You still, however, should have fun. In this book we learn the scientific foundations for some of the more fanciful technologies found in the Star Trek series. Everything from warp engines to phasers to holograms and deflector fields are discussed.
Some of the conclusions of the author, I noticed, have disapointed some of Star Trek's hardcore fans. I don't know why. I watch the series to enjoy myself. I still do. The fact that one person doesn't believe warp power, for example, will ever be practical doesn't detract from the Star Trek's stories. Indeed, the fact the warp power may be possible, but to expensive, was shocking.
Some of the other discussions found in this book were also very surprising. The author, for example, talks about how the computing aspect of transporters may be possible by the 23rd century. He also thinks that more active holograms are possible, but ones that touch or interact with people physically, he believes are unlikely.
Again, by discussing these aspects of science, we learn alot about our current technology. This is a fun, informative read, and a good tool for teachers who want to excite their studies about their studies. For a science book, therefore, I would give it a "5" for fun. Overall, I have given this book a "4", but it is an interesting read.
5.0 out of 5 stars Scotty was right: "You canna change the laws of physics.",
I never took biology or chemistry let alone physics in school, so I am easily intimidated by big words with Latin prefixes and Greek suffixes that explain the mysteries of the real world let alone the Star Trek universe. Lawrence M. Krauss, Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics and Professor of Astronomy and Chairman of the Department of Physics at Case Western Reserve University might be making stuff up the same was as Gene Roddenberry and his heirs, but he sure makes a compelling case that is easily understood even by scientific illiterates such as myself. He certainly has the credentials, even if he spells his first name funny.
This book takes nitpicking about Star Trek to a whole new level, and I mean that in the best sense of the world. "The Physics of Star Trek" is divided into three sections. The first, "A Cosmic Poker Game," explores the physics of inertial dampers and tractor beams as they apply to warp speed, deflector shields, wormholes and time travel (The short answer is "No, but...," which is where it gets fascinating). The second, "Matter Matter Everywhere," covers transporter beams, warp drives, dilithium crystals, matter-antimatter engines, and the holodeck (see above short answer). The third, "The Invisible Universe, or Things That Go Bump in the Night," looks at the great unknown of the future where we may (or may not) encounter alien beings, multiple dimensions and other fun thinks from the Star Trek universe. There are nice diagrams to help the explanations along, filing in for Krauss' classroom chalkboard. Krauss also proves he is not alone in his major league nitpicking as he includes a Top Ten Physics Bloopers and Blunders from Star Trek that were selected by Noble Prize-winning physicists and other Trekkers.
In his foreword Stephen Hawking points out what we have known since Jules Verne: "Today's science fiction is often tomorrow's science fact." I believe it was Jim Kirk who said things were only impossible until you did them. If I had read this book when I first watched the original Star Trek in syndication it might have kindled my interest in science to a level at least appropriate for polite social conversation. I can easily imagine what reading this book might do for somewhere who loves science; opening the minds of students to the possibilities behind the television show they enjoy watching.
4.0 out of 5 stars Picard, Data, Worf. etc. discuss "The Physics of Star Trek",
Capt. Picard: Data, go to Warp 8 now...Engage!
Data: You realize that is impossible, sir.
Picard: What do you mean, Data, two Romulan warbirds just de-cloaked off our starboard side and are about to fire phasers. We've got to get out of here. Engage, I say!
Data: But sir, according to Lawrence Krauss, a distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy from the 20th century, such an action would require energy far greater than is possible in order to manipulate spacetime around the Enterprise sufficiently to travel at "warp" speed. Also, for the same reasons, Dr. Krauss essentially ruled out the possibility of a "cloaking device" and many other things we like to believe are real.
Picard: Data, we don't have TIME for this! Get us out of here now!!
Data: Captain, I am sorry, but it is simply not possible. Also, I hate to inform you that, according to Dr. Krauss, our deflector shields will not work either. But, fortunately, neither will the Romulans' phaser beams.
Picard: What are you saying, Data?!?
Data: What I am saying, sir, is that although we THINK we are aboard a starship called the Enterprise, and although we THINK we just saw 2 Romulan warbirds uncloak, it is all just an illusion. All of these things would violate several basic laws of physics, including Einstein's general and special theories of relativity, which of course are still valid today. I am sorry to conclude, sir, that we are just actors on a set at Paramount Studios, that there is no "Federation," no "Captain Picard," and not even ME! I would be sad about this if I could be, but my "emotion chip" (which Dr. Krauss does not discuss in his book, by the way) is not turned on right now.
Picard: Damn! So my brother was right all along and I should have stayed in France and worked at the family winery!
Data: I am afraid so, sir. Your brother appears to have been correct.
Counselor Troi: I am sensing great frustration and sadness here. Oh, it's terrible!
Data: What you are experiencing, Counselor, is merely what I believe used to be called a "major bummer." Unfortunately, most of the world that we thought we knew cannot exist, according to "The Physics of Star Trek", so we will all need to look for new jobs, and our fans will need to look for a new means of entertaining themselves. It would have been better, of course, if "The Physics of Star Trek" had been required reading at Star Fleet Academy. Perhaps then we could have avoided all this confusion.
Counselor Troi: Maybe we could all get together with our fans for reunions and dress up in costumes and just pretend this was all possible...
Data: An excellent idea, Counselor, although I am dubious as to your idea's practicality. Maybe if you expanded the idea and called them "conventions" it might...
Picard: Are you alright, Mr. Worf?
Worf: I am a Klingon warrior and cannot BELIEVE that a mere PHYSICIST from the 20th century could defeat me!
Data: It is true Worf. The laws of physics cannot be repealed, even for a Klingon warrior. If you would like, I could lend you "The Physics of Star Trek", and then you might understand.
Dr. Crusher: But surely there must be some other alternatives to what Dr. Krauss suggests?
Data: As the former Chief Science Officer of the Enterprise used to say, "there are ALWAYS alternatives."
Picard: I'll be in my ready room reading "The Physics of Star Trek" and thinking of alternatives. Commander Data, you have the bridge.
4.0 out of 5 stars Today's Science Fiction Is Often Tomorrow's Science Fact,
Nearly everyone on the planet has seen at least one episode of Star Trek. At the same time, nearly everyone has wondered about certain aspects of the show. For example, if their civilization is so advanced, how come no one has invented a cure for baldness? On the more technical side, certain questions pop up again and again. For example, what really happens during the process of "beaming up"? Why is warp 10 not attainable? How does a tractor beam work?...
Like Mr. Wizard, Lawrence Krauss, who holds a Ph.D. in physics, answers all your questions - or most of them. All the major topics are covered, including a few minor ones. The text is non-technical, clear and concise, but also complete. Although it is impossible to discuss certain ideas without the use of graphs and equations, Krauss keeps them to a minimum.
For each particular advanced technology of the future, the theory behind each application is dissected, explained, and examined. Also, given present day knowledge, the author examines the theoretical or practical obstacles that would have to be overcome in order to achieve this technology. In transporter technology, for example, what exactly would be involved? Would the actual atoms and molecules have to be sent, or would just the information (code) be sufficient?
Would both (atoms and information) be necessary and how would such a task be accomplished, if at all?
This book is highly recommended. Even if you are not a Star Trek fan, you will be interested. This book is easy to read, faithful to the physics, full of Star Trek trivia and always entertaining. Voyager and Deep Space Nine episodes are also mentioned, when relevant to the particular topic under discussion.
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The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence M. Krauss (Paperback - July 10 2007)
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